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The Colonialism Business In Puerto Rico, Part 2

By Arturo J. Guzmán

February 7, 2002
Copyright © 2002 SAN JUAN STAR. All Rights Reserved.

At some point during their tenure in office, incoming local government administrations announce proposals to "change" Puerto Rico’s economic model. Invariably and resoundingly their efforts fail when they come to grips with the reality that Puerto Rico’s economic model cannot be changed separately from its political model because they are an inextricable part of each other.

Puerto Rico’s economic model began to be developed in the late 1930’s and throughout the 40’s by the ultra-liberal leftists that wanted to continue their socialistic and sociological experimentation in a subjective society that would allow them immunity from becoming politically embarrassing to the Roosevelt-Truman administrations as had been the case with the defunct National Recovery Act.

While studying the subject I became convinced that the designers of our economic-political condition followed the architectural golden rule that form should follow function, and first created an economic model for perpetuating colonialism to be followed by a political model that would be subservient to the primary economic interest. As I have stated before, colonialism is a business, so what they devised was a mechanism for preserving the vested national economic interests and their local oligarchic administrators under the pretense of providing for a modest measure of local self-government that would incidentally also serve to keep the natives from becoming too restless.

These business and strategic interests could not afford the luxury of applying to Puerto Rico the usual formula of imposing the typical dictatorial regimes of the infamous "banana republics", due to the fact that even at "second class" Puerto Ricans were still American citizens. Interestingly they went to the opposite, and "politically correct" extreme of state economic socialism as the closest form of totalitarianism that could be disguised under an American regime if undertaken under the cause of political and economic justice for the people.

Thus, the "Big Brother" economic concept of government was given equal political tools that would promote under the veil of democracy a "soft" partisan dictatorship that would maintain the established economic order in exchange for being allowed to rule over the internal domestic affairs of the colony, and individually profit as the minority partners of the oligarchy.

This modernized "economic-political" model of colonialism came to fruition in 1952. Congress cosmetically changed the Island’s name, formerly denominated "Porto Rico" and later corrected to Puerto Rico, to the "Commonwealth of Puerto Rico". Also, after unilaterally making amendments, the Congress approved the enactment of a local constitution, but preserved unaltered its political status as "an unincorporated territory subject to the plenary powers of the Congress under the territory clause of the U.S. Constitution".

By retaining sovereignty, unequivocal, and absolute power over Puerto Rico the Congress was reserving for itself the guarantee to protect the vested interests so that the business of colonialism would remain intact even if in time, as later proved to be the case, an opposition party would ascend to local political power.

An opposition party would be kept totally powerless from undertaking any significant changes to the existing economic-political structure by making it mutually interdependent and thus ensuring that only the Congress could change, amend or repeal it. As Muñoz Marín notoriously stated while testifying before the Congress, "if we go crazy you can always legislate..." thus candidly and openly admitting the continued supremacy of the Congress over the local constitution and insular statute.

Over time, the strategy of improving the business of colonialism was to pay off handsomely by providing investment and marketing opportunities with large profits in the form of subsidies and corporate welfare for big American industry, as was the case with Section 936 of the Internal Revenue code, while allowing their true nature to be hidden from the average American taxpayer.

These reasons allow for the implicit recognition that economic policy is almost undistinguishable regardless of whether the segregationist or the integrationist party is in power. That is also the fundamental reason why the Congress has impeded any changes of status, and the reason why many within the local oligarchy oppose even the discussion of the subject. They do not truly fear or oppose the political changes than in fact would empower Puerto Ricans as American citizens; what they really fear is loosing the monopoly over the ruling economic order.

While the economic model can’t be changed under the present status, it is also true that it can be streamlined and made simpler, less wasteful, and more efficient and that will continue as the subject of my next column.

Arturo J. Guzman can be contacted at:

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