Governor Ricardo Rossello joined Trevor Noah on The Daily Show for a serious conversation about Puerto Rico’s recovery and rebuilding — and statehood.
Rossello blamed bureaucracy for the slow progress toward bringing basic services back to the Island. “Some of these processes that take ten to fourteen days in any other state would take 117 days in Puerto Rico.”
Daily Show host Trevor Noah asked about funding for recovery.
“All we’re asking is to be treated equally,” Rossello explained. “We are proud U.S. citizens.” This drew applause.
Rossello also spoke about his plans to mobilize the diaspora for political action.
“We’ve started a movement to organize Puerto Ricans — we’re 5.6 million strong in the United States,” he said. “Because we live in a colonial territory, we don’t have the right to vote for president or congressmen or senators, so we need to create a sort of a proxy effort.”
Rossello wants to identify the legislators who support policies that are beneficial to Puerto Rico, and to help get out the vote for them in their states.
“If you’re a friend to Puerto Rico,” he said bluntly, “we’ll support you, but if you go against the people of Puerto Rico, we’ll vote you out.”
At this point, Noah asked about statehood.
“When you evaluate all of the alternatives,” Rossello said, “the first one is the current colonial territorial status. We’ve seen the results and it just doesn’t work… Do we really want to be known for having the most populated colonial territory in the world? I think not.”
That leaves independence or statehood. Rossello said that more than 95% of Puerto Ricans care about U.S. citizenship. “It’s in our best interest, and we have a lot of value to offer.”
Rossello said that Puerto Rico is perfectly poised for innovation. Much of the infrastructure must be rebuilt from the ground up, and Puerto Rico is welcoming new ideas.
“I want to start making the pivot from recovery to rebuilding,” he said, inviting the audience to come to Puerto Rico. “We’re open for business.”
Noah said that he had heard others, including Marco Rubio say that now is not the time for politics. Rossello riposted that the processes affecting Puerto Rico are political processes.
“We’ve heard happy talk all our lives,” Rossello said. “We need to let all of the elected officials know that there will be Puerto Ricans and friends of Puerto Ricans all over the United States.”
“If I move to the states, I gain all those rights,” Rossello told Noah. “If you move to Puerto Rico, you lose them.”