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It's an issue a 117 years in the making Puerto Rico's status and relationship with the United States.
Should Puerto Rico be admitted as the 51 state of the United States.
Puerto -- US territory or commonwealth.
Under the current status Puerto Ricans are US citizens who pay taxes mostly Social Security Medicare taxes.
But do not pay federal income taxes.
Puerto Ricans can and have been fighting in the US military but they cannot vote for president United States or any other federal elections they also had zero voting power.
In the US house and senate.
Former governor Luis -- don't know is a pro statehood leader who despite losing his re election last November is still pushing the issue.
Governor thanks for joining us.
It's my pleasure thank you so you think Puerto Rico should become a state -- Well 400 and almost a 120 years we have been part of a nation and actually we have been and the natural born American citizen since 1917.
Footing every war -- actually proportionally being greater numbers on most states since 1917.
We're proud of being Americans aren't Hispanics as well Puerto Ricans.
And though we contribute to -- -- -- we wanna continue contributing to the nation.
But we also want to partake in this issue making process on and on issues that actually affect their daily life.
As we speak congress is discussing.
What are we gonna do with Syria.
Well you know.
That a lot off Americans afford regularly -- serve in the military.
And I -- we cannot elect our commander in chief unless we move to one of the fifty states.
That often the change actually if you were to move to Puerto Rico you -- Lucia voting rights.
And now you'll pay taxes down Puerto Rico I'm not here but still it just doesn't make any sense -- we ought to decide this whether we will or we are out.
But we cannot live in limbo forever.
You know the unemployment rate in Puerto Rico its thirteen point 5% -- current governor on the -- -- -- -- says that.
It for Rico becomes a state -- will be bad for business and the island will turn into a quote Latin American ghetto true.
Well -- fifteen actually X and -- of YE states are successful.
And there's one example Puerto Rico of why Terry Tories are no longer successful.
And if you work doing best -- one of the fifty states or US territory.
Where do you feel more comfortable investing.
It is clear that he will be one of fifty states and that's another reason why we should become a state.
You know on -- -- -- in his vote this referendum though controversial vote on November 6 Puerto Rico on held a referendum vote 54% of Puerto Ricans said.
They were not satisfied with the current commonwealth status.
Although one point three million voters 61%.
Supported statehood but people say the vote was unfair because the option to stay as a territory was not listed so 500000.
As she left that question blank.
Governor for colonial was the November vote fair in your estimation.
Of course -- -- don't exactly what actually.
Congress has suggested we do for long time there were two questions the first question was whether we wanted to remain a territory -- not so the question was there.
And actually 54%.
Of voters -- did they do not want to remain a territory the same people that -- that.
Governor on how to rest yet -- -- -- voted this way.
So we have to respect the will of people that's the American way in the second question however they were three options and those are the -- that actually.
-- the different restrictions.
Republicans and Democrats I have been stated as the only options are constitutionally viable outside your statement.
Independents -- free association actually we just had a hearing on that and the US senate about this issue and he was clear on both sides of the aisle.
That too there's no other option -- we want a permanent this issue on this issue that those three.
So that's exactly what we did have the voters decided they wanted to remain a territory then the second -- wouldn't have happened.
Okay that's that's fair enough -- -- so you're saying that the the current status is a commonwealth was not listen as an option because it was never listened before.
I don't know it was he was if -- in the first question.
The first question was whether we were what are three made -- we -- are not.
Said no we do not want to remain as we are -- -- -- so so that was a question that was post -- to the voters the same people they elect that.
Governor -- Got to forgive you if this is such -- -- issue as we all made some believe it is for Puerto Ricans by Puerto Ricans themselves.
Why does the government keep issuing non binding referendum votes that hold no weight and seem to just punt the political football on the issue to the next governor empower.
Well it's it's very simple.
It is congress only congress has the authority to act upon this -- upon the -- -- the future of the territories.
They there was actually we quest during the last few years.
For -- congressionally sanctioned vote and that never happened congress that actually the house voted in favor of this bill but the senate never got around to I've seen it.
