Puerto Rico is still mired in one of the worst economic crises in the island’s history. Its new young governor, Ricardo Rosselló, is on a campaign to turn things around - and he's betting an important ally will be South Florida’s booming Puerto Rican diaspora.
Rosselló is only 38 years old. But he’s leveraging his youthful energy in an effort not only to reform the U.S. territory’s disastrous finances but to change the often dysfunctional relationship between the U.S. government and Puerto Rico – whose residents are U.S. citizens.
That’s why Rosselló is in South Florida this week. On Monday, he visited the Borinquen Healthcare Center in Miami, a major clinic for the Puerto Rican community. He hopes to get states like Florida to lobby Washington for what he calls fairer federal health care aid for Puerto Rico, which he argues would help lessen the burden for states like Florida that are receiving so many Puerto Ricans migrating to the U.S. because of the island's debt catastrophe. (More Puerto Ricans now live in the U.S. mainland than in Puerto Rico itself.)
“Just today I wrote a letter to[Florida] Gov. [Rick] Scott stating that if we can establish equal treatment for U.S. citizens in Puerto Rico," said Rosselló, "then I’m sure that also the United States and the states’ governments will be better off.”
Rosselló also hopes to leverage the growing political clout of the 300,000 Puerto Ricans living in South Florida. He especially wants their help in pressing the U.S. to make Puerto Rico the 51st state if it votes this year for statehood.
“It’s critical," Rosselló said. "Puerto Ricans, we’re 3.5 million citizens, U.S. citizens, but we don’t have the right to vote [in U.S. elections]. We don’t have a voting member in Congress. Those Puerto Ricans that reside over here do.”
Rosselló, who hails from Puerto Rico's New Progressive Party, is also here at the invitation of the Miami-Dade Democratic Party.