Clinton Greets Puerto Ricans: Buenas Noches!

May 24, 2008 8:00pm

ABC News’ Eloise Harper reports: "Buenas noches! It is wonderful to be here," Sen. Hillary Clinton said this evening after touching down in Puerto Rico.

Clinton, who doesn’t speak Spanish, greeted the crowd in their language, but then was joined by a translator. Clinton waited for the translator to finish, often times awkwardly smiling and standing there while the woman would speak to the crowd. One third of the way through Clinton continued in English with no further translating from the woman.

The New York senator outlined her plans for the U.S. territory, whose citizens can’t vote in the general election.

"I believe you should have a vote in picking the president, too," she said.

Clinton, whose daughter wasn’t allowed hold a campaign event in Vieques when she was here recently, said "When I am president, the federal government will give up all ownership of land on Vieques not needed for environmental reasons."

Clinton said that one of the principles she will be guided as president is that "all people are entitled to a representative form of government at all levels and Puerto Rico will have the status that a majority of your people want from among all of the options."

"I will work for a resolution of Puerto Rico’s status by the end of my first term as president," said Clinton, who as senator from New York has many constituents who are Puerto Rican. "I will be Puerto Rico’s partner as president and your champion in the White House."

She said that this nominating contest was a potential opportunity for the island.

"This national primary is an opportunity for Puerto Rico. We have the national press here. They are learning about Puerto Rico. We are shining a bright spotlight," she said. "And you know that the more Puerto Ricans who participate, come out and vote, the more important the issues will become, because the press and the public will be looking — do the Puerto Rican people care who is the president."

Clinton, who usually signs off her speeches saying "God Bless America" had a new twist Saturday night, saying, "Thank you. God bless you and God bless Puerto Rico."

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