So the administration -- Obama administration suggested that we all our own referendum how we just filed.
Exactly what Washington -- I -- that we don't.
So that -- rather have a federally sanction -- referendum but of that word and it didn't happen.
The second option was the best you know -- -- that the set second best option was exactly what we -- and ethics act and what -- White House suggest that we do so we're just following what's been subject.
All right so based on the results of the referendum feather -- Lucy was Puerto Rico's nonvoting member of congress and a pro statehood leader.
Introduce the Puerto Rican statehood bill in congress in May.
The bill proposes a federally authorized final vote in Puerto Rico do you want Puerto Rico -- need to be admitted as a state of the United States yes or no it seems like a simple question.
Yeah you're facing opposition from the most prominent Bordick was -- congress representative Luis Gutierrez and Nydia Velasquez saying it's flawed and that all option should be presented.
To voters your response to that.
Well 888 it's so -- think first of holes that you left.
-- hostess at Toronto.
-- then Idaho's our congressman.
So we have four Puerto Ricans with the voter rights.
Too thin to Fei world we're doing to adult that to -- adult favorite.
It just happens that they live in a state.
That their constituents actually can vote for the commander in chief.
And they have full rights and obligations as an American citizen whereas we -- so if they think what we have is so nice and so positive.
Why the -- spoke to Leon.
What did you think there's no seriously even get past a congressional committee I mean you said -- yourself it's really in the hands of congress it's been in the hands of congress do you see it moving forward.
This particular bill.
Well in the last term the house voted for it.
It was a senate that never got around to taking taking care of this they would this will require I would say presidential leadership.
I believe the White House will have to lead this effort.
In order to to -- because it that's a -- -- has happened.
And in some of the previous territories that became states and you know in the last 100 or so years we have had Hawaii Alaska.
New Mexico are sewn up that I have actually want the same pathway we have.
And and the White House has a major role in pushing this forward and certainly congress -- to act upon it but -- the other day.
We're talking -- three point seven million American citizens.
Should -- in the 21 century continue to have a -- to a shall whereby.
We have a set of citizens that don't have the same rights as the rest today and actually those rights are determined solely by -- they live.
By moving to any of the fifty states we -- those rights if you worked a little down to what are we -- -- you lose those rights that doesn't make any sense.
Give give give me a year and give you the truth here what you think is gonna happen next I mean do you seriously think this bill move forward and if not.
Do what what do you think congress will do with anything to finally get this -- do you see an end to this debate that's been happening for over a hundred years now.
Well I certainly hope so I am realistic right now what congress is debating circling is the Syrian situation.
It has to the -- whether to race or not the national debt ceiling.
What to -- -- the budget we're less than a month away from the beginning of the new fiscal year.
So we have a number of significant issues are before congress have to -- addressed the governor Jim.
Did you do you have a timeline perhaps -- thought I mean in your mind any estimation in all would you like to see this in the next ten years fifteen years.
A what's what should people really be holding out there putting their -- -- up.
There what we would certainly hope that that something happens in this during this congress.
So it's either this year -- the next year.
-- that we're not that happened certainly.
It will be a major disappointment.
And I think that's sense I would purse alone that are nonvoting member of congress for the -- we see.
What made me -- filed the bill the bill to they had us over 120 -- takes a bipartisan bill.
Visit there is an American issue is out of the Puerto Rican issue it's an American should ask to be addressed.
Pelosi says that he'll take the issue to United Nations in congress punts would you join your -- IEA -- respect his his opinion this has to be addressed and he cited.
Buy offs in the United States and it is congress that has the authority to legal authority to solve this once -- -- -- OK and that you know the White House's proposed spending 2.5.
Million dollars and another plebiscite vote Obama says that he'll support whenever the majority of Puerto Rican support you're just saying right now that you think it's a lack of leadership or perhaps a -- really needs to get involved.
Is he doing enough.
Isn't -- doing exactly what other presidents have done which is just wait and see what the Puerto Ricans have to say themselves.
