The American Taxpayer and The Colony Of Puerto Rico

Puerto Rico is a Colony of the United States since 1898. We are American citizens since 1917. We cannot vote for the President of the U.S. Puerto Rico is bankrupt even though we receive 22 Billion dollars from hard working American Taxpayers every year. I believe in Statehood for Puerto Rico because I believe in equality as a citizen and taxwise. Puerto Ricans do not pay federal taxes. Our annual budget is 9.2 Billion dollars of which 5 Billions goes in paying government employees which number 260,000. The actual governor, Anibal Acevedo Vila favors the actual status (The Colony). About 90% of anything being built here is paid by federal funds. Streets are full of potholes, umemployment is about 18%, level of poverty is about 60%. I believe Congress should investigate why Puerto Rico is bankrupt even with 22 Billion dollars in aid. Where is all the money going?


10 thoughts on “The American Taxpayer and The Colony Of Puerto Rico

  1. Statehood is not a real option for Puerto Rico since it means the dissolution of Puerto Rico. To see statehood as the direction for Puerto Rico means basically to see the termination of Puerto Rico as its future. I am looking at new emerging forms of resistance and economic justice in Latin America that may offer a new direction for the island. I would like to see a sound analysis of the NONE OF THE ABOVE option most of the electorate voted for during the last status “plebiscito” within the context of the new emerging left in Latin America. As far as the current debacle is concerned. Puerto Rico is not the first country or government to run out of money, neither will it be the last. Think of New York City, with a much larger budget and population, in the seventies when it ran out of money. Where did that bail out come from? Remember the headline: Ford to New York City– Drop Dead. Think microeconomics and more equitable trading partners in Latin America.

  2. Also, I would like to say that you seem to imply that money is vanishing through, incompetence or malfeasance or corruption. It is probably “all of the above.” But if you want to start pointing fingers, I suggest you look at the statehood party which seems to be the most corrupt, arrogant and garish of the two — or rather — three parties.

  3. The American tax payer includes hardworking stateside Puerto Ricans. Let’s not forget this. Let’s also not forget that American companies in Puerto Rico are making double-fisted dollars without paying a cent in taxes. That the U.S. rented Vieques to foreign powers for military training to the high tune of 50 or was it 80 million dollars per year? Equally important to point out is that Puerto Rico is one of the U.S.’s major trading partners. Why? Because Puerto Rico is a subsidized market for American products. Need to keep the circulation of commodities going? Create your own market in a colony where you never have to worry about competition because there is none. Puerto Rico can not trade with other countries and get a better deal. It’s stuck with American products even if there are better or cheaper ones.

    I would not be too concerned about the American taxpayer in light of the above. I would be concerned about getting a fair deal for Puerto Rico as a distinct and sovereign nation with its own culture and political future that necessarily would involve the U.S. but under more equitable and just terms.

  4. (for ksmit)
    What would you suggest? Even if it’s for military reasons, should the United States relinquish hold?
    And does the fact that Puerto Rico is a subsidized market for “American” products, isn’t it a lack of innovativeness or inventiveness that Puerto Ricans are not doing as you say…”create [their] own market” to make the economy better instead of accepting the 22 Billion that you inferred is not good enough compensation.

  5. Ricardo; Where is all the money going?

    To the pockets, just look at the 3/4+ million dollar homes sprouting around like mushroom!

  6. How does any country sustain itself but through internal and external trade. Independence does not mean the end of a relationship to the U.S. necessarily. It does mean the end of a particular kind of relationship–that of a colony. Independence could mean the freedom to trade with the U.S. as well as other countries. It could also mean the creation of small internal markets. Thinking beyond the global markets that have a centrifugal type of development, impoverishing small markets to meet the needs of foreign markets. There are other models for growth but they involve greater equity generally and a more balanced political economy for large and small nations.

  7. Ksmit

    I live in Puerto Rico, but was brought up in New York. I know about Puerto Rican and U.S. politics very well. SOME U.S. Congressmen receive FUNDS (in some cases recycled Federal Funds) from the local budget given by the colonial government to help maintain Puerto Rico a Colony. There are about 5,000 Colonial leaders that NEED Puerto Rico to be maintained as a COLONY, because they live off of Federal Funds and local Budget funds, they have studied in the best colleges and universities and their children also and live in big MANSIONS thanks to your tax dollars. They NEED this to be a COLONY and SOME Congressmen NEED this money for their campaigns in the U.S. so they don’t care what happens to Puerto Rico. Speaking of corrupt parties: Let him, that is free of sin, cast the first stone! I think this is corruption to maintain a COLONY. It’s outrageous! Those that don’t care, pay the price (the taxpayer).

