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The current political status of Puerto Rico is the result of various political activities both within the United States and Puerto Rican governments. These activities revolve around three sets of initiatives: referendums held in Puerto Rico, presidential executive orders, and bills in the U. S. Congress. Puerto Rican status referendums have been held four times to determine the political status of the island of Puerto Rico in relation to the United States of America. Presidents have issued two major executive orders on the subject, and Congress has considered some four major bills related to the Puerto Rico political status situation.

Contents

Background

Puerto Rico has been under U.S. sovereignty for over a century and Puerto Ricans have been U.S. citizens since 1917.[1][2][3] Since the establishment of the current Commonwealth status in 1952, further local attempts to change the island's political status took place in 1967, 1993, and 1998. An additional referendum held in 1991 sought to amend the relationship through an amendment to the Puerto Rican constitution. Each time, the results favored retaining the commonwealth status over the possible independence of Puerto Rico and statehood alternatives.

Although Puerto Rico presently has a certain amount of local autonomy, according to the U.S. Constitution ultimate governance of the island is retained by both the U.S. Congress and President.[4][5] Thus, plebiscite results (and especially if not authorized by the Congress), while they reflect public sentiment, and thus bear some impact, can be ignored by Congress. Ultimately, the results of Puerto Rican plebiscites are opinions, although Congressional resolutions have expressed support for following the will of the Puerto Rican people.[6]

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Terminology

The current English term, "commonwealth", used to describe Puerto Rico politically is the same terminology used elsewhere but with two entirely different meanings than what is meant for Puerto Rico:

  • Commonwealth is what four states of the American Union have named themselves, these being Kentucky, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, and Virginia.
  • Commonwealth is part of the name of the British Commonwealth, a group of independent nations, voluntarily joined by common bonds of various kinds and whose bonds are subject to unilateral revocation by any of the parties.

But "commonwealth" is also a term now and previously used by current and past possessions of the United States:

  • Commonwealth was a term used by the Philippines before gaining its independence from the U.S. in 1947 and becoming a republic, prior to which the US Supreme Court had declared it was a unincorporated territory of the United States.[7]
  • Commonwealth is the term used by the U.S. territory of the Northern Mariana Islands, a country that is still "unquestionably a colony in light of the decolonization criteria adopted by the United Nations, and [which] is openly treated as a territory by the government of the United States." [8]
  • Commonwealth term definition as per current U.S. State Department policy (as codified in the department's Foreign Affairs Manual) reads: "The term "Commonwealth" does not describe or provide for any specific political status or relationship. It has, for example, been applied to both states and territories. When used in connection with areas under U.S. sovereignty that are not states, the term broadly describes an area that is self-governing under a constitution of its adoption and whose right of self-government will not be unilaterally withdrawn by Congress".[9]

Juan R. Torruella, a judge on the United States Court of Appeals for the First Circuit (the Federal Appeals Court with jurisdiction over the Federal Court for the District of Puerto Rico), claims that the use of the term commonwealth is a label that "can deceive and obscure the true nature of things". He contends that Puerto Rico is obviously not a state, and that "neither Puerto Rico's status nor its relationship with the U.S. supports any legitimate claim that a British type of "commonwealth" exists between Puerto Rico and the United States".[10]

The Insular Cases

It has been said that "any inquiry into Puerto Rico's status must begin with the Constitution of the United States, as well as various Supreme Court and lower court decisions."[11]

Almost immediately after Puerto Rico was ceded to the United States, Puerto Rico's political status was defined by a series of landmark decisions made by the U.S. Supreme Court in what are collectively known as The Insular Cases. From 1901 - 1905, the U.S. Supreme Court in a series of opinions held that the Constitution extended ex propio vigore to the territories. However, the Court in these cases also established the doctrine of territorial incorporation. Under the same, the Constitution only applied fully in incorporated territories such as Alaska and Hawaii, whereas it only applied partially in the new unincorporated territories of Puerto Rico, Guam and the Philippines. Although other cases followed, strictly speaking the Insular Cases are the original six opinions issued concerning acquired territories as a result of the Treaty of Paris (1898). The six cases were:[12]

A plaintiff challenged the imposition of duties for the import of sugar from Puerto Rico to the United States proper. The Court sided with the plaintiff holding that Puerto Rico was not a "foreign country" and hence the duties were invalid.[13]
Considered the leading Insular case, concluded that the U.S. could acquire territory and exercise unrestricted power in determining what rights to concede to its inhabitants. It included the "fateful phrase" that[14]:
"While in an international sense Porto Rico (sic) was not a foreign country, since it was subject to the sovereignty of and was owned by the United States, it was foreign to the United States in a domestic sense, because the island has not been incorporated into the United States, but was merely appurtenant thereto as a possession." [15]
The case created the constitutionally unprecendented category of "unincorporated territories".[16]

Other authorities, such as José Trías Monge, state that the list also includes these additional two cases:[14]

The Supreme Court later made other rulings. For example, in Balzac v. Porto Rico, 258 U.S. 298, 305 (1922), explained the distinction between an incorporated and a non-incorporated territory. Of particular application in the case of Puerto Rico is the definition stating that "an unincorporated territory is a territory as to which, when acquired by the United States, no clear intention was expressed that it would eventually by incorporated into the Union as a State." [17]

Since the Insular Cases had established that only those rights in the U.S. Bill of Rights that are determined to be "fundamental" are applicable in unincorporated territories, the implications of Balzac v. Porto Rico have been enormous. For example:

  • The Court held that the right to trial by jury in not a fundamental right, and thus need not be given to criminal defendants in Puerto Rico.[10] (see Dorr v. United States, 195 U.S. 138, 149; See also Balzac v. Porto Rico, 258 U.S. 298, 312.)
  • The Court ruled that Congress can make lower or no Social Security payments to the aged and benefits to children and the poor who reside in unincorporated areas like Puerto Rico, even in the case of an insured who had worked all his life as a resident of the States proper but then moved to live in Puerto Rico.[18] (see Califano v. Torres, 435 U.S. 1 (1978) (per curiam))

In a brief concurrence in the United States Supreme Court judgment of Torres v. Puerto Rico, 442 U.S. 465 (1979), U.S. Supreme Court Justice Brennan, argued that any implicit limits from the Insular Cases on the basic rights granted by the Constitution (including especially the Bill of Rights) were anachronistic in the 1970s.[19]

Status questions

Puerto Rico's main political issue is the territory's relationship with the United States. A United States territory since 1898, and known as "Estado Libre Asociado" (Free Associated State) or as commonwealth since 1952, Puerto Rico today is torn by profound ideological rifts, as represented by its political parties, which stand for three distinct future political scenarios: the status quo (commonwealth), statehood, and independence. The Popular Democratic Party (PPD) seeks to maintain or improve the current status, the New Progressive Party (PNP) seeks to fully incorporate Puerto Rico as a U.S. state, and the Puerto Rican Independence Party (PIP) seeks national independence.

When asked, in non-binding plebiscites, to choose between independence, statehood, or continuation of the present status with enhanced powers, as proposed by the Popular Democratic Party, Puerto Ricans have voted to remain a commonwealth. In the most recent of these plebisites, in 1998, Puerto Ricans, by a slight majority, voted for "none of the above", a choice that has been variously interpreted: "One might say, looking at the result of the 1998 plebicite, that the people of Puerto Rico exercised their inalienable right to self-determination, and a majority of them -- fully 50.3 percent, to be exact -- chose to remain a colony. One might also say, however, that the oldest strategy for governing recalcitrant subject -- divide and conquer -- was subletly at work."[20] One thing is clear, however, dissatisfaction with the current status is evident. The issue is still being debated and is on the agenda of all the political parties and civil society groups. Many pro-commonwealth leaders within the PPD are proposing an Associated Republic or Free Association similar to that of the U.S. territories of the Marshall Islands or Palau.

