Never underestimate the power of an active Puerto Rican who is passionate about politics. Today at the Hispanic Leadership Network conference in Miami, the issue of the island’s political status and how poorly CNN handled it last night was front and center. A new post by Univision News presents a very detailed account of what both GOP candidates Newt Gingrich and Mitt Romney had to say about the upcoming November plebiscite question.
Here is what was said and guess who was in the middle of it all? Elizabeth Cuevas-Neunder, the CEO of the Puerto Rican Chamber of Commerce in Florida and an self-described Fortuñista. Here is an excerpt of what Unvision reported. It started with Gingrich bringing up the CNN question:
…Gingrich noted that the question was “one that unfortunately was not covered very well last night and I regret that Wolf Blitzer did not turn and ask the rest of us.”
“I have had a firm position on the right of the Puerto Rican people to have a referendum,” Gingrich said to applause. “I am not dictating the outcome of the referendum because there are several options and the Puerto Rican people have to make that decision.
“But I think they have every right and I support their right to have a referendum to decide on statehood or not and that is something which I would actively support as their right to have a referendum and then, as every other state has, to negotiate the process of accession if that’s what the people of Puerto Rico want to do,” he added.
Then it continues when Cuevas-Neander jumps in.
“Mr. Speaker, I am the lady of the question,” she said, standing up in the front of the audience. “Our Puerto Ricans have given more men and women to the United States Armed Forces than any other state in the union. We have four million Puerto Ricans in the United States who are voters. We have 52 percent of our children who are in poverty. The question is very simple – you want our vote, yes or no?”
“The question is do you believe that we are able to be a state or not? Simple.”
“I just said what I believe and if you don’t like it I am sorry we disagree,” replied Gingrich. “I believe the people of Puerto Rico should make the decision.”
“What I’m telling you is if the people of Puerto Rico make the decision that they want to be a state,” Gingrich continued to applause from the crowd, “I will work actively to help them negotiate the process of accession to the United States, but the people of Puerto Rico have to decide their future. I would welcome them if they make the decision, but I will not tell them what decision they should make.”
An hour later, according to Univision News, Mitt Romney talked about Puerto Rico. Romney supports statehood.
An hour later, Romney addressed the issue in his remarks at the conference, receiving a warmer response from the crowd, including from Cuevas-Neunder, who stood and applauded the former Massachusetts governor.
“I’m looking forward to the time when the people of Puerto Rico make their decision about becoming a state,” he said as the audience cheered. “Wow, we’ve got some friends here.”
“I think it’s in November you’re having a referendum and I expect the people of Puerto Rico will decide that they want to become a state and I can tell you that I will work with [Puerto Rico Gov. Luis Fortuño] to make sure that if that vote comes out in favor of statehood that we will go through the process in Washington to provide statehood to Puerto Rico.”