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Republican Presidential Candidates Talk About Puerto Rico

Puerto Rico’s Republican presidential primary will take place this Sunday.  Major leaders in Puerto Rico have endorsed Florida Senator Marco Rubio, who has spoken up for Puerto Rico many times in Congress.

Where do the candidates stand on Puerto Rico’s status?

Ted Cruz released a statement in the run-up to the Republican Primaries in Puerto Rico:

Puerto Rico should be allowed to take an up or down vote on statehood, and if the voters choose statehood, Puerto Rico should be allowed to proceed with the process of becoming a State.

Marco Rubio wrote a similar statement last fall in an article in the Puerto Rican newspaper El Nuevo Dia:

Puerto Rico’s status must be resolved, and its unequal treatment by the federal government must end. As president, I will continue to speak clearly about the importance of enabling Puerto Ricans to resolve their status. Already, during a 2012 referendum, Puerto Ricans made their aspirations clear by rejecting the status quo and choosing statehood. Puerto Rico deserves to take the next step, something America has offered to its territories since 1787 when it first opened the door to the creation of new states, even before adopting our Constitution. Puerto Rico should have a federally-sponsored vote on the island with two choices: become a state or not. If a majority of Puerto Ricans votes yes, Congress and the next president should respect their will and do what’s necessary to admit them as the 51st state.

Donald Trump has been less definitive, but he made a statement earlier in the year:

There are 3.7 million American citizens living in Puerto Rico.  As citizens, they should be entitled to determine for themselves their political status. I am firmly committed to the process where Puerto Ricans might resolve their status according to Constitutional and Congressional protocols. I believe the people of Puerto Rico deserve a process of status self-determination that gives them a fair and unambiguous choice on this matter.  As president I will do my part to insure that Congress follows the Constitution. The will of the Puerto Rican people in any status referendum should be considered as Congress follows through on any desired change in status for Puerto Rico, including statehood.

He also sent a letter to Puerto Rico earlier this week, according to El Vocero, expressing congratulations on the anniversary of the Jones Act:

“I join the 3.6 million US citizens living in that beautiful island to celebrate such an important for all Puerto Ricans and all Americans also date… The best that Puerto Rico has to offer is its people. Many Puerto Ricans have contributed significantly to the United States in the field of the arts, sport, culture, business and, above all, through sacrifice and patriotism of a number of Puerto Ricans who have served in the Forces US armed. This dedication to the nation serves as an example for all… I’m glad that you are part of our nation.”

John Kasich has not made a statement on the subject, but his team in Puerto Rico has made comments suggesting that he supports statehood, according to EnglishFirst, an organization which opposes statehood for Puerto Rico.

Rubio is expected to win the primary, according to Caribbean Business, and will be holding a rally in San Juan over the weekend. He has spoken in support of extending the EITC to Puerto Rico and providing equal levels of federal funding across the board, positions that make him an appealing choice for residents of Puerto Rico. Since they cannot vote in the presidential elections, residents feel that the primary is their best chance to influence the outcome.

It will be more difficult to vote in the primary this year, since there will be far fewer polling places available than usual, because of the territory’s financial difficulties.

Caribbean Business also reports that one local candidate for senator is asking supporters to write “Statehood Now” on the ballot. A federally-funded plebiscite is expected to take place next year.


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