Plebiscites

In general, three main alternatives are presented to Puerto Rican voters in status plebiscites:

  • Full independence
  • Maintenance or enhancement of commonwealth status
  • Full statehood

The exact expectations for each of these status formulas is a matter of debate by a given position's adherents and detractors. Puerto Ricans have proposed positions that modify the alternatives above, such as:

  • Indemnified Independence with phased-out US subsidy
  • Expanded political but not fiscal autonomy
  • Statehood with a gradual phasing out of federal tax exemption (Contrary to common misconception, residents of Puerto Rico pay U.S. federal taxes: import/export taxes, federal commodity taxes, social security taxes, etc. Most residents do not pay federal income taxes, but all residents must pay federal payroll taxes (Social Security and Medicare) and all other federal taxes.[21])

The 1967 plebiscite

In 1967, the Legislative Assembly tested political interests of the Puerto Rican people by passing a local Plebiscite Act that allowed a vote on the status of Puerto Rico. This constituted the first plebiscite by the Legislature for a choice on three status options. Following the plebiscite, efforts in the 1970s to enact legislation to address the status issue died in congressional committees. Subsequent locally-authorized plebiscites in 1993 (in which the Congress played a more substantial role), commonwealth status did not win a plurality.

The 1993 plebiscite

A subsequent plebiscite was organized by the Puerto Rican government in 1993, but without any formal commitment on the part of the U.S. Government to honor the results. The current political status (status quo) failed to receive majority support, receiving 48.6% of voter support.[22][23] U.S. Congress played a more substantial role in the 1993 plebiscite than it did in the 1967 plebiscite. However, there was no formal commitment on the part of the U.S. Government to honor the results. In the end, Commonwealth status was again upheld in the 1993 plebiscite.[24]

The 1998 plebiscite

In the last locally-organized plebiscite held in Puerto Rico (1998), the current status quo (Commonwealth status) received less than one tenth of one percent (0.1%) of the total vote.[25] The option of independence received 2.5%, "none of the above" received 50.3% and statehood received 46.7%.

Plebiscite results

Results of Puerto Rican status referenda, in thousands of votes (% total).[26]

1967 1993 1998
Independence 4.2 (0.6%) 75.6 (4.5%) 39.8 (2.5%)
Commonwealth 425.1 (60.4%) 826.3 (48.9%) 5.0 (0.3%)
Statehood 274.3 (39.0%) 788.3 (46.6%) 728.2 (46.7%)
None of the above NA NA 787.9 (50.3%)
Electoral turnout 66%[27][28] 74% 71%

The exact significance of referendum results is debated by local observers. The 1967 results showed strong support for maintaining the commonwealth, but this victory was followed by the first loss in twenty years of governorship by the Popular Democratic Party, the main supporter of the commonwealth association. This occurred in part because of bickering leadership. The 1993 results appear to protest the ideas or forum used to change status as imposed by the then-ruling Popular Democratic Party; the demands were controversial because there was no assurance, and great doubt, that they would be accepted by Congress. The 1998 results, where "none of the above", which was the PPD sponsored choice was the winner, protested criteria set forth by the then ruling New Progressive Party of Puerto Rico.

The 1991 Constitutional Amendment Referendum

The 1991 Referendum on the proposed Claim to Democratic Rights asked the voters to approve the addition of an amendment to the Puerto Rican constitution. The wording of this amendment would guarantee:

  • The inalienable right to freely and democratically determine Puerto Rico's political status.
  • The right to choose a dignified, non-colonial, non-territorial status not subordinate to plenary powers of Congress.
  • The right to vote for three alternatives.
  • The right that only results with a majority will be considered triumphant in a plebiscite.
  • The right that any status would protect Puerto Rico’s culture, language and identity, and continued independent participation in international sports events.
  • The right that any status guarantees the individual’s right to American citizenship.

Passage of this referendum would have constituted a claim for the government of Puerto Rico to establish these rights in the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico constitution and petition the President and Congress for these rights, but it was rejected by a vote of 660,300 (53%) against to 559,200 (45%) in favor.[29]

Congressionally-mandated plebiscites

No Congressionally-mandated plebiscite has ever been held and average voter turnout in the locally-enacted status votes has been slightly lower than in general elections.[6] [30] However, various bills have been introduced in Congress to effect a plebiscite backed by Congress and to which Congress would be committed.

Presidential Executive Orders

2005 Presidential Task Force Report

In December 2005, a 2005 Report by the President's Task Force on Puerto Rico's Status[31][32] asserted that the Constitution of the United States does not allow for a mechanism “to bind future Congresses to any particular arrangement for Puerto Rico as a Commonwealth” without an amendment to the Constitution of the United States.[32] The report also stated that Puerto Rico’s current status “does not meet the criteria for any of the options for full self government.”[32] The Report made its determinations based on articles in the U.S. Constitution regarding territories.

Prominent leaders in Puerto Rico's pro-independence political movements agreed with this assessment. Leaders in the pro-statehood political movements also agreed with the assessment. The Legislative Branch, then controlled by the pro-statehood New Progressive Party (PNP), supported the White House report's conclusions and has supported bills introduced by Congressmen José Serrano (D-NY) and Luis Fortuño (R-PR) and Senators Ken Salazar (D-CO) and Mel Martinez (R-FL) to provide for a democratic referendum process among Puerto Rico voters.

The Popular Democratic Party (PPD), on the other hand, announced a commitment to challenge the Task Force report and validate the current status in all international forums including the United Nations. It also rejected any "colonial or territorial status" as a status option, and vowed to keep working for the enhanced Commonwealth status that was approved by the PPD in 1998, which included sovereignty, an association based on "respect and dignity between both nations", and common citizenship.[33] The task force recommendations were rejected by the former governor of Puerto Rico Anibal Acevedo Vilá on a letter on January 24, 2006, who condemned the report and rejected “any efforts to turn the task force’s recommendations into Congressional legislation.” The former governor, among others, argued that the “Commonwealth” or, in some cases, “Enhanced Commonwealth” constructs are legitimate non-territorial options under U. S. constitutional and statutory law.”[34]

In a letter sent by then-governor Acevedo-Vilá to the former U.S. Secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice and the Bush Administration Co-Chairs of the President's Task Force on Puerto Rico's Status, the former governor stated[35][36] that "if the Task Force and the Bush Administration stand by their 2005 conclusions, then for over 50 years the U.S Government has perpetuated a 'monumental hoax' on the people of Puerto Rico, on the people of the United States and on the international community. If the 2005 report articulates the new official position of the United States, the time has come now for the State Department to formally notify the United Nations of this new position and assume the international legal consequences. You cannot have a legal and constitutional interpretation for local, political purposes and a different one for the international community." [37] On January 4, 2006, then-governor Vilá and the Popular Democratic Party challenged the task force report with a resolution that denounced the task force as a political fraud and threat to democracy, and called the report's conclusion a violation of the basic agreements held between the people of Puerto Rico and the United States since 1952.[38][39][40]

A bill supporting the PPD's position was introduced in the United States Senate on February 16, 2006, by two senators who have traditionally been identified with Puerto Rico, Senators Edward M. Kennedy (D-MA) and Bob Menendez (D-NJ) and two senators whose interest in matters related to Puerto Rico was up to then unknown, Senators Richard Mauze Burr (R-NC) and Chester Trent Lott.[41] Since its introduction, however, the bill did not attract any other co-sponsors. A bipartisan Senate bill supporting the implementation of the White House report recommendations was filed by Senators Mel Martinez (R-FL) and Ken Salazar (D-CO).

