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Federal funding creates stagnancy

Opinion: Federal funding creates stagnancy

by Michael Lujan Bevacqua and Victoria Leon Guerrero

Pacific Daily News

July 9, 2016

The Pacific Daily News’ recent article on the impossibility of independence for Guam given the amount of federal money the island receives was distorted and grossly incomplete in terms of representing Guam’s current economic situation, as well as possibilities for economic growth as an independent nation.

Too often, people say that Guam cannot afford to be independent, but the real truth of our situation is that Guam cannot afford to remain an unincorporated territory (or status quo), both politically and economically.

The most important point that was left out of the article was the simple fact that this money is far from guaranteed. As the Obama administration has recently argued, the relationship between the United States and its territories is one of owner and owned. This means that the owner (through acts of Congress) decides the nature of the relationship, determining what rights, if any, we have and how much money, if any, we will receive. There are always calls in Congress to reduce the funding of Guam and other territories. If any of those reductions were to take place, no amount of votes for statehood in a PDN poll would be able to prevent it.

For the PDN to report these figures without mention of the most basic nature of this funding is part of the overall way in which this island denies its colonial status. It contributes to the fear that so many have about changing our political status.

Instead of really looking at the types of funding Guam receives, the stipulations and regulations attached to this funding, and the subsequent dependency and stagnancy it creates, the article seemed to infer that GovGuam receives a great basket loaded with salape’ that we should just be grateful for and not analyze. In Chamorro there is a saying, “ti annok i yapapapa’,” which refers to how you should be cautious about accepting a basket if you cannot see what is at the bottom.

A closer look at the $550 million in federal funds Guam received reveals that close to half of that money went to two programs: food stamps and Medicaid. According to the article, $109 million was spent purchasing food that is overwhelmingly imported and many would argue is not very healthy for Pacific islander populations. This diet in large part has led to an epidemic of health problems on the island, for which the federal government then provides $117 million dollars to help people receive health care in an overly expensive system modeled after the United States.

Imagine what it would be like if even a fraction of that money was spent instead on supporting local agriculture and decreasing our dependency on imports and processed foods. Although this money comes in, it does not necessarily mean that it can be used in ways that align with our specific needs as a community.

Rather than scaring people into complacency and dependency, the PDN and the local officials and “experts” interviewed on such topics should facilitate a more critical discussion about Guam’s relationship with the U.S. and whether or not it hinders or advances our island’s economic growth and possibilities. While federal money helps to improve lives in some ways, it also causes harm in other ways, by keeping us ensnared in unsustainable ways of living.

The community regularly criticizes how Guam has become a welfare state heavily reliant on food stamps and Medicaid. Yet in this discussion on Guam’s political future, instead of encouraging greater possibilities for the island, the recent article implied that if Guam cannot afford to fund these programs as the U.S. does, then we should just stay as we are.

But there are many ways in which Guam could grow its economy to make up this shortfall, or simply reorganize its government and economy in order to replace these programs. In addition, several independent nations that host U.S. military bases receive far more than the $550 million the PDN reported Guam received in federal funds. Independent countries that are deemed to be strategically important to the United States and host a significant amount of bases, sometimes receive more than $1 billion in general and military aid annually.

Many continue to ask why status quo is not an option in choosing Guam’s future political status. Status quo, even with its millions of dollars in federal funding, keeps Guam stagnant as a colony rather than propelling the island and our people into a greater political and economic future determined by us. In order to truly make this decision, however, Guam needs responsible media coverage on this matter, and information that is not based on assumptions, but rather solid research and evidence.

Michael Lujan Bevacqua, Ph.D., and Victoria-Lola Leon Guerrero, MFA are co-chairs of the Independence for Guam Task Force.

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We Deserve to Be Free

 

“We Deserve to be Free”

Pacific Daily News

June 19, 2016

For two weeks, the eyes of the Pacific turned to Guam as our island and people hosted the 12th Festival of Pacific Arts, or FestPac. It was a wonderful opportunity for us to learn the stories and traditions of more than two dozen other Pacific Island cultures from our great blue continent.

During the closing ceremony of this historic event, delegates from these island nations banded together to make a powerful statement against colonization. Delegates from Guåhan and most of the other island nations who participated tied red or white bands around their arms with personal calls for freedom: “Free West Papua.” “Free Guåhan.” “Free Hawaii.” “Free Rapa Nui.” “Demilitarize Oceania.” “Decolonize Oceania.” And so forth.

If you looked closely at the flag bearer from Aotearoa (New Zealand) or the dancers from Kanaky (New Caledonia), or the aboriginal delegates from Australia, these bands were worn proudly on their arms throughout the ceremony in solidarity with members of the Guåhan delegation, who boldly reminded the crowd that our peoples continue to struggle for the human right to determine our destiny and govern ourselves.

When Guåhan’s delegation paraded the stage, 12 Guåhan delegates unfurled four banners with these words on them: “Decolonize Oceania. Free Guåhan.” And while the banners were met with loud cheers of “Biba!” and “Free Guåhan” from throughout the Paseo Stadium, there were also pockets of silence as the audience read the words and contemplated what they meant.

Continue reading “We Deserve to Be Free”

Decolonization Momentum?

“Decolonization Momentum?”

by Michael Lujan Bevacqua

The Guam Daily Post

July 20, 2016

As part of the 12th Festival of Pacific Arts, a series of panel discussions was organized by Dr. Lisa Natividad at the University of Guam, that focused on the three future political status options for Guam and different places around the Pacific that have already achieved them. A final panel discussion with representatives from the three political status task forces took place on June 2nd, 2016. Below are excerpts from a live-blog of the event that was recorded by Dr. Isa Kelley Bowman for the website “Mumun Linhayan.” This discussion between the task forces representatives was historic and emblematic of the new momentum that we are finding around Guam’s decolonization. I am optimistic that we will be able to maintain this momentum and continue to educate the island community about this issue.

Continue reading “Decolonization Momentum?”

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