1. Puerto Rico

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  5. About Puerto Rico

    Puerto Rico, officially the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico ("Estado Libre Asociado de Puerto Rico" [literally, "Associated Free State of Puerto Rico"]), is a semi-autonomous territory of the United States located in the northeastern Caribbean, east of the Dominican Republic and west of the Virgin Islands. The territory is composed of an archipelago that includes the main island of Puerto Rico and a number of smaller islands and keys the largest of which are Vieques, Culebra, and Mona. The main island of Puerto Rico is the smallest by land area but third largest by population among the four Greater Antilles (Cuba, Hispaniola, Jamaica, and Puerto Rico).

    Puerto Ricans sometimes call the island Borinquen, from the old Taíno language Borikén . Borikén was the name for the island used by indigenous Taíno people. The current terms boricua and borincano derive from Borikén and Borinquen respectively, and are commonly used to identify someone of Puerto Rican heritage. The island is also widely know as "la isla del encanto" which translated means "the island of enchantment."

    Puerto Rico is not an independent country. Instead it is a “non incorporated territory”. According to the United States Supreme Court, an unincorporated territory is “a territory appurtenant and belonging to the United States, but not a part of the United States.” This is true today, even after the Federal Relations Act of 1950 and the Constitution of 1952 which gave Puerto Rico substantially more authority to regulate local affairs. Thus, the Island is subject to the Congress’ plenary powers under the “territorial clause” of Article IV, sec. 3, of the U.S. Constitution’s.

    Furthermore, United States federal law is applicable to Puerto Rico, even though Puerto Rico is not a state of the Union and has no voting representative in the United States Congress. By virtue of the Federal Relations Act of 1950 all federal laws that are “not locally inapplicable” are automatically the law of the land in Puerto Rico.

    The Jones-Shafroth Act, enacted in 1917, conferred U.S. citizenship to Puerto Ricans. Puerto Rico has a republican form of government, subject to U.S. jurisdiction and sovereignty. Its current powers are all delegated by the U.S. Congress and lack full protection under the U.S. Constitition.

    The nature of Puerto Rico's political relationship with the U.S. is the subject of ongoing debate in Puerto Rico, the United States Congress, and the United Nations. In 2005 and 2007, two reports on this matter were issued by the U.S. President's Task Force on Puerto Rico's Status.

    The
    Popular Democratic Party (PDP), founder of Puerto Rico's current political status, has challenged the reports' conclusions, stating that it had been under the impression that in 1953 Puerto Rico enacted a "new constitution that was entered into in the nature of a pact between the American and the Puerto Rican people" that was recognized by the UN (subject to continued monitoring). The Popular Democratic Party administration also holds the view that "if the Task Force and the Bush Administration stand by their 2005 conclusions (which occurred on Dec. 21, 2007), then for over 50 years the U.S. government has perpetuated a 'monumental hoax' on the people of Puerto Rico, on the people of the United States and on the international community."

    On the other hand, the White House Task Force on Puerto Rico's Political Status in its December 21, 2007 report, argues that it is not breaking new ground. The United States Department of Justice affirmed the Commonwealth's territorial status in 1959, shortly after the enactment of Public Law 600. The U.S. Supreme Court has held that Puerto Rico remains fully subject to the authority of Congress under the Territory Clause of the U.S. Constitution (See, e.g., Harris v. Rosario, 446 U.S. 651 1980). The report also explains that the U.S. in its official written submission to the UN in 1953, never represented that Congress could not change its relationship with Puerto Rico without the territory's consent, prior to the official submission, the U.S. representative to the UN indicated orally that common consent would be needed to make changes to the relationship between Puerto Rico and the United States. The remaining two-major parties New Progressive Party and the Puerto Rican Independence Party welcomed the recommendations of both reports.

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