Gov. Luis Fortuño met with President Barack Obama briefly Tuesday during the latter’s visit to the island, discussing the progress of initiatives to boost the economy, strengthen public safety and establish a “fair and representative process to solve the status problem.”
Obama, the first sitting president in 50 years to visit the U.S. territory, met with Fortuño and Resident Commissioner Pedro Pierluisi following his arrival, when he received a warm welcome from hundreds of public and private sector guests who awaited him at a hangar at the Muñiz National Guard Base in Carolina.
“We have taken this opportunity to pursue solutions that will result in more jobs and progress for our people,” said Fortuño, who belongs to the Republican party.
Among other things, Fortuño said they discussed the importance of energy diversification of the island for its economic development and protection of its environment, as well as the progress of the redevelopment of the former Roosevelt Roads naval base in Ceiba.
During his speech earlier in the day, Obama stressed that Puerto Rico remains on his agenda, especially on issues related to economic development.
“We’ve been trying to make sure that every family on the island can find work and make a living and provide for their children,” Obama said in his remarks. “That’s why our economic plan and our health care reform included help for Puerto Rico.”
“That’s why we’re increasing access to broadband and investing in education. That’s why we’re helping to grow local tourism and health care and clean-energy industries. We’re giving Puerto Ricans the tools they need to build their own economic futures,” the Democrat commander-in-chief said.
Another hot-button issue the trio of government officials discussed is public safety, and the collaboration taking place between the local and federal governments in the fight against crime. Puerto Rico’s geographic location makes it particularly vulnerable to crime, particularly drug trafficking, which requires such cooperation, Fortuño said.
On the issue of status, Fortuño and Pierluisi reportedly sought the commitment and support of the president to advance the work related to the status both on the island and in Washington, D.C.
“This issue is crucial for the future of Puerto Rico and requires the highest level of presidential engagement,” said Fortuño.
“In March, a report from our presidential task force on Puerto Rican status provided a meaningful way forward on this question so that the residents of the island can determine their own future. And when the people of Puerto Rico make a clear decision, my administration will stand by you,” Obama said earlier.
That said, Fortuño concluded that “the ball is in our court.”
“We explained to the president that we have been making an intense effort in good faith to achieve the greatest possible consensus for a democratic election process for our people on the issue of status, within the framework recommended by the White House report,” the island’s chief executive noted.
Obama is scheduled to leave Puerto Rico at around 4:30 p.m. today, following a fundraising activity at the Caribe Hilton Hotel.