Hillary Promises to Help Puerto Ricans Decide on Statehood or Independence

Hillary Clinton today promised Puerto Ricans she would "would vigorously advance plans that would enable Puerto Rico to decide if it wants to remain a commonwealth or become a U.S. state or an independent nation."

Puerto Rico has been a commonwealth since 1952. Its residents are almost equally divided on whether it should change its status:

Puerto Ricans are U.S. citizens but cannot vote for president, and their representation in Congress is restricted to a single nonvoting member. National party conventions provide islanders a rare chance to have a direct say in Washington.


Big Tent Democrat is the resident expert on Puerto Rico. I don't know his position on Puerto Rico's future.

I will mention that I began visiting Puerto Rico in high school. My parents moved to Puerto Rico when I started law school and I spent every school break there for three years. (They then moved to Florida and then to Denver.)

So I have very warm feelings for Puerto Rico and Puerto Ricans, and strongly believe they should be allowed to determine their own status.

Puerto Rico holds its primary on June 1. It will award 62 delegates, 7 of them superdelegates to the Democratic Convention.

In her campaign's Monday statement, Clinton also pledged to provide new tax benefits to create jobs in Puerto Rico, which is struggling through a second year of recession, and to return some federal land on the outlying island of Vieques to local residents.

Clinton was among several New York politicians who had been vocal supporters of halting military exercises in Vieques, which had provoked protests that contributed to the U.S. decision to end maneuvers in 2003.

I'm glad to see Hillary make this kind of promise to them. More on Hillary's new policy statement from the Wall St. Journal:

Today, Hillary Clinton released a policy agenda to put more policemen in Puerto Rico, bring universal health care to the island, create new jobs and work to have the federal government give up land on Vieques island, where the Navy formerly operated a bombing range. Her plan today is also designed to lift the cap on Medicaid there, and to extend President Bush’s latest budget proposal to include aid to Puerto Ricans.

“As first lady and senator from New York—with a million constituents of Puerto Rican origin and people moving back and forth—she has worked closely with Puerto Rican leaders,” the campaign said in a statement.

Hillary is favored to win Puerto Rico. I think her new policy agenda is another sign she has no intention of abandoning her campaign.

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    Can you please enlighten me (5.00 / 1) (#3)
    by BarnBabe on Mon Mar 17, 2008 at 11:16:27 PM EST
    If I read this right, you are saying Puerto Rico can vote in a primary but not in the GE? And this is because they are not a state? Thanks.

    You are correct (none / 0) (#5)
    by Big Tent Democrat on Mon Mar 17, 2008 at 11:17:28 PM EST
    I thought Puerto Ricans ... (none / 0) (#15)
    by Robot Porter on Tue Mar 18, 2008 at 12:35:27 AM EST
    who are residents of Puerto Rico cannot vote for President, but if they're residents of a U.S. state they can.

    The article above makes it sound like they cannot vote at all no matter where they live.


    Here's my question (none / 0) (#30)
    by cmugirl on Tue Mar 18, 2008 at 11:21:18 AM EST
    If Puerto Rico is a Commonwealth, then why do the Commonwealths of Pennsylvania, Virgina, Massachusetts, and Kentucky get to fully participate  in the US government and elections?

    Any experts on this out there?


    probably a testament to my ignorance, (5.00 / 2) (#11)
    by cpinva on Mon Mar 17, 2008 at 11:47:13 PM EST
    with respect to puerto rico, but i've always wondered why the heck they just don't vote to decide what they want to do? is there some law that prevents them from doing so, which needs to be changed first?

    regardless of what they decide, someone's going to be unhappy. that is the risk you run in a democracy.

    Agree. Is there some reason (none / 0) (#12)
    by oculus on Mon Mar 17, 2008 at 11:53:55 PM EST
    HRC needs to be involved?  Sounds like Iraq.

    The U.S. Constitution would have to be amended (none / 0) (#22)
    by leonid on Tue Mar 18, 2008 at 02:06:36 AM EST
    Congress admits new states to the union. Even if the people of Puerto Rico wanted statehood they couldn't get it without Congress approval.

