Courtesy Reuters

Puerto Rico, U.S.A: The Case for Statehood

"The Commonwealth of Puerto Rico is a political and economic anachronism."

With that one-sentence paragraph, Rubén Berríos-Martínez began an article in the April 1977 issue of Foreign Affairs, entitled, "Independence for Puerto Rico: The Only Solution." But the President of the Puerto Rican Independence Party was too kind: "commonwealth" as a political status is not even an anachronism; it is a myth.

For 400 years, Puerto Rico was a colony of Spain. Then, after the Spanish-American War, sovereignty over the island was transferred to the United States, a nation which, in deference to its own revolutionary origin, eschews the use of the term "colony" in describing its dependencies. Thus, as the nineteenth century ended, Puerto Rico ceased to be known officially as a "colony," and instead was euphemistically redesignated an "unincorporated territory."

So it has remained to this day.

In this article I intend to show why "commonwealth" is a myth, and why the time has come for Puerto Rico to enter the union as the 51st state. I am convinced, both as a Latin American and as a U.S. citizen, that statehood for Puerto Rico would constitute a boon for the nation, as well as for the island.

II

Article IV, Section 3 of the U.S. Constitution invests Congress with the "power to dispose of and make all needful rules and regulations respecting the territory or other property belonging to the United States." Under that clause, Congress saw fit to confer American citizenship upon the Puerto Rican people through a 1917 law commonly known as the Jones Act. In 1952, as Mr. Berríos correctly observed:

the U.S. Congress enacted Public Law 600, giving the island the power to draft its own Organic Act which was to be called "the Constitution." All the provisions of the Jones Act, which governed the relationship between Puerto Rico and the United States, remained unaltered but were now to be known as the Federal Relations Act. Puerto Rico obtained absolutely no additional economic or

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