Puerto Rico
(commonwealth associated with the US)
[Country Flag of Puerto Rico]
Transnational Issues
[Country map of Puerto Rico]

Puerto Rico

Background: Discovered by Columbus in 1493, the island was ceded by Spain to the US in 1898 following the Spanish-American War. A popularly elected governor has served since 1948. In plebiscites held in 1967 and 1993, voters chose to retain commonwealth status.


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Location: Caribbean, island between the Caribbean Sea and the North Atlantic Ocean, east of the Dominican Republic

Geographic coordinates: 18 15 N, 66 30 W

Map references: Central America and the Caribbean

total: 9,104 sq km
land: 8,959 sq km
water: 145 sq km

Area - comparative: slightly less than three times the size of Rhode Island

Land boundaries: 0 km

Coastline: 501 km

Maritime claims:
exclusive economic zone: 200 nm
territorial sea: 12 nm

Climate: tropical marine, mild; little seasonal temperature variation

Terrain: mostly mountains, with coastal plain belt in north; mountains precipitous to sea on west coast; sandy beaches along most coastal areas

Elevation extremes:
lowest point: Caribbean Sea 0 m
highest point: Cerro de Punta 1,338 m

Natural resources: some copper and nickel; potential for onshore and offshore oil

Land use:
arable land: 4%
permanent crops: 5%
permanent pastures: 26%
forests and woodland: 16%
other: 49% (1993 est.)

Irrigated land: 390 sq km (1993 est.)

Natural hazards: periodic droughts; hurricanes

Environment - current issues: erosion; occasional drought causing water shortages

Geography - note: important location along the Mona Passage - a key shipping lane to the Panama Canal; San Juan is one of the biggest and best natural harbors in the Caribbean; many small rivers and high central mountains ensure land is well watered; south coast relatively dry; fertile coastal plain belt in north


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Population: 3,915,798 (July 2000 est.)

Age structure:
0-14 years: 24% (male 480,100; female 457,684)
15-64 years: 66% (male 1,234,065; female 1,336,848)
65 years and over: 10% (male 174,383; female 232,718) (2000 est.)

Population growth rate: 0.56% (2000 est.)

Birth rate: 15.47 births/1,000 population (2000 est.)

Death rate: 7.74 deaths/1,000 population (2000 est.)

Net migration rate: -2.14 migrant(s)/1,000 population (2000 est.)

Sex ratio:
at birth: 1.06 male(s)/female
under 15 years: 1.05 male(s)/female
15-64 years: 0.92 male(s)/female
65 years and over: 0.75 male(s)/female
total population: 0.93 male(s)/female (2000 est.)

Infant mortality rate: 9.71 deaths/1,000 live births (2000 est.)

Life expectancy at birth:
total population: 75.55 years
male: 71.05 years
female: 80.3 years (2000 est.)

Total fertility rate: 1.9 children born/woman (2000 est.)

noun: Puerto Rican(s) (US citizens)
adjective: Puerto Rican

Ethnic groups: NA

Religions: Roman Catholic 85%, Protestant and other 15%

Languages: Spanish, English

definition: age 15 and over can read and write
total population: 89%
male: 90%
female: 88% (1980 est.)


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Country name:
conventional long form: Commonwealth of Puerto Rico
conventional short form: Puerto Rico