  8. Puerto Rico, Puerto Ricans, and the New Politics of Decolonization

    Agustin Lao-Montes
    Yale University

    First, I will like to locate myself, who is speaking and from which intellectual, political, and social locations. I am a Puerto Rican intellectual, particularly a social scientist, who have lived in-between the archipelago of Puerto Rico and the U.S. for the last 25 years or so. As such I also self-define as Afro-Latino, and as an activist-intellectual who is not affiliated or sympathetic to any political party but that is engaged in social movements both in the United States and in Latin America as part of the current wave of antisystemic movements as we shall see. I begin by saying who I am, not only to be consistent with the feminist principle that knowledge is always the product of the autobiographic lens of who is producing it, but also to place myself within the political landscape in question, namely the politics of Puerto Rico and the Puerto Rican diaspora. To make clear that I am speaking from locations and articulating analyses different from what is common sense in the political parties (both from Puerto Rico and the U.S.). My angles of vision and analytical perspectives are rather coming from my intellectual identity as a college professor, and from my political identity as a participant in local, national, and transnational social movements.
    Hence, I will not particularly address the problem of the status of Puerto Rico but will rather analyze what I consider to be the deeper inquiry at stake here which is the question of decolonization. But one of my main contentions is that the theory and politics of decolonization has been redefined beyond the mere concept and project of formal political decolonization, that is to say that decolonization is more than merely kicking-out an imperial power from the administration of a colonial state, that decolonization is much more than independence in the sense of building a sovereign nation-state. This in turn supposes and implies a theory of power and social change that could link local, national, and global processes, what I call a world-historical perspective on the question of power and agency in the modern world-system. In this vein, Peruvian sociologist Anibal Quijano coined the concept of the coloniality of power to provide an analytical frame to understand the global pattern of western domination and capitalist exploitation that was instituted in the 16th century with the so-called discovery of the Americas and the concomitant rise of European imperial hegemony along with the organization of the capitalist world-economy and the emergence of Eurocentric discourses of history, knowledge, culture, and identity. Such matrix of power combines uneven and unequal distribution of wealth in the world-economy with geo-political domination and subordination between states and regions (one of the key aspects of modern imperialism), together with ethno-racial hierarchies (or modern racism) and patriarchal power (gender and sexual) both which also inform hierarchical rankings of knowledges, religions, and languages. A simple way of representing the coloniality of power is as the intersection of four modes of domination: capitalism, racism, imperialism, and patriarchy. A crucial moment of change in the long duration of the coloniality of power was the 1898 Spanich-Cuban-American-Filipino War that marked the entrance of the U.S. as a significant player in the global scene and serves as a prelude for the achievement of U.S. hegemony in the world-system in the post World War II period. This is what we call a shift on the locus of western power from the Age of Europe to the Age of America (from Baudrillard to Rumsfeld). This analysis of capitalist modernity on the basis of the concept of the coloniality of power, which is adopted and developed by several scholars from Puerto Rico and Latin America (including Joseanna Arroyo, Enrique Dussel, Ramon Grosfoguel, Nelson Maldonado-Torres,Yolanda Martinez-San Miguel, Walter Mignolo, Kelvin Santiago, and myself), implies a politics of decolonization and socialization of power in all the forms and ingredients of the modern/colonial matrix in question. Decolonization is neither an event nor the making of an independent nation-state, but an on-going process of dismantling not only all the forms of imperial domination (political, economic, cultural), but also of challenging and undermining capitalism, racism, and patriarchy. For instance, Laura Briggs’ book Reproducing Empire is an exemplary piece of scholarship on the intersection of U.S. imperial power with the production of scientific knowledge in facilitating class, racial, and gender domination in twentieth century Puerto Rico. Thus, when the Nigerian writer Ngugi Da Tuongo writes about the “decolonization of the mind” and when Bolivian President Evo Morales speak in favor of the decolonization of state and economy as well as about the decolonization of the educational system, we are speaking about a complex process of radical change of all the institutions of society and of all social relations from the definitions of self, family patterns and the educational curriculum, to the forms of definition and modes of organization of polity, economy, and culture. In this sense, decolonization is a political paradigm for radical democracy and substantive social justice which is far more than mere formal political decolonization. In fact, since the 19th independence wars in the Americas up to the struggles for national liberation in African and the Caribbean in the 1960s, without denying the historical importance of the formal demise of the old European Empires, the results from