Thursday, September 1, 2011

Colonialism is Alive and Well

Colonialism, the expansion, the acquisition of a territory by people from another territory. The control of one power over a dependent people.

Puerto Rico, the perfect example of modern day colonialism or neo-colonialism, as some would say. Hidden under the blanket of terms created by the U.S. (commonwealth) and Luis Muñoz Marin (Estado Libre Associado -ELA which translates to Free Associated State), it is the "the world's oldest colony" and continues to only get older as such.

Article 4, Section 3 of the U.S. Constitution clearly states, "The Congress shall have Power to dispose of and make all needful Rules and Regulations respecting the Territory or other Property belonging to the United States; and nothing in this Constitution shall be so construed as to Prejudice any Claims of the United States, or of any particular State." It's quite simple, Congress can do or say whatever it wants to. 

In 1952, then President, Harry S. Truman wrote to Congress requesting the approval of the Puerto Rico constitution. He wrote, "We are giving new substance to man's hope for a world with liberty and equality under law. Those who truly love freedom know that the right relationship between a government and its people is one based on mutual consent and esteem." The approval of the constitution was then a stepping stone towards the adherence to the principle of self-determination. Or just smoking mirrors? Puerto Rico, by creating it own constitution, was merely allowed to put up a smoking mirror.

U.S. Representatives proved that smoking mirrors was the case, in 1954, when in front of the United Nations they sought to have Puerto Rico removed from the UN list of non-self governing territories (colony). Two years after the approval of Puerto Rico's constitution and a slight offer of independence, which meant nothing when Congress held all plenary powers, the attempt here was to serve as a public relations win at the United Nations in the world arena. This motion proved the arrogance and complete disrespect of the Puerto Rican people and the hypocrisy of a nation built on freedom and democracy. Truman's Administration label of 'commonwealth' had nothing to offer in terms of change. And so, Muñoz Marin cannot be blamed for his attempt to convince Puerto Ricans that his "Free Associated State" was the best of all political worlds. It was more an attempt to appease the people when in reality there was not a damn thing he could possibly do when facing the might of a Congress that scoffed at both statehood and independence.

Free Associated State? Not when you are neither free nor a state. With no path to statehood nor independence, why not make offers of enhancement to the commonwealth? A path, Muñoz Marin and his followers began to take after being reminded, on several occasions, that "nothing fundamentally" changed in 1952. Puerto Rico's political, social and economic relationship with the U.S. had not changed, Pedro was now called Peter. 

What is so puzzling is that so many will say to let bygones be bygones. Isn't Puerto Rico better off today then it was then? My response: In theory, this may seem so but in truth it is no different. Its political, social and economic houses have merely changed hands and continue to be exploited and/or ignored. Second,do we not remember and commemorate those events that are historic or even tragic? Yes, we do. The bottom line is that the lack of knowledge about this U.S. possession in the Caribbean is a shame. In Puerto Rico, nearly 114 years after the U.S. invasion at Guanica, colonialism is alive and well.

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