Since our inception in 2012, the PUERTO RICO REPORT has been a cutting edge source of news, information and analysis about Puerto Rico. We strive to provide historic context to breaking news from and about the United States’ most populous territory, including easy access to original documents. We are grateful to our many readers for coming to the Report and staying with us. Below is a list of our ten most widely viewed posts for 2014. We invite and encourage all of our readers to review the stories you may have missed, let us know your thoughts, and share your favorite stories broadly with your networks.
There’s a lot of confusion about the meaning of the word “Commonwealth.” It is actually just a word in the English translation of official name of the territorial government of Puerto Rico. Some people, however, have been misled into believing that “Commonwealth” describes a political status or a special relationship between the U.S. and Puerto Rico created by actions of the Federal government and Puerto Rico in the early 1950’s. This page provides links to original documents from the time that make it clear that all that occurred was Puerto Rico writing a constitution for the territorial government and that the islands’ status as a territory of the United States did not change.
Until the beginning of the last century, territories were States to be. The possibility of the United States having territories that would not become States was not envisioned. But that changed with the Spanish-American War.
Statehood would mean some nine billion dollars a year for Puerto Rico — and individual Puerto Ricans. But it would also mean a few billion for the Federal treasury. This post summarizes a U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) report on the Federal budget impacts of equality for Puerto Rico issued in March.
The U.S. Department of Justice strongly rejected a claim that individuals born in an unincorporated territory — like Puerto Rico — have U.S. citizenship by virtue of the U.S. Constitution. A Justice Department brief filed with a U.S. Court of Appeals makes it clear that Puerto Ricans can only obtain citizenship through the Constitution — versus through law — by Puerto Rico becoming a State or by being put on the path to statehood. The “commonwealth” party’s claim that a “commonwealth status” can provide constitutional citizenship was shown to be wrong.
In an interview, the world’s wealthiest person, Bill Gates was quoted as saying that the way the U.S. treats Puerto Rico is “just wrong.” Microsoft, Gates’ company, saves billions of dollars a year in Federal taxes by attributing sales in the States to its foreign subsidiary in the territory.
Although it is frequently asserted that Puerto Ricans do not pay Federal income tax, their exemption only applies to income from the territory. In fact, Puerto Ricans do contribute to our Nation’s bottom line. In 2011, Puerto Ricans paid $3.3 billion to the United States Treasury, approximately as much as Vermont. Puerto Ricans are taxed by a Congress in which they do not have voting representation. They are required to pay Federal income taxes on income from outside of Puerto Rico and pay Federal payroll and other taxes.
In January 2014, the U.S. Department of State affirmed that Puerto Rico is a U.S. territory, Puerto Ricans want to resolve the question of its ultimate status, and a majority of Puerto Ricans chose statehood as the alternative to territory status in the Commonwealth government’s status plebiscite held along with the 2012 elections. The statements reaffirmed Federal positions on Puerto Rico’s status not accepted by the “Commonwealth” party insular government administration very narrowly elected at the same time of the plebiscite.
A March 2014 report from the federal Office of Management and Budget shows that territory status, often misleadingly called “Commonwealth,” is costing Puerto Rico billions of dollars in Federal programs each year.
This article links to original authoritative sources confirming that Puerto Rico remains a territory of the United States.
Puerto Rico is often called a “Commonwealth,” but that is actually just a word in the English translation of the official name of the insular government. The State governments of four States of the Union also use Commonwealth in their official names — Kentucky, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, and Virginia. In terms of political status, Puerto Rico is a territory. So why is Puerto Rico frequently referred to as a “Commonwealth” and what does this term really mean? This page of the PUERTO RICO REPORT provides an explanation and links to related sources.