O'Malley to highlight health, debt crisis in Puerto Rico

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Story highlights

  • O'Malley's trip is his latest effort to court communities his campaign says are underrepresented
  • Puerto Rico is a U.S. territory and, though it lacks electoral college representation, it participates in both parties' primaries

Miami (CNN)Martin O'Malley is 2016's first presidential candidate to visit Puerto Rico, where he'll hope to pick up Democratic primary delegates both on the island and in diasporas like Florida as well.

The former Maryland governor is making a one-day swing through the island, designed to highlight his position on two issues: Allowing Puerto Rico to declare bankruptcy and helping fund health care there by requiring the federal government to offer hospitals the same Medicare payment rates that U.S. states receive.
Lagging far behind Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders in the polls, O'Malley's trip is his latest effort to court communities his campaign says are underrepresented -- like Friday's tour of a Haitian cultural center in Miami.
    It will be O'Malley's fourth visit to Puerto Rico the last two years. Republican former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush went to Puerto Rico in April, but he wasn't yet a declared candidate for president.
    O'Malley will "highlight he inequitable treatment that Puerto Rican citizens receive and to bring the magnifying glass of a presidential campaign to highlight issues of injustice in our hemisphere," said Gabi Domenzain, the campaign's public engagement director.
    Puerto Rico is a U.S. territory and, though it lacks electoral college representation, it participates in both parties' primaries -- in March for the GOP and in June for the Democrats.
    O'Malley will meet with two of its political leaders: Pedro Pierluisi, a Democrat who is Puerto Rico's non-voting "resident commissioner" in Congress, and Jaime Perello, the speaker of Puerto Rico's House of Representatives.
    Who is Martin O'Malley?
    Who is Martin O'Malley?

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    Who is Martin O'Malley? 01:51
    O'Malley will call for the island to be allowed to declare bankruptcy amid a $73 billion public debt crisis. He'll also tour an assisted living facility to highlight the health care crunch the country faces amid lower Medicare and Medicaid reimbursement rates. Its Medicare Advantage program also faces an 11% cut next year, while a Medicaid grant might not be renewed.
    O'Malley's trip comes as Democratic presidential contenders heavily court Latino populations.
    Clinton on Friday visited Miami to call on Congress to ends its embargo of Cuba -- setting up a clash with Republicans like Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio by taking the position in the city they call home.
    She, O'Malley and Sanders have all also advocated overhauls of the U.S. immigration system, drawing contrasts with Republicans on an issue key to the Latino community which could be key in several 2016 election swing states.
    Clinton has not yet visited Puerto Rico, but she tweeted her support for the island's effort to resolve its debt crisis.