2007 Presidential Task Force Report

On December 21, 2007, the President's Task Force on Puerto Rico's Political Status issued a second Report. This 2007 Report stated that the United States, in its written submission to the UN in 1953, never represented that the U.S. Congress could not change its relationship with Puerto Rico without the territory's consent.[31] It stated that the U.S. Justice Department in 1959 reiterated that Congress held power over Puerto Rico pursuant to the Territorial Clause[42] of the U.S. Constitution.[31] In a 1996 report on a Puerto Rico status political bill, the "U.S. House Committee on Resources stated that Puerto Rico's current status does not meet the criteria for any of the options for full self-government". It concluded that Puerto Rico is still an unincorporated territory of the U.S. under the territorial clause, that the establishment of local self-government with the consent of the people can be unilaterally revoked by the U.S. Congress, and that U.S. Congress can also withdraw the U.S. citizenship of Puerto Rico residents of Puerto Rico at any time, for a legitimate Federal purpose.[43] The application of the American Constitution to Puerto Rico is limited by the Insular Cases. In essence, the December 2007 report reiterated and confirmed the U.S. position that had been expressed in the report of 2005:[31][32] that Puerto Rico continued to be a territory of the U.S. under the plenary powers of the U.S. Congress.[6] [44] This position continues to be shared by the other two major political parties in Puerto Rico: New Progressive Party and the Puerto Rican Independence Party.[6]

Bills in U.S. Congress

The Territories Clause of the United States Constitution (Art. IV, Sec. 3, cl. 2) allows for Congress to "dispose of" Puerto Rico and allow it to become independent of the U.S. (in the same way as the Philippines did in 1945) or, under the authority of the Admissions Clause (Art. IV, Sec. 3, cl. 1) for it to be admitted as a state of the United States (with a vote of Congress in the same way that Alaska was in 1958 and Hawaii was in 1959).

Since Congress must approve of any political status change for Puerto Rico, some argue that "congressional agreement to the options [on a ballot], prior to a plebiscite would save the people of Puerto Rico the grief of an emotionally draining and politically divisive vote that might result in a status not acceptable to Congress."[45] Former Resident Commissioner and Former Governor Carlos Romero Barcelo echoed this sentiment when he recalled, at a 1997 Congressional hearing, that both "[Congressman] Young and [Congressman] Miller were clear in stating [in their March 3rd, 1997, letter to the presidents of the three political parties in Puerto Rico] that there was no purpose in presenting the people of Puerto Rico a status definition which does not represent an option that the Congress will be willing to ratify should it be approved in a plebiscite."[46]

A catalyst for the legislative activity taking place in Congress was the release in December 2005 of the presidential task force’s report.[47] Per United States v. Sanchez, 992 F.2d 1143, 1152-53 (11th Cir. 1993), "Congress continues to be the ultimate source of power [over Puerto Rico] pursuant to the Territory Clause of the Constitution." (quoting United States v. Andino, 831 F.2d 1164, 1 176 (1st Cir. 1987) (Torruella, J., concurring), cert. denied, 486 U.S. 1034 (1988)), cert. denied, 510 U.S. 11 10 (1994).9 [48] An Act of Congress, thus, is ultimately required to modify the current political status of Puerto Rico.

The United States-Puerto Rico Political Status Act (H.R. 856)

In 1997, The United States-Puerto Rico Political Status Act (H.R. 856) was introduced in Congress, passing in the House in 1998, but not in the Senate. The bill was legislative initiative by U.S. House of Representatives to help refine the political status of the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico. This bill, unlike any other bill in U.S. Congress regarding the Puerto Rico political status issue, made its way to both chambers of Congress. The House considered four versions of the bill. The version forwarded to the Senate offered Puerto Ricans four options for their political future: Statehood, Independence, Associated Republic, or the current Commonwealth status. The bill proposed to carry out a referendum in Puerto Rico in which the people of Puerto Rico could choose the option they preferred.[49]

The proposal, however, was controversial in Puerto Rican politics for two reasons: 1) the legislation was encouraged by two avid statehood supporters, and seemed to favor unchangeable status choices over Commonwealth; and 2) the Commonwealth option in the bill defined Puerto Rico as a "territory subject to the supreme powers of the U.S Congress". The Popular Democratic Party (PPD) disagreed with this definition that appeared to emphasize the island was a colony of the United States, and not a true commonwealth. The PPD thus fiercely opposed the H. R. 856, because it diminished their sense of Commonwealth (Estado Libre Asociado) as agreement between two peoples.

This reaction was consistent with the contents of the bill, since H. R. 856, as officially ordered to be printed by its sponsor, Alaska Congressman Don Young, stated in its findings that Puerto Rico “does not have the status of 'free association' with the United States as that status is defined under United States law or international practice.”[50]

The travails of H.R. 856 in the House of Representatives exemplify the hurdles from conservative and liberal members of Congress that any status choice by Puerto Rico will likely face in Congress.[51] The bill was introduced by conservative representative Gerald Solomon (R-NY).

A number of amendments were debated, seeking, for example, to make English the official language[52], getting Congress to recognize that Puerto Rico is sociologically and culturally a Caribbean and Latin American nation with a distinctive culture, and recognizing the separate and distinct nature of Puerto Rican citizenship in relation to U.S. citizenship. Ultimately the bill died in the Senate.

In 2005, the U.S. House Committee on Resources concluded that Puerto Rico is still an unincorporated territory of the United States under the Territorial Clause, that the establishment of local self-government with the consent of the people can be unilaterally revoked by U.S. Congress, and Congress can withdraw, at any time, the American citizenship now enjoyed by the residents of Puerto Rico as long as it achieves a legitimate Federal purpose, in a manner reasonably related to that purpose.[53]

In 2006, Resident Commissioner Luis Fortuño (R-PR) and Rep. Jose E. Serrano (D-NY) introduced a bipartisan House bill to implement the recommendations, which was cosponsored by over 60 Republicans and over 40 Democrats, significantly more cosponsors than the H.R. 856 bill which cleared the House in 1998. The House Committee on Resources called a hearing on the subject on April 27, 2006, signaling a greater degree of interest than previously anticipated.

The Puerto Rico Democracy Act of 2007 (H.R. 900)

At the beginning of the 110th Congress (2007-2008), Serrano and Fortuño introduced their bill again as H.R. 900. It was titled the Puerto Rico Democracy Act of 2007. A first hearing was held by the Subcommittee on Insular Affairs in March 2007. A final hearing was held on April 25 to hear Gov. Aníbal Acevedo Vilá, Senate President Kenneth McClintock, Speaker José Aponte and the White House Report's co-author Kevin Marshall before the bill was brought to a full committee vote, according to Resources Committee chair Nick Rahall (D-WV).

On October 23, 2007, that Resources Committee unanimously approved a substitute bill of H.R. 900, which establishes that before 2009, a first plebiscite will be held in which Puerto Ricans will be asked if they desire to maintain their territorial status, in a yes or no question. The bill states that should the No as the favored choice, either another plebiscite asking between statehood, independence or an associated republic, or a constitutional assembly would follow thereafter, by choice of the United States Federal Court of Puerto Rico. The bill is yet to be considered by the United States House of Representatives, waiting for enough votes to carry a debate. It was placed on the Union Calendar in March 2008, and died with the end of the 110th Congress. The bill was introduced again in 2009, and passed the Resources Committee on July 28 of that year.

