Judge rules Puerto Rico must release death records to CNN, local news

Judge rules Puerto Rico must release death records to CNN, local news
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A Puerto Rican judge reportedly ruled on Monday that the government must release death certificates and related data to news outlets looking into the aftermath of Hurricane Maria.

CNN reported on Tuesday that the government has seven days to release the information. The decision comes after CNN and the Center for Investigative Journalism in Puerto Rico sued the local government in an effort to get access to death records after Hurricane Maria. 

In his ruling, Puerto Rico Superior Court Judge Lauracelis Roques Arroyo said that the records are matter of public information and that they must be released.

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The judge's ruling comes amid scrutiny over the official death count as a result of Hurricane Maria. On May 29, a new study from The New England Journal of Medicine concluded that the death toll from the hurricane was 70 times more than the official government estimate. The study also noted that Puerto Rican officials had declined to disclose key mortality statistics, which enraged Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rosselló.

Rosselló said last week in an interview on CNN that there would be "hell to pay" if the U.S. territory officials continued to decline to release data. In addition, Puerto Rico's Institute of Statistics filed a lawsuit last week seeking updated information on the death toll. 

The Puerto Rican government responded by releasing data that showed there were at least 1,400 additional deaths in the months after Maria than during the same time period the previous year, according to The Washington Post.

The government continues to face questions about its response to Hurricane Maria. Several parts of the country remain without power, and officials have argued that death records must be released to prevent a similar situation happening in the future.