simple political decolonization have been neo-colonial independence and a global reconfiguration of the coloniality of power now under the leadership of the U.S. empire. Another way of explaining the persistence of coloniality after the end of formal colonialism is by showing how ethnic and racial hierarchies persisted in Latin America and the U.S. after independence from Spain, Portugal, and Great Britain. In other words, after independence Afro-descendant and Indigenous peoples remained in the lower echelons of the social ladder and were relegated to be second class citizens without much political power and without much positive recognition of their histories and cultures. So, it should not be a surprise that a new theory and politics of decolonization is now emerging from Brazil, Mexico, and the Andean region. For example, intellectuals and rankand-file members from the indigenous and Black movements in Ecuador and Colombia are discussing and developing the coloniality of power as an analytical paradigm at the same time that they are articulating a new politics of decolonization that grapples with questions ranging from the new definitions of substantive citizenship for those effectively excluded from the liberal democratic franchise to proposals for plurinational states, inter-cultural participatory democracy, and the organization of grassroots popular economies. Consequently, one of my main points in this presentation is that we ought to problematize and renew the way that we define decolonization and its practical implications for Puerto Rico and Puerto Ricans.
    An important implication of this kind of analysis is against the assumption of Puerto Rican exceptionalism, because instead of been a colonial reality in a postcolonial world, we Puerto Rico and Puerto Ricans embody some of the most visible patterns of the coloniality of power in late modernity. To demonstrate this I will engage five intertwined themes: the question of citizenship, Puerto Ricans as a diasporic nation, the battle of Vieques, the status question, and the rise of a new way of doing Puerto Rican politics
    Citizenship: Here, I will explore the notion of citizenship not simply in its conventional use to signify formal legal membership within a national political community. If we look carefully into citizenship as a modern political category we will find a vast diversity of meanings and mapping them is beyond the scope of this presentation. Roberto Alejandro see the concept of citizenship, analogously to Borges short-story “El Aleph” as a “terrain of conflicts” and as a “space of struggles, unequal voices, and fluid boundaries” In the same vein I contend that citizenship is a barometer of the quality and degree of integration and participation in a given social and political space and as such is an unequal process and a contested terrain. There are three main dimensions of citizenship: membership, participation, and rights accompanied by duties. As all categories of modern political discourse citizenship had been appropriated for distinct and opposing political agendas but as an indicator of the terms and conditions of political membership and participation is particularly ambiguous. Citizenship had historically been a primary mechanism for drawing the external and internal boundaries of inclusion and exclusion within a nation-state. The alien is the other of the national and who is considered to authentically belong to the national community is not simply defined by legal citizenship but also of relates to criteria such as the racialization of peoples and the gendering of bodies. The case of Puerto Rico and Puerto Ricans is profoundly revealing of some of the most critical dilemmas, contradictions, and ambiguities in modern citizenship. In the second note I will briefly comment on three of them: the distinction between formal and substantive citizenship, the difference between nationality as a cultural identity and citizenship as a political identity and what I will call the coloniality of citizenship.
    Puerto Rico, Puerto Ricans, and the Coloniality of Citizenship: Puerto Ricans are often called second class citizens. How do we interpret this claim? The concept of the coloniality of power is a useful tool to analyze Puerto Rican colonial citizenship. As already explained, idea of the coloniality of power refers to unequal relations of political, economic, and cultural dominations (colonial and neocolonial) between states and regions in the capitalist world-system, but also to global hierarchies of class, racial, ethnic, national, gender, and sexual inequalities. This combination of geopolitical and economic with cultural and subjective dimensions of power is necessary to grasp the complexities of the question of citizenship in the Puerto Rican case. Arguably, from the strict standpoint of formal political colonialism, Puerto Rico is a colony of the U.S. and Puerto Ricans in the archipelago are colonial citizens in so far as there had not been a process of self-determination and the islands are still an “unincorporated territory” under command of the metropolitan state as stated in the 2005 Report of the U.S. Present’s Task Force on Puerto Rico’s Status. This territorialized form of colonial citizenship, that as we know was not the product of a democratic process but of a decision of the U.S. Congress in 1917 in which imperial military-strategic reasons played an important part, keep Puerto Rican U.S. citizens in partial subjecthood, at least to the extent they don’t participate or have proper representation in the metropolitan state. What constitutes decolonization in relationship to this situation is a matter of much debate but there is