Here’s Where the Presidential Candidates Stand on Puerto Rico’s Debt Crisis

Lead Photo: AP/Ricardo Arduengo
AP/Ricardo Arduengo
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Donald Trump won Florida’s Republican primary on Tuesday night by a large margin, forcing Marco Rubio to withdraw from the race.  But if he clinches the Republican nomination, Florida’s rising Puerto Rican population could stop him from taking the swing state come November’s general election.

In the last two years, something like one million Puerto Ricans have left the island because of the economic crisis, and many are settling in Central Florida, according to Politico. “You can see the Puerto Rican influence taking shape here,” Christina Hernandez, a political consultant who worked for Obama’s campaign in 2012, told Politico. “Ten years ago, we only had one Hispanic radio station. Now we have three. You are seeing more Puerto Rican businesses popping up in neighborhoods. You are seeing mazorca being sold in some Starbucks.”

In fact, Puerto Ricans are on track to outpace Florida’s Cuban population, which could have a significant impact on Florida’s usual electoral outcomes: While Cubans consistently vote Republican, Puerto Ricans lean Democratic.

This has made Kissimmee’s Melao Bakery as important a campaign stop as Miami’s Versailles Restaurant. And yet, while on the campaign trail, the candidates have avoided discussing how they would handle Puerto Rico’s budget shortage and impending default on its $78 billion debt. As Republicans and Democrats in Congress craft competing bills to help Puerto Rico restructure its debt, we’re looking into where the remaining five presidential hopefuls stand when it comes to the island’s financial crisis:

Editor’s Note: This post has been updated to reflect the results of Tuesday’s primary results in Florida, Illinois, Missouri, North Carolina, and Ohio.


Bernie Sanders

Bernie Sanders’ website includes Puerto Rico as one of his issues – something not all candidates have done. In October 2015, Bernie implored Puerto Rican leaders and the U.S. Treasury department to find a solution at the U.S. Senate Energy Committee hearing. “At the hearing he said that Wall Street vulture funds knew they were making a risky investment in Puerto Rico’s debt, and shouldn’t be rewarded with full compensation of their bond purchases.”

Sanders also sent Jack Lew, the U.S. Secretary of Treasury, a letter asking him to meet with the Puerto Rican government to find a plan that works for everyone. Sanders’ plan includes giving the Caribbean island the same Chapter 9 bankruptcy protections available to other U.S. municipalities.

Sanders would also enact a $1 trillion jobs program that would bring more than 140,000 jobs, and he would also focus on clean energy.

“Give Puerto Rico the tools it needs to aggressively move towards a clean energy economy, instead of being dependent on importing dirty fossil fuels that are bad for the environment and the planet,” his site reads. “Puerto Rico is blessed with abundant solar and wind resources, and has great potential to expand biomass and geothermal energy. The island has the potential to develop cutting edge marine and hydrokinetic renewable energy, as well as oceanic thermal energy.”


Donald Trump

According to teleSUR, Donald Trump hasn’t taken a position on Puerto Rico’s debt crisis. Last year, his connection to the debt crisis was revealed when the Coco Beach Gold  Country Club filed for bankruptcy on its $78 million debt. Though the course is owned by Empresas Diaz, it licenses the Trump name.


Hillary Clinton

Win McNamee/Getty Images

Hillary Clinton released a bilingual statement on her position on her website. In it, she outlined the long road ahead for Puerto Rico. “The challenge is multi-faceted, and will ultimately require Puerto Rico to find a way to pay back its debtors in an orderly fashion,” the site reads. “As a first step, Congress should provide Puerto Rico the same authority that states already have to enable severely distressed government entities, including municipalities and public corporations, to restructure their debts under Chapter 9 of the Bankruptcy Code.”

Clinton added that coming up with a long-term plan for the declining population is also necessary.


John Kasich

AP Photo/Jim Cole

According to PBS, John Kasich does not have an official plan for solving Puerto Rico’s debt crisis. He did say that for Puerto Rico to file bankruptcy, it would need to become a state.


Ted Cruz

Pete Marovich/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Ted Cruz has also not made comments about Puerto Rico. teleSUR reports that Cruz recently hinted that he would give Puerto Rico a chance to become the 51st state via referendum.