P.R.'s Fortuno to Politicians: Do The Right Thing

Tuesday, 17 Jul 2012 12:36 PM

By Martin Gould and Kathleen Walter

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Politicians must learn to take decisive action as early as possible and stick to their guns with their program, Puerto Rico’s Gov. Luis Fortuño tells Newsmax in an exclusive interview.

Only then can they expect success, said the Republican, who has been mentioned as an outside shot to be Mitt Romney’s running mate in the presidential election.

“What I’ve learned is that whatever you want to do, do it early and do everything you need to do right away and stick to your principles,” he told Newsmax.TV.

Watch the exclusive video here.



“Don’t deviate from your principles,” he said, comparing himself to fellow Republican Gov. Scott Walker of Wisconsin. “If you’re doing the right thing, at the end of the day, it’s going to work and it will create jobs and generate new economic activity.”

Fortuño has been credited with turning the Caribbean territory around financially since taking office in 2009. But his austerity measures have not always been popular and he is facing a stiff re-election race against Sen. Alejandro Garcia Padilla in November.

“When I came into office, for every dollar that the government had, it was spending $1.44. Now, we’re spending $1.03, Fortuño said.

“That has allowed us to start lowering taxes on everyone, both corporations and individuals. It is the right thing to do.

“I’m not in politics or public service just to get re-elected over and over again. I’m here to do the right thing.”

But he said voters on the island should re-elect him because they do not want to go back to the old ways.

“In these trying and difficult moments, you need a steady hand that will guide us through the process. We came back from the brink of bankruptcy. Do you want us to actually risk it and go back to where we were before, where we could barely operate our government, when tax rates were so high that it was eviscerating the small and medium-sized businesses and everyone around the island?

“Certainly not. And there’s no way back.”

Fortuño described himself as “just a governor doing my job,” but says he is honored by the compliments he has received and recognition that he could be a major player on the national stage in years to come.

“I’ve turned around an island,” he said. “I would love to turn around companies. I’d love to turn around whatever — maybe serving on boards and assisting in any way in which I could. Certainly there’s a lot that all citizens can do that doesn’t require us to run for office.”

Fortuño is a strong supporter of statehood for Puerto Rico, and the issue will be before voters on Nov. 6 for the fourth time in 21 years.

“We became part of America in 1898. We’ve been American citizens since 1917,” he pointed out. “We’ve fought in every single war with valor and courage, actually in greater numbers than most states.

“Yet we do not sit around the table when decisions are made in Washington that affect our daily lives. That is wrong and that has to be addressed one way or another.”

He said that states also get more attention than territories, mentioning in particular the issues of drug-running and border control. Because of tightened security on the Mexican border, more drugs are now entering the country via the Caribbean, he said.

“That is affecting us directly. It also affects everyone, especially those residing on the eastern seaboard. What we’re demanding is that our border be as protected as the Canadian border and the Mexican border.”

Garcia Padilla has called on Fortuño to impose an island-wide state of emergency because of the increased violence, which has cost 500 lives already this year, but the governor has resisted the call.

“Executive orders will not decide this,” he said. “What we need is the technology infrastructure in place and the will to do what it takes working in conjunction with our sister federal agencies.”

The governor said he believes the Hispanic vote could decide the presidential election as the battleground states of Florida, Colorado, New Mexico, Nevada and Pennsylvania all have sizeable Latino populations.

But he said it is wrong to lump all Hispanics together as a voting bloc.

“Hispanic voters will decide how to vote this time around in the same way that every voter in America will. It’s going to be based on taxes, job creation and where the nation is headed.

“I’m hopeful that we’ll be able to communicate that to all voters whether they’re Hispanic, female voters, young voters or what have you.”


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