increasing consensus that the current political status is colonial and that the form of citizenship in the island suffers from a democratic deficit. I will argue that the notion of coloniality becomes even more central when we look at the other scenario of citizenship which is that of Puerto Ricans who reside in the United States, because the immediate question is not the political status of the islands but the overall condition of subordination of the Puerto Rican community in the U.S. As indicated by several studies, Puerto Rican subaltern classes in the U.S. share the worst indicators of unemployment and underemployment, poverty, school drop-out, health problems and the like, with African-Americans and Native Americans of the same social stratum. These three groups share histories of long-term coloniality taking different forms such as slavery, land expropriation, displacement, and mass migration. For Puerto Ricans, U.S. citizenship signified the legal and political framework that facilitated the emigration of close to a million people between 1947-1960, as part and parcel of the industrial development program based on U.S. Capital called Operation Bootstraps along with the redefinition of the colonial pact with the enactment of the Commonwealth in 1952. Citizenship informed the free mobility of labor and the formation of a regional labor market in the imperial-colonial nexus between Puerto Rico and the U.S. The continuous flow of Puerto Rican migration to the U.S. and the organization of Boricua communities in key centers like New York City was one of the unintended consequences of colonial citizenship. The scale and endurance of the overwhelmingly labor great migration after World War II was also partly planned to promote social peace and full employment in Puerto Rico, the key showcase and colonial lab of the virtues of U.S. sponsored development and modernization during the Cold War. In spite of the formal equality recognized by U.S. citizenship Puerto Ricans for the most did not enjoy of the benefits of the postwar economic boom and experienced political, cultural, and racial subordination in the United States. Indeed, the condition of persistent inequality indicated by continuous occupation by many Puerto Ricans of the lowest echelons of the labor market, disproportionally high levels of unemployment and low levels of labor force participation, along with governmental neglect in basic goods such as education, healthcare, and housing; demonstrate that the Puerto Rican subaltern majorities in the U.S. do not enjoy the substantive benefits of U.S. citizenship. This situation should not deny the existence of a relatively large and active Puerto Rican professional-managerial class and political elite in the U.S., a class that to some extent is the product of the historical struggles of Puerto Ricans to obtain the rights (civic, political, social) and resources promised to bearers of U.S. citizenship. A crucial question here is why after several generations in the U.S. the American Dream of social mobility, achievement of middle class status, and full integration into the body politic had not been realized for the majority of Puerto Ricans in the U.S. African-Americans had been defined at least since DuBois as internal colonial subjects of the U.S. empire and white republic, who because of the racial hierarchies of the American society do not enjoy of the same rights and benefits of white America. Similarly, Puerto Ricans first as colonial migrants and then as a subject people racialized as non-white in American racial regimes, tend to occupy a subaltern position in terms of political power, economic location, and cultural recognition. Membership in national communities is mediated not only by legal status but also by racial, cultural, class, and gender/sexual criteria of who belongs and who is a stranger to the mainstream national community. These material and discursive, structural and ideological barriers to substantive citizenship is what constitute what I call the coloniality of citizenship to conceptualize a condition and process that has been shaped in the case of Puerto Rico and Puerto Ricans by a history of long-term colonialism. Puerto Ricans in the United States, in spite of been U.S. citizens that according to such definition of political identity are formally equal to any other citizen, remain as Puerto Rican nationals in terms of their cultural identification and of their/our identity as a people. We are in the precise language of Willie Colon “legal aliens.”
    Translocal Nation, Transmigration, and Diasporic Citizenship: Since the 1970s Puerto Rican migration became a circular process back and forth. For many it turned into a way of dwelling-in-travel to the extent that a large percentage of the Puerto Rican labor force began to have less options of good employment in either shore of the Atlantic pond. As the forms of travel, communication, and exchange between the archipelago and Puerto Rican communities in the U.S. diversified and intensified, Puerto Rican individuals, families, political parties, social movements, and institutions in general composed tied networks between the islands and the mainland. The formation of this translocal space of flows is certainly indicative of the process of annexation to the U.S. (political, economic, and cultural) and of what to paraphrase Efren Rivera Ramos I will call imperial-colonial hegemony. I contend that this dispersion of Puerto Rican population and the resulting multiplication of the spaces of Puerto Rican life in the United States had reterritorialized the geography of the Puerto Rican nation beyond the Caribbean archipelago thus including Puerto Ricans in the