Fortuño was scheduled to speak before Cornell students at the invitation of Cornell College Republicans.
“I have spoken personally with the current PRSA leaders as well as other Latino organizations and I have asked for them to be the spokespeople for Puerto Ricans. In the past few weeks I have sent them different news articles about the firings of thousands of public workers, rising crime, and decisions by the Supreme Court — in sum, the call of a people,” said Natal, who is studying law at the University of Puerto Rico.
Natal said his aim was not to sabotage the activity, but to create consciousness within Cornell, where there is a diversity of opinion on Puerto Rico, adding that Fortuño would be asked hard questions that he has avoided by failing to attend similar activities at the UPR.
“While I was PRSA president we organized countless activities to educate people about Puerto Rico’s situation. The activities and forums were impartial and featured a diversity of opinion, including representatives from the different political ideologies. This activity is aimed at promoting statehood and not the cause of the Puerto Rican people and for me that is unacceptable,” Natal said.
After news of Natal’s comments came to light, the Popular Democratic Youth jumped on the bandwagon, sending two letters to the Cornell Daily Sun and Cornell College Democrats denouncing the governor’s visit and Pedro Pierluisi’s federal status bill for a congressionally binding plebiscite in Puerto Rico as undemocratic.
“[Fortuño is attending with the aim] of creating the impression our people overwhelmingly support statehood by speaking to the students as a representative of all Puerto Ricans, hiding the historic opposition of the country to his ideal,” Popular Democratic Youth said in a press release.
This in turn prompted the Democratic Youth of Puerto Rico and National Committeeman Phillip Arroyo to send a counter letter saying the vast majority of young Democrats in Puerto Rico favor Resident Commissioner Pedro Pierluisi’s status bill.
Arroyo called Popular Youth “hypocrites” for identifying themselves as Democrats when they are members of a party that supposedly opposes the presidential vote for Puerto Rico.
La Fortaleza declined to enter the fray, declining to comment on the controversy stirred up by the governor’s visit to Cornell, while issuing a written statement on his visit with snippets from his speech. The speech includes “an outline of the fiscal and economic challenges he found upon assuming his post last year, and initiatives he is taking to put Puerto Rico once again on the route to economic growth and progress,” La Fortaleza said.
In his speech, Fortuño was to say that island’s current status creates inequality for those who live in Puerto Rico, adding the best way to resolve this matter is through Pierluisi’s status bill.
“The matter of what place Puerto Rico has at the family table of what we call America … is the great unfinished task of American democracy,” Fortuño said, according to prepared remarks.
“My own preference for the best and most apt final status for Puerto Rico is well known. I believes in equality. Our people are ready, ready and waiting, to assume full rights and full responsibilities of the citizenship that we share. As I see it, looking for other solutions or doing away with inequality is to do away with the natural destiny that guides us to U.S. citizenship.”
“I see a Puerto Rico that achieves its potential for economic, social and political development and by doing this contributes to enriching the entire nation. That is my vision of Puerto Rico and America, and a more perfect union. I hope you share it. I hope you accompany me in the fight for it,” according to Fortuño's statement.
In the morning, Fortuño met with Cornell President David Korton and professors from the National Astronomy Center that operates the Arecibo radio telescope and is headquartered at the university to discuss future funding for the local observatory, La Fortaleza said.