A defining feature of the recent Puerto Rico status proposal released by Congress is the clear rejection of Puerto Rico’s current status as a U.S. territory – sometimes also called “commonwealth” – as an option for the future.
The draft excludes “commonwealth” as a ballot choice in any future plebiscite.
A “commonwealth” option has been presented to the people of Puerto Rico on ballots as a viable choice since 1967.
“Commonwealth” has taken on different definitions over the years but always includes promises of a future Puerto Rico with a mix of enhanced and unprecedented rights – including guaranteed U.S. citizenship, economic assistance, and enhanced international stature – with no new responsibilities.
Enhancements to the current “commonwealth” arrangement has been an elusive goal for its proponents since the passage of the Puerto Rico Constitution in 1952.
After decades of unsuccessfully pushing for enhanced rights for Puerto Rico under the guise of a “commonwealth” status, all but the most ardent supporters started to turn away from “commonwealth” as a future option when the passage of PROMESA made it clear that Congress would take away the rights of Puerto Ricans but not expand them as long as Puerto Rico remained a U.S. territory.
The dual meaning of “commonwealth” – as both the current territorial status and an enhancement of this current status – has been the source of much confusion over the years.
The current proposal appears to seek to end that confusion. The term “commonwealth” is not contained at all in the draft proposal.