Government

Pff^ Of all the US territories and possessions outside the 50 states, ■ IUI only two - Puerto Rico and the Northern Marianas (islands just north of Guam) - are commonwealths. In general, commonwealths have their own constitutions and enjoy greater autonomy than the unincorporated territories (a.k.a. possessions) of the US Virgin Islands, American Samoa and Guam. Of those, Puerto Rico is by far the most populous and politically important.

As a "self-governing commonwealth in association with the United States," the government of Puerto Rico in many ways resembles that of a US state. With its own governor and two legislative chambers (House of Representatives and Senate), it controls all internal affairs, except those that fall under United States federal jurisdiction. These include citizenship, currency, highways, the postal system, Social Security, communications, agriculture, mineral resources and all things military. The major differences between Puerto Rico and an actual US state are its exemption from federal tax codes (the island has its own taxation system) and the lack of real representation in the US Congress, where Puerto Rico has one non-voting member. Puerto Ricans cannot vote in US presidential elections, and the island is denied some federal revenues given to states. Men over 18 are eligible for conscription into military service (many Puerto Ricans served in Vietnam and other wars). On the other hand, as US citizens, Puerto Ricans pay and receive Social Security, and poverty-stricken adults can receive federal welfare. The judicial system, too, somewhat resembles that of a US state, with a combination of local and federal courts that hear civil and criminal cases, according to jurisdiction. But although penal, proce-

dural and public law is based on the US model, civil and commercial codes more resemble their Spanish counterparts.

DID YOU KNOW! Puerto Rico has its own Olympic team and competes as an independent nation in the Miss Universe pageant.

Unlike US states, Puerto Rico is divided into municipalities, rather than counties, with the mayor and municipal assembly of each controlling planning and other local issues. Elections are held every four years - and are a spectacle to behold. Instead oftelevised debates and sound-bite advertisements, campaigning takes the form of traffic-snarling caravans and street-side rallies. Partisans with flags encourage motorists to honk their horns in support of their candidate. Pickup trucks overburdened with speaker blocks blitz residential neighborhoods, blaring slogans and patriotic salsa music, and voters are wooed with free chicken at public barbecues. Puerto Rican democracy has street party flair.

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