Hillary Clinton claims victory in Puerto Rico and edges closer to nomination

Agencies have called the US territory for the Democratic party front-runner, leaving her less than 30 delegates short of a winning tally

Hillary Clinton claims victory in Puerto Rico and edges closer to nomination

Hillary Clinton has claimed victory in the Puerto Rico Democratic presidential primary on Sunday, putting her closer to securing the number of delegates needed to win her partys White House nomination.

After a sweeping victory on Saturday in the US Virgin Islands, Clinton was on course for a second crucial victory, according to Associated Press, NBC and CNN, although votes were still being counted on Sunday night.

The candidate later tweeted that she had beaten her rival Bernie Sanders to the territorys collection of delegates.

We just won Puerto Rico! Gracias a la Isla del Encanto por esta victoria! tweeted Clinton. As the race was called, Clinton was on stage on Sacramento, rallying voters in California.

She is now less than 30 delegates short of the 2,383 needed to win the Democratic nomination for president, according to an Associated Press count, and could reach the target on Tuesday evening when polls close in the New Jersey primary. California also votes on Tuesday in what is expected to be a decisive day for the former secretary of state.

The results were slow to arrive on Sunday, as officials counted ballots by hand and focused first on releasing results tied to the islands local primary elections, said Kenneth McClintock, Puerto Ricos former Democratic National Committeeman.

But as the results from the primary trickled in, Clinton maintained a steady 2-to-1 lead over Sanders.

Sixty pledged delegates were at stake in Puerto Rico, and Clinton would have needed 85% of the vote in each of the islands eight senate districts to win them all. But voters were mostly concerned with the islands debilitating economic crisis, with a 45% poverty rate and 12% unemployment among its 3.5 million people.

Clinton and Sanders have both visited Puerto Rico and promised to help restructure the governments $70bn worth of debt. Last year the governor said the debt, largely to Wall Street hedge funds, was impossible to pay, while those who hold the debt have called for severe austerity cuts to education and healthcare.

This is one of the most important political moments for Puerto Rico, said Emanuel Rosado, a 29-year-old Clinton supporter. Im taking action as a result of the economic crisis.

The Republican-controlled House of Representatives has presented a rescue deal for the island, which Barack Obamas White House has reluctantly agreed is necessary. Sanders has criticized the deal, calling it a poison pill and a takeover by vulture capitalists with colonial implications.

The island is technically a commonwealth, though the title is largely viewed as a euphemism and the island is trapped in a bind, practically speaking, of a colonial, mixed-authority status with the US.

In a letter to Senate Democrats, Sanders said the House bill to create a federal control board and allow some restructuring of the debt would make a terrible situation even worse.

That bill is anti-democratic and its not in the best interest of Puerto Rico, said Jorge Gaskins, a 67-year-old farmer who supports Sanders and opposes a control board. What we have now is a colonial relationship with the US.

Clinton has also expressed concerns about the control board, but said the deal should move forward or too many Puerto Ricans will continue to suffer.

Nearly 2.9 million people are registered to vote on the island. High turnout was expected, given that Puerto Ricans were also voting for candidates for local senators, representatives, mayors and the next governor. The island has a single, nonvoting representative in the US Congress.

Hillary Clinton claims victory in Puerto Rico and edges closer to nomination
Puerto Rico residents line up to vote. Photograph: Carlos Giusti/AP

Polls closed at 3pm. Some voters waited in line for hours in the heat, fanning themselves and requesting chairs.

Juan Carlos Rosario, a 40-year-old designer and Sanders supporter, said he was disappointed by the proposed rescue bill.

I havent seen anything that would help improve Puerto Ricos economy, he said. The thing Im most worried about is lobbyists aligning themselves with some candidates who obviously are not seeking whats best for Puerto Rico, but whats best for those who have donated to their campaigns and made them rich.

While they can participate in presidential primaries and are US citizens, Puerto Ricans cannot vote for president in November. Those who move to the mainland and change their residence to a state are eligible to vote in the general election.

Despite this, former governor Anibal Acevedo Vila said he supported Puerto Ricos current political status as a commonwealth, and urged voters to participate in the primary.

Many in the past and today think that these presidential primaries are a sham without consequences, he said. But given the threat that comes from the north and the powerful allies it has here, not taking advantage of this sham to make our voice heard could be a precious wasted opportunity.

Democratic superdelegate Andres Lopez, who can vote as he sees fit at the party convention this July, said on Sunday he would support Clinton. With his endorsement, all seven of Puerto Ricos superdelegates have pledged their support for Clinton.

It is time to focus on squashing El Trumpo, he said, referring to presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2016/jun/06/hillary-clinton-puerto-rico-bernie-sanders-nomination