    The constitution (none / 0) (#23)
    by Abdul Abulbul Amir on Tue Mar 18, 2008 at 07:21:26 AM EST
    The constitution would not need to be amended to admit PR.  An act of Congress is all that is needed.

    that's kind of what i thought too. (none / 0) (#28)
    by cpinva on Tue Mar 18, 2008 at 09:36:26 AM EST
    which again raises the question: what the heck are they waiting for?

    i could be wrong, but i suspect if the citizens of puerto rico voted for statehood, there are any number of congresspeople ready and willing to propose that legislation.

    i see this issue raised from time to time, and i'm still not at all clear why it is they don't just have a referrendum on it or something?


    They did (none / 0) (#32)
    by Abdul Abulbul Amir on Tue Mar 18, 2008 at 12:24:07 PM EST

    a while back, but statehood did not win.  The problem (if you want to call it that) is Commonwealth has most of the benefits to individuals of citizenship, but without the tax burden.  I suspect that to a fair number gaining the vote is not enough to give up 20%+ of your pay check.

    BTW, I suspect that my beautiful bride (aka the Minister of Finance) would require the two of us to quit voting if it meant no income tax.


    Why you say? (none / 0) (#31)
    by knotimpaired on Tue Mar 18, 2008 at 11:32:52 AM EST
    It is because many people in Puerto Rico reap the benefits of the  US government system, i.e. food stamps, welfare, family benefits, health care, etc.

    When you live in a small town (or island as I do) you wait in line at the post office for 45 minutes sometimes.

    It is because people (I can only talk about my community of Vieques) use money orders from the Post Office to pay everything. They have no checking accounts because that may come back to haunt them when goverment services find out.

    As much as everyone questions why we do not do more or stand up and yell, no one wants to tip over the apple cart

    Do you understand now?


    if the residents of puerto rico are (5.00 / 2) (#14)
    by hellothere on Tue Mar 18, 2008 at 12:02:53 AM EST
    citizens, then they have every right to vote for president. it should be cased closed.  i am for enfranchisment.

    Citizens don't vote for President in the U.S. (none / 0) (#18)
    by leonid on Tue Mar 18, 2008 at 01:35:08 AM EST
    No one in the United States has the right to vote for President. Only 535 people actually cast votes for President in current elections. Residents of the states who are also citizens of the United States have the right to vote for electors but only states have electors.

    Since the territories under United States jurisdiction have no guaranteed permanent affiliation with the United States it might be unwise to let them vote for President, although there are people who make the argument that the U.S. President is so important to world affairs that even foreigners should be allowed to vote.


    538, actually (none / 0) (#20)
    by leonid on Tue Mar 18, 2008 at 01:50:38 AM EST
    538 votes for President, if I understand the 23rd Amendment correctly.

    thanks, i stand corrected. (none / 0) (#21)
    by hellothere on Tue Mar 18, 2008 at 01:56:03 AM EST
    That's my girl! (5.00 / 1) (#26)
    by tek on Tue Mar 18, 2008 at 08:32:46 AM EST
    Get some legitimate ideas to bring in votes.

    They should be a state.

    Very shrewd (4.75 / 4) (#1)
    by Big Tent Democrat on Mon Mar 17, 2008 at 11:13:39 PM EST
    But in theory it alienates all Commonwealth supporters. Why do I thus still think it is shrewd? Because MOST of the voters will be Statehooders.

    For a few reasons. First and foremost, the most efficient political machines in Puerto Rico are controlled by the Statehood Party, the PNP. I believe they will turnout at least 2/3 of the voters in the primaries and they will likely vote en masse for Clinton. Why? Rossello. VERY close to the Clintons.

    Second reason it is smart, the Media in Puerto Rico LOVES to denigrate the Commonwealth position. Thus Hillary's position plays into that as well.

    Third reason is even the Commonwealth Party is split on Commonwealth now.

    Fourth reason it is an attempt, I believe, to goad Obama into defending Commonwealth.

    We'll see.

    All that said, I do not believe Puerto Rico matters anymore. But of course she has no plans to abandon her campaign.

    BTW (none / 0) (#8)
    by Big Tent Democrat on Mon Mar 17, 2008 at 11:24:13 PM EST
    Rossello lost the primary in the PNP Gubernatorial race to the Republican Luis Fortuno.

