Obama Commits to Puerto Rican Voters: Growth of Stateside Puerto Ricans Determining Factor in Presidential Race?
Miami, FL -- In letters to Senators Barack Obama and John McCain, as leading presidential candidates, the nonpartisan National Congress for Puerto Rican Rights (NCPRR), has requested a dialogue on issues for stateside Puerto Ricans and those on the island-nation.
Obama’s recent response was welcomed by the NCPRR, while McCain’s reply is still pending. The answer from Obama to the NCPRR’s letter denotes the importance of the Puerto Rican vote in the upcoming presidential elections.
According to the latest US Census figures, the stateside Puerto Rican population has achieved unprecedented growth. For the first time in history, stateside Puerto Ricans outnumber those in Puerto Rico, by roughly 4.2 million over the 3.7 million population on the island. The unprecedented growth of the Puerto Rican population, especially in the battleground state of Florida, presents unique voter challenges to the presidential candidates, in view of traditional Democratic Party loyalties among Puerto Ricans.
Obama’s letter expresses an “understand(ing) firsthand” of the issues in Puerto Rico from being raised in Hawaii, and praise for the contributions Puerto Ricans have made to the United States. On improving economic opportunities for all Puerto Ricans, the letter identified Obama’s economic stimulus plans and tax initiatives, along with his commitment to “work with Puerto Rico to help the island regain its economic footing…” partly via a joint U.S.-Puerto Rico economic task force focused on job creation. The response recommends immediate steps for Puerto Rico, including phasing out the cap on Medicaid funding, phasing in participation in other federal health care assistance programs and providing refundable tax credits to working families.
Finally, the letter provides Senator Obama’s sense that the Puerto Rico status question is “a matter of self-determination for the people of Puerto Rico,” and that he will seek to work with all sides of the debate “to resolve the matter for once and for all in a manner that respects the principle of self-determination.”
“It is critical that the needs of stateside Puerto Ricans and the island’s 3.7 million people be addressed by the person who will occupy the White House,” said Victor Vazquez, president of the NCPRR. “Our letters inviting the presidential candidates to dialogue with the Puerto Rican community comes at a time of significant social and economic challenge. Our families are struggling to make ends meet and our youth dragged into a now unpopular war. Puerto Ricans are part of the US fiber, which cannot continue to be ignored, and which our organization intends to reinforce and leverage to build respect and justice for our people.”
The National Congress for Puerto Rican Rights will continue pursing specific answers from the presidential candidates on their plans to tackle challenges for all Puerto Ricans, and hold the next administration accountable for change, including on the promises of environmental clean up and economic development made to the people of Vieques after the withdrawal of the U.S. Navy. The NCPRR is a civil rights group that addresses racial equality, environmental justice and economic parity.
For more information on NCPRR, go to www.ncprr.us.
source: NCPRR press release