Published on August 16, 2004 By Lenbert In Politics
The definition of a U.S. Territory was probably fresh in my memory 25 or 30 years ago in High School or Grammar School, but for me, that definition has become "fuzzy" over the years.

It is the latest Olympic news item with the Puerto Rican basketball team spanking......errrr.....I mean beating the US basketball team in the 2004 Summer Olympics, that is the impetus to research "US Territories" a little more.

"Territories", for the average US Citizen, aren't considered on a regular basis. I am speaking exclusively to those individuals that can name the 50 States and their Capitals, and who do not consider Quebec a State (You would be amazed at those that do!) I always knew that P.R. was a US Territory, but in my research, I was amazed to find that Guam, American Samoa and The Virgin Islands are US Territories as well.

I don't know why I research stuff like this because the research always, inevitably raises more questions than it answers.

This post is Puerto Rico specific. I haven't performed any research on the other Territories as of this writing.

The main question: is Puerto Rico considered as an individual country? Apparently it is, as they are an individual country at the Olympics. But yet, on one website, it lists the Government Officials as (in order): George Bush, Dick Cheney and Sila M. Calderon (Governor of P.R.)

The P.R Governor is a publicly elected Governor, as is their Senate, Legislature, Judiciary Members, as well as the local "municipality" officials. But, based on this website, all of these Puerto Rican Officials inevitably answer to the US President and Vice President. How is this considered an "individual country"?

It seems like Puerto Rico can elect whoever they want, but they are still under US rule as far as trade regulations; control of land, air and sea; nationality and citizenship; maritime laws; military bases; military service; declaration of war etc. However Puerto Rican nationals can not take part in US Presidential Elections and they are exempt from the US Tax System. But again, the elected Puerto Rican government officials still inevitably answer to the US President?

I don't get this. I must be missing something. Isn't this like a 30-year-old individual who is still living with their parents? Sure, P.R. may be a strategic military location, but I'm missing the reason WHY the US would want to continue holding on to them as a territory, and not make this territory the 51st State. At the very least, the corporate-driven government would see P.R. as a potential to get more taxes and more votes.

Or, to bring this post full circle, the members of the 2004 Olympic Puerto Rican basketball team would have been members of the 2004 Olympic U.S. basketball team.



on Aug 16, 2004
Actually, Puerto Rico is a Commonwealth. You can find out more about PR from several websites including Link
Basically, we "won" PR in the Spanish/American war. It had similar status as the Philippines, Hawaii, and Alaska, among other places. Some territories were granted statehood (AK and HI), others became independent (Philippines), and then there's PR, Virgin Islands, et. al. Every couple of years PR citizens vote to become independent or to seek statehood. They vote for status quo. Personally, I would trade them for Texas.
I would be interested to hear from others on this subject.
on Aug 16, 2004
To: jdjefferson (sarcasm)

I know the "Trading Texas" comment was in jest. I hope. You know it will never happen. The logistics are too overwhelming. Staffing the DFW airport (hub) alone would be a nightmare. Not to mention moving the already understaffed border patrol to NM and LA et al would be a pain in the ass. And then there's acres vs. acres.

However, your post did encourage me to look at things from a Puerto Rican perspective. Really, why would they want become a US State and succumb to dangling chads and taxes? I'm wondering what the price for gas is in P.R. right now.

on Aug 16, 2004
I don't think US/Texas border patrol would be too much of an issue on our part, as most Texans would prefer to stay there, I think. They would be armed to the teeth, so getting in would be a problem.
I also found this link Link
to be helpful. Probably more information than you bargained for!
Gas is probably ridiculously expensive (it's an island and as such, everything costs more).
on Aug 16, 2004
To: jdjefferson

My sarcasm gets the better of me sometimes, as with my last response (border patrol, dangling chads etc.)

Don't get me wrong, I think that I need to seriously look at, in the next several days, at all the implications of PR becoming a state. From the links that you provided, I don't see anything wrong with welcoming them as the 51st state. That last link was excellent, btw.

I hear your side of the argument (which I was already siding with as I was writing my main article). I am waiting for a good reason not to make them the 51st State, if the country, electorally, agrees with it.

Of course, the sarcastic me, rears his ugly head once again and says....think of all the tax payer money involved to add an additional star to all of the millions of US flags in production!

Just playing Devils Advocate.

on Aug 16, 2004
As long as G.W. continues to have his ranch in Texas: fat chance....