    I still think his machine along with other prominent PNPers will be decisive in the primary.

    Fortuno will be neutral of course. I know the current Governor is for Obama but his support is toxic right now.


    One of the people I like least (none / 0) (#10)
    by andgarden on Mon Mar 17, 2008 at 11:33:16 PM EST
    interned for Fortuño in the House a couple of years ago. SuperRepublican.

    I think this is some serious pandering. (none / 0) (#2)
    by ajain on Mon Mar 17, 2008 at 11:15:44 PM EST
    Or did she hold all of these positions before.

    Not that I am against pandering, it is a true and tested political ploy.

    Actually (none / 0) (#4)
    by Big Tent Democrat on Mon Mar 17, 2008 at 11:16:59 PM EST
    It is the position of the Clinton Administration in the 90s on almost every particular.

    And (none / 0) (#24)
    by Abdul Abulbul Amir on Tue Mar 18, 2008 at 07:23:39 AM EST

    And just about every other administration as well iirc.

    Of course she's not going anywhere-- (none / 0) (#6)
    by NJDem on Mon Mar 17, 2008 at 11:18:07 PM EST
    and why should she?  

    BTD: why don't you think the PR primary will matter?  Just as a matter of delegates, it looks like this thing is going until June?  Unless a certain issue proves more damaging...is that what you're referring to or am I reading too much into your post?  [apologies if I did :)]

    See the thread in J's post (none / 0) (#9)
    by Big Tent Democrat on Mon Mar 17, 2008 at 11:24:49 PM EST
    on No Florida Revote.

    of course she's pandering, (none / 0) (#7)
    by NJDem on Mon Mar 17, 2008 at 11:19:30 PM EST
    but don't forget the number of Puerto Ricans she represents in NY.

    What she has proposed is no different than (5.00 / 5) (#13)
    by TomLincoln on Tue Mar 18, 2008 at 12:00:01 AM EST
    what Clinton Administration proposed in the '90's, and you may say it is pandering, but I (who have lived in PR all my life except for stints stateside in prep school and college) do not view it as such. Clintons have record with PR. If you want to see some real pandering, you should see the proposals Obama put forth to get pro-commonwealth forces to side with him. He did this with the help of Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-Ill.) who is some sort of advisor on hispanic affairs or relations for Obama campaign. Obama has never developed a relationship with Puerto Rico, and just came here in December 07 or January 08 for a fund raising activity, and did not even speak to the press. Hillary came to Puerto Rico right after a big hurricane in the '90's and also during the protests to end the Navy bombing of Vieques. She is well liked here as is Bill Clinton.

    Two questions on Puerto Rico (none / 0) (#16)
    by jcsf on Tue Mar 18, 2008 at 12:46:21 AM EST
    this Hillary is favored thing, a couple of questions on it:

    a.  It's known that Jesse Jackson won Puerto Rico back in the 80's.  Why did Jesse win, and what is different now?
    b.  I spent quite a few summers in St. Croix between the ages of 8 and 13, and made it out to Puerto Rico as well, a couple of times (though I really only remember well St. Croix).  On a very clear day, you could sometimees see Puerto Rico from the island, although only vaguely.

    Are the makeups of the islands THAT different?  I don't remember it being so so different, although there people were generally lighter on Puerto Rico (forgive my young memories).

    Also, Dominican Republic is on the other side.  So, heavily black on one side, heavily black on the other side, voted for Jesse Jackson in 1980's - is Puerto Rico that different from the rest of the Carribbean, so as to vote for Clinton over Obama?

    In demographics (none / 0) (#17)
    by jcsf on Tue Mar 18, 2008 at 12:47:10 AM EST
    Is really what I'm asking.

    Hispanic, if you're not offend by that term (none / 0) (#19)
    by leonid on Tue Mar 18, 2008 at 01:43:05 AM EST
    The residents of Puerto Rico are generally thought of as Hispanic, although some people object to that term. Spanish is the primary language.