Data code: RQ

Dependency status: commonwealth associated with the US

Government type: commonwealth

Capital: San Juan

Administrative divisions: none (commonwealth associated with the US); there are no first-order administrative divisions as defined by the US Government, but there are 78 municipalities (municipios, singular - municipio) at the second order; Adjuntas, Aguada, Aguadilla, Aguas Buenas, Aibonito, Anasco, Arecibo, Arroyo, Barceloneta, Barranquitas, Bayamon, Cabo Rojo, Caguas, Camuy, Canovanas, Carolina, Catano, Cayey, Ceiba, Ciales, Cidra, Coamo, Comerio, Corozal, Culebra, Dorado, Fajardo, Florida, Guanica, Guayama, Guayanilla, Guaynabo, Gurabo, Hatillo, Hormigueros, Humacao, Isabela, Jayuya, Juana Diaz, Juncos, Lajas, Lares, Las Marias, Las Piedras, Loiza, Luquillo, Manati, Maricao, Maunabo, Mayaguez, Moca, Morovis, Naguabo, Naranjito, Orocovis, Patillas, Penuelas, Ponce, Quebradillas, Rincon, Rio Grande, Sabana Grande, Salinas, San German, San Juan, San Lorenzo, San Sebastian, Santa Isabel, Toa Alta, Toa Baja, Trujillo Alto, Utuado, Vega Alta, Vega Baja, Vieques, Villalba, Yabucoa, Yauco

Independence: none (commonwealth associated with the US)

National holiday: US Independence Day, 4 July (1776)

Constitution: ratified 3 March 1952; approved by US Congress 3 July 1952; effective 25 July 1952

Legal system: based on Spanish civil code

Suffrage: 18 years of age; universal; indigenous inhabitants are US citizens but do not vote in US presidential elections

Executive branch:
chief of state: President William Jefferson CLINTON of the US (since 20 January 1993); Vice President Albert GORE, Jr. (since 20 January 1993)
head of government: Governor Pedro ROSSELLO (since 2 January 1993)
cabinet: NA
elections: US president and vice president elected on the same ticket for four-year terms; governor elected by popular vote for a four-year term; election last held 5 November 1996 (next to be held 7 November 2000)
election results: Pedro ROSSELLO reelected governor; percent of vote - 51.1%

Legislative branch: bicameral Legislative Assembly consists of the Senate (28 seats; members are directly elected by popular vote to serve four-year terms) and the House of Representatives (54 seats; members are directly elected by popular vote to serve four-year terms)
elections: Senate - last held 5 November 1996 (next to be held 7 November 2000); House of Representatives - last held 5 November 1996 (next to be held 7 November 2000)
election results: Senate - percent of vote by party - NA; seats by party - PNP 19, PPD 8, PIP 1; House of Representatives - percent of vote by party - NA; seats by party - PNP 37, PPD 16, PIP 1
note: Puerto Rico elects one nonvoting representative to the US House of Representatives; elections last held 5 November 1996 (next to be held 7 November 2000); results - percent of vote by party - NA; seats by party - PNP 1 (Carlos Romero BARCELO)

Judicial branch: Supreme Court, justices appointed by the governor with the consent of the Senate; Superior Courts, justices appointed by the governor with the consent of the Senate; Municipal Courts, justices appointed by the governor with the consent of the Senate

Political parties and leaders: National Democratic Party [William MIRANDA]; National Republican Party of Puerto Rico [Luis FERRE]; New Progressive Party or PNP [Pedro ROSSELLO]; Popular Democratic Party or PPD [Anibal ACEVIDA Vila]; Puerto Rican Independence Party or PIP [Ruben BERRIOS Martinez]

Political pressure groups and leaders: Armed Forces for National Liberation or FALN; Armed Forces of Popular Resistance; Boricua Popular Army (also known as the Macheteros); Volunteers of the Puerto Rican Revolution

International organization participation: Caricom (observer), ECLAC (associate), FAO (associate), ICFTU, Interpol (subbureau), IOC, WCL, WFTU, WHO (associate)

Diplomatic representation in the US: none (commonwealth associated with the US)

Diplomatic representation from the US: none (commonwealth associated with the US)

Flag description: five equal horizontal bands of red (top and bottom) alternating with white; a blue isosceles triangle based on the hoist side bears a large, white, five-pointed star in the center; design based on the US flag


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Economy - overview: Puerto Rico has one of the most dynamic economies in the Caribbean region. A diverse industrial sector has surpassed agriculture as the primary locus of economic activity and income. Encouraged by duty-free access to the US and by tax incentives, US firms have invested heavily in Puerto Rico since the 1950s. US minimum wage laws apply. Sugar production has lost out to dairy production and other livestock products as the main source of income in the agricultural sector. Tourism has traditionally been an important source of income for the island, with estimated arrivals of nearly 5 million tourists in 1999. Prospects for 2000 are good, assuming continued strength in the tourism and construction sectors and continuation of the US boom.

