Puerto Rico sends United States a non-binding friend request

Amidst all the other election craziness last night, Puerto Ricans voted in favor of becoming the 51st U.S. state. Currently, Puerto Rico is a territory — they've got a non-voting rep in Congress, they don't pay taxes, and they get U.S. military protection and some social services. The results from last night don't actually change anything about that position, but they do put the ball in Congress' court. Puerto Rico wants to be a state. Now it's up to Congress to decide what to do about that. (Via Aaron Olsen)



      1. I do not like that.

        But I’m a little embarrassed to admit that I already thought there were 51 states.  I’m not American so it’s not too embarrassing, but yea. Wonder where I got that number from.

        1.  Probably because we have the District of Columbia, which is not a state, but whose residents are US citizens, living under municipal law, congressional oversight and federal law. It’s an oddity of history, which, in historical context, made sense, but in modern times, less so. Similar to the Puerto Rico relationship.

          1. BBC was reporting results as “X of 51* States” and then a small paragraph following the * explaining the District of Columbia and their electoral votes.  Not sure why they didn’t just say “X of 50 States and the District of Columbia” which would have been shorter and, you know, actually true.

        2. That is a crap flag.  The stars need to be smaller so that there’s a good margin of blue between them and the stripes.

          Still, I vote for a hurricane-as-seen-from-space style spiral.

          1.  There’s some nice proposals for 51-state concentric circles, as well.  I think those are a little far out though, and much less likely to get approved by congress than the boring 51-state flag I linked. 

        1. We stopped the stripes at 13 because of what they stand for. We keep adding stars for the same reason.

    1. i propose every 17 years there’s a national vote to boot out one state and accept one.  sort’ve an equilibrium attempt at ancient greek Ostracism.  so letsee, North-Carolina bye-bye… hello Puerto-Rico!

      1. Kind of like Survivor?

        Years ago I visited PR for a month, and locals told me things were pretty much evenly split between three parties: Statehood, Status Quo, and Independence.  They also said they liked things evenly split.  I’m surprised the Statehood party is so influential now of all decades.

      2.  No picking on North Carolina. Its a truly purple state and keeps getting bluer all the time (not that you can tell from our legislature and new lipless governor). The state is has always been Black enough and now increasingly Hispanic to be a full time Blue state. The major metro areas are always reliably progressive Democratic and we have one of the few truly vibrant Democratic parties left in the South. Personally, if we have to do a swap, I vote for solid red yet lily white Utah. If it has to be a Carolina, there is another choice just below us. Never can go to SC w/o witnessing an act of gratuitous racism. Every converstion I had there seems to come around the “the War” (Civil) and “all them lazy nigras”. Hell, they seceded once already, but there are a lot of really nice, REALLY long suffering African-American folks  there who don’t deserve to get booted out with the the white morons of South Carolina. Utah for Puerto Rico just works better.

      1. Put a circular caption around the star – “Livin’ la vida loca”, then make it the official state song while they’re at it.

          1. Ah!  Much like Mexican singer Emmanuel co-opting Lucio Dalla’s “Tutta la vita”.

            But as a state anthem, “Claridad” sounds like a much better idea than “Súbete a mi moto”.

    2. It’s not possible to change the layout of the flag, so when we add a new state we have to remove an old state.

      1. Is it like a last-hired-first-fired kind of situation? Cuz that could re-energize the birther movement…

          1. We here in The First State are not amused.

            Delaware would become the Cayman Islands on first rate Columbian coffee and Peruvian blow, thank you very much!

            Meth is for poor people.

      1. Let’s not forget about Southern Oregon in connection to Jefferson State. Though these days that might make for some strange bedfellows.

    3.  iirc the US Goverment has Flags up to 56 Stars in its vaults just in case. The arrangement should be straight forward i think.

  1. This is an odd situation. About half as many people left that question blank as did vote for statehood. The blank votes don’t count officially for anything, but it does mean if you’re talking about total votes statehood only won 45% of the votes. I don’t know how they proceed, but proceeding when less than half voted in the affirmative for statehood seems problematic.

