In an interview with Time Magazine, Governor Rossello shared that most people in Puerto Rico are seeing a return to normalcy. “But that is the grand scheme of things,” he said. “There are some places where people don’t have jobs and their homes haven’t been fixed. Even though it is smaller scale, about 22,000 clients still don’t have access to energy and there are some places where 40% of the municipality doesn’t have energy. That is a hard pill to swallow and we’ve been working as quickly as possible to mitigate that.”
The governor spoke hopefully about increasing tourism and greater awareness of Puerto Rico’s situation. Recent polling shows that 85% of Americans now are aware that people born in Puerto Rico are U.S. citizens. Before Hurricane Maria, fewer than half had this knowledge. As members of Congress get more information about Puerto Rico and hear more about it from their constituents, the chances of action in Congress increase.
Time asked whether Rossello had spoken with President Trump about statehood. The governor brought the subject up, but didn’t get a clear answer from the president. “He said he wasn’t going to touch upon those issues,” Rossello answered, “that he was going to let the people of Puerto Rico decide.”
This is the response we hear most often when Washington leaders are asked about statehood for Puerto Rico. Puerto Rico has already chosen statehood in two plebiscites. Puerto Rico has formally requested statehood from Congress. “What we need,” said Rossello, “is a path forward for that to happen.”
Part of Rossello’s plan is to encourage stateside voters to support those who support statehood for Puerto Rico. Vote the friends of Puerto Rico in, he advises, and vote the enemies of Puerto Rico out. Jenniffer Gonzalez-Colon, the Resident Commissioner for Puerto Rico, has already endorsed Florida gubernatorial candidate Rick Scott. “It’s not about being a Republican or Democrat,” Rossello emphasized, “but if you are a friend or an opponent to the people of Puerto Rico.”
Rossello was in Silicon Valley for the interview, talking with tech companies about opportunities in Puerto Rico. A possible silver lining to the devastating hurricanes of 2017, says the governor, is that Puerto Rico can be a “blank slate” for new ideas. Trying out exciting new ideas on a small scale is an exciting opportunity. Innovators need to know, the governor says, not only that Puerto Rico is open for business, but that bold new ideas are welcome.
“The biggest challenges are things like energy costs and reliability and the bureaucratic red tape the government has. I’ve declared war on them,” Rossello siad. “The major benefits are we have unique value propositions on the tax front. We have a highly skilled labor force on the high-end manufacturing side. And just the natural beauty of being in Puerto Rico and having it be a place for people to move, when companies set up base.”
Rossello spoke up for statehood, calling the current relationship between the U.S. and the territory of Puerto Rico “colonial.” The governor spoke optimistically as well as realistically, though. “If we leverage some of the opportunities – five years, ten years down the road – Puerto Rico could become a destination for the human cloud, as we’re calling it. In the future, it’s going to be even more clear that jobs are geographically independent and people are going to choose wherever they have a better quality of life. We want to make Puerto Rico that spot.”