In an interview with El Nuevo Dia, Senator Tim Kaine (Virginia), the Democratic vice presidential candidate, answered a number of questions about Puerto Rico.
Kaine affirmed that the plebiscite in November 2012 was a clear rejection of the current territorial status. “I think those were clear results in 2012,” Kaine said.
In the 2012 vote, 54% of voters who answered the first question said that they did not want to remain a territory; 61% of those who answered the second question chose statehood as their preferred status.
Kaine said that Clinton intends to work “with advocates of all persuasions to answer the fundamental question of [Puerto Rico’s] political status” while also reminding readers that the options for the planned new referendum funded in 2014 must be approved by the Department of Justice.
Either way, Kaine emphasized, he rejects the idea of colonialism for Puerto Rico. “Whatever the status, no matter what we do on status, we must make clear that we are all Americans and Puerto Ricans are US citizens and that we do not have a relationship of a superior and an inferior. A relationship of equals. We need to make that clear.”
Kaine also said, “We must look at other areas where we can help Puerto Rico; for example, lower energy costs… Puerto Rico has also been hit by the high costs of medical care. The way we treat the territories versus states in reimbursing health programs, is very, very different… US citizens are US citizens and when you face situations where reimbursement is so drastically different, you not only lose medical professionals, doctors, but people are going to seek health services elsewhere.”
Puerto Rico has been seeing a severe loss of doctors and other medical professionals, as well as an overall population drain to the U.S. mainland.
Kaine made a statement about Puerto Rico following the Senate vote on PROMESA which included many of the same themes:
“The 3.5 million people who call Puerto Rico home are American citizens, and they deserve better. For years, Puerto Ricans have faced uncertainty about their jobs and livelihoods due to an unsustainable debt situation. This bill is far from perfect, but it is necessary. On Friday Puerto Rico would have faced a default on the debt, which would have pushed the island into uncharted waters and put into jeopardy the viability of essential public services like law enforcement, first responders, and health care workers. Due to the consequences of inaction, I voted in favor of this legislation. I do wish the Senate could have considered amendments to better protect the residents of Puerto Rico’s interests and to give them a stronger voice in the process. This bill is the first step in a long journey toward helping Puerto Rico and I look forward to continuing to engage on this issue.”