Kamala Harris set to make first trip to Puerto Rico as VP as Democrats reach out to Latino voters


Kamala Harris is making her first trip to Puerto Rico Friday as vice president, amid a push by Democrats to boost their outreach to Latino voters well ahead of the 2024 election

Harris’ visit is intended to highlight the administration’s efforts to bolster the island’s recovery and the impact of Puerto Rican culture around the world. Details of the trip were first shared with CBS News. 

The vice president’s trip is also taking place as recent CBS News polling from late February shows President Biden’s support among Hispanics has dropped by 12 points since 2020, from 65% to 53%, representing the steepest drop in his share among demographic groups surveyed. 

Hoping to turn those numbers around, Democrats are starting outreach efforts early. 

“You are seeing outreach happening earlier than you usually see it happen,” said Clarissa Martinez De Castro, vice president of the Latino Vote Initiative at UnidosUS. “I think a lot of times Latinos are either an afterthought or outreach comes during the final month so the fact that we are in March and you’re seeing some of these efforts, I think it’s positive.”

Puerto Ricans living on the island are not eligible to vote in the general election, since Puerto Rico is a U.S. territory and not a state, although this November, for the first time, they’ll be able to cast a symbolic ballot. 

“I think this is definitely a clear message to Puerto Ricans voters in swing states in 2024,” said Julio Ricardo Varela, founder of Latino Rebels. 

Varela added, “They’re saying, we care about the island, we’re doing our very best to improve the federal recovery, they’re trying to create a contrast to what happened under the Trump administration, and in the end this is election politics.”

Harris will be joined during the trip by Puerto Rico Gov. Pedro Pierluisi. 

She’ll be dropping by a home in Canóvanas, located just outside of San Juan in an area that was severely impacted by past hurricanes. Harris plans to highlight the home repairs and reconstruction in Canóvanas as part of $140 billion in infrastructure and disaster recovery funding approved by the administration to help rebuild Puerto Rico. She’ll also visit a community center in San Juan to meet with local leaders and artists to highlight the connection between the island and the Puerto Rican diaspora. 

As a U.S. senator, Harris visited Puerto Rico in 2017, shortly after Hurricane Maria devastated the island. While the Friday appearances are part of Harris’ official duties as vice president rather than serving as a campaign trip, the visit speaks to the approach Mr. Biden and Harris plan to take as attention builds toward the general election this fall. 

President Biden and first lady Dr. Jill Biden also visited Puerto Rico in October of 2022, and Jill Biden visited the island earlier this week. 

“Legally, people in Puerto Rico are citizens with no power, with no political power  in the federal system, ” said Varela. “Now there’s plenty of people in Puerto Rico who want to become part of the federal system and there’s always a sector that does not want to become a part of it.”



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