Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, who is expected to announce his run for the U.S. presidency in 2016, expressed his support Tuesday for Puerto Rico’s statehood as well as its right of its government agencies to file for bankruptcy protection under Chapter 9 of the U.S. tax code.
During a visit to the island, sponsored by former Puerto Rican Gov. Luis Fortuño, Bush also spoke of economic opportunity and the “Right to Rise” as the central moral promise of American economic life.
Bush spoke to faculty, students and guests at the Metropolitan University of Puerto Rico amphitheater while his message was transmitted via live webcast to the entire student population of 44,000 including campuses in Dallas, Orlando, Tampa, South Florida and Wheaton, Maryland.
Bush — who is fluent in Spanish — said statehood “is the best path” for Puerto Rico, breaking away with many of his Republican party peers.
“To get the full benefits and responsibilities of citizenship, being a state is the only way to make that happen,” he said.
Meanwhile, Bush also endorsed Puerto Rico’s bid to be included under Chapter 9 bankruptcy protection, an alternative currently not available to the island. A bill is being floated in Congress that, if approved, would allow the island’s cash-strapped government to restructure its debt. Following the Feb. 26th hearing before a subcommittee of the House Judiciary Committee, the bill has remained stagnant.
‘Right to rise’
Bush also spoke passionately about what he calls “the Right to Rise society” — the ability to move up the income ladder based on hard work, merit, and earned success.
Those principles, he said, include cherishing free enterprise, strengthening our national defense, transforming our education system, embracing the energy revolution, and fixing our broken immigration system.
“America’s opportunities have never been greater than they are right now, but America is falling short on its promise. Families on the mainland as well as those in Puerto Rico are feeling it,” he said.
Meanwhile, Fortuño, who hosted the event as part of his CRECE Foundation series that promotes economic freedom, personal responsibility and opportunity, said Bush’s “commitment to the principles of economic freedom, personal responsibility and free markets as the key engines to economic growth.”
“These are the very same ideals that move us at CRECE and that have proven, time and again, to offer economic opportunity and success to nations all around the world,” Fortuño said. “I’m proud to be able to offer the people of Puerto Rico the opportunity to listen and learn more about this vision for progress.”