Obama Promises to Address Status of Puerto Rico

Barack Obama has pledged to allow Puerto Rico to once and for all tackle the issue of its political status in his first term as president of the United States.

The controversial subject of Puerto Rico's status has been dividing the population of the small island territory for years, with some residents favoring state-hood, others favoring independence and some favoring the current commonwealth status.

There have been two referendums held in Puerto Rico dealing with this question and in the end Puerto Ricans were no closer
to a final agreement as to what the status of the island should be. In 1998, when given the choice between statehood, independence, commonwealth or none of the above, the majority of citizens voted infamously for "none of the above".

Obama has stressed the importance of allowing Puerto Rico the power of self- determination. In a letter he sent newly elected Governor Luis Fortuño the President Elect said, "We must enable the question of Puerto Rico's status to be resolved. We have set out an ambitious agenda for Puerto Rico over the next four years," Obama wrote, "It will not be easy to accomplish. But we cannot sit back and wait for someone else, at some other time, to do something about it."

When the letter from Obama was read during Fortuño's inauguration earlier this year, it was met with a standing ovation. Fortuño is pro-statehood and supported John McCain during last year’s presidential election.

Puerto Rico became a U.S. territory in 1898, as a result of the Spanish-American war. In 1917, Puerto Ricans were granted American citizenship and in 1952, Congress authorized Puerto Rico to develop its own constitution. Citizens of the island of Puerto Rico hold a non-voting seat in congress and can not vote for the president of the United States, but are subject to the rulings of the U.S.
Supreme Court and able to serve in the military.