Brooklyn Law Review


Puerto Rico’s sovereignty status is an anomaly. Since the United States acquired the island in 1898, the federal government has treated Puerto Ricans differently compared to residents of its other acquired territories. The United States also exerts significant control over Puerto Rico’s local affairs, most recently through the enactment and enforcement of the Puerto Rico Oversight, Management, and Economic Stability Act (PROMESA) in response to the current debt crisis in Puerto Rico. This note assesses the validity of the federal government’s use of the territories clause to control local Puerto Rican affairs, examining the complex history between the United States and Puerto Rico. It suggests that the federal government relinquished its authority to invoke such powers through the passage of Public Law 600, which vested Puerto Ricans with the right to “constitutional self-governance.” This note also suggests an alternative approach to addressing the current debt crisis while giving Puerto Ricans democratic power over the debt restructuring process.