Comparing the major parties’ stances on Puerto Rico
In the heat of the political season and partisan rhetoric, political party platforms are rarely more than formalities. Nevertheless, these platforms delve into issues that do not often enter the limelight, and offer voters a glimpse of how a party might govern. With recent economic instability in Puerto Rico, many are interested to know what the two parties would do for the island.
The terms in which the two parties address Puerto Rico and American territories are short, vague, and similar in nature. The subtle differences between the Democratic and Republican positions, however, give insight into what a broader policy on territories would look like.
The Republican Party generally supports the political participation and independence of Puerto Rico. Their platform indicates, however, that debates over the role of Puerto Rico should begin at the top– the committee states that it believes “Congress has the final authority to define the constitutionally valid options for Puerto Rico to achieve a permanent non-territorial status”. The party goes on to state that the island’s status should be subject to a federally sponsored referendum. While Republicans believe that the federal government should be the primary source of control for Puerto Rico, they hint that they may be supportive of expanding the privileges of islanders who are former members of the armed services.
The platform section also builds upon traditional conservative principles, calling for smaller government and decreased regulation. The party emphasises the importance of private enterprise in economic development in territories, arguing US Customs regulations and the minimum wage stunt growth. They also recommend a less restrictive energy policy.
While this section occupied a small portion of the platform and did not endorse Puerto Rican statehood, the island’s Republicans lauded the party’s policy proposals. In a statement, the Puerto Rican Republican Party called the language “historic” and “a major step forward.”
Like the Republicans, the Democratic Party recognizes that the governance of Puerto Rico must be consistent with the mandates of the federal government, stating that they believe ”the people of Puerto Rico should determine their ultimate political status from permanent options that do not conflict with the Constitution, laws, and policies of the United States.” However, the platform emphasises that the people of Puerto Rico should exercise self-determination, with language that conveys strong support for Puerto Rican self-governance. The Democrats also refer back to their core principles, emphasising the need for territories to have more access to government programs such as Medicare and Medicaid. Most controversially, the party calls for more aggressive expansion of the Affordable Care Act to Puerto Rico and other dependencies.