Is puerto rico a state or country: Why Isn’t Puerto Rico a State?

Why Is Puerto Rico’s Political Status So Complicated?

© Brett Critchley/

In 2018 petitioners addressing the United Nations (UN) Special Committee on Decolonization described the United States’ relationship with Puerto Rico, according to a UN report, “as one of genocide and ‘economic terrorism,’ characterized by multinational corporations—facilitated by the United States—exploiting Puerto Rico’s resources even as that country’s Government implemented austerity measures that had forced schools to close and pensions to go unpaid.”

This searing indictment is, from the perspective of many Puerto Ricans, more than a hundred years of history condensed into one sentence. The relationship between the United States and Puerto Rico began in 1898, when the U.S. Army invaded the island—then under Spanish colonial rule—during the Spanish-American War. Puerto Rico was officially ceded to the victorious U.S. later that year by the Treaty of Paris. Later, Puerto Ricans watched as the U. S. recognized the independence of the Philippines and Cuba, island territories that had also been under American occupation during the war, and they believed that they would finally be granted the independence some Puerto Ricans had called for from Spain for centuries.

Instead the United States persisted in treating Puerto Rico as a colony.

Until 1917 Puerto Ricans weren’t considered U.S. citizens. Until 1952 the territory wasn’t allowed to have its own constitution. Today the island, now called the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, is relatively self-governing. New laws are proposed and ratified without U.S. approval, and Puerto Rico’s governor—long a U.S. appointee—is voted in by Puerto Ricans.

But while Puerto Ricans are subject to U.S. federal laws, pay into Social Security and Medicare, and are deeply affected by federal policy—UN petitioners cited the lack of substantial federal aid in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria—Puerto Ricans can’t vote in U.S. federal elections and aren’t represented by voting members of Congress. (The one Puerto Rican congressional representative can serve on committees and introduce bills but is unable to vote.) Puerto Rico does, however, share at least one “privilege” with U.S. states: it cannot declare bankruptcy. And yet, as those UN petitioners pointed out, if Puerto Rico had been a state, the economic exploitation by American companies that it had endured for decades would likely have been curtailed by the U.S. government. (In 2017 Puerto Rico reached a “bankruptcy-like” settlement with the U.S. following a decade-long recession.)

It’s the centuries of colonization, then, that make Puerto Rico’s political status so complicated. Though we can never know what the island would look like if freed from that history, methods of disentangling Puerto Rico from colonial rule have been debated for decades, sometimes in the form of referenda that have usually presented the people of Puerto Rico with three options:

  • Statehood: Puerto Rico would be admitted as the 51st state in the union. The island would receive increased financial help and social security from the U.S. government but lose its current constitution, which is distinct from the U.S. Constitution. In 2012, 61.2 percent of Puerto Rican voters favored statehood over remaining a commonwealth; in 2017, 97 percent (of a small voter turnout) chose statehood over independence or commonwealth status; and in 2020 about 53 percent voted for statehood.
  • Independence: Puerto Rico would become an independent country. It would gain complete and total powers of self-governance, but it would likely struggle economically as it separated from the United States. Proponents of total independence were behind the 47 percent of voters who rejected statehood in 2020 as well as 2017’s small voter turnout. (Because nationalists boycotted the 2017 referendum, only 23 percent of registered voters turned out—a percentage far lower than for most elections, which had drawn more than 80 percent.)
  • Retaining commonwealth status: Puerto Rico would remain a commonwealth of the United States. Some Puerto Ricans have proposed “enhanced commonwealth status,” which would increase the island’s powers of self-rule while retaining a relationship with the United States, or “Sovereign Free Associated State” status, under which Puerto Rico would function as an independent country with strong ties to the United States. However, these latter options have appeared on referenda infrequently.

In 2020 Puerto Rico’s sixth referendum presented a straightforward yes-or-no question: “Should Puerto Rico be immediately admitted into the Union as a state?” A majority (52.34 percent) of voters chose yes. Thus, in 2021 came H.R. 1522 (or the Puerto Rico Statehood Admission Act), a bill that may have lacked the referendum’s directness but still clearly made its point: “Puerto Ricans have contributed greatly to the nation and its culture and distinguished themselves in every field of endeavor. However, the denial of equal voting representation and equal treatment by the Federal Government stands in stark contrast to their contributions.

H.R. 1522, however, was nothing new. It was about the 11th bill to propose statehood for Puerto Rico. And, as Puerto Rico’s referenda are nonbinding, the U.S. Congress has long declined to vote on a change in the island’s status.

Is Puerto Rico a Country?


Puerto Rico is a territory of the United States.  Puerto Ricans are U.S. citizens. You don’t need a passport to fly to Puerto Rico from anywhere within the United States. The island is located within U.S. borders and uses U.S. currency.  Puerto Ricans have among the highest level of U.S. military service in the country.

Yet many people believe that Puerto Rico is a foreign country.  It’s not.  In a striking example, an expert witness recently had this to say about Puerto Rico when testifying before the United States Senate Judiciary Committee:

“[L]ook at what’s happened in Greece. You know, look at what Greece has to — the rates of interest they have to — they have to pay to borrow. You know, they’re in the double digits. And another country, look at Puerto Rico for goodness sakes. I mean, they’ve racked up so much debt that that country is coming running to Washington to get a bailout.”  (See 2:25:15 in the hearing video.)