GDP: purchasing power parity - $38.1 billion (1999 est.)

GDP - real growth rate: 4.2% (1999 est.)

GDP - per capita: purchasing power parity - $9,800 (1999 est.)

GDP - composition by sector:
agriculture: 1%
industry: 45%
services: 54% (1999 est.)

Population below poverty line: NA%

Household income or consumption by percentage share:
lowest 10%: NA%
highest 10%: NA%

Inflation rate (consumer prices): 5.2% (1999 est.)

Labor force: 1.3 million (1996)

Labor force - by occupation: agriculture 3%, industry 20%, services 77% (1999 est.)

Unemployment rate: 13% (FY97/98 est.)

revenues: $6.7 billion
expenditures: $9.6 billion, including capital expenditures of $NA (FY99/00)

Industries: pharmaceuticals, electronics, apparel, food products; tourism

Industrial production growth rate: NA%

Electricity - production: 17.765 billion kWh (1998)

Electricity - production by source:
fossil fuel: 98.06%
hydro: 1.94%
nuclear: 0%
other: 0% (1998)

Electricity - consumption: 16.521 billion kWh (1998)

Electricity - exports: 0 kWh (1998)

Electricity - imports: 0 kWh (1998)

Agriculture - products: sugarcane, coffee, pineapples, plantains, bananas; livestock products, chickens

Exports: $34.9 billion (f.o.b., 1999)

Exports - commodities: pharmaceuticals, electronics, apparel, canned tuna, rum, beverage concentrates, medical equipment

Exports - partners: US 88% (1999)

Imports: $25.3 billion (c.i.f., 1999)

Imports - commodities: chemicals, machinery and equipment, clothing, food, fish, petroleum products

Imports - partners: US 60% (1999)

Debt - external: $NA

Economic aid - recipient: $NA

Currency: 1 US dollar (US$) = 100 cents

Exchange rates: US currency is used

Fiscal year: 1 July - 30 June


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Telephones - main lines in use: 1.196 million (1995)

Telephones - mobile cellular: 171,000 (1995)

Telephone system: modern system, integrated with that of the US by high-capacity submarine cable and Intelsat with high-speed data capability
domestic: digital telephone system; cellular telephone service
international: satellite earth station - 1 Intelsat; submarine cable to US

Radio broadcast stations: AM 72, FM 17, shortwave 0 (1998)

Radios: 2.7 million (1997)

Television broadcast stations: 18 (plus three stations of the US Armed Forces Radio and Television Service) (1997)

Televisions: 1.021 million (1997)

Internet Service Providers (ISPs): 18 (1999)


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total: 96 km
narrow gauge: 96 km 1.000-m gauge, rural, narrow-gauge system for hauling sugarcane; no passenger service

total: 14,400 km
paved: 14,400 km
unpaved: 0 km (1996 est.)

Ports and harbors: Guanica, Guayanilla, Guayama, Playa de Ponce, San Juan

Merchant marine:
total: 1 ship (1,000 GRT or over) totaling 17,513 GRT/14,976 DWT
ships by type: roll-on/roll-off 1 (1999 est.)

Airports: 30 (1999 est.)

Airports - with paved runways:
total: 21
over 3,047 m: 3
1,524 to 2,437 m: 3
914 to 1,523 m: 9
under 914 m: 6 (1999 est.)

Airports - with unpaved runways:
total: 9
914 to 1,523 m: 2
under 914 m: 7 (1999 est.)


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Military branches: paramilitary National Guard, Police Force

Military - note: defense is the responsibility of the US

Transnational Issues

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Disputes - international: none