SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico (AP) — New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo took his campaign for a second term to the Caribbean on Friday with stops in Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic — two places with significant ties to the state that Cuomo governs.
Cuomo met with Puerto Rico Gov. Alejandro Garcia Padilla and pledged to boost business ties between New York and the U.S. territory. He said the island's ailing economy could benefit from New York state government initiatives such as Global New York and a planned state import-export program aimed at developing markets for New York businesses.
Cuomo also promised to bring more trade missions to the island to bolster the territory's struggling economy and take advantage of the deep ties between Puerto Rico and New York.
"We will be bringing more business relationships to build on the cultural relationships we already have," Cuomo said.
He praised Garcia for making difficult decisions to help bolster Puerto Rico's sluggish economy, which Cuomo said bore similarities to the economic situation he dealt with in New York.
"We've had to make reforms in the pension system," Cuomo said. "That is very, very difficult to do."
Puerto Rico is struggling with a public debt of $73 billion and is entering its eighth year in recession.
Citing dropping unemployment and record levels of private sector employment in New York, Cuomo urged Puerto Ricans to see the government reforms through to better times.
"The good news is, yes, it is difficult when you are going through it, but it will bear fruit," Cuomo said.
Garcia urged Latinos to vote for Democrats in upcoming elections if they want to see approval of the DREAM Act.
Cuomo noted New York's version of the DREAM Act did not pass last year because of lack of support from the New York legislature.
"It's an issue in this year's elections," he said. "Hopefully we'll get a Senate that passes the Dream Act and we'll pass it in January."
Cuomo met earlier Friday with Dominican President Danilo Medina and said he wants to encourage a closer relationship and will return on a trade mission if he wins re-election next month.
"I always felt a special connection with the Dominican Republic," Cuomo said. "In New York, the Dominican community has been growing and is becoming more and more important economically and politically and is this development that we want to encourage and continue."
During their meeting at the presidential palace, Cuomo said that he and Medina discussed ways to boost trade and the possibility of higher education partnerships.
Asked why he was taking the trip so close to the Nov. 4 election, Cuomo said he wanted to show Dominicans in New York his "respect for their community and their origins."
More than a million New Yorkers are of Puerto Rican or Dominican heritage.
Cuomo has said he'll lead trade missions to several nations to increase foreign trade if he wins his Nov. 4 matchup with Republican Rob Astorino.
Associated Press Writer Ezequiel Abiu Lopez in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, contributed to this report.