Among the elements of the proposal:
- Puerto Ricans would be U.S. as well as Puerto Rican national citizens and could hold passports from both countries.
- U.S. law would not apply and U.S. courts would not have jurisdiction in Puerto Rico.
- The U.S. would be required to continue to provide financial support and services for Puerto Rico as in the past, for up to 60 more years.
- U.S. taxes would not apply but the U.S. would continue to provide U.S. tax or other incentives for private investment in Puerto Rico.
- Puerto Rico would determine its other foreign relations and be able to accept aid from other nations.
- The U.S. would be responsible for the defense of Puerto Rico but could not draft Puerto Ricans, include Puerto Rico in declaration of war, or have nuclear or chemical weapons in Puerto Rico.
- Puerto Rico would be outside the customs territory of the U.S. but Puerto Rican products would be able to enter the U.S. freely.
The “Commonwealth” party legislators want this proposal to be considered along with statehood and true nationhood as possibilities for Puerto Rico’s status, now that Puerto Ricans have rejected the current territory status.
Responses to our report of this plan in social media have repeatedly asked one question: why would the U.S. agree to this? One Twitter user asked, “Interesting, but why would US approve? 2 be nice?”
That is indeed the question. Discussions of the effects of Puerto Rico’s status or changes in status tend to focus on the effects on Puerto Rico. But how would changes in status affect the United States?
If Puerto Rico became a state…
Puerto Ricans would have equal tax responsibilities to the Federal government. If Puerto Rico followed in the footsteps of Alaska and Hawaii, both of which were relatively poor territories but which have become prosperous States, Puerto Rico could become a valuable resource for the U.S.
The likely improvements in the infrastructure and the business environment could also make Puerto Rico more appealing as a site for industry, giving the re-shoring movement in American industry new opportunities.
The United States would also be spared the embarrassment of being a leader for democracy and yet having what looks to many very much like a colony.
If Puerto Rico became a nation…
The United States would be freed of that embarrassing colonial relationship, and would no longer have financial responsibility for Puerto Rico. The Philippines was a territory of the United States at one time and became an independent nation. There have been no obvious negative consequences for the U.S. in terms of national security or loss of resources.
If Puerto Rico became a nation with benefits…
The relationship proposed by the “Commonwealth” patty senators would put the U.S. in the position of continuing to pay for Puerto Rico’s needs and to accept Puerto Rico’s goods while having no say in the governance of the islands. Puerto Ricans would still be citizens and Puerto Rican goods would still enter the U.S, market freely. The U.S. would be expected to provide incentives for investment in Puerto Rico even though there would be no benefits for the U.S. in doing so. Puerto Rico could have any relationship it wanted with other nations, even if those relationships were not in the best interests of the United States.
Discussions of statehood sometimes use the idea of marriage as a metaphor, saying that the U.S. should go ahead and put a ring on Puerto Rico after a century of dalliance. The arrangement the “Commonwealth” party senators have proposed sounds a lot like alimony, or maybe palimony — a requirement to continue to support Puerto Rico in the manner to which she is accustomed, without maintaining the current relationship.