Anyway, the definition of a territory is basically 'what we conquered during one of those stupid wars'. These countries are shot around and treated like dirt, and are forced into supporting the U.S. during war, etc. etc.
We call it a 'commonwealth', but how much of a commonwealth is it? I'd bet most people are clueless to the fact that the U.S. owns Puerto Rico in PR. I mean, Virginia is a commonwealth, but doesn't like to be called a state, even though it is defined as one? This whole thing is confusing.
At one time, didn't the U.S. used to own Palau, located a few miles from Guam near the Phillippines? You brought up a good point here.
on Aug 16, 2004

Palau is what is called a "Freely Associated State" along with Republic of the Marshall Islands and Federated States of Micronesia. Other Commonwealth/Territories include American Samoa, Guam, Northern Mariana Islands, Puerto Rico, and Virgin Islands. Plus there are a few US Territories under the jurisdiction of the Office of Insular Affairs (OIA) and/or the US Fish and Wildlife Service (including such places as Midway). Basically these places were spoils of war (namely WWII). Most serve military needs--such as bombing ranges or naval bases. The Commonwealth countries(?) all have a representative in D.C., which is more than D.C. can say for itself.
Most of this can be found at Link

I don't know that these countries are necessarily "shot around and treated like dirt," as most have a healthy tourist economy and wouldn't take kindly to poor treatment. Except PR, there really isn't a very large population and, true, they probably don't know they're "owned" by the US, nor do they care. Or do they? All you Virgin Island bloggers should chime in on this subject!

They seem to have a pretty good deal as they get some federal protections and they don't have to pay federal income tax. Do we want them to be states? Who knows. The extra income would be nice, but the additional expenses may not be worth it. Is this something you think we should be looking into?
on Aug 17, 2004
Citing, Residents of Puerto Rico, who if born there are considered US citizens, have choosen that they do not want to become a state. That would mean they would have to pay federal income taxes. Right now all US citizens who live in Puerto Rico do not have to pay taxes to the federal government on income earned in Puerto Rico. The US has basically maintained that Puerto Rico has the option to become a state, to become independent or stay as it is. They have chosen to remain a commonwealth. Making puerto rico into a state would cost the federal government more than 3 billion dollars in aid that Puerto rico is not currenty eligible for. Also, the GDP per capita is substantially lower than in the United States.
on Aug 17, 2004
(Therefore I feel that right now it is not in either our best intrest or their best intrest for them to become a state. It would be in our best intrest for them to become an independent nation, and best for them to remain as they are -which has been afirmed by the fact that this is how their citizens have voted)
on Aug 17, 2004
To sandy2

And that is where I'm confused!

I live in Virginia, a Commonwealth. The only difference that I can see between Virginia and Puerto Rico is that we (Virginia) are obligated to pay income taxes and are eligible to vote in US elections. Either cut them (Puerto Rico) loose and let them be their own nation, or make them a State. Yes, there is a military strategic benefit for keeping them as a "territory". But if that is the ONLY reason, then I have to ask, how much money is the US pumping into Puerto Rico on a yearly basis, and other than a strategic position, what is the US getting in return?

Or, here's a thought. Since the US has claimed that the they will be pulling all of their military bases out of Germany, and Germany is in a major quandry about it, let's just pull out of PR altogether and have them decide whether they want to become an independent nation or the 51st state.

on Aug 17, 2004

Either cut them (Puerto Rico) loose and let them be their own nation, or make them a State

Part of the problem, I think, is we can't just "cut them loose." You may be suggesting this tongue firmly in cheek, but in all seriousness, I don't think they couldn't make it without being part of the US.
It's a matter of semantics when we use the word "commonwealth" regarding Virginia and Puerto Rico. Pennsylvania, Kentucky and Mass. are all commonwealths too. See this link for more info:

Why or why not make PR the 51st state? You can read some interesting points made here:
on Aug 18, 2004
I don't think they couldn't make it without being part of the US. / Jdjefferson you are right, they wouldn't be able to survive without the support of the United States. It would be very dificult for us to let them loose, even though I agree that it is in our best intrest. The problem is that we won them in the Spanish war, and since they have been our territory since then, and depending on our support for many many years, a pull out by the united states would be catostrophic to them and would be looked down upon highly by other countries. A similar "commonwealth" in the carribean that is in a similar situation as PR is The Cayman Islands which is a common wealth of the UK. Their median income is actually higher than that of GB so it is purley symbolic (the Cayman dollar is connected directly to the US dollar, not the pound). Likewise, PR has their own government with their own congress and even multiple political parties. There are three parties dedicated to the three options (basically the commonwealth party, the statehood party and the independence party). We have offered them independence but they don't want it. It would be hard to force it upon them, and it wouldn't be a great idea (I don't feel) to let them become a state. It is something intresting that deserves being looked into, but I doubt that the income generated through their taxes would cover all the aid that their citizens would require. Also, their "tax break" only applies to monies earned within the island, which is less than 4 billion dollars a year. I believe, though I'm not sure, that the median income would fall in the tax bracket that gets a rebate, so we would recieve little tax income from them in the first place.
on Aug 18, 2004
ah.. what did I do wrong there?