    Edit: The pie chart of votes: http://juliorvarela.files.wordpress.com/2012/11/405169_280441252077221_1873963746_n.jpg

      1. No kidding.  Why do states always get the same amount of electoral college votes regardless of how many people in that state voted? What if it could go up or down depending on turnout?

        EDIT Or just get rid of the electoral college in favor of popular vote.

        1. Is this a serious question? Because the “why” of the Electoral College votes is easy (number of Reps plus 2) and the why does it exist is not entirely without merit.

          Federalism has been getting a bad rap because the States’ Rights types lately have been lunatic racist right-wingers. However, over the course of time states have successfully experimented with many different notions, mostly to the net benefit to the nation as a whole. Anything that erodes the Federal structure (like popular vote for President) is done at our peril.

          1. Agreed. Oh, and don’t forget how much they praised the electoral college when Gore lost in 2000 (even though he won the popular vote). Whatever gets their redneck-wifebeaters-and blue bloods elected is deemed “good”.

          2. Federalism has been getting a bad rap because the States’ Rights types lately have been lunatic racist right-wingers.

            Federalism only ever existed so that some people could continue to own slaves. By “lately”, do you mean “since the late 18th Century”?

        2.  National Popular Vote solves the Electoral College problem by passing laws, state by state, to allocate their EC votes to the winner of the national popular vote.

          The agreement doesn’t go into effect until enough states pass it to guarantee 270 EC votes. Currently it’s got 8 states plus DC signed on for about 130 electoral votes… could be in place for 2016.

          1. I hope not. The last time a state like Iowa (and by extension all other similarly situated states) will be paid attention to is the last time we have the EC. Pure popular vote elections are more likely to be essentially get-out-the vote contests between the cities and the suburbs with everyone else mostly ignored.

          2. @bhtooefr:disqus I don’t think I understand the question. Third parties are marginalized in a popular vote, first-past-the-post system. In the EC they have 50 elections to compete in, which means they can potentially have success on a local scale, then try to build on that. Otherwise they need 60M votes immediately to be relevant.

          3. The electoral college emphasizes geographical minorities, like Iowans, but washes out the votes of minorities distributed across the states, like many racial and religious groups.

            So its value depends on the former needing more protection for their interests than the latter, which is not so obvious to me.

          4. @boingboing-25d11f8e1a305f5eaf4caa32877882f3:disqus It washes out the votes of everyone who votes for the losing party. Elections do that.

            It seems to me that the one person, one vote jurisprudence is pretty robust and it is OK to try to ensure that lots of different kinds of areas are relevant in the Presidential elections.

          5. The problem with this philosophy is that it marginalizes individuals for the sake of their state. If you live in a strong red state, like Tennessee, and are a blue voter, you might as well twiddle your thumbs on election day.

            So you can complain that Iowa wouldn’t be getting it’s fair share, but I’ll claim that many individuals aren’t getting their fair share either. I’m tired of my home state determining my political power. I’d much rather us be empowered as individuals to feel like our votes actually count, no matter where you live.

          6. @boingboing-a3048e47310d6efaa4b1eaf55227bc92:disqus I think there are two things to say to your post. First, your political power is still fundamentally exercised in all of the elections below President on the ticket. You are not disenfranchised by the EC. And your vote in Tennessee would be as cancelled in a national election by a Republican anywhere in the country as it is in Tennessee now.
            Second, the losing side of every election is sick of having their vote wiped out by whoever the other side is. The EC doesn’t change this. If you want to see what a national, popular vote Presidential election would look like, look at the elections in a state like Illinois, where statewide races regularly reflect a massive urban (Democrat)/rural (Republican) split. Each side goes after its target-rich environments and big parts of the state, and their needs are completely ignored.

            I get why people don’t like the EC, but since it almost always does reflect the popular vote, and forces candidates to do something but rile up their core constituencies, I think people ought to consider whether the EC is better than they think.

    1.  The people who said nothing didn’t say yes. I agree with you there. But they also didn’t say no, just as clearly.

      1. The ballot question was split into two parts:
        “The first, a yes-or-no question, asks if voters agree that Puerto Rico should continue with its current status. The second calls on voters, regardless of their answer to the first question, to choose their preference among three non-territorial options – U.S. statehood, independence or sovereign free association with ties to the United States.”