U.S. mainland. Part of what is implicit in this argument is that in light of colonialism, including the possession of colonial citizenship, Puerto Ricans had been massively displaced and relocated, first mostly to world cities like New York and Chicago and eventually across the United States. This situation of dispersion and inter-connection under conditions of colonial difference is what accounts for our character as a diasporic or translocal nation. To the extent that we self-identify as a distinct people and that we are identified as other by U.S. governmental, corporate, intellectual, and public cultures, and in so far as colonial difference colors our collective condition, we continue being Puerto Rican nationals in spite of being U.S. citizens. This promotes a sort of double consciousness in which most Puerto Ricans identify culturally as Boricua at the same time that prefer to maintain the benefits of U.S citizenship in terms of entitlements, rights, and mobility. This double patriotism is a good example of the distiction between what Habermas call constitutional patriotism and ethnic loyalty. It also shows the ambiguities of colonial citizenship which on the one hand is a form of subordination that legitimizes U.S. hegemony, and on the other a framework for extending the franchise and obtaining rights and resources from the metropolitan state.
    The relative nomadism that characterize the lives of many Puerto Ricans from cosmopolitan intellectuals to seasonal workers (some in world cities, others in agribusiness) makes the actual practices of citizenship a multilayered process of negotiation and adjustment in different contexts akin to what Aiwa Ong calls flexible citizenship and Ramon Grosfoguel subversive complicity. Thus, in the diasporic conditions of the Puerto Rican nation there are multiple levels and sites of citizenship from the archipelago, to the world cities, to the metropolitan state, up to global horizons. The movement for a Puerto Rican/Latino major in New York can be described as a struggle for the right to the city from its urban citizens. The question of latinidad itself reveals some of the paradoxes of Puerto Rican colonial citizenship and hybrid identity as we often are labeled as Latino in the U.S. and Americans in Latin America. On the other hand, the most current struggle in Vieques can be partly defined as a plea for human rights as a form of global citizenship.
    The Battle of Vieques, the Dialectics of Colonial Citizenship, and Globalization: For a long time Vieques had been at the frontline of Puerto Rican fights for decolonization and a key element in the negotiations of the colonial relationship and cititizenship. In the 1940s and 1950s the militarization of Vieques was an important component of the negotiation that culminated in the new colonial pact embodied in the Commonwealth. It was also with the neighboring island of Culebra an important focus of the Puerto Rican new social movements of the sixties and seventies against war, militarism, and colonialism. In the early 1980s I was part of a vibrant movement in New York City in solidarity with the struggle of the people of Vieques, especially the fishermen. I want to highlight that this was part of a larger movement throughout the U.S. and that in New York there was a broad-based committee with representation from different sectors of the Puerto Rican community including elected officials like Gilberto Gerena Valentin (also the organizer of the first Puerto Rican Day Parade) and community-labor leader Jose Rivera who in the 1990s as a Councilman introduced a resolution that was approved in the New York City Council against the U.S. navy bombings in Vieques. The long Battle of Vieques exemplifies the meaning of citizenship as an arena of struggles in which social movements are the most dynamic elements pushing for the extension of the franchise, the amplification of the types and claims of rights, and the concrete content and practices of citizenship. Especially in its most current incarnation after the assassination of David Sanes the Vieques movement is multifaceted including ecological, health, labor, women, peace, anti-militaristic, and anti-imperialist, and popular-democratic components to it. Its broad-based character and its overwhelming level of support among Puerto Ricans constitutes it as one of these rare movements and moments in which a colonial nation close ranks against an empire, in spite of the enormous differences (class, gender, race, ideological, etc) internal to the imagined community. The Vieques struggle is not for political independence but it has significant anti-imperial elements and counter-colonial effects because its immediate target is one of the largest military complexes of the U.S. in the world and because its clearly shows the colonial power of the metropolitan state not only over the Puerto Rican people but also over the insular colonial state. Puerto Rican congresspeople Luis Gutierrez, Nydia Velazquez and Jose Serrano, our only representatives given the territorial limitations of our second class citizenship, had persuasively argued, with many others from both the archipelago and the mainland, that the abuses of the U.S. Navy in Vieques are executed against U.S. citizens. But Vieques can demonstrate the ambiguities of modern citizenship and the dialectics of colonial citizenship. From the standpoint of the rather small independence movement Vieques will most likely be an important step in the struggle for self-determination and the building of a formally sovereign nation-state with its own legal citizenship. From the perspective of the majority of Puerto Ricans who support the cause of Vieques, the