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Puerto Rico profile


Puerto Rico is the easternmost and smallest of the Greater Antilles, bordered by the Atlantic Ocean to the north and the Caribbean Basin to the south.

Neither a state nor independent, the island has been a US territory since 1898.

Everyone born on the island is an American citizen and holds a US passport. However, residents cannot vote in US presidential elections, unless they are registered to vote in one of the 50 states.

Puerto Rican culture is a blend of Amerindian Taino, Spanish and African influences with Spanish being the island's first language.

Tourism is an important money-earner and the island attracts millions of visitors each year. But crippling public debt, poverty and high unemployment have seen many of the islanders leave for the US mainland.

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Head of State: President Donald Trump

Governor (outgoing): Ricardo Rosselló

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Ricardo Rosselló was sworn in in January 2017 after winning the governor's race, promising to push for statehood as the territory faced a deep economic crisis.

He proposed several measures aimed at alleviating the crisis, including a a referendum on statehood or independence, but the subsequent vote for statehood saw only 23% of voters take part.

Mr Rosselló's term in office came to an abrupt end in the summer of 2019, when he resigned in the wake of a group text message scandal involving offensive comments.

The commonwealth constitution is modelled on that of the United States, with a governor elected for a four-year term and a bicameral legislature.


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Broadcasting is regulated by the US Federal Communications Commission (FCC).

Home-grown comedies, talk shows and Spanish-language soaps are staple fare on local TV stations. The multichannel offerings of cable TV are widely available.

News and talk and Spanish-language pop music are among the most popular radio formats.

There were 2.6 million internet users by June 2014


Some key dates in the history of Puerto Rico:

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image captionThe San Felipe del Morro castle in San Juan is a UN World Heritage Site

1493 - Christopher Columbus claims the island for Spain on his second voyage to the Americas. Spanish explorer Juan Ponce de Leon establishes the first settlement in 1508.

1500s - Indigenous Amerindian Taino population is virtually wiped out by disease and new settlers. African slave labour is imported.

1868 - A popular uprising against Spanish rule is suppressed but becomes a symbol of the independence struggle.

1898 - Spain cedes Puerto Rico to the US at the end of the Spanish-American War.

1900 - US Congress establishes a civil government under the Foraker Act but maintains strict control over island affairs. Puerto Ricans are granted US citizenship in 1917 under the Jones Act.

1940s - Puerto Rico gains partial self-rule with popularly elected governors.

1952 - Puerto Rico becomes a self-governing commonwealth of the United States. Under US administration, it experiences growth but nationalist sentiment is still present.

1960-70s - Violent separatism - A series of bombings and killings in the 1970s and 1980s are blamed on pro-independence group, the Macheteros, or Cane Cutters.

1998 - Puerto Ricans back continued commonwealth status in a referendum.

2003 - The US government stops military training on the offshore island of Vieques after protests.

2006 - The expiry of a federal tax break for US corporations in place since 1976 triggers economic recession.

2012 - Puerto Ricans vote for US statehood for the first time in a non-binding referendum on the island's status.

2017 - The territory declares bankruptcy - the largest ever for a US local government. In a non-binding referendum, it votes again to become a US state although only 23% of voters take part.

image copyrightGetty Images
image captionThe Vieques target range was used by the US navy until its closure following protests

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