During 2007, the Senate came up with its own version of the bill, S.1936. This bill, also titled the Puerto Rico Democracy Act of 2007, aimed to provide for a plebiscite on the future status of Puerto Rico.[54] However, it never made it out of Committee before that session of Congress was over.

The Puerto Rico Democracy Act of 2009 (H.R. 2499)

Finally, in May 2009, Resident Commissioner Pedro Pierluisi sponsored a new version of the Puerto Rico Democracy Act bill (H.R. 2499) now titled The Puerto Rico Democracy Act of 2009[55], aimed at providing for “a federally sanctioned self-determination process for the people of Puerto Rico.” The bill, if enacted, would provide for referendums to be held in Puerto Rico to determine the Island's ultimate political status.

The bill would provide for a referendum giving Puerto Ricans the choice between the options of (1) retaining their present political status, or (2) choosing a new status.[56] If the latter option (2) were to win, then a separate referendum would be held where Puerto Ricans would be given the option of being admitted as a US State "on equal footing with the other states," or becoming a "sovereign nation, either fully independent from or in free association with the United States." If the first option garnished the most votes, a new referendum would be held again every 8 years.

The bill enjoys bi-partisan support in the House of Representatives, with 182 co-sponsors.[57] On June 24, 2009, the U.S. House Committee on Natural Resources held a hearing on the bill with the participation of the Governor of Puerto Rico, and others like Jennifer Gonzalez, speaker of the Puerto Rico House of Representatives, Thomas Rivera Schatz, president of the Senate of Puerto Rico.[58] The House Natural Resources Committee, approved the bill and referred it to the United States House of Representatives floor with a 30 in favor 8 against vote[59].

United Nations classification

The United Nations has intervened in the past to evaluate the legitimacy of Puerto Rico's political status, to ensure that the island's government structure complies with the standards of self-government that constitute the basic tenets of the United Nations Charter, its covenants, and its principles of international law. Some authorities, such as Trias Monge, sustain that "Puerto Rico clearly does not meet the decolonization standards set by the United Nations in 1960." [60]

Resolution 748

During its 8th session, the United Nations General Assembly recognized Puerto Rico's self-government in November 27, 1953 with Resolution 748 (VIII). This removed Puerto Rico’s classification as a non-self-governing territory (under article 73(e) of the Charter of the United Nations). The resolution passed, garnering a favorable vote from some 40% of the General Assembly, with over 60% abstaining or voting against it (20 to 16, plus 18 abstentions). Today, however, "the United Nations still debates whether Puerto Rico is a colony."[61]

UN vote aftermath

However, Puerto Rico's political status is still debated in many international forums, possibly in part because of the circumstances surrounding the vote: "Under United States pressure, General Assembly Resolution 748 passed—though only narrowly and with many countries abstaining. The debate over Resolution 748 prompted the United Nations to agree on governing arrangements that would provide full self-government to non-self-governing territories: in United States terms, these arrangements were statehood, independence, and free association. Yet, under international law, a freely associated state is a sovereign nation in a joint governing arrangement with another nation that either nation can unilaterally end."[62] Though the subject continues to be debated in many forums it is clear that (1) the current territorial status has not satisfied Puerto Rican political leaders[62], and (2) that despite the divergent views that Puerto Ricans have with respect to their preferred political status, 'all factions agree on the need to end the present undemocratic arrangement whereby Puerto Rico is subject to the laws of Congress but cannot vote in it.'[62]

Attempts to reintroduce a new UN vote

The list of factors for determining when a colony has achieved a full measure of self-government appears in Resolution 1541 (XV) of the General Assembly of the United Nations, 15 UN GAOR Supplement (No. 16) at 29, UN Document A/4684 (1960).[63][64]

The General Assembly did not apply its full list of criteria to Puerto Rico[64][65] for determining whether or not self-governing status had been achieved. The UN's Committee on Non-Self-Governing States recently unanimously agreed[66] to ask the General Assembly to take up the issue of Puerto Rico. The Puerto Rico Senate in June, 2007, approved a Concurrent Resolution urging the UN General Assembly to discuss Puerto Rico's case.

Starting in 1971, "Cuba introduced annual resolutions on the issue in the Decolonization Committee of the United Nations. The United States, however, has blocked General Assembly action and stopped cooperating with the Decolonization Committee. On August 23, 1973, the United States vigorously opposed that members of Puerto Rico's independence movement be allowed to speak at the United Nations.[67] The U.S. position has not been, as some assert, that Puerto Rico is not a territory. Rather, the U.S. position of record, based on General Assembly Resolution 748, is that the Decolonization Committee lacks jurisdiction, that the matter is one for the United States and Puerto Rico to resolve, and that Puerto Rico has not sought a new status."[62]

In 1972, the United Nations set a precedent when, after approving Puerto Rico's association with the United States in 1953[68] as sufficient evidence to remove PR from the list of Colonized Countries, the United Nations reopened the matter in 1972 and it is still under review.[69][70][71] "Failure [of the United States] to include independence as an option and harassment of [Puerto Rican] pro-independence organizations were reasons for the United Nations' recent reconsideration of the status of Puerto Rico".[71]

Since 1972, the U.N. Decolonization Committee has called for Puerto Rico's decolonization and for the United States to recognize the island's right to self-determination and independence. Most recently, the Decolonization Committee called for the United Nations General Assembly to review the political status of Puerto Rico, a power reserved by the 1953 Resolution.[72] The United Nations still debates whether Puerto Rico is still a colony.[73]

Distinct national group

Internationally

Though politically associated with the United States, Puerto Rico is considered by many other nations to have its own distinct national identity.[74] Internationally, it has been reported that "the Fourteenth Ministerial Conference of the Movement of Non-aligned Nations...reaffirms that Puerto Rican people constitute a Latin American and Caribbean nation."[75]

Amongst Puerto Ricans

Although Puerto Rico is an unincorporated territory of the United States classified as a commonwealth, it is considered by many Puerto Ricans a country in and of itself. "Most Puerto Ricans now insist that they belong to a distinct nation."[76] In addition, in their work titled The Louisiana Purchase and American Expansion, 1803-1898, Sanford Levinson and Bartholomew H. Sparrow determined that "Most Puerto Ricans consider themselves a distinct national group." (page 167)[77]. They also observed that both Americans and Puerto Ricans see themselves as separate cultures "and even separate nationalities." [78]

At the local level, it has been observed that "Puerto Ricans consider themselves a territorially distinct national unit, a nation defined by its cultural distinctiveness." [79] In recent plebiscites Puerto Ricans have not expressed themselves in favor of a political status with the intention of becoming a sovereign state, but the idea that Puerto Rico is a separate social, political and cultural entity from the United States has been repeatedly expressed.