        The newly elected governor was urging people to leave that second part blank for as a vote for the status quo:
        “Garcia Padilla has equated free association with independence and is calling on PDP supporters to vote “yes” on the first question to maintain the political status quo, while leaving the second part of the ballot blank.”

        The first question resulted in a rejection of the status quo, even if the second question is less clear.

        Sources: http://articles.chicagotribune.com/2012-11-04/news/sns-rt-us-usa-campaign-puertoricobre8a30dp-20121104_1_political-status-statehood-supporters-status-issue

        1. The first citation you provided didn’t show any such nuance. Nor did your initial point. I’m confused as to what position you advocate, and if you’re actually advocating for it.

          1.  My point is just that I don’t think we can say that there is a clear desire to be the 51st state.

      2. Personally I don’t like the U.S. having colonies. With respect to Puerto Rico, Guam, the USVI and all other such territories I’d prefer an up/down vote regarding statehood with a proviso that if Congress did not act on a request for statehood within, say, two years independence would be automatically granted and the U.S. would owe the new country $10M per resident as a parting gift. Make the payment enforceable in the U.S. courts.

        1. I’m with you, though I don’t see why we need to give anyone a parting gift. It’s time we put a ring on it with those territories, but if they’re not in the marrying mood, I say let ’em drift.

          1. The parting gift is only if they ask for Statehood and Congress fails to act. I feel like sometimes Congress needs to be incentivized.

            If they vote for independence I would go all Panama and just hand them a flag and a Constitution (in English) and tell them to feel free to use the dollar.

          2. Not that easy. Territories typically hold some sort of strategic (in a national defense sense) value. As long as we’ve got Guam for ship and aircraft support, we’re gonna be stringin’ that missy along.

          3. I get that, but that doesn’t mean they have to be relegated to territories – we can make arrangements to continue the relationship, but just in a different way. Okinawa isn’t a territory, but we’ve managed to work out a deal with Japan that makes sense for everyone (well, it would if we just stopped raping and beating up the locals).  

          4. I’m with you, though I don’t see why we need to give anyone a parting gift.

            You don’t see why we owe reparations to a country that we conquered and subjugated?  How distasteful.

          5. What’s distasteful is to imply that Puerto Ricans are slaves who ought to be paid 40 acres and a mule. Puerto Ricans aren’t “subjugated” and they don’t deserve “reparations” what they deserve is full admission and participation in our democracy. And if they choose not to participate, they should be allowed to go on their own way as they choose. 

          6. We own them, and yet they don’t get to participate in the government of the US like the citizens of the 50 states. They get to “self-govern” as long as we agree with their decisions. Their situation is comparable to that of pre-suffrage women who got a weekly allowance to run the household but weren’t allowed the vote. What part of that isn’t repulsive to you and deserving of redress?

          7. We don’t “own” the people of Puerto Rico and they aren’t slaves. Really, to suggest that they are in need of the same sort of reparations as if they were former slaves or Japanese Americans who were interned during WWII is just offensive to both Puerto Ricans and to former slaves and prisoners. Your comparison to women in the 1800’s is equally inaccurate and offensive. If anything, the status of Puerto Ricans is about the same as residents of DC. It’s not  full status and it’s not right, but it’s not the same as any of the situations you’ve tried to compare it to. I don’t see how you can’t see how distasteful and offensive it is to be saying that kind of thing about Puerto Ricans. 
            I’m also particularly frustrated by your attempt to change your original language from “reparations” and imagery of invasion, subjugation, mistreatment and enslavement, to a language of “redress”. This is a weak attempt to avoid owning what you were originally saying and try to avoid the counterargument – it’s the worst kind of sophistry.

            I never said I was against “redress” – quite the opposite. I said that I was in favor of correcting the situation by allowing them to become a state if that’s what they want. But I don’t think we need to pay Puerto Ricans reparations if they decide not to become a state and instead pursue independence. That’s the entirety of what I was saying. If you want to change your language again to try to make me look like the one who is “repulsive” you can certainly do so, but you won’t be arguing with me, you’ll just be arguing with yourself. Again.

