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Puerto Rico Government


The Government of Puerto Rico is a republican form of government subject to US jurisdiction and sovereignty. Its current powers are all delegated by the US Congress and lack full protection under the US Constitution. Puerto Rico's head of state is the President of the United States.

The Government is composed of three branches: the executive, the legislative, and the judicial branches. The legal system is a mix of the civil law and the common law systems. The governor and legislators are elected by popular vote every four years. Members of the judicial branch are appointed by the governor with the "advice and consent" of the Senate.

The executive branch is headed by the Governor. This branch is responsible for administering public resources, as well as providing all necessary public services to the Puerto Rican general public. It is by far the largest branch in the government as well as the largest employer in Puerto Rico with more than 300,000 workers.

The legislative branch consists of a bicameral Legislative Assembly made up of a Senate upper chamber and a House of Representatives lower chamber. The Senate is headed by the President of the Senate, while the House of Representatives is headed by the Speaker of the House. Article III of the Puerto Rico Constitution grants all legislative powers of the national government to the Legislative Assembly of Puerto Rico, which is divided into two chambers: a 27 member Senate and a 51 member House of Representatives. The chambers are presided over by the Senate President and the Speaker of the House, respectively. Both positions are occupied by an active member of each body, elected by a majority of both chambers.

Members are elected to both chambers in general elections held every four years, along with the elections for the Governor and the 78 municipal mayor (Alcalde) positions. Each member represents an electoral district, with the exception of a number of Senators who are considered “at-large” (Por Acumulación) and represent the island as a whole. Members representing specific districts are elected by the citizens residing within the district, while “at-large” Senators are elected by accumulation of all island votes for a specific political party.

In recent years, various organisations have pushed for changing the legislative assembly from the current two chamber system (House and Senate) to one chamber (unicameral). The reasons for this proposed change is based on the growing public opinion that members of the assembly are overpaid, and that a smaller assembly may achieve the same work results as the current one with less public expenditures. In a referendum held on July 10, 2005, Puerto Rican voters approved the change to a unicameral legislature by 456,267 votes in favour, versus 88,720 against.

The judicial branch is headed by the Chief Justice of the Puerto Rico Supreme Court. The Supreme Court of Puerto Rico is the highest court of the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, having the ultimate judicial authority within Puerto Rico to interpret and decide questions of local commonwealth law. It holds its sessions in the city of San Juan.

As Puerto Rico is not an independent country, it hosts no embassies. It is host, however, to consulates from 41 countries, mainly from the Americas and Europe. Most consulates are located in San Juan. As an unincorporated territory of the US, Puerto Rico does not have any first-order administrative divisions as defined by the US government, but has 78 municipalities at the second level. Mona Island is not a municipality, but part of the municipality of Mayagüez. Municipalities are subdivided into wards or barrios, and those into sectors. Each municipality has a mayor and a municipal legislature elected for a four year term.

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