Position of US political parties

Both major United States political parties (Democratic and Republican) have expressed their support for the U.S. Citizens in Puerto Rico to exercise their right to decolonization. Puerto Rico has been under U.S. sovereignty for over a century and Puerto Ricans have been U.S. citizens since 1917, but the island’s ultimate status still has not been determined and its 3.9 million residents still do not have voting representation in their national government. The following are the appropriate section from the respective 2008, 2004, and 2000 party platforms:

2008 Platforms

Democratic Party 2008 Platform

We believe that the people of Puerto Rico have the right to the political status of their choice, obtained through a fair, neutral, and democratic process of self-determination. The White House and Congress will work with all groups in Puerto Rico to enable the question of Puerto Rico’s status to be resolved during the next four years. We also believe that economic conditions in Puerto Rico call for effective and equitable programs to maximize job creation and financial investment. Furthermore, in order to provide fair assistance to those in greatest need, the U.S. citizens in Puerto Rico should receive treatment under federal programs that is comparable to that of citizens in the States. We will phase-out the cap on Medicaid funding and phase-in equal participation in other federal health care assistance programs. Moreover, we will provide equitable treatment to the U.S. citizens in Puerto Rico on programs providing refundable tax credits to working families.[80]

Republican Party 2008 Platform

We support the right of the United States citizens of Puerto Rico to be admitted to the Union as a fully sovereign state after they freely so determine. We recognize that Congress has the final authority to define the constitutionally valid options for Puerto Rico to achieve a permanent non-territorial status with government by consent and full enfranchisement. As long as Puerto Rico is not a state, however, the will of its people regarding their political status should be ascertained by means of a general right of referendum or specific referenda sponsored by the U.S. government.[81]

2004 Platforms

Democratic Party 2004 Platform

We believe that four million disenfranchised American citizens residing in Puerto Rico have the right to the permanent and fully democratic status of their choice. The White House and Congress will clarify the realistic status options for Puerto Rico and enable Puerto Ricans to choose among them.[82]

Republican Party 2004 Platform

We support the right of the United States citizens of Puerto Rico to be admitted to the Union as a fully sovereign state after they freely so determine. We recognize that Congress has the final authority to define the Constitutionally valid options for Puerto Rico to achieve a permanent non-territorial status with government by consent and full enfranchisement. As long as Puerto Rico is not a state, however, the will of its people regarding their political status should be ascertained by means of a general right of referendum or specific referenda sponsored by the United States government.[83]

2000 Platforms

Democratic Party 2000 Platform

Puerto Rico has been under U.S. sovereignty for over a century and Puerto Ricans have been U.S. citizens since 1917, but the island’s ultimate status still has not been determined and its 3.9 million residents still do not have voting representation in their national government. These disenfranchised citizens – who have contributed greatly to our country in war and peace – are entitled to the permanent and fully democratic status of their choice. Democrats will continue to work in the White House and Congress to clarify the options and enable them to chose and to obtain such a status from among all realistic options.[6]

Republican Party 2000 Platform

We support the right of the United States citizens of Puerto Rico to be admitted to the Union as a fully sovereign state after they freely so determine. We recognize that Congress has the final authority to define the constitutionally valid options for Puerto Rico to achieve a permanent status with the government by consent and full enfranchisement. As long as Puerto Rico is not a State, however, the will of its people regarding their political status should be ascertained by means of a general right of referendum or specific referenda sponsored by the United States government.[citation needed]

Controversies

Elements of the U.S.-Puerto Rico relationship have been, and continue to be, matters of debate. Some contend that the current political status of Puerto Rico, perhaps with enhancements, remains a viable option. Others argue that commonwealth status is or should be only a temporary fix to be resolved in favor of other solutions considered permanent, non-colonial, and non-territorial. Some contend that if independence is achieved, the close relationship with the United States could be continued through compact negotiations with the federal government. One element apparently shared by all discussants is that the people of Puerto Rico seek to attain full, democratic representation, notably through voting rights on national legislation to which they are subject.[84]

Decolonization by the UN and political empowerment

Controversy exists surrounding the "real" political status of the Island, with some calling it a colony and others disagreeing. Some (especially independentistas and statehooders) claim Puerto Rico is still a colony despite the UN’s removing Puerto Rico from its list of non self-governing countries in 1953. Others (notoriously those who vote for the current commonwealth status option) argue that Puerto Rico is not a colony because the UN has not revoked its resolution after 55 years.

Some authors have called Puerto Rico "the world's oldest colony" [85] and "one of the world's last colonies." [86] The former chief justice of the Puerto Rico Supreme Court Jose Trias Monge even wrote a book with that title, Puerto Rico: The Trials of the Oldest Colony in the World.[87] Those who argue that Puerto Rico is still a colony insist that despite the UN resolution, Puerto Rico remains what some call a “post-colonial colony”.[88] Defenders of this point of view, argue that Puerto Rico has less self-determination now than it did before the U.S. invaded the Island: it no longer has its own Puerto Rican citizenship as it did before [89], has no free maritime control as it did before[90], and it has no representation in Congress as it did in the Spanish Cortes before in periods before the U.S. invasion. Trias Monge argues that just prior to the U.S. invasion, the Island enjoyed greater freedom and rights in certain areas than it does now. He then goes on to list six such greater rights:

  • The insular parliament could legislate in matters of monetary policy, banking, import/export duties, and public credit
  • Puerto Rico could negotiate its own commercial treaties
  • Puerto Ricans were Spanish citizens, equal in all respects to mainland Spanish citizens
  • The Spanish Constitution applied in Puerto Rico in the same manner as it applied in Spain proper
  • The Autonomic Charter of 1897, which governed Puerto Rico's relation with Spain, could not be changed except with Puerto Rico's consent

Yet those who claim Puerto Rico is not a colony will say that the 8th session, the United Nations General Assembly recognized Puerto Rico's self-government in November 27, 1953 with Resolution 748 (VIII). They point out that this removed Puerto Rico’s classification as a non-self-governing territory (under article 73(e) of the Charter of the United Nations). They add that the resolution has not been revoked by the UN even though the political status is still debated in many international forums.

Those who claim Puerto Rico is still a colony argue that Puerto Rico was vested with the commonwealth status by the US Congress to give the appearance of self-government but that genuine decolonization never occurred [91]. These supporters claim that the Puerto Rico Federal Relations Act of 1947 allowed the U.S. to continue its colonial policy of Puerto Rico in a post-colonial world.[92] They see the passing of the Federal Relations Act of 1950 (P.L. 600[93]) as a gimmick by the US to maintain the colonial status of PR “The US Congress, however, carefully preserved its exclusive right to [unilaterally] alter the political status of Puerto Rico. Some saw the commonwealth as at best as temporary arrangement or at worst as a relic of the old colonial past.” [94] They also point to the fact that no change in the political status of Puerto Rico is possible unless authorized by the US Congress.[94] as proof of the real current status. "The deepest question," Rivera Ramos sustains, "pertains to the source of rights and the source of authority to govern...In the case of [unincorporated] territories, the rights deemed to apply to their people, as well as those denied them, have their source in a constitution they have not approved nor have the power to ammend." [95]

Those who support that Puerto Rico is no longer a colony but has changed into a different status, the commonwealth, claim that since 1952 Constitution Congress has expressed that they will respect the wishes of the people of Puerto Rico, indicating that this is evidence of the validity of the current status as a non-colony.

Those claiming it is still a colony point to bills from Congress where text such as those authorizing plebiscites in the Island (example “to conduct a second plebiscite between the options of (1) independence, (2) national sovereignty in association with the United States, and (3) U.S. statehood. The three options in the plebiscite also correspond to the options that the United Nations has identified as the options for decolonizing a territory.” (HR 2499, section 2(c) ) clearly include content to satisfy the United Nations demand for decolonizing a territory.

Granting of U.S. citizenship and cultural identity

Some (primarily independentistas and commonwealth supporters) claim that granting of US citizenship on Puerto Ricans on March 2, 1917 was devised by the US in order to further reiterate its hold of Puerto Rico as a possession while others (mostly statehooders) claim that it was a serious attempt to pave the way for statehood.

