In a guest opinion piece published Thursday by The Orlando Sentinel, Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden laid out several campaign positions about Puerto Rico.
The piece, titled “Joe Biden: Puerto Rico deserves more respect than Donald Trump has given,” starts by placing blame on Donald Trump’s response to hurricane recovery and the fact that Puerto Ricans are American citizens.
“Donald Trump has insulted Puerto Ricans and their leaders,” Biden writes. “He has abandoned his responsibility to provide relief and to support recovery on the island. During his one visit in the wake of Hurricane Maria, he was unable to offer even the barest expression of empathy or comfort.”
Biden then lays out specific proposals for the island-colony. Here are some of the proposals he calls for:
“a federal working group for Puerto Rico to make sure the island has all the federal resources and technical support it needs”
“boosting the minimum wage to $15 an hour, fighting for unions and workers’ rights, and preserving pensions and public services on the island”
“protecting Obamacare and building on it to deliver quality, affordable health care, adding a public option, and expanding access to Medicaid, including appropriate funding for Puerto Rico”
“tripling funding for Title I schools, whether on the mainland or on the island, to close the gap between rich and poor districts”
“banning assault weapons and requiring background checks on all gun sales”
“address the existential threat of climate change head-on by investing $1.7 trillion in a clean energy revolution”
Later in the opinion piece, Biden writes this: “Rebuilding also means confronting some hard truths about Washington’s legacy on the island. We must own past shortcomings and embrace a future of strength for Puerto Rico, with fair and equitable ties to Washington. I will engage Puerto Ricans —including representatives of every status option— in a process of self-determination, listening and developing federal legislation that outlines a fair path forward. Puerto Rico and Puerto Ricans throughout our nation make the United States strong.”
The opinion piece makes no specific mention of Puerto Rico’s debt crisis, the island-colony’s Fiscal Control Board or current reframing or revisiting of PROMESA, including a cancellation of debt. It also makes no mention of the Jones Act or its possible repeal. The words “colony” or “colonialism” aren’t in the opinion piece either. Neither are words like “statehood” or “51st state.”
In short, Biden’s positions on Puerto Rico are in a very safe and moderate lane, echoing a more traditional and institutional Democratic take. Whether this is the lane most Puerto Ricans are in these days is hard to determine right now, especially those Puerto Ricans in states like Florida. It’s too early to tell, but at least the Biden campaign has finally shared a Puerto Rico policy.