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Republican presidential candidate Ben Carson in Puerto Rico on Nov. 8, 2015. (Twitter image)

By NAN Staff Writer

News Americas, SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico, Mon. Nov. 9, 2015: A U.S. Presidential hopeful took his campaign on the road to the Caribbean Sunday in a clear political pitch for some Hispanic votes.

Republican presidential candidate Ben Carson visited the Caribbean island of Puerto Rico Sunday even as a Middle Tennessee State University poll showed him to be in the lead among Republican hopefuls.

And he had a message for Puerto Ricans – advocating for the island, a U.S. territory to become the 51st state, a position also supported by fellow Republican presidential contenders Marco Rubio and Jeb Bush.

“When you stop and think about it, Puerto Ricans have been Americans for a century or more already,” Carson said at a rally of 3,500 held for Ricky Rosselló, a gubernatorial candidate in Puerto Rico’s New Progressive pro-statehood party.

“You’ve already paid your dues,” he added. “There have probably been more patriotic Puerto Ricans than any other state. Look at all the contributions that have been made to America.”

Those supporting statehood reason that inclusion for Puerto Rico in the US would provide equal treatment on issues like federal Medicaid and Medicare reimbursements, while those against are wary of risking the island’s independence and cultural identity.

Focusing on Puerto Rico’s US$72 billion debt, Carson added: “If we start treating them like we do everybody else the debts will get much better. Hawaii and Alaska also had debt … until things took off and that will happen here as well.”

Carson also called Puerto Rico “very strategically located for the defense of America, right near Cuba.”

“We have the Chinese already coming in and infiltrating the Caribbean,” he said. “We also have to recognize that we have global jihadists who are trying to destroy us. We need unity.”

Miss Puerto Rico took to Twitter to thank Carson “for supporting PR.,” adding: “You have my vote,” she wrote.

Puerto Rican citizens cannot vote in the general election, but they can participate in primary elections. About 5 million Puerto Ricans live in the U.S. and can vote.

Carson spoke about five minutes without addressing recent headline-grabbing allegations that he misrepresented facts surrounding a scholarship offer to the US Military Academy at West Point, and fabricated details of a violent exchange with a friend as a child.

Outside of Puerto Rico, Carson’s only other comment on the Caribbean and Latin America region has to do with Cuba and Gitmo. He supports keeping the prison in Cuba open and has reportedly said in the past  that the U.S. would be like communist Cuba if Fox News didn’t exist.

And writing in his 2013 book “America the Beautiful: Rediscovering What Makes This Nation Great,” when discussing his trip to Cuba he stated: “Having spoken to Cuban refugees, I could only sympathize with the masses of people and hope that someday they can experience true freedom. Although some people … extol the virtues of Cuban society, the tide of illegal immigration is from Cuba to America, not vice versa. … Unfortunately, although Americans are free to leave this country any time they want to go live somewhere else, such privileges are not afforded to the average Cuban or those in many countries where the government controls their lives.”


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