Former chief of the Puerto Rico Supreme Court Jose Trias Monge insists that statehood was never intended for the island and that, unlike Alaska and Hawaii which Congress deemed incorporated territories and slated for annexation to the Union from the start, Puerto Rico was kept “unincorporated” specifically to avoid offering it statehood.[96] Ayala and Bernabe add that “the purpose of the inclusion of U.S. citizenship to Puerto Ricans in the Jones Act of 1917 was an attempt by Congress to block independence and perpetuate Puerto Rico in its colonial status [97] For the proponents of the citizenship clause in the Jones Act, “the extension of citizenship did not constitute a promise of statehood but rather an attempt to exclude any consideration of independence.” [98]

For the island's pro-statehood movement, the hard fought concession of U.S. citizenship has been seen, ever since, as the key that would eventually guarantee statehood for the island, as soon as the people of Puerto Rico demanded equality in citizenship.

As former Puerto Rico House of Representatives Speaker Miguel Angel García- Méndez would subsequently declare, “For an American citizen, there cannot be another political goal other than equality with his or her fellow American citizens. To seek other solutions - to repudiate equality - is to repudiate the natural destiny of American citizenship.”[99]

However, as early as 1912, President Taft had already said that there was no connection between the extension of citizenship to Puerto Ricans and the prospect of admission of Puerto Rico into the American Union. “I believe the demand for citizenship is just, and amply earned by the sustained loyalty on the part of the inhabitants of the island. But it should be remembered that the demand must be entirely dissociated from any thought of statehood.”[100]

Thus, in the end, "U.S. citizenship has had multiple meanings for Puerto Ricans. For some it is a welcome link to the United States, regardless of the political status of the territory. For others, it has been nothing more than an imposed identity by an imperial power. Still others regard it as a useful asset that provides access to certain rights and tangible benefits and opportunities. And there are those that cherish it as a constituent element of their self-image and identity.[101]

Economic survival and self-support

Some (mostly statehooders) contend that Puerto Rico cannot become an fully independent republic because there will be economic chaos and its citizens will die of hunger given that the land has no natural resources to sustain its population. But others (mostly independentistas) point to the example of countries that became independent and, though containing less land and natural resources than Puerto Rico, today have economies far better than the Island.

According to educational scientists Francesco Cordasco and Eugene Bucchioni, in their work The Puerto Rican Experience: a Sociological Sourcebook, the belief that Puerto Rico cannot survive on its own results from teachings since grade school. "Puerto Ricans here and in Puerto Rico are taught three things: Puerto Rico is small and the US is big, Puerto Rico is poor and the US is rich, Puerto Rico is weak and the US is strong." [102]

An example given by those who claim the Island will be able to support itself is Singapore, an island nation 14 times smaller than Puerto Rico with a drastically higher level of population density and less natural resources, which has surpassed the per capita income of larger nations, including the United States.[103]

“In Puerto Rico, ever since you are a child, you are told that you live on a tiny island that has no natural resources, nothing. This is what they teach you in school, on TV, the media, and it’s always negative. This perception is a byproduct of the island’s political dependence on the U.S. Politicians here will name it 20,000 different ways, but in any dictionary Puerto Rico is a colony. And there is this colonized mentality that everything from abroad is better.” [104]

Juan Mari Bras stated, Only through a great unified movement looking beyond political and ideological differences, can the prevalent fears of hunger and persecution be overcome for the eventual liberation of Puerto Rico, breaking through domination by the greatest imperialist power of our age. [105]

English as an official language

Traditionally, the de facto and only official language in Puerto Rico had been Spanish. After the invasion by the United States in 1898, the Americans also made English the official language. [106][107][108] In 1991 under the pro-Commonwealth PPD administration of Rafael Hernandez Colon Spanish was declared the only official languiage in the Island. Then, in 1993, under the pro-statehood PNP administration of Pedro Rosello, the law was reversed, and English was again reinstated as an offical language alongside with Spanish.[109] An "official language" controversy continues to exist to this day.

In a 1993 survey by the Ateneo Puertorriqueño, a leading cultural institution in Puerto Rico, 93 percent of respondents indicated that they would not relinquish Spanish as their language if Puerto Rico ever became a state of the American Union and the United States required English as the only official language of the Island.[110][111]

Stateside Puerto Ricans and status

More Puerto Ricans live stateside in the U.S. than in the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico. A 2009 report by the Pew Hispanic Center indicates that, as of 2007, 4.1 million Puerto Ricans lived in the mainland versus 3.9 million living in the Island.[112] Since the 1967 referendum, there have been demands that stateside Puerto Ricans be allowed to vote in these plebiscites on the political status of Puerto Rico. Since the 1990s, the role of stateside Puerto Ricans in advocating for Puerto Rico in Washington, D.C., on issues such as the Navy's removal from Vieques and others has increased, especially given that there are three full voting members of the U.S. Congress who are stateside Puerto Ricans (two from New York City and one from Chicago), in contrast to Puerto Rico's single Resident Commissioner in the U.S. Congress with no vote.

Stateside Puerto Rican members of the United States Congress: Luis Gutierrez (D-IL)(left), José Serrano (D-NY)(center), and Nydia Velazquez (D-NY)(right) speaking at the Encuentro Boricua Conference at Hostos Community College in New York City, 2004

Between February 24 and March 6 in 2006, the National Institute for Latino Policy conducted an opinion survey over the Internet of a broad cross-section of stateside Puerto Rican community leaders and activists across the United States. The survey had a total of 574 respondents, including 88 non-Puerto Rican members of the Institute’s national network of community leaders.

The views of the 484 Puerto Ricans in the survey found broad support among them for the holding of a plebiscite on the future political status of Puerto Rico. While 73% were in favor of such a vote, they were split on the options to be voted upon. Those supporting the 2005 proposal made by the White House Task Force on Puerto Rico’s Status that the vote be ultimately limited to the options of statehood versus independence made up 31% of the total respondents. A larger group (43%) supported including the commonwealth option in the proposed plebiscite.

Commonwealth Unconstitutional? Despite support for the inclusion of the commonwealth option in the proposed plebiscite, a majority (52%) of the Puerto Rican respondents felt that this option is unconstitutional and a vestige of colonialism.

U.S. public opinion on the status of Puerto Rico

A March 13, 1998, Gullup Poll[113] asked Americans: "Do you personally think Puerto Rico: Should become a completely independent nation; should remain a territory of the United States, or, should be admitted to the United States as the fifty-first state?"

The response was:

  • Become independent 28%
  • Remain a US territory 26%
  • Be admitted as the fifty-first state 30%
  • None/Other 5%
  • No opinion 11%

In a 1991 Gallup poll more than 60 percent of Americans had said they would support independence or statehood for Puerto Rico if a majority of Puerto Ricans voted for either one.

