Puerto Ricans - Sociopolitical Organization



Political Organization. Puerto Rico is a highly politicized society, with three main political parties that compete with one another in elections. For the first five decades of U.S. domination of the island, island politics were overseen by a series of U.S. government officials similar to colonial administrators. Just before, during, and after World War II, the Partido Popular Democrático (Popular Democratic Party, PPD) gained the strength necessary for Puerto Ricans to demand greater autonomy from Washington. Early in Puerto Rican party politics, the issue of the island's political status was at the forefront of its relationship with Washington. Prior to 1952, the political debate dealt with whether the island should become a state or become independent, but in 1952 the compromise status of commonwealth was granted, which allowed the islanders to continue receiving tax benefits and limited assistance from the United States yet elect their own governor. Luis Muñoz Marín oversaw the declaration of the new status; his legacy remains in Puerto Rican politics to this day. Today three political parties, differentiated from one another primarily over the issue of the island's status relative to the United States, compete for power in Puerto Rico. The most powerful party since 1952, the PPD, still prefers commonwealth status, and two others, the Partido Nuevo Progresista (New Progressive Party), and Partido Independentisa Puertorriqueño (Puerto Rican Independence Party), are prostatehood and proindependence, respectively. Elections often affect one's job prospects, as changing local and regional politics determine the distribution of jobs in the public sector.

Social Control. Puerto Rico has its own civilian police force, along with a National Guard. The U.S. military maintains bases on the island as well. All this force is insufficient to control crime, which ranges from petty theft, larceny, and carjacking to murder and terrorism. The high crime rate has been linked to the island's poverty, high unemployment, high fertility levels (which have resulted in large proportions of juveniles), and the influence of New York City street culture on Puerto Rican youth. Many programs designed to alleviate poverty and unemployment are seen as social-control mechanisms, particularly the housing-development programs. The Catholic church has had a moderating influence on the island's crime rate.

Conflict. Conflict and conflict resolution occur on formal and informal levels. Formal conflicts involve crimes against people and property and are dealt with through police, judicial, and penal methods common throughout the United States. Informal conflicts arise within and between Puerto Rican households over moral and ethical behaviors, inheritance, courtship, and other issues important to Puerto Rican values. These types of conflicts often involve families, as opposed to individuals, in their resolution. Conflicts among groups quite often are resolved through combinations of negotiation, publicity, and civil disobedience.

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