Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Puerto Rico: Commonwealth, Estado Libre Asociado or Colony

For the moment, let's define commonwealth; a nation, state, or other political unit, one founded on law and united by compact or tacit agreement of the people for the common good as defined by Merriam-Webster dictionary. To call Puerto Rico a commonwealth would be to call it one of the previously mentioned. This definition leads to the simple conclusion; that Puerto Rico is indeed the other political unit.

Back in 1954, U.S. representatives at the U.N. wanted to save face in the presence of the world body so they attempted to have Puerto Rico removed from the U.N. list of unincorporated territories. It didn't happen then and it stills remain an unincorporated territory. As an unincorporated territory, Puerto Rico is subject to Congressional plenary powers under territorial clause of Article IV, sec. 3, of the U.S. Constitution. Although Puerto Rico was allowed and adopted its own constitution in 1952, under the territorial clause of the U.S. Constitution the United States Congress has the final power over every territory of the United States. This was the case prior to 1952 and still continues to be the case. In 1959, the Department of Justice concluded that Puerto Rico remained a U.S territory. What really changed here was the name but not the reality that Puerto Rico remained and still is a colony. While the use of the word commonwealth was approved in 1952, its Spanish translation "Estado Libre Asociado" actually translates into "Free Associated State".

The term "Free Associated State" brings about the illusion that Puerto Rico is equal to the rest or on the path to equality. Puerto Rico is free to make decisions on tax matters, social policies and most local affairs (and has some measure of political autonomy) but Congress may unilaterally repeal the Puerto Rican Constitution and replace it with any rules or regulations of its choice as stated by the United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit (United States v Sanchez, 992 F.2d 1143 (1993). Quite simply, behave in a manner in which we see fit or else. The final say comes from the U.S Congress. While greatly respected and admired, Luis Muñoz Marin (first elected Governor of Puerto Rico) convinced the Puerto Rican people that the term "Free Associated State" was the best option for them. This equated to nothing more than enhanced commonwealth, the other political unit (a colonial mask!).

Ronald Fernandez, Writer, Teacher and Public Speaker with thirteen published books, put it like this: Today, Puerto Rico remains an example of a people deeply colonized and a symbol of U.S. Congressional and Presidential hypocrisy.


  1. Got to admit, that this still is a very delicate topic here in the island and views are divided on it. I will say yes, we are a colony even thou we have some liberties. But, love the quote of Ronald Fernández

  2. Yes, it is a very delicate topic but one that must sooner or later be faced. Unfortunately for many the dependence they have on the U.S. has a tight grip. The idea of change and the lack of interpretation on the status' (both statehood and independence) keeps them only wanting the same (commonwealth/really colony). That is where the first few words of the qoute fit perfectly. Gracias por su apoyo, Alexandra.

  3. To better state on the interpretation of the status'. Not just the lack of but also the half truths and misinformation.