Over the holiday, reputable newspaper El Nuevo Dia reported that President Trump and the President of Spain had firmed up a deal to return Puerto Rico to Spain, the nation which owned it before the United States.
Snopes confirmed that this report was false, but readers should have easily seen that for themselves, since the story contained the note, “Nota del editor: esta historia no es verídica. ¡Feliz Día de los Santos Inocentes!”
This silly prank hides some important kernels of truth, however.
Congress could give Puerto Rico to Spain if it wanted to.
Congress has plenary (absolute) power over Puerto Rico, because Puerto Rico continues to be an unincorporated territory belonging to the United States. The Supreme Court has said repeatedly that such territories are not covered by the U.S. Constitution and that they do not have the same rights a state has. The Constitution itself says that Congress can make all the decisions about a territory like Puerto Rico.
Spain gave Puerto Rico to the United States, and the United States could give it back.
There are many people who are unaware of the value of Puerto Rico.
El Nuevo Dia’s story included a fake quote from a fake senator: “The United States should never have taken possession of Puerto Rico. It was a mistake. Puerto Rico has cost us too much, ” said Alabama Republican Sen. Luke McCullen.”
There is no Senator Luke McCullen. There was no claim that Puerto Rico costs too much. But we have heard this kind of comment.
The United States tried to buy Puerto Rico in 1868, when a Caribbean base was needed for the construction of the Panama Canal. A couple of decades later, Spain gave Puerto Rico to the United States. While Puerto Rico was at that time trying out “autonomy” from Spain, the fact that Spain was able to pass the Island over to the U.S. shows how little that autonomy meant. Since that time, Puerto Rico has provided billions of dollars in tax breaks to U.S. corporations.
Hawaii did the same when it was a territory. But when it became a state, Hawaii became prosperous and now provides billions of dollars in taxes to the federal government. Puerto Rico will do the same as a state.
Congress has all the power in this relationship.
A number of U.S. presidents, both Democratic and Republican, have expressed their wishes that Puerto Rico would become a state. The voters of Puerto Rico have twice voted for statehood. But only Congress can make a state.
The article in El Nuevo Dia said that Congress had been planning to vote on this plan to return Puerto Rico to Spain, but had run out of time before the holidays. If there were a plan for Puerto Rico and Congress didn’t get around to voting for it, the plan would dissolve. That part is true.We are working to make Congress understand that the time for Puerto Rico statehood is now. Join us! Click To Tweet