Tags: Puerto Rico | statehood | much harder | Luis Fortuno | Alejandro Garcia Padilla

Ex-Gov. Fortuno: After Default, Puerto Rican Statehood 'Much Harder'

Ex-Gov. Fortuno: After Default, Puerto Rican Statehood 'Much Harder'
Former Puerto Rico Gov. Luis Fortuno. (Getty Images)

By Monday, 10 August 2015 10:58 AM Current | Bio | Archive

Days after Puerto Rico defaulted on some of its debts, the commonwealth’s former governor, Luis Fortuno, told Newsmax that the movement for statehood that he long championed is now "much harder."

"The spending by the present governor [Democrat Alejandro Garcia Padilla] has led to the lower bond rating Puerto Rico is now facing," said Fortuno, who narrowly lost re-election to Padilla in 2012, adding: "It hurts."

Puerto Rico now appears headed to a complete restructuring of its overall $72 billion in obligations.

Fortuno spoke to us a week after Newsmax brought up his name and his commitment to making Puerto Rico the 51st state during a press briefing at the White House.

Noting Fortuno’s claim that if Puerto Rico moved toward statehood it would be easier to resolve its fiscal plight, we asked, "What is the president’s position today on statehood for Puerto Rico?"

"Our position has been that this was a decision for the people of Puerto Rico to make," press secretary Josh Earnest told us. "And I know that there have been a series of political structures [that] have been created over the last couple of decades to try to resolve this issue. But our position continues to be that this would be a decision for the people of Puerto Rico to make."

"That’s an interesting way to look at it," said Fortuno, responding to Earnest’s remarks.

"The voters spoke on Nov. 6, 2012, and 54 percent of them rejected the present arrangement [commonwealth status]. When voters on the same day were asked to pick an alternative status, nearly 62 percent of those who cast ballots voted for statehood."

The White House then urged Congress to take action on the referendum, but in Fortuno’s view, the Obama administration "has not done much since." He noted that the House Natural Resources Subcommittee on Indian, Insular, and Alaskan Native Affairs has had hearings and Chairman Don Young, R-Alaska, was very supportive of statehood, probably because he is from Alaska and remembers what it was like when they wanted to become a state."

But he pointed out that the full Natural Resources Committee under Chairman Rob Bishop, R-Utah, has yet to take any action on statehood.

"The bottom line is that as a territory, we operate at a tremendous disadvantage," Fortuno told us, noting that the cost of maintaining infrastructure is higher than it would be if Puerto Rico were part of the United States, and "there is at least a billion dollars a year difference in the cost of Medicaid as a territory than it would be as a state."

On the same day we asked the White House about its position on Puerto Rican statehood, the government in San Juan failed to make a $58 million payment on Public Finance Corporation bonds, and Victor Suarez, top aide to Gov. Garcia Padilla, told reporters: "We don’t have the money."

John Gizzi is chief political columnist and White House correspondent for Newsmax.


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Days after Puerto Rico defaulted on some of its debts, the commonwealth's former governor, Luis Fortuno, told Newsmax that the movement for statehood that he long championed is now "much harder."
Puerto Rico, statehood, much harder, Luis Fortuno, Alejandro Garcia Padilla
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2015-58-10
Monday, 10 August 2015 10:58 AM
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