- In WORLD
- Post 24 May 2011
- By by Eileen AJ Connelly
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SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico (AP) — President Barack Obama has accepted an invitation to visit Puerto Rico next month, a trip that would make him the first sitting president to come to the U.S. territory in decades, the island's governor said Tuesday.
The president, who campaigned in Puerto Rico for the Democratic primary, will visit the island June 14, Gov. Luis Fortuno said, without disclosing details of his itinerary.
"With his visit, the president makes good on the promise he made during the presidential primaries in 2008 that he would return to Puerto Rico as president," Fortuno said in a statement.
The governor's office described the Obama trip as the "the first official presidential visit" since December 1961, when President John F. Kennedy stopped on the island to a formal welcome on his way to Venezuela. But that was not the last time a U.S. president set foot in the territory: President Gerald Ford hosted an economic summit in Puerto Rico in June 1976.
Pedro Pierluisi, the island's nonvoting representative in Congress, said he expects Obama will discuss a recent White House report on the options for changing Puerto Rico's formal relationship to the U.S. mainland. The president may also visit projects that have benefited from the administration's stimulus spending to aid the economy.
Puerto Rico is home to nearly 4 million U.S. citizens but its residents cannot vote in the general presidential election, only in the primaries.
Andres W. Lopez, a member of the Democratic National Committee from the island, said the president's visit may also help him with Puerto Ricans on the mainland, particularly in South Florida, which is home to some 725,000 people of Puerto Rican descent and an important battleground state in the 2012 election.
"I am certain that the 4 million Puerto Ricans who live on the mainland will be bursting with a real sense of 'orgullo Boricua' (Puerto Rican pride) when they see the respect that President Obama has shown to Puerto Rico," Lopez said.
Copyright 2011 The Associated Press.