U.S. President Barack Obama on Tuesday paid a brief visit to Puerto Rico with an aim to solicit Hispanic votes in the upcoming 2012 presidential elections, according to Xinhua.
The five-hour trip was the first official presidential visit to the Caribbean island and also part of the U.S. territory since President John F. Kennedy did so in 1961.
Residents of Puerto Rico do not have voting rights in U.S. presidential elections, but Puerto Ricans living in mainland America, roughly 5 million, do have rights to vote for president and they, together with other Hispanics, are largely seen as Democratic base.
In a brief speech there, Obama mentioned the issue of the status of Puerto Rico. In March, the President`s Task Force on Puerto Rico`s Status delivered a report, which recommended that Puerto Ricans should hold a vote sooner rather than later on whether they want full independence, statehood or semi-autonomous status.
"When the people of Puerto Rico make a clear decision, my administration will stand by you," said Obama.
The president also addressed issues like economy, employment, education and housing, saying the administration is "trying to make sure that every family on the island can find work and make a living and provide for their children."
The ever-growing Hispanic constituency is a critical voting bloc for any presidential candidate, either Democratic or Republican. In 2008, the group played an important role in sending Obama to the White House, and those voters would be the ones that Obama can not afford to lose in order to win re-election.