President George H. W. Bush, 41st President of the United States, will be remembered as a president with a focus on foreign policy and an impressive resumé. People who worked with him remember him as a man of integrity, deeply committed to public service. He should also be remembered as a friend to Puerto Rico.
In his remarks to the National Association of Hispanic Journalists in 1992, Bush said, “My choice is for statehood. But I also say that the matter should be left up to the people of Puerto Rico. And so we will continue to push in a reluctant Congress to…support a referendum that will make the determination. And then we’d have to follow on with whatever is required after that.”
In the same year, Bush signed a memorandum ordering all government agencies to treat Puerto Rico administratively as if it were a State as long as doing so would not disrupt federal programs.
Attorney General Richard Thornburgh said in his remarks before the Senate Energy Committee in 1991, “The President and his administration strongly favor the right of the people of Puerto Rico to choose their political status by means of a referendum. The President has repeatedly declared that the people of Puerto Rico should have the right to determine their political future. In his view, it is inconsistent for us to ‘applaud the exciting and momentous movements toward freedom in Eastern Europe, Latin America, and elsewhere while refusing to grant to our own citizens the right to self-determination.’ Congress should allow the people of Puerto Rico to determine their own political future because it is simply fair and right.”
In his State of the Union Address in 1989, Bush said, “I’ve long believed that the people of Puerto Rico should have the right to determine their own political future. Personally, I strongly favor statehood. But I urge the Congress to take the necessary steps to allow the people to decide in a referendum,” He had asked that statehood and the request for a referendum be included in the State of the Union message. When he received the message without any mention of Puerto Rico, he wrote his words in by hand.
He used the slogan, “Estado ahora!” (Statehood now) in his 1980 presidential primary campaign in Puerto Rico. He won handily. He finishes the video shown above with the same phrase.