    From Wikipedia (emphasis added):

    In the 2000 U.S. Census Puerto Ricans were asked to indicate in which racial categories they consider themselves to belong; 80% described themselves as "white"; 8% as "black"; 12% as "mulatto" and 0.4% as "American Indian or Alaska Native".[43][44] (The U.S. Census does not consider Hispanic a race, and asks if a person considers himself Hispanic in a separate question.)

    Samoa (none / 0) (#27)
    by tek on Tue Mar 18, 2008 at 08:34:05 AM EST
    voted for her.

    Puerto Ricans do not cliam to be (none / 0) (#25)
    by Saul on Tue Mar 18, 2008 at 07:55:14 AM EST
    U.S. Latinos  They are American citizens by birth.  They do not have exactly the same issues like the Latinos in Texas and Cal.  The have voted several times on the question of statehood.  I believe the last vote was in 98 something like 47 for it and 53 for the status quo.  Almost evenly split.  Obama went there this year for a fund raiser, did not talk much to the media and left but he acknowledge he was staying neutral on the statehood issue. Obama was endorsed by the Gov of PR, who belongs to the status quo. I read on one of the blogs, where a Puerto Rican said that Obama should have taken a stance on statehood.  He used the analogy that it was like if you had a Latino U.S. presidential candidate going to the southern states and asking for support yet staying neutral on segregation.  If you google you can find sites that show the pro and cons for statehood.  Personally I think it would be very frustrating to me to know I can vote in a primary or caucus in PR to choose the horses in the race but I cannot vote in the GE.  Also when there was a military draft, all Puerto Ricans had to comply yet they could not vote on who their CIC would be.  I believe that many in the status quo like the power they have enjoyed all these years and do not want to give it up by becoming a state.    Also some say that becoming a U.S State will dilute their culture and PR will look to much like any other state in the union.

    Vieques (none / 0) (#29)
    by knotimpaired on Tue Mar 18, 2008 at 11:02:27 AM EST
    As a resident of Vieques I can firmly state that what Mrs. Clinton promises (returning land to the people) is not possible. This land was turned over to the Dept. of Interior and Congress would need to decide what happens and they will never vote to return it. When I say return it, that is a misnomer. The Sugar Plantations were paid a fair price by the US Government for their land.

    Vieques has the largest Reserve in the Caribbean and there is no way that a reversal will happen.

    There is a small handful (and I mean small) that want to obtain property but you must understand, they were never property owners. Maybe their grandfather or great-grandfather worked on the land but they were paid a decent salary to do so. These certain individuals who represent this group state they are "for the people" but they are not even Viequense born and they are fighting for this return of lands. Go figure. Mind you when I say they that are fighting for this, they have absolutely no claim what-so-ever to even think they can do this.

    Understand that Mrs. Clinton is saying that the lands must or will be returned but they never owned the lands she speaks of.

    All that said and done, Mrs. Clinton is promising the moon for the Yoricans and I can promise you that of the millions of Puerto Ricons that do vote in the states, maybe 1% or less have ever visited our island.

    What Mrs. Clinton is stating is a blatant lie. She knows it, residents here know it and the PR residents in the states need to know this also.

    Vieques needs to get off the radar as far as this election is concerned. Puerto Rico in general needs to be the issue. Vieques is a very minute issue in this primary.

    And when you read about what by both Clinton and Obama say about Puerto Rico, Vieques is all they talk about. We have 9,000 residents here.

    Leave us alone. The Navy is gone and the majority of residents want the Fish and Wildlife to retain the pristine of the lands.

    By the way, this is written by a democrat.

    I would love to see Puerto Rico as a state (none / 0) (#33)
    by shortstuba2006 on Wed Mar 26, 2008 at 09:06:50 PM EST
    I am a believer in the New Progressive Party. My family has good relations with some of its members. I used to live at Puerto Rico but moved to Florida. I do believe Puerto Rico should get a saying who should get to be president. I am also a firm believer that having Puerto Rico as a state will make things a lot easier for the people at Puerto Rico when we have issues with hurricanes and other natural forces. Sila ("mira que linda lol!) took out the troops out of the bases and now people that live near them will not get refuge when needed or anything like that. so NPP must win the election this November and Puerto Rico should get a saying on what they want really. I am sure they will pick statehood because the past few years have not been good for them with a PPD as a governor.