Bernie and Bill take Puerto Rico

by May 31, 2016Elections, Headlines0 comments

With primary day in sight, two well-known national politicians made their way to Puerto Rico last week for one last attempt at gaining support.  The importance of June 5th cannot be overstated for Puerto Ricans.  Citizens of the U.S. territory are not allowed to vote in the general election, but they are given the right to vote in the primary elections.  This is their only opportunity to have any say in the 2016 presidential election.  Sixty pledged delegates are at stake for the Democratic primary.  Presidential candidate Bernie Sanders, spoke at three events in Puerto Rico just weeks before the upcoming primary elections.  Bill Clinton, former president and husband of presidential candidate, Hillary Clinton, traveled to the island immediately after Sanders’ final event.

Former governor, Anibal Acevedo Vila (D, PDP), a Sanders supporter, was in the audience for Sanders’ first event, where the Senator rejected the proposal from Congress to create an oversight board, calling it “anti-democratic.” If elected, the Senator stated that a goal during his first year in office would be to give Puerto Ricans the chance to influence the political future of the island.  Puerto Rico Gov. Alejandro Garcia Padilla (D, PDP) also opposes the creation of an oversight board, and expressed his frustrations towards the US for not helping Puerto Rico.  

Pledged Delegates up for grabs

Addressing a crowd in San Juan, Sanders warned of a humanitarian crisis that is overwhelming the island.  He proposed that the Federal Reserve should be the one to rescue the island from its economic crisis.  In the last 10 years, Puerto Rico has lost 20% of its jobs, and 60% of people are unemployed.  He wants to rebuild infrastructure and utilize the wind and solar resources to alleviate the economic pressures on the islands. As Puerto Rico continues to default on multi million-dollar bond payments, the hedge funds holding a large percentage of the country’s $70 billion public debt are in need of a “massive haircut,” according to the Vermont Senator.  For his third and final event, Sanders addressed hundreds of students at the University of Puerto Rico on Monday, May 16.  

His visit was followed by a Spanish ad airing in local markets, touting the Vermont senator as Puerto Rico’s defender against Wall Street.

The following day, former president Bill Clinton arrived on the island to campaign for his wife, Hillary Clinton.  If Hillary is elected, Bill Clinton has asked to be given the task of helping all the places of the United States that have been left out and behind.  He also said he believes Puerto Ricans should have the right to vote in the general election for the president.  Clinton also spoke of the healthcare issues on the island. He stressed his wife’s concern over how inequality has affected the territory.  

Clinton made a stop in the U.S. Virgin Islands a mere two days before speaking in Puerto Rico, where he highlighted similar issues concerning the election, health care, and energy costs.

At the time of Sanders’ appearances, a plan to aid Puerto Rico had not been passed.  Speaker of the House Paul Ryan, was hopeful that a revised bill would be introduced shortly. On Wednesday evening, the bill entitled PROMESA, which will create the oversight board which Sanders strongly opposes, was passed by the House Committee on Natural Resources. The former Secretary of State backs the bill while Senator Sanders has come out against it.

Currently, neither candidate has acquired enough delegates to win the nomination. Clinton stands at 2305 acquired delegates.  Sanders is behind her, with 1539 delegates won. Per Pasquines’ polling from April, Clinton is expected to win most of the delegates in the US territory, taking close to 66% of the vote. She is also expected to surpass 2383 delegates soon after Puerto Rico’s primary, and is ultimately predicted to win the general election.