Why US disagrees to grant Statehood to Puerto Rico and Washington, D.C.?

The United States territory of Puerto Rico for the third time in ten years has voted in favour of statehood. It demands to be treated at par with the other 50 states of USA. On November 3, 2020, on the same day of US elections, majority of Puerto Ricans voted in favour of a non-binding referendum for full statehood. Similarly, Washington, D.C. has also been insisting to become the 51st state of USA.

What is Joe Biden’s take on these two States?

The Democratic Party of Joe Biden has been supporting the idea of admitting the two entities as states. On the other hand, it was opposed by Trump.


Puerto Rico is a Spanish speaking island. It is smaller than the state of Tripura. But it holds population of 31 lakhs. It is located in Caribbean Sea. It was discovered by Christopher Columbus in 1493. It was a part of the Spanish Empire till 1498 and after that it was annexed by the United Sates.

The Puerto Ricans received citizenship in 1917. However, the island was not made a state. It remains to be a US territory. The other US territories are Guam, American Samoa, North Mariana Islands and US Virgin Islands. These territories get only one membership in the House of Representatives (lower chamber of US Congress). Also, these members do not have voting powers. Puerto Ricans can also not vote in US Presidential Elections.

Why is Puerto Rico demanding for statehood?

  • According to the proponents of Puerto Rico, the population of the territory is more than 21 US states.
  • Puerto Ricans have served in all wars that US has been involved since 1914.


Puerto Rico has had six referendums in the past. During these referendums the voters were asked to choose between independence, statehood or commonwealth. In 2020 referendum, 52% favoured statehood.

Why is Washington demanding statehood?

Washington D.C. was created in 1776 on the idea that the national capital should not be a part of any state. The residents of Washington received rights to vote only in 1961 after 23rd US constitutional amendment. Just like Puerto Rico, Washington also gets only one member in House of Representatives who has no voting powers.

Political Challenges

For Washington D.C. and Puerto Rico to achieve statehood, both the chambers of US Congress (Senate and House) will have to support the initiative. After this, the US President has to approve.

Why is Puerto Rico important to India?

There are more than 3,000 Indians living in the island. Also, India is currently in the track of increasing its trade with the Caribbean islands. The first CARICOM summit was held in September 2019.



Leave a Reply