Although former Secretary of State and curent presidential candidate Hillary Clinton did not attend the meeting of leaders of the Puerto Rican diaspora in Orlando last week, she sent the following letter:
Thank you for the invitation to join you today—I wish I could be with you in person. I’m heartened that you’ve come together to discuss issues that are critical to Puerto Rico’s future, and I’m grateful to you for taking on this important work.
Last month I had the chance to visit the Island for the first time in seven years. The welcome was as warm as ever.
I first went in 1998 right after Hurricane Georges. I led a Presidential Mission to ensure the federal government did everything it could to help the territory recover from the devastation. The resilience of Puerto Rico back then inspired and impressed me . . . and should give us confidence about its future today.
I next visited as a U.S. Senator representing New York. Because so many New Yorkers were of Puerto Rican origin, I felt a responsibility to give voice to the Island as well. I sponsored legislation and spoke out to address territorial issues.
In 2008, I was able to spend a lot more time visiting many more communities and meeting many more people. I will never forget the friendship and encouragement that I received . . . or the tremendous support in the primary.
The focus of my visit last month was a roundtable discussion with leaders of Puerto Rico’s health care system. I wanted to learn about the day-to-day struggles, and about how the fiscal and health care challenges were impacting individuals, their families and the whole community. The discussion further opened my eyes to how unequal federal health policy is impacting the well-being of our citizens in Puerto Rico.
I said then and I reiterate today: The unequal treatment of our fellow citizens in Puerto Rico in the Medicaid and Medicare programs on the Island fails to meet human needs; leaves the local government, health care providers, and many Americans with financial burdens; and forces many Puerto Ricans to move to the States to receive affordable care. As President, I will put Puerto Rico on a path towards equal treatment in federal health care programs.
We must also do everything in our power to assist Puerto Rico in solving its serious economic challenges. Unequal, inconsistent, and incoherent treatment of Puerto Rico in federal policies have contributed to a number of economic problems, including an excessive public sector debt.
For months now, I have been calling on Congress to give Puerto Rico the same authority that states have to allow severely distressed government entities, including public corporations and municipalities, to restructure their debt under the federal Bankruptcy Code.
It’s only fair – and it gives Puerto Rico a needed shot at overcoming its overwhelming budgetary problems. But despite many voices calling for this, not a single Republican in Washington has stepped up to support it, nor have they offered any alternatives. This is shameful. They have a duty to address the situation in Puerto Rico.
As a candidate, I will not stop raising my voice on behalf of the people of Puerto Rico, and as President, I will prioritize the important issues facing the Island.
This includes doing all that I can to enable the fundamental question of Puerto Rico— its ultimate political status — to finally be resolved. Congress has an obligation to honor your choice. And I for one won’t rest until they do. This is vital to Puerto Rico’s future and to the future of the United States — because this speaks to what kind of democracy we are.
The United States owes a lot to Puerto Rico. Puerto Ricans are proud American citizens who have helped strengthen our nation and whose sons and daughters defend our country around the world. The creativity and culture of Puerto Ricans enriches us. Our country, led by the President and the Congress, have a duty to stand with Puerto Ricans.
The challenges faced today are serious, but not insurmountable. They can be resolved, but it’s going to take all of us working together to find the solutions. As President, I will be a partner in solving the challenges Puerto Rico faces. That’s the promise of someone who has been there for and with Puerto Rico for so many years.