Puerto Rican Status Debate

July 8, 1977

Report Outline
Commonwealth Under New Attack
Genesis of Commonwealth Status
Factors in Puerto Rico's Future

Commonwealth Under New Attack

Waning Support in 25th Year of Commonwealth

The Commonwealth of Puerto Rico will mark its twenty-fifth anniversary on July 25, under severe attack from critics on the left and the right. The present governor, Carlos Romero Barcelo, a partisan of statehood for the island, has said, “The days of glory of Commonwealth are past.” The leader of the Puerto Rican Independence Party, Ruben Berrios Martinez, calls the Commonwealth form of government “a political and economic anachronism.” Even the head of the Popular Democratic Party, which was responsible for creating the Commonwealth a quarter of a century ago, declares that it would be “very, very difficult” to take the position that Puerto Rico is not, in effect, a colony of the United States.

Doubts about the viability of the present relationship between Puerto Rico and the United States have been simmering for many years. They came to a boil last December, when President Ford rejected a recommendation for increased autonomy for the island and proposed statehood instead. The President's statement, apparently issued without consultation with anyone in Puerto Rico, took all the island's political leaders by surprise. Governor Romero, who assumed office on Jan. 1, adroitly avoided mention of Ford's proposal in his inaugural address. Romero had campaigned on a platform pointing to economic recovery and had pledged not to push for statehood until Puerto Rico was back on its feet.

In view of the growing polarization over status, Romero may be hard pressed to keep that pledge. Early this year, a news correspondent reported from San Juan that “there is general agreement here that, as a result of President Ford's statehood proposal, Puerto Rico's present Commonwealth relationship with the United States will not survive …Ford has hastened the day when this highly politicized island will once again be forced to radically redefine its 78-year-old relationship with the United States.”

ISSUE TRACKER for Related Reports
Feb. 18, 2005  Haiti's Dilemma
Feb. 01, 1985  Caribbean Basin Revisited
Jan. 13, 1984  Caribbean Basin Policy
Jan. 11, 1980  Caribbean Security
Jul. 08, 1977  Puerto Rican Status Debate
Oct. 24, 1969  West Indies: Power Vacuum
Apr. 13, 1966  Dominican Dilemma
Nov. 21, 1962  Security in the Caribbean
Jul. 22, 1959  Invasion and Intervention in the Caribbean Area
Nov. 06, 1957  Caribbean Problems and Prospects
Jun. 14, 1943  Problems of the Caribbean Area
Jun. 10, 1940  Foreign Possessions in the Caribbean Area
Puerto Rico and other Territories