          8. Puerto Ricans are not entitled to the full rights of US citizenship, yet Puerto Rico is not allowed to leave the arrangement. This is mala in se. It’s extraordinarily embarrassing for a country that started its own War of Independence over lack of representation with the imperial power.

            I’m quite impressed that, as a comparison, you used the District of Columbia, whose population is more that half African-American, largely descended from freed slaves and who, to this day, do not enjoy full Congressional representation. Your comments about letting them pursue independence without compensation are unfortunate. The relationship is one of duress. And as in my previous analogy to women who can manage the household budget but not vote, it seems utterly wrong to tell the woman that she’s free to leave the family home with her personal belongings but will get absolutely nothing from the family bank account.

            On July 25, 1898, during the Spanish-American War, Puerto Rico was invaded by the United States with a landing at Guánica. As an outcome of the war, Spain ceded Puerto Rico, along with the Philippines and Guam, that were under Spanish sovereignty, to the U.S. under the Treaty of Paris.

            Puerto Rico is a “spoil of war”, specifically of a pre-fabricated war created to increase US naval power.

            The Foraker Act of 1900 gave Puerto Rico a certain amount of civilian popular government, including a popularly elected House of Representatives, also a judicial system following the American legal system that includes both state courts and federal courts establishing a Puerto Rico Supreme Court and a United State District Court; and a non-voting member of Congress, by the title of “Resident Commissioner”… As a result of their new U.S. citizenship, many Puerto Ricans were drafted into World War I and all subsequent wars with U.S. participation in which a national military draft was in effect.

            Puerto Ricans are subject to the Draft without also being given full Congressional representation.

            Some political leaders, like Pedro Albizu Campos who led the Puerto Rican Nationalist Party, demanded change. On March 21, 1937, a march was organized in the southern city of Ponce by the Puerto Rican Nationalist Party. This march turned bloody when the Insular Police, “a force somewhat resembling the National Guard which answered to the U.S.-appointed governor”, opened fire upon unarmed and defenseless cadets and bystanders alike, as reported by a U.S. Congressman Vito Marcantonio and the “Hays Commission” led by Arthur Garfield Hays. Nineteen were killed and over 200 were badly wounded, many in their backs while running away. An American Civil Liberties Union report declared it a massacre and it has since been known as the Ponce Massacre.

            Those protesting for independence have been massacred by the US-appointed authorities.

            On October 30, 1950, Pedro Albizu Campos and other nationalists led a 3-day revolt against the United States in various cities and towns of Puerto Rico in what is known as the Puerto Rican Nationalist Party Revolts of the 1950s. The most notable occurred in Jayuya and Utuado. In the Jayuya revolt, known as the Jayuya Uprising, the United States declared martial law, and attacked Jayuya with infantry, artillery and bombers. The Utuado Uprising culminated in what is known as the Utuado massacre.

            Attempts at independence were once again met by a massacre.

            Puerto Rico has a republican form of government, subject to U.S. jurisdiction and sovereignty. Its current powers are all delegated by the United States Congress and lack full protection under the United States Constitution.

            Property, not participant.

            Constitutionally, Puerto Rico is subject to the Congress’s plenary powers under the territorial clause of Article IV, sec. 3, of the U.S. Constitution. (In a series of opinions by the Supreme Court of the United States, referred to as the Insular Cases, the Court ruled that territories belonged to, but were not part of the United States. Therefore, under the Territorial clause Congress had the power to determine which parts of the Constitution applied to the territories.)

            In 1993, the United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit stated that Congress may unilaterally repeal the Puerto Rican Constitution or the Puerto Rican Federal Relations Act and replace them with any rules or regulations of its choice.

            In 2006, 2007, 2009, 2010, and 2011 the United Nations Special Committee on Decolonization passed resolutions calling on the United States to expedite a process “that would allow Puerto Ricans to fully exercise their inalienable right to self-determination and independence”, and to release all Puerto Rican political prisoners in U.S. prisons, to clean up, decontaminate and return the lands in the islands of Vieques and Culebra to the people of Puerto Rico, to perform a probe into U.S. human rights violations on the island and a probe into the killing by the FBI of pro-independence leader Filiberto Ojeda Rios.