See also

Additional reading

References

  1. ^ One Hundred Years of Solitude: Puerto Rico's American Century. By Juan R. Torruella. In Foreign in a Domestic Sense: Puerto Rico, The American Expansion, and the Constitution. Ed. by Christina Duffy Burnett and Burke Marshall. 2001. Duke University Press. Page 248.
  2. ^ Jones-Shafroth Act
  3. ^ 8 U.S.C. § 1402
  4. ^ Bea, Keith (May 25, 2005), Political Status of Puerto Rico: Background, Options, and Issues in the 109th Congress, Congressional Research Service, The Library of Congress, pp. 5–6, http://www.fas.org/sgp/crs/row/RL32933.pdf, retrieved 2010-01-24 .
  5. ^ United States v. Sanchez, 992 F.2D 1143 (1993) United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit (Paragraphs 44 - 46), ftp.resources.com, 1993-06-04, http://ftp.resource.org/courts.gov/c/F2/992/992.F2d.1143.90-5749.html, retrieved 2010-01-24 
  6. ^ a b c d e Let Puerto Rico Decide: An Introduction to Puerto Rico's Status Debate
  7. ^ Balzac v. Porto Rico, 258 U.S. 298, 305 (1922).
  8. ^ Injustice According to Law: The Insular Cases and Other Oddities. By José Trías Monge. In, Foreign in a Domestic Sense: Puerto Rico, The American Expansion, and the Constitution. Ed. by Christina Duffy Burnett and Burke Marshall. 2001. Duke University Press. Page 231.
  9. ^ "7 FAM 1120 ACQUISITION OF U.S. NATIONALITY IN U.S. TERRITORIES AND POSSESSIONS" (PDF). U.S. Department of State Foreign Affairs Manual Volume 7- Consular Affairs. U.S. Department of State. 06-01-05. http://www.state.gov/documents/organization/86756.pdf. Retrieved 2010-01-24. 
  10. ^ a b One Hundred Years of Solitude: Puerto Rico's American Century. By Juan R. Torruella. In, Foreign in a Domestic Sense: Puerto Rico, The American Expansion, and the Constitution. Ed. by Christina Duffy Burnett and Burke Marshall. 2001. Duke University Press. Page 243.
  11. ^ One Hundred Years of Solitude: Puerto Rico's American Century. By Juan R. Torruella. In, Foreign in a Domestic Sense: Puerto Rico, The American Expansion, and the Constitution. Ed. by Christina Duffy Burnett and Burke Marshall. 2001. Duke University Press. Page 242.
  12. ^ One Hundred Years of Solitude: Puerto Rico's American Century. By Juan R. Torruella. In, Foreign in a Domestic Sense: Puerto Rico, The American Expansion, and the Constitution. Ed. by Christina Duffy Burnett and Burke Marshall. 2001. Duke University Press. Page 248.
  13. ^ Between the Foreign and the Domestic: The Doctrine of Territorial Incorporation, Invented and Reinvented. By Christina Duffy Burnett and Burke Marshall. In, Foreign in a Domestic Sense: Puerto Rico, The American Expansion, and the Constitution. Ed. by Christina Duffy Burnett and Burke Marshall. 2001. Duke University Press. Page 13.
  14. ^ a b Injustice According to Law: The Insular Cases and Other Oddities. By José Trías Monge. In, Foreign in a Domestic Sense: Puerto Rico, The American Expansion, and the Constitution. Ed. by Christina Duffy Burnett and Burke Marshall. 2001. Duke University Press. Page 239.
  15. ^ Downes, 182 U.S. at 341-342 (White, J. concurring)
  16. ^ Sanford Levinson, and Bartholomew H. Sparrow. The Louisiana Purchase and the American Expansion. page 12.
  17. ^ One Hundred Years of Solitude: Puerto Rico's American Century. By Juan R. Torruella. In, Foreign in a Domestic Sense: Puerto Rico, The American Expansion, and the Constitution. Ed. by Christina Duffy Burnett and Burke Marshall. 2001. Duke University Press. Page 243. In Balzac v. Porto Rico, 258 U.S. 298, 305 (1922) at 304-12.
  18. ^ One Hundred Years of Solitude: Puerto Rico's American Century. By Juan R. Torruella. In, Foreign in a Domestic Sense: Puerto Rico, The American Expansion, and the Constitution. Ed. by Christina Duffy Burnett and Burke Marshall. 2001. Duke University Press. Page 244.
  19. ^ Torres v. Puerto Rico, FindLaw.com Supreme Court Case Law, http://caselaw.lp.findlaw.com/cgi-bin/getcase.pl?court=US&vol=442&invol=465, retrieved 2009-09-09 
  20. ^ Foreign in a Domestic Sense: Puerto Rico, The American Expansion, and the Constitution. By Christina Duffy Burnett and Burke Marshall. 2001. Duke University Press. Page xii.
  21. ^ Contrary to common misconception, residents of Puerto Rico do pay U.S. federal taxes: customs taxes (which are subsequently returned to the Puerto Rico Treasury) (See http://www.doi.gov/oia/Islandpages/prpage.htm Dept of the Interior, Office of Insular Affairs.), import/export taxes (See http://stanford.wellsphere.com/healthcare-industry-policy-article/puerto-rico/267827), federal commodity taxes (See http://stanford.wellsphere.com/healthcare-industry-policy-article/puerto-rico/267827), social security taxes (See http://www.irs.gov/taxtopics/tc903.html), etc. Residents pay federal payroll taxes, such as Social Security (See http://www.irs.gov/taxtopics/tc903.html) and Medicare (See http://www.reuters.com/article/healthNews/idUSTRE58N5X320090924), as well as Commonwealth of Puerto Rico income taxes (See http://www.puertorico-herald.org/issues/2003/vol7n19/USNotInnocent-en.html and http://www.htrcpa.com/businessinpr1.html). All federal employees (See http://www.heritage.org/research/taxes/wm2338.cfm), those who do business with the federal government (See http://www.mcvpr.com/CM/CurrentEvents/CEOsummitarticle.pdf), Puerto Rico-based corporations that intend to send funds to the U.S. (See http://www.jct.gov/x-24-06.pdf Page 9, line 1.), and some others (For example, Puerto Rican residents that are members of the U.S. military, See http://www.heritage.org/research/taxes/wm2338.cfm; and Puerto Rico residents who earned income from sources outside Puerto Rico, See http://www.jct.gov/x-24-06.pdf, pp 14-15.) also pay federal income taxes. In addition, because the cutoff point for income taxation is lower than that of the U.S. IRS code, and because the per-capita income in Puerto Rico is much lower than the average per-capita income on the mainland, more Puerto Rico residents pay income taxes to the local taxation authority than if the IRS code were applied to the island. This occurs because "the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico government has a wider set of responsibilities than do U.S. State and local governments" (See http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-06-541). As residents of Puerto Rico pay into Social Security, Puerto Ricans are eligible for Social Security benefits upon retirement, but are excluded from the Supplemental Security Income (SSI) (Commonwealth of Puerto Rico residents, unlike residents of the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands and residents of the 50 States, do not receive the SSI. See http://www.socialsecurity.gov/OP_Home/handbook/handbook.21/handbook-2114.html), and the island actually receives less than 15% of the Medicaid funding it would normally receive if it were a U.S. state (See http://www.magiccarpetautotransport.com/auto-transport/puerto-rico-auto-transport.php). However, Medicare providers receive less-than-full state-like reimbursements for services rendered to beneficiaries in Puerto Rico, even though the latter paid fully into the system (See http://www.prfaa.com/news/?p=252). It has also been estimated (See http://www.eagleforum.org/column/2007/mar07/07-03-28.html) that, because the population of the Island is greater than that of 50% of the States, if it were a state, Puerto Rico would have six to eight seats in the House, in addition to the two seats in the Senate.(See http://www.eagleforum.org/column/2007/mar07/07-03-28.html, http://www.crf-usa.org/bill-of-rights-in-action/bria-17-4-c.html# and http://www.thomas.gov/cgi-bin/cpquery/?&sid=cp1109rs5H&refer=&r_n=hr597.110 [Note that for the later, the offical US Congress database website, you will need to resubmit a query. The document in question is called "House Report 110-597 - PUERTO RICO DEMOCRACY ACT OF 2007." These are the steps to follow: http://www.thomas.gov > Committee Reports > 110 > drop down "Word/Phrase" and pick "Report Number" > type "597" next to Report Number. This will provide the document "House Report 110-597 - PUERTO RICO DEMOCRACY ACT OF 2007", then from the Table of Contents choose "BACKGROUND AND NEED FOR LEGISLATION".]). Another misconception is that the import/export taxes collected by the U.S. on products manufactured in Puerto Rico are all returned to the Puerto Rico Treasury. This is not the case. Such import/export taxes are returned only for rum products, and even then the US Treasury keeps a portion of those taxes (See the "House Report 110-597 - PUERTO RICO DEMOCRACY ACT OF 2007" mentioned above.)
