The line of 2016 presidential candidates visiting Puerto Rico continues to grow with Democrat Hillary Clinton scheduled to make a stop there next month, her campaign announced Tuesday.
Clinton will use the Sept. 4 campaign stop to reiterate her support for allowing the U.S. commonwealth to restructure its $72 billion debt through Chapter 9 bankruptcy, said campaign spokeswoman Xochitl Hinojosa. Also she plans to "share her vision for an economy that helps everyday Puerto Ricans get ahead, and stay ahead," Hinojosa said.
Although it is a U.S. territory, Puerto Rico can't use the Chapter 9 option, available to U.S. cities such as Detroit, unless Congress allows it.
Clinton also will attend a fundraiser on the trip although the campaign said information about the fundraiser was not yet available. Clinton has some key allies and former 2008 campaign staffers in Puerto Rico.
Her trip follows visits to the island by Republican candidate Jeb Bush, before he officially announced his presidential bid, and former Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley, a Democrat, who was on the island Aug. 1. Both also support Chapter 9 filing authority for Puerto Rico.
The commonwealth is racked by a severe economic crisis and is unable to repay its mulitbillion-dollar debt. It missed a $58 million payment to bondholders this month and more deadlines are looming. The island faces some $600 million in payments this month alone, also is experiencing a devastating drought that has forced water rationing.
Congress is in recess and although Democrats in the Senate have sponsored a bill to give Puerto Rico Chapter 9 bankruptcy filing authority, its questionable whether it will get Republican support. A bill in the House sponsored by Pedro Pierluisi, the resident commissioner representing the island but who has no vote in Congress, has sputtered.
Although, Puerto Rico is need of immediate solutions, Rafael Fantauzzi, CEO of the National Puerto Rico Coalition, said the candidates' visits to the island "does make a difference."
"Any candidate who wants to have a serious chance at the White House," should be taking into consideration the 3.5 million people living on the island of Puerto Rico who are American citizens, Fantauzzi said. Although they can't vote in the presidential election, many have family on the U.S. mainland who can and a number of people have left the island in recent years because of the economic crisis. Many of the relocated Puerto Ricans are in Florida, a battleground state.
Taking the presidential campaign to the island is not new, but "it's important for people to understand that Puerto Rican people on the mainland also are very concerned about what is happening on the island," Fantauzzi said. Many are thinking about "who is going to take care of my family? I'm going to look into that and I'm going to put that in the equation of who I'm going to vote for."
Clinton's visit will fall at an important time in the ongoing crisis. Puerto Rico's Gov. Alejandro García Padilla formed a working group in June and a report with suggested solutions and actions to be taken by the island is due out by the end of this month.