The World of Puerto Rican Politics
The greater source of controversy has always been
the political status of the island since the time when the island was a
Spain.Things began to happen in the 19th century as they happened everywhere else in the Spanish Empire. Just as Latin Americans
were asserting for the first time a national identity distinct from Spain, the Puerto Rican people were saying that they were not
"overseas Spaniards", but Puerto Ricans. As the Spanish government became more liberal at home, its policies in the New world
also became more liberal. Early in the 19th century Puerto Rico sent its first representative to the Spanish Parliament,
Ramón Power y Giralt. Power was an outstanding speaker, and he achieved important improvements in internal government and
trade regulations for Puerto Rico. But when politics in Spain went back to absolutism, some of the old repressive policies were again
imposed on the Spanish colonies.These restrictions merely served to increase the passion of the Latin Americans for freedom from Spain.
There was a desire for freedom in Puerto Rico,
too, but with two distinguishing characteristics. Puerto Ricans wanted
rejected violence. There was never a revolution on the island; the only attempted uprising, in 1868 in the small mountain town of Lares
, collapsed almost immediately because of lack of support from the people. The second difference was that Puerto Ricans wanted
freedom but not independence. The Puerto Rican goal was to achieve personal freedom, the abolition of slavery, and full self-government,
but without breaking the bonds with Spain. Champions of this autonomist movement were such political leaders as
Ramon Baldorioty de Castro, and towards the end of the century, Luis Muñoz Rivera. Finally, in 1897, Muñoz Rivera got a liberal
Spanish government to agree to a Autonomic Charter for the island.The following year Puerto Rico's first goverment was organized with
Muñoz Rivera as leader. But there was to occur, within a year, an abrupt and unexpected change in the entire course of Puerto Rican
In 1898 , as one of the conditions to end the
Spanish- American war between Spain and the United States, Spain was forced
Puerto Rico to the victorious Americans under the Treaty of Paris. Strangely enough the Americans were welcomed warmly by the
Puerto Rican people who saw in the United States flag a symbol of freedom and prosperity. Under the new sovereignty, however,
Puerto Rico reverted back to a purely colonial government.
The Puerto Rican political leadership was dazed
by the events of 1898.Their immediate reaction upon seeing how the people
the Americans was to ask for statehood. But soon after, the leadership divided itself into the familiar three camps-those wanting complete
independence, those wanting assimilation into the United States, and those wanting something in between, autonomy. Muñoz Rivera, who
was elected as Resident Commissioner in the U.S. Congress, continued as a leader of the autonomist movement. In 1916 he convinced
Congress to increase the island's self-government and to extend U.S. citizenship to all Puerto Ricans. Puerto Ricans were granted U.S.
citizenship in 1917 by the Jones Act. The local political leadership continued to be obsessed with the satatus issue and had little
inclination to deal with the more pressing issues and problems of economic and social improvement.
The turning point in island history came in 1940
when Luis Muñoz Marín , only son
of Luis Munoz Rivera came to power winning
election to the Puerto Rican legislature with his newly founded Popular Democratic Party. Muñoz Marín became the first elected
governor of the island in 1948 and carried out a broad program of economic reform which was to change the island.
Puerto Ricans obtained a certain degree of autonomy
in 1952 when it drafted a Constitution with the creation of the Commonwealth
of Puerto Rico(Estado Libre Asociado), a creation of Luis Muñoz Marín..The Constitution, somewhat modeled after the US Constitution,
provided for three branches of Government--the Executive, the Legislative with a bicameral Legislature consisting of a Senate and a
House of Representatives and the Judicial System. But the Government does continue under some control from the US Congress a
nd Puerto Ricans are represented in the US House of Representatives by a Resident Commisioner who has voice but no vote. Puerto
Ricans cannot vote for the President of the U.S. despite their citizenship since they are not liable to pay Federal Income Taxes.
However, Puerto Ricans living in the continental US may register there and vote.
Some of the first Political parties in Puerto
Rico included the Socialist Party founded in 1912 and which dissapeared
and the Puerto Rican Union Party since 1904 under the leadership of Luis Muñoz Rivera (father of Luis Muñoz Marín).The Union
Party won decissive elections from 1904-1924. Other parties included the Unión de Puerto Rico, Republican, Alliance, Liberal
and Historic Constitutional Parties. In 1922 the Nationalist Party was founded and was to be militant for the independence of
Puerto Rico even by violent means. Its leader, Don Pedro Albizu Campos is considerd by many as the most revered patriot.
In 1920 Don Luis Muñoz Marín joined the Socialist Party but upon his return to Puerto Rico from New York joined the Liberal Party
in Puerto Rico. In 1938 he founded a new Party, the Popular Democratic Party based on a main platform of boosting the poor economic
situation of the country.
The Popular Democratic Party controlled Puerto
Rican Politics until 1968 but in the last 30 years there has been an increasing
of people who desire Puerto Rico to be a new state in the Union. After the exit of Muñoz Marín from the seat of power in 1964 his
party was divided by warring factions. Governor Luis Sanchez Vilella, elected in 1964 in a Popular Democratic Party victory, left the
party in 1968. The division produced the defeat of the party in that year's elections to the newly creted New Progressive Party founded
by leading industrialist and statehooder Luis A Ferre, formerly a Republican.The Government has been in control of both major parties
in almost an alternating fashion since then. Proponents for the independence of Puerto Rico under the Puerto Rican Independence Party
have never been able to increase their forces to more than 5% of the population. There have been various plebiscites trying to solve the
status problem--these have been won by the proponents of the Commonwealth status.However the Statehood proponents, mainly the
Partido Nuevo Progresista (New Progressive Party),who at the present controls the government, insist on a new plebiscite and are a
ctively working in the US Congress to that effect.
As you can see there is some room for entertainment
in watching politicians do what they must do getting involved in this and
interesting points of Puerto Rican politics. Puerto Ricans with their sense of humor usually give a tone of comedy to some of those d
ifferences keeping however well aware of the serious significance of these in their lives and in the future of the island.
Last elections took place on November, 2008. The
New Progressive Party was the general winner--- Governor Luis Fortuno
elected for a 4 year term. The PNP kept control of both the Senate and the House of Representatives as well as most city races
Will the Popular Democratic Party continue succesfully its fight to defend the Commonwealth??
The Young commitee in the US Congress approved
a bill on 21 May 1997; the House passed the Bill on 4 March 1998 by the
of one vote. A US Senate committee did not consider any bills for a Congress sanctioned Plebiscite.
A new Plebiscite was held on December 13 ; the
Popular Democratic Party favored the 5th alternative in the ballot--"none
of the above",
which won with about 51% of votes vs. Statehood with only 46%...This is the third time Puerto Ricans have rejected Statehood.
However, the Status problem will not go away....yet...
The last elections of November went well; the
Partido Nuevo Progresista, pro-statehood, won the elections, now controlling
ship and also won the Legislature. But you can rest assured the excitement will not go away...
So hold to the seat of your pants for endless fun in the world of Puerto Rican politics...!!!
Follow my links to the world of fun of Puerto Rican Politics and Government...
Puerto Rico Herald --a great resource...!!!
Puerto Rico in 1898 --the changing of the guard...
Movement FAQ --by Ramon Lopez-Aleman.
Bandera Roja --by the Worker's Socialist Movement.
in Puerto Rico --info on all general elections since 1932.
Page --la Red Popular; Pro- ELA