Colonizers and colonized

Thursday June 9, 2016 will go down in history as the day the colonizers and the colonized won and celebrated, but Puerto Rico lost. The repercussions of the Supreme Court ruling in the case of Sánchez Valle and the approval of PROMESA in Congress with its colonial board, will mark us for many years like a slave by its brand.
It was not by chance that both events happened on the same day, and that while the Treasury Department urged since November last year for a “strong control board”, the US Department of Justice intervened in the case of Sánchez Valle, to deny the legitimacy of the Commonwealth status.

In my meetings last week in Washington it became clear that the legal and financial design of PROMESA is reliant on affirming that Congress has plenary powers over Puerto Rico. Although using a politically neutral language, Antonio Weiss recognized that for PROMESA to be constitutional there can be no doubt over the colonial character of the United States relationship with Puerto Rico. He also acknowledged that if Puerto Rico breaches its obligations and defaults on its bonds, the United States government would be sued for their legal responsibility over our public debt.

PROMESA is not to save Puerto Rico, but to save the US from being held accountable and having to rightly pay for their actions and lack of action. The agreement of republicans and democrats in Congress with the Obama administration is due to this: an effort to try to clear their responsibility at the expense of our dignity.

Sánchez Valle does not completely validate what PROMESA represents, but if the ultimate source for Puerto Rico to prosecute criminals emanates from Congress, there lies the legal basis to explain that the ultimate source of the Commonwealth Constitution lies not with the sovereign will of the people of Puerto Rico, but with the will of Congress. Last week Congress threw our Constitution in the trash and with it our frail democracy and our dignity. But beware, if the ultimate source of our powers reside with Congress, with plenary powers come plenary responsibilities.

For Puerto Rico the cost is very high. First it annihilates our capacity to govern ourselves, something that transcends legal discussions about Commonwealth status and goes to the essence of our aspiration to achieve any dignified future status. Those who believe this to be the first step towards our decolonization are wrong. What PROMESA is saying is: “slave, for your own good, I will whip you more so you don’t continue to make mistakes”.

And second, those who applaud PROMESA have not realized that this board comes to impose neo-liberal measures, to save themselves from lawsuits and so that the bond holders are happy.

One of the tragedies of colonial power is that it convinces itself that they are doing the best for the poor people they have colonized. Even worse, they convince many of their subjects of their superiority and magnanimity. It is the syndrome of the colonized mind; by accepting such fallacies they become accomplices and allies. Sadly, they exist everywhere and from every ideology. That is what has happened to some of those that at this moment had an obligation to defend our dignity.

Translated by Gabriel Acevedo from the original Op-Ed published by El Nuevo Día on June 11, 2016