movement translates into claims for rights to peace, health, ecological harmony, and democratic control over their local affairs. However, Vieques can also reveal the limits of the politics of rights and of colonial citizenship itself. Claiming rights as U.S. citizens also means fulfilling duties such as participarting in wars and contributing to building the strongest military complex in human history and that’s the claim of the U.S. Navy. After the past September 11th, the imperial imperative of security and militaristic patriotism affected the course of the battle of Vieques. In fact, an important question at this particular juncture is how the anti-terrorist laws and the on-going dismantling of the metropolitan welfare state, with the resulting assault on civil liberties and erosion of the social wage can transform the actual content of U.S. citizenship and particularly how will it affect colonial citizenship. In this sense, Vieques can serve as a baromoter to evaluate both the limits and possibilities of liberal colonial citizenship as well as the seamy side of U.S. democracy, its institutions and practices of coercion and surveillance, and its militarism. But the power to decide the resolution of the battle of Vieques still resides in the metropolitan state and this is the ultimate proof of what is colonial or second class citizenship. In spite of a powerful broad-based movement with widespread global support including in some sectors of power in the U.S. the resolution of the Vieques problem (to call it that way) is not certain and the only engine of democratization and decolonization is the movement itself. As I said before the social movement for peace and justice in Vieques had been embraced as a key struggle by broad sectors of the Puerto Rican community in the U.S. The late David Santiago, a dear brother and a brilliant political cadre, organized a U.S. campaing against the U.S. Navy in Vieques while housed in the National Puerto Rican Coalition in Washington, D.C. Political groupings and grassroots organizations in Puerto Rican neighborhoods across the mainland had taken Vieques as a primary concern and this shows the translocal character of some significant social movements in the Puerto Rican diasporic nation. I contend that the radical democratic ethos of some of these social movements bear the main promise for the democratization of U.S. citizenship and the decolonization of Puerto Rican life. In these neoliberal times in which the role of the citizen had been partly reduced to been a consumer and a passive elector and politics to a mass mediated spectacle, movements like the one in Vieques represent the promise of the democratization and decolonization of citizenship. In light of its level of popular support, multifaceted character, and global appeal, the struggle for peace and justice in Vieques had been embraced by many other movements across the U.S. and throughout the world. As Francois Houtart claims in an article on the new wave of social movements against capitalist neo-liberal organization and the new imperialism, Vieques is perhaps the only victory of antisystemic movements against U.S militarism. The appeal to ecology, health, peace, and local democracy as human rights and the struggle against militarism and repression makes the movement for Vieques one of regional and global concern. In so far as there is an increasing globalization of claims of rights and the terrains for democratic struggles, as exemplified in the anti-neoliberal globalization movements, the question of citizenship in the context of Vieques is also part of a larger struggle for global justice, rights, and citizenship, of what we can call global decolonization.
    Postnationalist Decolonizations: Decolonial Shifts Beyond the State of the Parties
    After drawing a larger picture and providing what I consider a more complex theoretical and political framework, we can now focus on the status question. First, I want to reaffirm an argument that often repeated after the patent fiscal crash of the Puerto Rican colonial state past may, which is that the current status is not only in crisis but that is exhausted its historical possibilities. The days of el ELA are counted, the neo-colonial experiment that was the main showcase and colonial laboratory for the post World War II U.S. project of economic development and political modernization is now economic unsaistainable and politically inconvenient. Indeed, nobody relevant political actors neither in Puerto Rico nor in the U.S. defend it as it is because the Puerto Rican miracle turned into an economic mirage artificially sustained by U.S. federal funds, by one of the most elastic credit systems in the world, and by an economic rationality based on tax-abatements and cheap labor that is not competitive anymore in the present neo-liberal climate of free trade for U.S. transnational capital in the Americas. Even a recent New York Times’ editorial, on October 23, titled Puerto Rico, Island in Distress, argues that “Poverty on the island is rampant. The per capita income is just about half of the poorest state in the United States. Nearly one-third of the population was unemployed in 2000”, and also concludes that “Much of the blame can be put in Wahsington, which has been tone deaf to the islandis needs”. A recently released study by Brookings Institute and the Center for a New Economy also recognized Puerto Rico’s chronic economic malaise and therefore the pressing need for serious reform. We can certainly speak about a consensus among the official political actors in Puerto Rico about the need to device a political formula of formal decolonization and self-determination in spite of