            Mostly taken from here, with some digressions to linked subjects: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Puerto_Rico

          9. Can I get reparations too?  If so, I’m in favor; but if not, then not.

            On a more serious note, I generally think handouts and bailouts are morally hazardous and I’d rather teach someone to fish than give them a McDonald’s fish sandwich.

            Let them be a state!  California’s liable to crack off into the ocean at any moment, so we need a spare.

    2. Sí: 796,007 votos 46%
      No: 934,238 votos 54%
      Total de votos: 1,730,245
      En blanco: 64,123
      Protestadas: 12,720

      Opciones de estatus


      Estadidad: 802,179 votos  61.2%
      Independencia: 72,551 votos  33.3%
      ELA Soberano: 436,997 votos  5.5%
      En blanco: 468,478
      Protestadas: 17,602

          1. No, I was being sincere.  Here in Argentina, the vote is mandatory, so people not voting is obvious and when it’s precisely the number of people pertaining to one party in a region, it’s really obvious.  But then I got wondering about how they can tell who the ‘protestadas” are.  Wikipedia says their 2011 population was 3.706.690, so how do they know who’s protesting and who’s just not voting?  Anyone?  Crik crik . . .

          2. That’s the thing. Without mandatory voting, you can’t tell if it’s protest or apathy. Unless it’s a really big protest.

    3. This sounds like progress, given that our usual tactic is to find some drunk guy in the alley, have him X the treaty, and voila! A new territory! Dress with a little genocide sauce, and pretty soon the land of milk and honey is squirting out little Sara Palins and Homer Simpsons.

    1. No, they’re a territory that styles itself a “commonwealth.” Just as do the states of Massachusetts, Virginia, Kentucky, and Pennsylvania. The term has no legal meaning in the US federal system, and does not bear on whether you’re a state or a territory.

      1. IIf it is a colony it is a rare colony that can decide to become part of the colonizing country, choose independence or independence with continued association with the colonizing country. It’s not like a “classic” colony such as European colonies in Africa. It’s a self-governing incorporated territory. There is no governor general or Federally appointed overlord. There has been no effort to replace the indigenous population with settlers from the colonizing power (Spain did that, though). More like a “lite” colony. Plus “‘Belongs to but is not part of”‘ the US” is an odd locution to me. Does Hennepin County, Minnesota, “belong” to the US? Mostly Puerto Rico “belongs” to the people who live there and are the local property owners, who are all US citizens (and Puerto Ricans at the same time)

        1. If it is a colony it is a rare colony that can decide to become part of the colonizing country, choose independence or independence with continued association with the colonizing country.

          But it can’t do any of those things. It just held what is ultimately Barbie’s Fun Poll and has no legal effect whatsoever on what the US decides.

          And the verbiage is not mine, it’s the legal definition of the relationship.

          However, according to the United States Supreme Court, Puerto Rico is not free or associated; it is only a state in the general sense, not as a state of the Union in the U.S. constitutional sense. According to consistent U.S. Supreme Court jurisprudence, Puerto Rico belongs to but is not an integral part of the United States. Moreover, the said jurisprudence has determined that regardless of what nominal or cosmetic veneer has moted Puerto Rico’s political status, it is essentially a U.S. colonial territory, since it is under the plenary powers of the U.S. Congress. At its most basic, this Supreme Court doctrine expresses that Puerto Rico is more like property, far from a free-governing community or nation, and thus “domestic in a foreign sense” (not for the taking or meddling by free foreign nations), but “foreign in a domestic sense” (not a partner or an equal). In the Insular Cases, the Court ruled that the United States Constitution does not automatically apply in Puerto Rico.


  2. Hold up now. Make sure you check your facts. Puerto Ricans pay taxes. They just dont pay the FICA tax (it is optional and they do get refunded all money taken out for FICA but its like a yearly loan for the Fed).  They still pay medicare/medicaid and Social security taxes.  As for the pie chart. It is only 45% and that is the majority of said choices. 53% of voters voted too change the status quo, which means not maintaining commonwealth status.

