Many colonial areas have had to either involuntarily accept becoming a State within the United States of America or vote within the region about whether or not to become a State. Political parties and ideologies are always present in any kind of a social struggle to seek social justice and ethics, and the struggle in Puerto Rico is not new. In 1898, Spain ceded Puerto Rico to the United States in the Treaty of Paris and Puerto Rico was then governed by an American military regime until 1990, when Congress approved a civilian led government.
Since 1990, several polls have been taken, counting the casted votes of over 70% of the population, a much higher rate of turnout and interest than many United States elections. Over the past 19 years, elections have increasingly favored Puerto Rico becoming the 51st State, with Commonwealth status still holding the majority of votes, and votes for Independence running low. When Puerto Rico became a part of the United States as a Commonwealth, poverty decreased and education increased, lending Puerto Rico the highest GDP of any other Latin State.
The increased security and financial aid, along with United States voting rights, are benefits of Puerto Rico becoming a new State in the US. Although Puerto Ricans are currently considered United States citizens (since 1917), other benefits of full Statehood are still disallowed. Puerto Ricans also pay no federal taxes, and becoming a State would entitle Puerto Ricans to contribute to the tax base. One concern for many is that Puerto Rico is still a primarily Spanish speaking region. In the past, when Spanish was spoken less often in the United States, perhaps this problem seemed larger for some citizens.
There are now so many Spanish speaking people in the Unites States, that perhaps the language barrier doesn’t seem so important. However, integration of Spanish speaking people into the official politics and communication of the United States remains a point of consideration, and Puerto Ricans generally do not want to lose touch with their Spanish roots and Caribbean culture. In looking at the legal system, Puerto Rico still works with the civil law structure, like Louisiana, another region with Caribbean roots.
Some people worry that incorporating the civil law of the island into the mainstream common law of the United States would be difficult. However, in looking to Louisiana as an example, it certainly can be done (Smith, 268). Positioning itself against the movement for Statehood and Independence, the Commonwealth friendly Popular Democratic Party favors federal benefits without federal taxation. However, the United States government would allow only for a majority vote for Statehood, Commonwealth, or Independence, and may impose the need for a supermajority vote, rather than a simple majority vote of at least 51%.
The facts are that Puerto Rico benefits greatly through United States military security in the area as well as through economic incentives and trade with the United States. Statehood for Puerto Rico is an increasing likelihood, despite the proponents for retaining the Commonwealth status and those pushing for independence, due to Puerto Rico’s dependence on the United States for protection and economic stability. Puerto Rico enjoys the highest standard of living in Latin America, and a large part of this is due to its participation with the United States (Alaya & Bernabe, 299).
As far as general thoughts on Puerto Rico becoming a State are concerned, it is generally good for people to work together well and democratically. With Puerto Rico attaining US Statehood, the chance for Puerto Ricans to have their voices heard on a larger national and international stage would be a benefit to their increasingly democratic aspirations. In working together with other people, there is also the benefit of insurance and goodwill in regard to charitable donations through taxes or other means. The people of Puerto Rico and the State itself could utilize increased finances and infrastructure for developing the island and people.
An important point in considering Puerto Rico’s future is the thoughts and desires of the people themselves. Although many people can cast their ideas and votes about what they believe is best for Puerto Rico, in the end, the best decision for the people and island of Puerto Rico will the status quo of what the people themselves desire. Now, the split is still great, with many proponents for Territory status, many for Statehood, and some for Independence. Although the trend seems to be pointing in the direction of eventual Statehood for Puerto Ricans, there is still too much political divisiveness for a decision to be made right now.
Perhaps, however, in the near future, a decision will be made with which the majority of Puerto Ricans feel comfortable. Hopefully, in the process, there will not be a resorting to violence or civil unrest (White, 362). Works Cited Smith, J. (2007). Commonwealth Status: A Good Deal for Puerto Rico. Harvard Latino Law Review 10 (263), 263-280. White, T. (2007). Puerto Rico and Its People. Read Books. Ayala, C. & Bernabe, R. (2007). Puerto Rico in the American century: a history since 1898. UNC Press.
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