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Puerto Rico asks for delay in release of death records to CNN, local news

Puerto Rico asks for delay in release of death records to CNN, local news
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Puerto Rico is seeking to delay the disclosure of death records to CNN and a local news organization one week after a judge ordered their release. 

The Puerto Rican government filed a motion on Monday that would stall the release of death certificates and other data, according to CNN. The network reported that the two news organizations plan to file motions in opposition to the government's request for a delay.

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The development comes after a judge on June 4 said the government had seven days to hand over death records to CNN and CPI. The news organizations had initially sued the government in February in an attempt to gain access to death records after Hurricane Maria.

Superior Court Judge Lauracelis Roques Arroyo said in his ruling that the records are matter of public information and must be released. But the government asked the court to lift the deadline because of the high volume of death records  and difficulty it faces in producing them. 

"This new delay tactic (speaks) to the Rosselló government's credibility," Carla Minet, executive director of CPI, told CNN. "The government didn't need seven days to hand in most of the information — and yet they haven't delivered anything at this point, even when they publicly stated that they would comply with the court."
 
"Transparency is a word they just don't understand," she added.
 
Puerto Rican authorities did say they would begin releasing some information to the news organizations on Tuesday, however. CNN notes that they did not specify which information would be released first. 
 
Scrutiny over Hurricane Maria's death toll has escalated in recent weeks after a Harvard University study concluded that at least 5,740 deaths could be attributed to the disaster — 70 times more than the official government estimate of 64. 
 
Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rosselló said in an interview on CNN earlier this month that there would be "hell to pay" if officials continued to decline to release data. Puerto Rico's Institute of Statistics then filed a lawsuit seeking updated information on the death toll. 
 
The government responded by releasing data that indicated there were at least 1,400 more deaths in the months after Hurricane Maria than during the same period the year before, according to The Washington Post.