SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico (AP) – Puerto Rican officials marked Presidents Day by unveiling bronze statues of U.S. President Barack Obama and former President Lyndon B. Johnson, pointedly noting that people who live on the island can’t vote in the U.S. general election and lack other basic rights.
The two life-size statues are the newest additions to the “Avenue of Heroes,” outside the capitol building in the U.S. island territory. The statues honor every sitting president who ever visited Puerto Rico, dating back to Theodore Roosevelt.
Obama became the ninth when he visited in June, said Kenneth McClintock, secretary of state for Puerto Rico.
Resident Commissioner Pedro Pierluisi, who represents Puerto Rico in the U.S. Congress but has limited voting powers, said the Obama administration has been helpful to Puerto Rico, including it in economic stimulus funding and health reform, among other initiatives.
But he and other officials who spoke at the ceremony complained about a lack of other basic rights, including representation in the U.S. Senate and the right to vote in the general presidential election.
“The president of the United States is an important figure to Puerto Ricans despite the fact that we aren’t able to elect him,” said Pierluisi, who favors making the island the 51st U.S. state. “… Puerto Rico and its nearly 4 million American citizens deserve to enjoy all the benefits and responsibilities that our fellow citizens enjoy.”
Puerto Ricans can vote in primaries but not the general election though island residents are U.S. citizens.
The new statues of Obama and Johnson are part of a broader $1 million project to improve the Avenue of the Heroes, a broad boulevard along the south side of the neoclassical capitol building.
(This version CORRECTS that Obama was ninth president to visit, not eighth.)
(Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)