Well it's its -- the easy way out.
I can tell you -- -- -- Reagan actually was pretty adamant and open about this and and he felt very strongly that these have to be addressed.
I can tell you my same token that -- -- the end of the Clinton administration.
He he opened up and he he started providing.
Leadership on this issue as well so we have had some -- in the past that have provided leadership.
Many have not -- specifically want him to do what the results we ask you to congress you want him to.
What fill up flood -- that sentence form sure I would love to see -- White House actually get behind the bill that already passed.
Over 120 -- -- -- both sides of the aisle.
And push for it to get to get through.
The house and the senate but for example the senate just had hearings on it.
And the White House didn't send anyone on behalf of the administration I can tell you that under -- bush.
And the last term.
The White House did -- someone -- be at to speak -- we have in the administration and that person was pretty direct and open about word giving official us.
You know there are more Puerto Ricans living in the United States than in Puerto Rico nearly five million to about three point seven -- but those who criticized the bill.
Say Puerto Ricans living in the US should not.
Be allowed to vote on the island's status.
I mean what's what's your thought on that you know -- -- Luis Gutierrez and -- of Alaska as.
You know they sent -- letter asking congress oppose the bill means you believe Puerto Ricans living in the US should have the right to vote.
On this important matter.
No -- is a states rights issue.
An idea they you know we we should final State's rules suddenly I lost internal self determining who votes where.
And normally you -- only one state or jurisdiction that's where you resign so that you moved to Florida -- should go to Florida not in Puerto Rico and by source.
You know Puerto Rico were stated I'm curious to ask you this in Puerto Rico were -- you think it could have made.
You or four years there as governor there were -- to help Puerto Rico's economy easier or harder.
But -- here obviously we were doing the right thing I cut our budget by almost -- percent.
I started slap hitting our tax system and lower our rates -- -- to what has happened in the last year and actually for the first time in six years.
In -- the end of when he Levin and all funny twelfth the economy got into positive territory he was certainly not enough.
But it but we were moving in the right direction.
Had we been part of the nation.
I am convincing -- eyes as a full fledged state I am convinced they would have been a much easier to attract investment and create jobs import.
You know people are all about the bottom line so if you look at the numbers -- the bottom line in unemployment -- employment peaked during your four years there in 2010 to sixteen point 4%.
Puerto Rico is still looking at and an -- rate of thirteen point 5%.
I'm curious if when you look back now what you see you consider what you've done you did you talk to budget cuts.
But the end of the day there's still a lot of people don't work in Puerto Rico governor.
Well I I'd I agree and it's it's a tragedy having said that however we had more people working at the time.
Because it's -- you can only not only look at unemployment rates you have to look at how many people are actually seeking a job.
And so we had more people actually working.
During those -- for years -- now.
So obviously we're doing something right by -- token housing sales were up car sales were up.
Retail sales were up so -- -- since we were doing what was right.
Right now it's exactly the opposite and there are less people working today than a year ago.
-- spin few months since you were in office someone I'm really wanted to ask you what have you been doing you what are sort of the what's the future looking for -- looking like for our government was -- -- you are we thinking perhaps.
Run at a US office position there.
I'm just -- -- -- a lawyer.
I'm working as a lawyer again that's what I did for both my professional life.
And that and that's and that's exactly what I'm doing not -- -- the practice of blowing Washington.
I'm doing exactly what I used to do I'm a corporate lawyer working -- -- any thoughts of running for office.
Any other day any any day -- the next maybe ten years you've thought about it.
No no I I I really don't have any plans on running for office IE I plan on and making sure that I can I can pay for -- It's a location I have three -- and caught right.
Yeah that's that's the task everyone's trying to get picked up at their head around so.
Well -- governor thank you so much for joining us your bosses -- in a very much appreciate your time on such an important topic and a will be following up throughout this year and next.
Hopefully to see what this bill and perhaps.
Where this issue.
Goes from here so again thank you governor and for more from Fox News Latino -- to go to Fox News Latino dot com in New York.
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