A recent Huffington Post article recognized that the Federal government could remove the governor of Puerto Rico from office — although there is no real chance that it would use the power.
The blog post was prompted by online petition to President Obama to oust Governor Alejandro Garcia Padilla (“commonwealth status” party).
Obama White House staff have promised to respond to such petitions that are endorsed by at least 100,000 names within a short time period. The anti-Garcia Padilla petition surpassed the minimum.
The White House has not yet responded … and should not be counted on to do so.
The United States authorized Puerto Ricans to elect the territory’s governor in 1948, 50 years after taking Puerto Rico from Spain and after appointing previous governors.
The Federal government and Puerto Ricans agreed on a constitution for the territory in 1952, which also provided for the election of the governor.
Because of the authorization for a locally-elected governor and the approval of the territorial constitution, the president of the United States can no longer remove Puerto Rico’s governor from office. The laws, however, can be changed by another law.
Charles R. Venator, a political science professor at the University of Connecticut’s Institute of Puerto Rican and Latino Studies, was quoted in the report as explaining, “[B]ecause Congress has not changed the territorial status of Puerto Rico since 1900, it is possible to make a theoretical argument that Congress has a plenary power to intervene in local Puerto Rican affairs and remove the governor.”
It can, of course. It might have to, for example, to transfer ownership what constitutionally is a possession to another nation — just as Spain transferred Puerto Rico to the U.S.
The article continued by noting that the issue “brings up the thorny question of whether the island is officially a territory at all. The land was never formally incorporated following its annexation.”
By “a territory” it meant a territory that is a permanent part of the U.S. — which Puerto Rico has not been made. Such territories, “incorporated territories,” are territories that have been clearly destined for statehood.
Instead, Puerto Rico is a territory that has not been made a permanent part of the U.S, a “non-incorporated” (or “unincorporated”) territory. This means that it can become a nation as well as a U.S. State — or a territory of another nation.
The petition to President Obama asserted that Puerto Rico needs an impeachment process. In fact, it does, included in the territorial constitution.
Puerto Ricans can also change their governor through elections, which are held every four years.
The Huffington Post said that Gov. Garcia Padilla’s office did not respond to a request for comment on the petition.