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The Colonialism Business In Puerto Rico

By Arturo J. Guzmán

March 10, 2002
Copyright © 2002 SAN JUAN STAR. All Rights Reserved.

Editor’s Note: This is the fourth and final part in a series begun Jan. 28th.
All articles in this series can be accessed via the PR Perspective Archive.

In the previous three columns on this topic I outlined some of the basic reasons why our economic model cannot be changed independently from our political condition because neither can subsist apart or without the other. Conversely, this series confirmed that the current economic model can be streamlined and made much more responsive and efficient, and included an overview of the policies that could and should be implemented to achieve these improvements.

The question that remained was that if these basic but fundamental changes would produce a healthier and more prosperous economy, increase private sector investment and job creation opportunities, and provide mainland taxpayers a substantial relief from Puerto Rico’s inordinate dependency on federal fund transfers, who were the principal forces that had and continue to prevent them?

Ironically, the largest obstacle to be overcome in achieving an economic governmental reform in Puerto Rico is the significant segment of the population that has been purposely and traditionally misled into believing that citizens exist to serve the government instead of in affirming the true democratic foundation that it is government that is organized to serve the people. In essence they have been made to believe that people are subservient to government so that they can be subjected and made dependent on the governmental colonialist structures of the party-state.

In the process this considerable group has been raised oblivious and unable to grasp the fact that government should be but an extension of the people’s will and responsibility. As a tragic result, unlike other American jurisdictions where the population zealously makes government account for how it invests and spends their tax Dollars, few in Puerto Rico give it any attention.

What makes the situation worse is that only a disproportionate small number of the citizenry has the fiscal right to give governmental economic policies their attention. The rest could not care less for in fact it is not their money that is being misspent and wasted. They are part of the vast network that makes up an underground economy that is the direct consequence of an unjust and unfair colonial tax structure that seems only to exist to penalize honest citizens.


The understanding of this system of unjust taxation is very simple: the smaller the tax base (number of taxpayers), the higher the taxes; the higher the taxes, the smaller the tax base because people are "driven" to under-reporting or not reporting taxable income. Compounding the problem are the attitudes of Washington politicians that have traditionally thrown money at Puerto Rico as the way to preserve a "little colonial plantation" to be used by their big corporate contributors to make inordinate profits through tax concessions politically untenable in any state of the union and unknowingly subsidized by the average American taxpayer.

All of these conditions have created a local "culture" of "easy-come, easy-go", where just about no one gives a hoot, thus giving local government a "carte-blanche" to waste and misspend local and national hard-earned tax Dollars in any way it pleases without having to submit to public accountability beyond the basic requirement to waste and misspend in an honest manner.

Another formidable force that stands before economic reform, are the governmental labor unions. Due to the fact that government has a monopoly of basic services such as utilities, it allows the unions to hold inordinate power to blackmail public administrators and hold the population hostage. If these basic services were individually owned by the private sector, labor strife at any of them would not entail the type of generalized labor turmoil than can and has paralyzed Puerto Rico cyclically. Comes an election year and the threat is made evident by the unions: either government complies with labor demands or they will go on a general strike and cost them the election. Of course, you know and you have paid out of your pocket for the predictable reaction of politicians...

Finally, the most powerful adversaries of economic reform are the local vested interests of the segregationist party and its oligarchy. Economic improvement for the average Puerto Rican, and divestiture of governmental control of basic services is construed by them as the loss of control over the economic and political destiny of our people. Colonies by design are perverse and created to exploit people who in the case of Puerto Ricans accidentally also happen to be American citizens.

These forces I’ve described are fully cognizant that any improvement of economic conditions for the average citizen, and less intrusive government, foster individuality and emancipation and they also know that even limited economic reform will lead and force the final demise of the colonial political-economic model, so they must be stopped.

However, better education and communication, travel, work and study experiences stateside are increasingly providing Puerto Ricans with a basis for comparison free of propaganda and manipulation. This concluding fact sustains my conviction that it won’t be long before our people rebel and hold their own "Puerto Rican Tea Party".

Arturo J. Guzman can be contacted at:

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