  22. ^ Elections in Puerto Rico: 1993 Status Plebiscite Results.
  23. ^ Elections in Puerto Rico: 1998 Status Plebiscite Results.
  24. ^ For complete statistics of these plebiscites, see Elections in Puerto Rico:Results.
  25. ^ Puerto Rico State Electoral Commission: Official Results for the 1998 Political-Status Plebiscite
  26. ^ 2005 President's Task Force. Page 4.
  27. ^ Political Status of Puerto Rico: Options for Congress. Report RL32933. By Keith Bea and R. Sam Garrett, Government and Finance Division. Congressional Research Service. Updated May 29, 2008. Page 32. Appendix B: Puerto Rico Status Votes in Plebiscites and Referenda, 1967-1998. (A WikiLeaks Document Release. At: http://wikileaks.org/wiki/CRS-RL32933. Dated February 2, 2009.Retrieved December 5, 2009.
  28. ^ Political Status of Puerto Rico: Options for Congress. Report RL32933. By Keith Bea and R. Sam Garrett, Congressional Research Service. Dated June 19, 2009. Page 29. Table B-1: Puerto Rico Status Votes in Plebiscites and Referenda, 1967-1998. Page 29.Retrieved December 5, 2009.
  29. ^ [http://electionspuertorico.org/archivo/1991.html El Archivo de las Elecciones en Puerto Rico: Escrutinio del Referéndum del 8 de diciembre de 1991. Reclamación de Derechos Democráticos. (In Spanish) Elecciones en Puerto Rico. By Manuel Álvarez Rivera.]Claim to Democratic Rights. Retrieved December 21, 2009.
  30. ^ For the complete statistics regarding these plebiscites please refer to Elections in Puerto Rico:Results.
  31. ^ a b c d "Report by the President's task force on Puerto Rico's Status" (PDF). December 2007. http://www.primerahora.com/XStatic/primerahora/docs/espanol/whitehousestatusreport.pdf. Retrieved 2007-12-24. 
  32. ^ a b c d "Report by the President's task force on Puerto Rico's Status" (PDF). December 2005. http://charma.uprm.edu/~angel/Puerto_Rico/reporte_status.pdf. Retrieved 2007-10-01. 
  33. ^ Independence Hearing by the Puerto Rico Herald.
  34. ^ "Political Status of Puerto Rico: Options for Congress" (PDF). Congressional Research Service. United States Congressional Research Service. 2000-05-17. http://wikileaks.org/wiki/CRS:_Political_Status_of_Puerto_Rico:_Options_for_Congress%2C_May_29%2C_2008. Retrieved 2009-12-03. 
  35. ^ Prensa Latina, Nestor Rosa-Marbrell, November 20, 2007; last verified on December 1st, 2007
  36. ^ El Gobernador pide a Rice que enmiende el informe sobre el estatus político de P.Rico; Yahoo News; November 19, 2007 - Last verified, December 1st, 2007.
  37. ^ Governor Aníbal Acevedo Vilá's letter to U.S. President George W. Bush's President's Task Force on Puerto Rico's Status (formally addressed to the Co-Chairs of the Bush Administration's Task Force on Puerto Rico's Status); October 23, 2007; retrieved December 26, 2007.
  38. ^ Current News about Puerto Rico's political status.
  39. ^ (Spanish) PPD Party Resolution #2006-02.
  40. ^ A Monumental Fraud
  41. ^ S.2304 A bill to recognize the right of the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico to call a constitutional convention through which the people of Puerto Rico would exercise their right to self-determination, and to establish a mechanism for congressional consideration of such decision. By Sens. Edward M. Kennedy (D-MA), Bob Menendez (D-NJ), Richard Mauze Burr (R-NC), and Chester Trent Lott, Sr. (R-MS). February 16, 2006. Retrieved December 6, 2009.
  42. ^ Art. IV, Sec. 3, clause 2, U.S. Constitution
  43. ^ "Puerto Rico Status Field Hearing". Committee on Resources, U.S. House of Representatives, 105th Congress. April 19, 1997. http://commdocs.house.gov/committees/resources/hii43194.000/hii43194_0.HTM. Retrieved 2007-10-01. 
  44. ^ Report By the President's Task Force On Puerto Rico's Status (December 2007)
  45. ^ Foreign in a Domestic Sense: Puerto Rico, American Expansion, and the Constitution. By Christina Duffy Burnett and Burke Marshall. Duke University Press, 2001. ISBN 0-8223-2698-1. Page 21.
  46. ^ 1997 Statement from Romero Barcelo Before Congress
  47. ^ Political Status of Puerto Rico: Options for Congress, Page 6.
  48. ^ Appendix E, page 6
  49. ^ Status of H.R. 856, Thomas - The Library of Congress;
    ^ Text of H.R. 856, Thomas - The Library of Congress;
    ^ Status of H.R.376, Thomas - The Library of Congress.
  50. ^ H.R. 856 (The United States-Puerto Rico Political Status Act)
  51. ^ Washington Post - House Passes Puerto Rico Bill
  52. ^ Resources on the Puerto Rico Statehood Question
  53. ^ "Puerto Rico Status Field Hearing". Committee on Resources, U.S. House of Representatives, 105th Congress. April 19, 1997. http://commdocs.house.gov/committees/resources/hii43194.000/hii43194_0.HTM. Retrieved 2009-10-11. 
  54. ^ S.1936, Puerto Rico Democracy Act of 2007
  55. ^ H.R. 2499
  56. ^ HR 2499 Puerto Rico Democracy Act Website
  57. ^ HR 2499 Cosponsors
  58. ^ Resources Committee Schedule on HR 2499
  59. ^ Committee approves status bill (Spanish) El Nuevo Dia
  60. ^ Injustice According to Law: The Insular Cases and Other Oddities. By José Trías Monge. In, Foreign in a Domestic Sense: Puerto Rico, The American Expansion, and the Constitution. Ed. by Christina Duffy Burnett and Burke Marshall. 2001. Duke University Press. Page 233.
  61. ^ Puerto Rico: Commonwealth, Statehood, or Independence? Constitutional Rights Foundation
  62. ^ a b c d U.S House of Representatives. 110th Congress. Second Sesssion. Report #597. Washington, D.C.
  63. ^ Injustice According to Law: The Insular Cases and Other Oddities. By Jose Trias Monge. In, Foreign in a Domestic Sense: Puerto Rico, The American Expansion, and the Constitution. Ed. by Christina Duffy Burnett and Burke Marshall. 2001. Duke University Press. Page 239.
  64. ^ a b UN Resolution 1514 (XV) of December 15, 1960. Listing of the full set of criteria that determines if a country or territory is a colony.Retrieved December 8, 2009.
  65. ^ US Congress (Thomas Online Query Database), House Report 110-597 - PUERTO RICO DEMOCRACY ACT OF 2007. Background and Need for Legislation section
  66. ^ SPECIAL COMMITTEE ON DECOLONIZATION CALLS ON UNITED STATES TO EXPEDITE PUERTO RICO’S SELF-DETERMINATION PROCESS - General Assembly GA/COL/3160 - Department of Public Information - June 14, 2007
  67. ^ Terroristic Activity: The Cuban Connection in Puerto Rico. Hearings Before the U.S. Senate, Subcommittee to Investigate the Administration of the Internal Security Act and Other Internal Secrity Laws of the Committee of the Judiciary. 94th CONGRESS. FIRST SESSION, PART 6. July 30, 1975. (Washington, D.C.)Retrieved December 11, 2009.
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