significant differences in the practical interpretation of what this means and we will have the occasion to hear and discuss these type of nuances this afternoon. We can even identify a declared will on the part of the executive and legislative branches of the U.S. government (U.S. imperial state as I prefer to refer to it), to find a solution to the Puerto Rican status problem as expressed in two reports issued in 2005, one by the U.S. Congress and the other by an inter-agency Presidential Task Force on Puerto Rico. However, in practice I contend that what’s been happening with the question of the Puerto Rican Status, at least since the early 1990s, is what I call a convenient policy if imperial neglect. To understand this it is important to recognize that the U.S. government is a complex institutional apparatus with diverse and often competing interests, at the same time that we acknowledge that they ultimately converge in devising discourses and enacting policies in favor of U.S. imperial power. For instance, the U.S. Department of Treasury may tend to favor free association or independence because its members are more likely to see Puerto Rico as a fiscal burden, while the Pentagon (and in the case of Vieques specifically the Navy) will be more inclined for statehood in light of geo-military criteria. On the other hand, hard edge right wingers such as Patrick Buchanan and even neo-conservative democrats such as Samuel Huntington express their manifest allergy to the possibility of Puerto Rico becoming a Spanish-speaking Afro-Latino state. In the anti-immigrant, nativist, neo-conservative and neo-liberal bi-partisan cultural climates that color and defines the terms of political discourse in the U.S., the possibility of Puerto Rico to become a state of the union is not only a matter of debate but furthermore it has been one of the main factors that provoked an impasse in the U.S. Congress and in the executive (in spite of rhetorical declarations by the two Bushes in favor of statehood) in regard to the Puerto Rican status. The end result has been a perpetuation of the status-quo in so far as is not affecting U.S. geo-politics and political-economy. The changes promoted by the metropolitan state, like the elimination of the tax exceptions for U.S. corporations (the famous 936), and the relocation of the U.S. Navy complex between Ceiba and Vieques, are motivated by shifting federal policies (in the case of the elimination of 936 neo-liberal fiscal austerity having more weight than supporting the colonial welfare state). On the other hand, the reluctant decision of the U.S. Navy to dismantle Rossevelt Roads, the largest military complex in the Western Hemisphere, was primarily the outcome of a long-sustained popular struggle in Vieques with a considerable degree of support in Puerto Rico and globally as we already saw, but it also have to be understand in the current world-historical context of the post-Cold War period when Puerto Rico is not anymore the key strategic military node that it was until the 1980s. In this context, thre is a growing tendency in the U.S. political elites to favor a formula of neo-colonial independence for Puerto Rico in which the archipelago will be formally decolonized but still under U.S. political-economic and geo-political domination. This will be as put by Ramon Grosfoguel “the colony without the benefits of the colony” in terms the entitlements of U.S. citizenship including mobility in migration, federal transfer payments, and labor and social rights. In sum, the outcome of a somewhat unintended policy of imperial neglect has been that Puerto Rico is taken for granted by the U.S. imperial state, the steps taken toward a resolution to the status question has been truncated both by internal debates (in Puerto Rico and in the U.S.) but also by a lack of political will to move the agenda beyond piecemeal policies convenient for the powers that be in the U.S. In a bi-partisan atmosphere of imperial nationalism accompanied by a neo-liberal consensus, the prospects for a resolution of the Puerto Rican status from above based on principles and practices of self-determination and social justice do not look very promising.
    Approaching the resolution of the Puerto Rican status from above does not only means from the angle of the U.S. metropolitan state but also from the perspective of what the late Emilio Gonzalez Diaz called the state of the parties in Puerto Rico. In other words, there is a need of de-centering Puerto Rican politics, meaning promoting new political actors, beyond the party system that represent three conventional options to a simply framed status question while none of them articulate a project of decolonization addressing more than legal and formal political issues. This will require an analysis, like the one we have been presenting here using the concept of the coloniality of power, to locate Puerto Rico and Puerto Ricans in the history of the modern world-system and in the present stage of neo-liberal globalization, so that we can identify the structural limitations as well as the possible futures that we can construct. Part of the problem in the Puerto Rican system of political parties is that the excessive focus on the status question had locked the political terrain, on the one hand with a narrow definition of the Puerto Rican national-colonial question simply in terms of the kind of relationship with the U.S. (without much consideration of substantive issues such as how to address questions of class and social polarization, and racial and gender inequality in Puerto Rico), and on the other hand as an electoral contest over the administration of the colonial state. As a result, Puerto