The country of Puerto Rico?

Unfortunately, this credentialed witness providing expert advice to U.S. Senators serving on the Judiciary Committee is not alone.  Many people make the same mistake.  

Puerto Rico is a territory

Puerto Rico is not a country but a U.S. territory.  With 3.4 million U.S. citizens living there, Puerto Rico is the most populated of the five U.S. territories, which also include Guam, American Samoa, the United States Virgin Islands and the Northern Mariana Islands.  U.S. citizens residing in these territories cannot vote for President, have no U.S. Senate representation, and are represented by a single member in the House of Representatives with no voting power.

Puerto Rico is sometimes referred to as a possession of the United States.  It is also called a colony.  People frequently call Puerto Rico a “Commonwealth,” implying that Puerto Rico has a special status, but this word has no practical meaning.  Several U.S. states also call themselves “commonwealths.”

Feeling like a nation

Perhaps the confusion over Puerto Rico’s political status stems from the fact that Puerto Rico has sent athletes to the Olympics — sometimes playing for the U.S. and other times representing only Puerto Rico. Puerto Rico has also sent contestants to the Miss Universe pageant, and they have won five times so far. Yet special recognition by Olympic and pageant committees does not make Puerto Rico an independent country.

An independent nation can negotiate treaties and trade deals with other countries, which Puerto Rico cannot. The Supreme Court has recently confirmed that Puerto Rico has no sovereignty.

Further, the U.S. does not grant U. S. citizenship to citizens of foreign countries. Not even the three sovereign entities that have Compacts of Free Association with the United States – the Republics of Palau and Marshall Islands and the Federated States of Micronesia – can provide U.S. citizenship to their citizens.

Sometimes the term “nation” is used to describe a culture without sovereignty. Penn State, for example, defines “nation” in this way: “Nations in some ways can be thought of as ‘imagined communities’ that are bound together by notions of unity that can pivot around religion, ethnic identity, language, cultural practice and so forth.”

Puerto Rico might be a nation in this sense. However, it is not a country.

Updated December 2021.

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Puerto Rico could become the 51st US state —


Simultaneously with the presidential elections in the United States in various American states and territories associated with the United States, various kinds of local elections and referendums were held. In particular, Puerto Ricans answered the question of whether they want to join the United States as a full-fledged 51st state, Radio Liberty reports.

Simultaneously with the presidential elections in the United States, various local elections and referendums were held in various American states and territories associated with the United States. In particular, Puerto Ricans answered the question of whether they want to join the United States as a full-fledged 51st state, Radio Liberty reports.

This Caribbean island nation has the status of an «unincorporated organized territory», is administered by the United States, but is not an integral part of them. The effect on the territory of Puerto Rico of the US Constitution is limited, and the island has its own system of self-government. The connection with the US lies in the presence of common citizenship, currency and defense. The current status of the island of Puerto Rico, which came under US control as a result of the war with Spain in 1898, has been in effect since 1917, but not all politicians and lawyers seem certain.

Read also: After the victory, Obama promises America «better times» (photo)

This was the fourth referendum in half a century on the status of Puerto Rico. But never before have the supporters of changing the island’s status been able to win such a large majority of votes, and more than 5% of voters have never voted for complete independence of Puerto Rico. This time, most of the inhabitants of the island were in favor of changing their country’s relations with the United States. 53% of voters voted for it.

When asked exactly how they think Puerto Rico’s relationship with the United States should be built, 65% of those who voted said they would prefer Puerto Rico to become a state, 31% said their island should join in free association with the United States, and only 4% were in favor of creating a fully independent state.

Puerto Ricans are US citizens. They can vote for candidates of one or the American party in the primary elections and have their own representative in Congress. However, Puerto Ricans do not have the right to vote in US presidential elections. Many Puerto Ricans see this as a disgraceful remnant of colonialism. «We don’t want to be a colony, and we want to have all the rights that other US citizens have,» said Thomas Rivera Schatz, president of the Senate of Puerto Rico. The minister of trade of Puerto Rico Joche Perez Riera agrees with him. In an interview with Fox television, he said: «We have been a US territory for more than a hundred years. We are American citizens, but we are deprived of the right to vote in presidential elections. We want to have all the rights that other American states have.»

Read also: What will be the economic course of the «new» President Obama (photo)

But it is one thing to want to become an American state, and another to be accepted into the USA. This requires a decision by the US Congress. Until now, Congress has not considered convincing arguments in favor of the admission of Puerto Rico to the United States, even though a number of American presidents, including Gerald Ford, Ronald Reagan and George W. th state.

Barack Obama, who has just been re-elected for a second term, does not object to this either. Prior to the Puerto Rico vote, he expressed the view that Congress would decide the status issue based on the results of the referendum. “For us, the question is, if the referendum in Puerto Rico shows that a significant number of the inhabitants of the island are in favor of changing the status, then Congress will certainly take this into account. If the results are not very convincing, then Congress is unlikely to be inclined to change present position and maintain the status quo.»

