Puerto Rican leader pushes students to lobby for statehood

This post was written by Hatchet reporter Jessica Baum

Puerto Rico’s former secretary of state urged D.C. students Wednesday to support his territory’s demand for statehood.

Kenneth McClintock, who served as Puerto Rico’s top diplomat from 2009 to 2013, told about 30 D.C. students at Georgetown University that they should take advantage of their location at the heart of U.S. politics to pressure Congress.

More than half of Puerto Rican voters favored an end to their status as a U.S. commonwealth in a non-binding referendum last year. And 61 percent opted for statehood as an alternative.

The 56-year-old said Puerto Rico under its current status suffers from mounting debt and spikes in crime related to drug trafficking.
“You will emerge from your stateside college education with the knowledge to help fashion solutions to Puerto Rico’s real problems,” McClintock said to the group of GW and Georgetown students. “Not enough people are aware of the depth of our problems and what the solutions are.”

He blasted Puerto Rican politicians for failing to identify the lack of statehood as the root cause of the island’s troubles.

“The Puerto Rico ship is sinking, and most of the passengers are still focusing on the musicians playing on the deck,” he said.

McClintock and Puerto Rico’s former governor, Luis Fortuño, co-founded the national Puerto Rico Student Statehood Association in 1979 while studying at Tulane and Georgetown universities, respectively. The association has a chapter as GW as well today.

McClintock has been active in politics since he was 13 years old, and also served in Puerto Rico’s senate. He co-chaired Hillary Clinton’s 2008 Democratic primary campaign in Puerto Rico, where she won 68 percent of the vote.

Puerto Ricans cannot weigh in on general presidential elections, and the commonwealth lacks a vote in Congress.

The former secretary of state’s son, Kevin McClintock, who is a freshman at GW, said he hopes to one day become a lobbyist for Puerto Rican statehood.

“I definitely will not stop fighting for the statehood movement until it happens, and even after,” he said.

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