Rican political parties lack clear answers to basic questions that concern Puerto Rican nationals, such as how to restructure the economy to satisfy basic needs of employment and consumption, how to not only maintain but also make more substantive a U.S. citizenship that most Puerto Ricans (I will say 95%) want not only to defend by to extend in terms if rights and full participation, and how to build a fully democratic and egalitarian social pact free of class, racial, and gender oppressions for Puerto Ricans both in the island and in the U.S. mainland. I am not saying that I have clear-cut answers to these dilemmas of decolonization, but that at least we need to have solid analyses of global structures of power as well as well-defined historical projects that could guide flesh-out strategies of decolonization. This is what I call post-nationalist decolonizations because what is at stake is not building an independent nation-state but to fight and advocate for an on-going process of decolonization of polity, economy, culture, education, and identity. This entails what Puerto Rican philosopher Nelson Maldonado-Torres baptized as a decolonial turn in critical theory and in our radical political projects, in order to fulfill the incomplete project of decolonizatrion.
    I contend that the main living forces of the new politics of decolonization are the social movements like the current campaign in Vieques for the four Ds (demilitarization, decontamination, devolution of land, and sustainable development), and the struggle in Pinones that combines claims for cultural rights and against racism, and a plea for ecological integrity and the right to place, with opposition to a neo-liberal economic model based on transnational tourist industries and in favor of locally-based grassroots development. This is what we can call decolonization from below.
    The Puerto Rican Social Forum that will take place next week at the University of Puerto Rico, and where there are more than 200 activities registered representing a vast array of organizations from Puerto Rican civil society (both in the island and in the diaspora), provides a clear example of the emergence of new ways of doing politics in the translocal nation. The claims, goals, and projects of the novissimo social movements that compose the Foro Social Puertorriqueno are not primarily defined by the status question and as a matter of principle the foros (beginning with the first World Social Forum in 2001 at Porto Alegre, Brazil) do not admit political parties. The totto of the forum “Another Puerto Rico is possible articulates a will to build alternative decolonized futures while it expresses an intend to move the agenda “from protest to proposal”. I will be speaking in a closing plenary on Latin American views about Puerto Rico and Puerto Ricans, to precisely argue that the new politics of decolonization in Latin America places Puerto Rico at the center of the new paradigms of liberation, radical democracy, and social justice. On the other hand, the Puerto Rican diaspora in the U.S. in light of the condition of internal colonialism, of second class citizenship, racial and class inequality, political disenfranchisement, and cultural devalorization, to which the Ame-Rican (to use the apt expression of poet Tato Laviera) are submitted, has been and continue to be significant actors in the decolonization of the empire from within the belly of the beast (to use Jose Marti’s expression).
    In sum, decolonization understood as a long and uneven process requires clarity of analysis of the complexities of power as well as a clear sense of where are we going and what are the steps to take at each moment. In this constant and creative search the status question is key but it is not the main one. There are several possible scenarios that point toward the need to de-center Puerto Rican politics from the status question and to abandon conventional associations such as the one that links independentismo with the left, estadolibrismo with the center, and anexionismo with the right. For instance, the small but influential movement for Puerto Rican independence does not have a flesh out social and economic programs and tends to be culturally conservative (for example by following heterosexist reasoning). On the other hand, even though the leadership of the pro-statehood party in Puerto Rico tends to be neo-liberal and pro-imperialist, there are also proposals for radical statehood arguing that to become a state of the U.S. Federation could be the best possible scenario for Puerto Ricans to be able to fight for radical democracy and social justice, that is for decolonization of the empire from within. That’s why I contend that the best attitude is what Grosfoguel in the book Puerto Rican Jam called a “non-essentialist approach to the status question”, in other words that the question of the political status by itself do not define a strategy of decolonization but that is one component that may or not serve as a means of liberation depending on the historic project (that is to say social, economic, political, and cultural project) in which is embedded. To close, I want to say that in any possible scenario, that I predict it will likely be a form of Free Association of dependent neo-colonial independence, the Puerto Rican people should collectively claim from the U.S. imperial state, a substantial payment for the historic debt of over a hundred years of colonial domination and exploitation of Puerto Rican resources and labor, as a means of reparative justice and as a way of preparing a fair transition to a different form of relationship.

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