Presidential candidate Dr. Ben Carson wants to make Puerto Rico the nation’s 51st state—but New York City’s most prominent Puerto Rican politician isn’t on board.
“Good luck with that,” Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito said dismissively today during an unrelated City Hall press conference.
Ms. Mark-Viverito, a Democrat who has endorsed Hillary Clinton for president, has been a fierce advocate for Puerto Rico, where she was born and lived until she was 18. The speaker has called on President Barack Obama and others in the federal government to do more to support the island, which is a territory of the United States, as the nation struggled with a debt crisis and rising healthcare costs. But Ms. Mark-Viverito, who has sometimes drawn criticism for supporting the causes of people convicted of violence in the name of Puerto Rican independence, doesn’t support making the island a state.
“I’ve been very clear on my position: I do not believe in statehood for Puerto Rico. It’s a very complicated process, and I don’t think that he would be the best spokesperson,” she said of Dr. Carson. “But that’s for them to decide.”
At a rally on the island over the weekend, Dr. Carson said statehood would help alleviate the $72 billion debt facing Puerto Rico, which he said stemmed in part from the “un-level playing field” the territory faced.
“You’ve already paid your dues,” Dr. Carson, a former neurosurgeon who has been ascending in Republican polls, said at the rally. “There have probably been more patriotic Puerto Ricans than any other state. Look at all the contributions that have been made to America.”