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The Government of Puerto Rico

government of Puerto RicoWhat’s government of Puerto Rico like?

As I’m sure you already know Puerto Rico is a U.S. territory.

But you may be wondering: what exactly does that mean?

Simply put, this means that Puerto Rico is an organized division of U.S.A. that has not yet been admitted to the full rights of a state. This also means that, although Puerto Rico falls under the U.S jurisdiction, it is self-governed and is considered an unincorporated commonwealth.


Even though the powers of Puerto Rico government are delegated by the U.S. Congress, it lacks the full protection under the U.S. constitution.

The head of state of Puerto Rico is the U.S.A. president, currently Barack Obama, but the head of the government is actually the Governor of Puerto Rico (who is the head of the executive branch). Puerto Rico’s constitution and republican government are based on that of U.S.A.

The Governor and other Puerto Rico’s legislators are elected by popular vote very four years.

The best way to think of a government in Puerto Rico is that U.S. controls anything that is external to the island: interstate trade, foreign relations, customs, land and sea controls, military, etc., while Puerto Rico’s government controls anything interior to the island, except when U.S. law is involved – like public health.

There are both advantages and disadvantages to this setup: an example of a disadvantage is that U.S. maintains tight controls on import\export and imposing heavy taxation on such things. An example of an advantage is that Puerto Rico is exempt from some aspects of the IRS code, and therefore Puerto Rico’s citizens do not have to pay federal income tax.

[ezcol_1half id=”” class=”” style=””]

[/ezcol_1half][ezcol_1half_end id=”” class=”” style=””]Puerto Rico also has something called government-owned corporations. These are corporations set up to provide basic services to its citizens, among them are electricity, water, education and transportation.

Although, these corporations operate independently from the government, many of them have serious financial problems and have continually relied on bail-out money from the commonwealth’s government to offset their financial deficits.[/ezcol_1half_end]

As with many governments, the Puerto Rican government has been accused of fostering the culture of corruption. It is heavily criticized for its huge public debt through the politically controlled Government Development Bank and its government-owned corporations. There are also reports of corrupt police force and government officials that take bribes to line their pockets, while passing the cost burdens to the citizens.

So, how would I rate the government of Puerto Rico?

I’d rate it about the same as Panama’s, not as good as United States but far better than Mexico’s.

It is true that Puerto Rico is facing some serious problems but at the same time, so is the rest of the world. I am not a particularly politically savvy person, but I do care that the government of any place we end up in be stable and I believe Puerto Rico’s government meets that requirement, especially because of its association with U.S.A.

You may also like our posts on Puerto Rico, Panama, Costa Rica, and Mexico.

Joanna –

About Joanna

is a Polish American living in Arizona with her husband Tim. She is a founding partner of JTR Tech and she is proud to be a professional geek. She had dreamt of living abroad for many years. So, she and Tim created AbroadDreams.com to document the process of making their dream of moving abroad come true. They spent 2 years in Puerto Rico and several months in Spain and Poland. Now they are exploring the American Southwest.

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One comment

  1. The government is to be avoided when possible, much like all governments.