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Is Puerto Rico a Classic Colony?

By on December 25, 2015

SAN JUAN – After the U.S. assistant attorney general and the U.S. solicitor general expressed to the U.S. Supreme Court in their arguments on the Luis. M. Sánchez Valle case on whether Puerto Rico and the U.S. are separate sovereigns for purposes of the Double Jeopardy Clause of the Fifth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, the debate on the criminal case turned political took a turn to address, albeit indirectly, what everybody had speculated about: Puerto Rico’s political status as seen by the U.S. government.

Reactions to such a statement vary dramatically, depending on who’s reacting and what his or her political status preference is.

“I am convinced the position expressed by the attorney general in this case, aside from being at odds with its previous positions, is incorrect. I foresee that, in accordance with previous expressions made by the [U.S.] Supreme Court about the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, Puerto Rico’s position will be validated,” said Gov. Alejandro García Padilla in a written statement Thursday night.

The governor said the attorney general himself admits in his argument that he has decided to opt for a position different to previous ones adopted by his office.

For García Padilla, the U.S. Congress recognized the commonwealth a “degree of autonomy” similar to that of any state of the Union, since the “compact” between the two countries was enacted by Congress and ratified by the majority of the people of Puerto Rico.

“Puerto Rico is not a mere territory. It enjoys an unparalleled relation within the American constitutional framework,” García Padilla stated.

The U.S. government’s argument stems from the appeal made to the U.S. Supreme Court in the case “The People of Puerto Rico v. Luis Sánchez Valle,” where the defendant stood trial on criminal charges in both the Puerto Rico court and the Federal Court for the District of Puerto Rico. Sánchez Valle’s defense contends he cannot by tried twice for the same crime because the U.S. Constitution protects him against such, and because Puerto Rico is not a separate jurisdiction from the U.S. because it has no separate sovereignty from the U.S.

The government of Puerto Rico argues to the contrary, that the island does enjoy sovereignty and because of that the constitutional guaranty against the double jeopardy defence does not apply.

However, Resident Commissioner and New Progressive Party President Pedro Pierluisi thinks differently.

“Said allegation confirms, once again, that Puerto Rico is a territory of the United States subject to the plenary authority of Congress and that Puerto Rico will continue to be a territory unless, and until, it decides to become a state [of the Union] or a sovereign nation,” Pierluisi said in a written statement.

Pierluisi further considers the U.S. government’s argument before the court negates the relation between Puerto Rico and the U.S. is “in the nature of a compact” and that it cannot be changed unilaterally by the U.S.

By Juan Hernández

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  • El Pueblo

    Pero este tiene que ser el hombre mas tonto del mundo.

    Los mismo pasara con la ley de quiebra criolla o cualquier otra ley
    soberana de estos ineptos políticos corruptos del ELA – Territorio de
    EE.UU.

    “El gobierno de los Estados Unidos presentó ayer un escrito
    en el que discrepa de esa posición y sostiene que la Isla no goza de
    dichos poderes por ser un territorio bajo el poder absoluto del Congreso
    de los Estados Unidos,”

    Mas claro no canta un gallo!!!!

  • AnAlum

    The question is not is PR a territory but is it a classic colony. The United States is becoming more of a colony of PR than the other way around, eg. Orlando, etc.

    The political status of Puerto Ricans is good, i.e. sufficiently powerful: eg. Vieques Saga & upcoming election courting of Puerto Ricans. Perhaps the most important step in selecting a US President is the primary, in which PR now does participate but the PR politicians fail to take full advantage of this. With an early primary PR could become a “bellwether” for the Hispanic vote (whether true or not), if put into effect, then see how much political leverage is gained, eg. New Hampshire, small state, lots of influence.

    I regard Puerto Rico, where I live and own property, as a Congressional State where as Connecticut for example is a Constitutional State.

    Puerto Rico for better or worse is a de facto hybrid State not a classic colony.

    • Chris

      ^ this … I agree entirely. In my view, Puerto Rico is a territory but not a colony. A classic colony is a possession held almost always for economic purposes … therefore Puerto Rico is not a classic colony in the sense of colonial North America, the Belgian Congo, etc. Puerto Rico has far more autonomy than any classic colony, even compared to modern British Overseas Territories.

      In my view though Puerto Rico is a de-facto incorporated territory although I suppose “congressional state” is about right as well. I have always viewed the ELA in existence since 1952 as a sort of hybrid between an incorporated territory and a state of the Union.

  • El Pueblo

    Bhatia, you and the rest of the inept Puerto Rican politicians had
    the tools and you have destroyed the good name and reputation of Puerto
    Rico and it people. Go back to your Republic of El Salvador if you want
    to play Emperor.

    “Meanwhile, Bhatia said, “It is shameful that Congress made such an
    indignant proposal…. Not a single Puerto Rican should accept a fiscal
    control board with so many powers over Puerto Rico… basically in
    exchange for an allocation of funds whose sole purpose is to ensure
    payment to bondholders in the short term, and leaving other future
    initiatives to consider up in the air.”

    He added, “One of the most significant failures of both proposals is
    imposing a fiscal control board [on Puerto Rico] without giving us all
    the tools we need to get over the crisis..”

    • Chris

      As far as I am concerned the primary problem in Puerto Rico is overspending by local administrations looking to ‘buy’ easy votes. Even the local Republicans are guilty to a degree … it was Gov. Luis Ferre who implemented the mandatory Christmas bonus although I personally lay the roots of the present fiscal crisis on Rafael Hernandez Colon’s 1st gubernatorial administration.

  • GringoPRico

    Puerto Rico ceased being a colony the day the U.S.A. was no longer required to submit a report on the island’s affairs to the United Nations decolonization committee. PR needs to accept the somewhat undefinable political status it achieved under Luis Muñoz Marín and drop party platforms that call for change.

    • Chris

      The problem with this point of view is that it condemns 3.5 million Americans to a second class status. How can we justify the fact that Puerto Ricans can fight and die for the US but not vote for their Commander in Chief, or to elect voting representation in Congress?

      I agree that Puerto Rico is not a colony – and in fact I believe that NONE of the so called “non-self governing territories” are colonies, none of them should be listed as such by the UN but that does not absolve us of the need for a more perfect union.

  • Bruno the engineer

    How about a classic example of living way beyond our means!

    • Chris

      Couldent have said it better. The easiest way out of this is for Puerto Rico to reduce government spending to a more sustainable level, and eliminate the various anti-business policies that discourage economic investment. No need to reinvent the wheel here folks …

  • William Rapien

    The problem I see is that if the Puerto Rican government succeeds in their plan, that all US citizens living there will no longer be protected by the US Constitution. This includes all Puerto Ricans on the island. The next step would be to issue Puerto Rican citizenship papers and passports and cut all ties to the United States.

    Imagine if the Puerto Rican government decides that they can redefine freedom of speech or any of the other rights protected by our constitution. I would be forced to move back to the states when all I want is to enjoy my home, friends and life in Aguadilla.

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