United States Control, The Statehood Question
Partido Popular Democratico, Puerto Rican voters, Operation Bootstrap, Luis Munoz Marin, Munoz Marin
In 1938 Luis Munoz Marin, son of autonomist leader Luis Munoz Rivera, founded the Popular Democratic Party (Partido Popular Democratico, PPD). A highly intelligent individual and an excellent writer, Munoz Marin had lived for many years on the mainland and was bilingual. He was also a gifted politician.
In 1940 the PPD gained control of the Puerto Rican legislature by a small margin. The party pledged to improve conditions in Puerto Rico, leaving aside for a time the question of the island’s status. With the support of the United States, the PPD greatly contributed to Puerto Rico’s economic growth through the industrialization program known as Operation Bootstrap, which began in 1947.
Even as the economy improved, however, Puerto Rico continued to focus on the crucial issue of its constitutional status. In 1946 local autonomy increased when U.S. president Harry Truman appointed the first native Puerto Rican governor, Jesus Pinero, a former resident commissioner. In 1949 Munoz Marin became the first elected governor after the U.S. Congress amended a law to allow Puerto Ricans to elect their own governor. He was reelected in 1952, 1956, and 1960.
Munoz Marin and the PPD were determined to achieve a relationship with the United States that was more favorable to Puerto Rico, but it wanted to do this through peaceful means. Not all Puerto Ricans agreed, and in 1950, two nationalists attempted to assassinate President Truman in Washington, D.C.
The PPD had pledged to seek authority for Puerto Ricans to write their own constitution, but it also sought to maintain existing economic relations with the United States. The U.S. Congress responded to the PPD’s efforts by passing a law allowing the people of Puerto Rico to write their own constitution and establish their own government. A constitutional convention convened to prepare the document. In March 1952 Puerto Rican voters approved the constitution in a popular referendum, and on July 25, 1952, the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico was officially established.
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