Tuesday 24 April 2018

Puerto Rico victory puts Hillary Clinton on brink of White House nod

Hillary Clinton is on the cusp of securing the Democrats' presidential nomination (AP)
Hillary Clinton is on the cusp of securing the Democrats' presidential nomination (AP)

Hillary Clinton has overwhelmed rival Bernie Sanders in Puerto Rico's Democratic presidential primary, putting her within striking distance of capturing her party's nomination.

After her unanimous victory in the US Virgin Islands on Saturday and the decisive win in Puerto Rico, Mrs Clinton is now less than 30 delegates short of the 2,383 needed to win the nomination, according to an Associated Press count.

"We just won Puerto Rico! Gracias a la Isla del Encanto por esta victoria!" Mrs Clinton tweeted, thanking the Island of Enchantment, as Puerto Rico is known, for her victory. As the race was called, the former US secretary of state was on stage in Sacramento, rallying California voters for Tuesday's Democratic primary .

While Puerto Ricans cannot vote in November's general election, the island's politics could reverberate into the autumn campaign. Tens of thousands of Puerto Ricans have left the island to escape a dismal economy, with many resettling in the key electoral battleground of Florida.

Eight years ago, with the presidential nomination slipping from her grasp, Mrs Clinton rolled through the streets of San Juan on the back of a flat-bed truck, wooing voters to a soundtrack of blasting Latin music.

She beat then-Illinois senator Barack Obama with nearly 68% of the vote.

"I'm for Hillary, girl," said 83-year-old Candida Dones as she cast her ballot. "I can't wait for a female president. She's one of us. She wears the pants. If we don't look out for our own interests, who will?"

Both Mrs Clinton and Mr Sanders spent Sunday in California, the biggest prize among the six states voting on Tuesday. Socialist contender Mr Sanders shook hands and stopped for photos during a stroll of more than an hour along the shops, restaurants and amusement park rides of the Santa Monica Pier.

Mr Sanders made little mention of the outcome in Puerto Rico's primary. He said during an evening rally in San Diego that Democratic leaders should take notice that the "energy and grassroots activism" that will be crucial to the party in the fall "is with us, not Hillary Clinton".

He pointed to polls showing him faring better than Clinton in head-to-head match-ups with Republican front-runner Donald Trump and his strength among Democratic voters under 45.

"If the Democratic leadership wants a campaign that will not only retain the White House but regain the Senate and win governors' chairs all across this country, we are that campaign," he said.

But while those watching the results in Puerto Rico focused on their impact on the race for the Democratic nomination, the focus of many voters on the island was its ongoing economic crisis.

Both Mr Sanders and Mrs Clinton had pledged to help as the island's government tries to restructure 70 billion dollars' (£48.2bn) worth of public debt the governor has said is unpayable.

Two weeks before the primary, Mr Sanders criticised a rescue deal negotiated by US House of Representatives leaders and the Obama administration as having colonial overtones.

In a letter to fellow Senate Democrats, he said the bill to create a national control board and allow some restructuring of the territory's debt would make "a terrible situation even worse".

He later promised to introduce his own legislation to help the island, promising to fight against "vulture funds" on Wall Street that he said would profit off the fiscal crisis.

Mrs Clinton has said she has serious concerns about the board's powers, but believes the legislation should move forward, or "too many Puerto Ricans will continue to suffer".

Among those voting Sunday was Democratic Party superdelegate Andres Lopez, one of the party insiders who can vote for the candidate of their choice at the summer convention. He had remained uncommitted, but said on Sunday he would support Mrs Clinton.

Mrs Clinton has 1,807 pledged delegates won in primaries and caucuses; Mr Sanders has 1,516. When including superdelegates, her lead over him is substantial - 2,355 to 1,562.

With Mr Lopez's endorsement, all seven of Puerto Rico's superdelegates have pledged their support for Mrs Clinton.

"It is time to focus on squashing El Trumpo," he said, referring to billionaire Mr Trump.

Press Association

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