Clinton Brings Message of Equality to Puerto Rico

(CBS)

From CBS News' Fernando Suarez:

AGUADILLA, PUERTO RICO -- In her first official visit here as a presidential candidate, Hillary Clinton came with one promise: that if she is elected president, one of her top priorities will be to give Puerto Ricans equal standing as Americans, primarily by giving them the right to vote in the general election.

"I think you should be treated equally, nothing less," she said. "That is the core of my agenda in Puerto Rico, a passionate belief in your right to equal treatment. This is the 21st century, we need to treat every person equally and certainly the United States government should be the model and set the example."

Puerto Rico is a U.S. territory and doesn't share some of the same rights as American citizens, such as being unable to vote in the general election. Puerto Ricans, instead, are allowed to vote in the primaries and are allocated delegates who can cast votes for the nominee. But one key issue that has prevented the full right to citizenship has to do with taxes – Puerto Ricans are not required to pay federal income taxes, although they do pay payroll taxes for Social Security and Medicare. "I promise you this I will work for a resolution of Puerto Rico's status by the end of my first term in office," said Clinton drawing thunderous applause from the crowd.

Although Clinton did not mention Barack Obama by name, she did take a veiled jab at him. "My commitment to Puerto Rico did not start last month, or last year, it stretches back over a decade ago." Obama campaigned on the island for the first time earlier today.

Clinton pointed out that the national press was with her in Puerto Rico and that should give Puerto Ricans more reason to head to the polls, in hopes that issues important to them will become part of the national conversation. "I cannot do this without your help," Clinton said. "This primary election is an opportunity for Puerto Rico. We have the national press here they are learning about Puerto Rico, we are shining a bright spotlight."

The main language of Puerto Rico is Spanish, although most residents speak English. At the beginning of the speech, Clinton's remarks were being simultaneously translated, but glitches and delays in the translation caused the campaign to pull the plug on the translator. Clinton went on speaking in English without a hitch.