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Are We Better Off Today Than Yesterday?

By Arturo Guzman

DECEMBER 31, 2001
Copyright © 2001 SAN JUAN STAR. All Rights Reserved.

This will be my last column for 2001 and I wish to convey my best wishes for a healthy, peaceful and happy new year. However, in contrast with my good will and sincere wishes, experience and intellect tell me that for us in Puerto Rico our well being is going to be increasingly conditioned to the destiny that is being carved out by the present political and oligarchic ruling classes.

Soon the first anniversary of the Calderon regime will come to pass and while I do not have the intention or the space to provide a detailed chronological account of the events that occurred during this period and influenced our lives, we in our society must make a paused and introspective review keeping in mind the classic rhetorical question of "are we better of today than we were a year ago?".

We must realize that the world and the nation are now different as a result of the attacks suffered by our fellow Americans and our declaration of war on terrorism. But as I wrote after the September events, we must also acknowledge that we cannot allow these acts to serve as subterfuge for the ailments and tragedies that were brought upon us in Puerto Rico by the forces of our own local evil empire.

If the good people of Puerto Rico, all of us, could divorce ourselves from political, partisan and ideological fanaticism we could come, as many of different persuasions already have, to the pragmatic conclusion that Calderon has miserably failed even the most modest expectations of her strongest apologists.

The initial tone of what we would sadly come to expect can be exemplified by the self-contradicted alledged budget deficit which was later ignored or denied by the conduct of a governor who had no reservations on spending millions in the re-modeling of La Fortaleza including lavish furnishings for her own personal accommodations.

In essence, contradiction and denial have become the style of government and while the scandals and corruption of officials of the former administration have continued to serve Calderon’s political expediency, they do little to assist average citizens seeking good jobs, education, healthcare or an improvement on their quality of life.

What has been done and accomplished? Nothing, except for the only instance where the rampant political bureaucracy has been unusually fast and efficient: changing the signs on the vast number of on-going public infrastructure projects to replace the name of the former governor under whose tenure they were initiated.

There also seems to be a more sinister design in the apparent chaos and absence of leadership and direction that have punctuated this first year of what seems to be not a term but a sentence. Instead of being satisfied with getting away with accomplishing little or nothing and coasting on the momentum generated by the on-going progress and change she inherited, Calderon seems to have embarked from the outset on a deliberate task of destruction. Obliteration will breed forgetfulness.

Little by little, and bit by bit she has eroded and begun to disassemble indisputably worthy accomplishments of the previous administration. As a symbol of what would follow, on first impulse they sought to demolish the new coliseum in Hato Rey. When that proposal became too scandalous even to their standards, they downsized and changed its design until the finished project will turn out much different than what was carefully envisioned and planed. When it fails to serve its purpose, Calderon will blame it on the previous administration, and "come to the rescue" spending substantially more than if they had allowed it to be completed in its original design.

The urban train has been derailed, so that the longer it takes for its completion the lesser the memory of the voters. Who could dare mention "Route 66" by its contaminated designation, even though when and if finally resumed it will vary little from the works that were stopped by yet another temper tantrum? Who will have to pay when the "re-invented" Condado Trio fails? And who will pay the possible court awards to its former developer?

Consistent with campaign assurances Calderon has not cancelled the health card, but deceitfully it became one of her primary targets. As with other previous initiatives, instead she is slowly biting and biting away, until it is left with so little support that it will self-collapse so that she can continue blaming others for her purposeful failures.

And then of course there is the question of Vieques. An historic agreement fallen by the wayside, a betrayal to the people of Vieques used as a pawn for yet another federal economic crutch to help sustain an admittedly failed political-economic model of colonialism, apartheid and segregation.

Perhaps it may be Hugo Chavez who will have to come to Puerto Rico’s rescue, for after that gratuitous slap in the face on her first day in office, Uncle Sam and the American taxpayers he symbolizes are weary of lending a hand to those that feel so foreign as to fail to denounce their own terrorists as evil as bin Laden.

In conclusion, as each day passes I suspect many will grow closer to the opinion of a friend who predicted that Calderon’s regime would be remembered by Puerto Ricans more as a curse than as a dismal failure. Once again, happy new year!

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