How convincing Congress will consider the results of the latest referendum in Puerto Rico, and when it will consider this issue is still unknown.

Recall that the United States of America consists of 50 states that are equal subjects of the federation, the capital Federal District of Columbia and dependent territories. Each state has its own constitution, legislature, executive and judiciary Established a special status for freely associated or non-aligned territories. Among them are Puerto Rico, Guam, Northern Mariana Islands, US Virgin Islands, American Samoa. These territories have an advisory vote and can theoretically terminate or suspend their privileged relationship with Washington.

Read RBC-Ukraine in Google News

Granting the status of states to the District of Columbia and the island of Puerto Rico will add advantages to Democrats, and America — economic problems — ExpertRU — USA. USA news. New states. USA news. Colombia. Puerto Rico. America. (April 29, 2021)

North America

US economy


Gennady Rushev
correspondent of Expert. ru
April 29, 2021, 20:22

The US Congress is finishing consideration of two important bills on granting statehood to the District of Columbia, which includes the capital of the country Washington, and the island of Puerto Rico. If this happens, the Democrats will gain an advantage over the Republicans — however, at the cost of additional problems for the American economy.

Collage: Tamara Larina

By the end of the year, two more states may appear in the USA: Washington, the Commonwealth of Douglas (black rights activist Frederick Douglas was added so as not to be confused with the state of Washington in the northwest of the country) and Puerto Rico. With such an optimistic forecast, supporters of two bills that are considered in Congress come forward. Among the optimists is Rep. Darren Soto. It was this Congressman of Puerto Rican descent who introduced a bill to his colleagues in March to make his historic homeland statehood.

The idea to finally include the island, which has been under American control for over a hundred years, into the country, to put it mildly, is not new. The current status of Puerto Rico has long been disliked by many. The island is considered an associate member of the United States. Its residents have American citizenship but cannot elect a president, and their only representative in Congress has limited rights. It turns out — neither the state nor the state, but something in between.

Puerto Ricans have repeatedly tried to put an end to this situation. Only during the reign of Donald Trump, two referendums were held on granting statehood to the island — in 2017 and 2020. Both times, Puerto Ricans voted in favor, but it ended in nothing. Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who fights for the rights of everyone and everything, including Hispanics, delivered a fiery speech. The Ministry of Justice blamed the low turnout (Puerto Ricans are really fed up with explaining that they want to be full-fledged US citizens) and that was it. Trump himself spoke out against the idea of ​​increasing the number of states at the expense of an island in the Caribbean. Puerto Ricans were all the more offended because Trump, as you know, seriously proposed to annex Greenland and the Greenlanders to America, who never showed even the slightest desire to become Americans. However, with regard to Puerto Rico, Trump’s reasons were purely economic: the island’s finances are in a terrible state, and it is not reasonable to hang the debts of the islanders on the American taxpayer.

However, with the change of the first person in the White House, the situation may change. Joe Biden is not afraid of the prospect of paying for Puerto Rico — after all, the new state means two new senators and additional voters. And they are determined to support Democrats, not Republicans. The latter traditionally come out with unpleasant reminders that before dreaming of joining the US, the island needs to sort out its finances. But how can you deal with them if Puerto Rico, with the exception of its strange status left over from the time when the island was conquered from Spain, is a typical Caribbean state? Yes, the industry is a little more developed here, but otherwise everything is like its neighbors, whose budget is replenished by tourism, agriculture and transfers from relatives temporarily or permanently residing in the United States. Add to this problems in the form of relatively high crime and low investment attractiveness, not very competent financial policy and, as a result, large debts.

And this month, the supporters of joining the island to the United States perked up. The Democrat-majority House of Representatives voted in favor of a bill to make the District of Columbia statehood. The reasons for Biden’s fellow party members are the same as in the case of Puerto Rico: almost half of the population of Washington are blacks who support the Democrats. Such help on the eve of by-elections to the Senate, which are coming next year, will be very useful to the party.

An attempt to grant the District of Columbia statehood, by the way, was also made under Trump. In a local referendum in 2016, a large majority of local residents voted to change the status of the Capital Region. In June 2020, at the height of the election campaign and the protests of black rights activists, the House of Representatives, where the Democrats had a majority, also voted in favor, just as now. But the bill was hacked to death at the Senate level — the Republicans had a majority in the upper house, and they were not at all eager to add votes.

Now the situation is different. In the Senate — equality (each party has fifty seats) and the decisive vote, according to American law, will belong to Vice President Kamala Harris. True, in order for a bill to create a new state to be approved, it will take not fifty, but sixty votes. But the advantage that Democrats have today opens up an opportunity for them to bargain, especially since big changes are coming on the electoral front in the United States: in the summer, constituencies will be aligned with the results of the 2020 census. The number of members of the House of Representatives is determined by the population in a particular state. According to the results of the census, each of the parties will lose something, gain something.

Do not forget that there is still no unity in the ranks of the Republicans. Not all of them agree that Trump remains their leader.

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