  3. But they voted out their Republican-associated New Progressive Party pro-statehood Territorial Governor for a Democrat-associated Popular Democratic Party pro-status quo Governor, plus Congress still has to vote to allow it, so there is a long, hard row to hoe before we have to change the flag.

      1. Except that when those brown people move to New York, Miami, or Chicago they get to vote for Democrats anyway.

        I think the problem is not that they could vote for Democrats, but that they would add 2 (with DC, 4) reliably Democratic Senators and however many members of the House.

    1. We’ll take British Columbia (hereinafter referred to as “Columbia”) and Ontario, as well as anywhere with oil or natural gas. We have all the Maine we need (sorry eastern seaboard of Canada) and don’t want to deal with having to learn French.

        1. Wasnt New york before the renaming “New Amsterdam”?

          Well if the New Yorkers get that Canabis legalisation too i think they have all right to go back to the old Name.

  4. Maybe it’s time for a roll-up.  We take all our assorted little not-quite-a-states — DC, Guam, Puerto Rico — and bless them as one new official state.  It would be a decentralized, highly-distributed entity, but that would be appropriate for the Internet Age (geography is so last century), and they’re all used to that anyway.  To make things backwards-compatible, we’ll designate one existing state to take one for the team and join in with the new guys, so we still end up with 50 all told.  I say .. Rhode Island gets it.

    1. Rhode Island’s not really an island, though – shouldn’t Hawaii get all the other islands?  Don’t they already know how it’s done?

      Speaking for Delaware, though, I say we’ll take ’em.  Don’t listen to those other Delawareans, they are Rhode Island plants.

  5. I have to say i was wondering how it all worked. I have never really figured out The entire Puerto Rico, Guam etc status and the entire citizenship and political franchisedness. Then again I am not American so keeping track of Nunavut, Yukon and NWT makes more sense for me.

  6.  Add 50 odd electoral college votes in Canada and 4-5 more in Puerto Rico and say goodbye to the Republican party.

    1. Well, the Repubs would get a few in Alberta and the grey zones in BC. 

      But the republican party would be reinvigorated by the massive ‘civil’ war you would be facing if you tried to annex Canada. 

    2. Um, Stephen Harper?

      Just about the only person more hated by the BoingBoing Staff than Chris Dodd…

  7. The fact that additional voting Senators (so I have heard) would very likely be or caucus with Democrats means that this is unlikely to pass congress at the moment.

    1. If we’re serious about one-person-one-vote we need to abolish the Senate, abolish the electoral college, and admit Puerto Rico and DC as a states.  This could be one tidy 250-word bill, and those who opposed it would have to start their arguments by explaining why democracy is bad.

  8. One way or another, the good ole USA is keeping that lsland a-float.
    Protectorate, colony, or freeloader.  One of many strips of land I have to support every year when I pay taxes.

    1. cute. also, fck ff.

      Puerto Ricans still pay social security and other taxes ‘In 2009, Puerto Rico paid $3.742 billion into the US Treasury” (Wikipedia)

      it’s one of the most dynamic economic centers in the region,  counting on pharma products as one of its main exports…..which are American companies. American pharma is so big and profitable in part because they can develop so many product on the island tax free, employing a highly educated workforce for way less than they would pay on the mainland.


      Finally, Puerto Ricans have disproportionately served and died in the military (and can’t vote for the Commander-in-Chief). In fact, they only got citizenship in 1917 because the US needed cannon fodder for the war. It still continues to this day, Iraq War as a prime example: http://www.progressive.org/media_898

      The US will never be in a bad deal, as long as they get something economic or politically strategic. Both are the case in Puerto Rico. To imply Puerto Ricans are freeloaders and welfare babies is to ignore the 100 year history of the oldest colony in the world, and how we’ve all benefited from it.

  9. Add Puerto Rico as a friend.
    Downgrade Texas to just being a follower. They want to secede anyways.

Comments are closed.