Republican Presidents Support Statehood for Puerto Rico

George Bush, Ronald Reagan and Gerald R. Ford all made ads favoring statehood in preparation for the 1993 status referendum in Puerto Rico.

Mr. Reagan tells voters that “the United States will welcome you with open arms” because “we believe firmly that our strength is our diversity.”  He emphasizes that he personally favors statehood for Puerto Rico.

Mr. Ford says, “If you favor statehood as I do, it’s important that you vote,” telling voters to “send a strong message to Congress and to the nation.”

Mr. Bush says, “I am certain Puerto Rico will be welcome as a state…Puerto Ricans have made many contributions to our nation, many with their lives.”

The New York Times wrote at the time, “No matter which side wins, both chambers of Congress would have to approve any change in Puerto Rico’s status, a process that would be time-consuming and fraught with political dangers.”

The specific political dangers were not named. In the 1993 vote, a “Commonwealth” definition got 48.9% of the vote, Statehood received 46.6%, and Independence garnered 4.5%.

The Congressional Research Service (CRS), a resource for Congress, later explained that “[t]he text of the ballot for the ‘Commonwealth’ option in 1993 included provisions that arguably exceeded the relationship established in 1950 [when Puerto Rico approved its Constitution], including ‘irrevocable U.S. citizenship,’ ‘fiscal autonomy for Puerto Rico,’ and an unprecedented legislative agenda that would have had to be considered by Congress.”

The New York Times reported  in 1993 that “Puerto Ricans voted narrowly today to continue their existing ambiguous relationship with the United States.”

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