25 July 2016

United Nations Decolonisation Committee welcomes American Samoan efforts on political status and self-governance

Resolution adopted by the United Nations 
Special Committee on Decolonisation 

Question of American Samoa
  
          The General Assembly,

          Having considered the question of American Samoa,

          Having examined the relevant chapter of the report of the Special Committee on the Situation with regard to the Implementation of the Declaration on the Granting of Independence to Colonial Countries and Peoples for 2016, related to American Samoa,[1]

          Taking note of the working paper prepared by the Secretariat on American Samoa[2] and other relevant information,

          Recognizing that all available options for self-determination of the Territory are valid as long as they are in accordance with the freely expressed wishes of the people of American Samoa and in conformity with the clearly defined principles contained in General Assembly resolutions 1514 (XV) of 14 December 1960, 1541 (XV) of 15 December 1960 and other resolutions of the Assembly,

          Expressing concern that 56 years after the adoption of the Declaration on the Granting of Independence to Colonial Countries and Peoples,[3] there still remain 17 Non-Self-Governing Territories, including American Samoa,

          Conscious of the importance of continuing the effective implementation of the Declaration, taking into account the target set by the United Nations to eradicate colonialism by 2020 and the plans of action for the Second[4] and Third International Decades for the Eradication of Colonialism,

          Recognizing that the specific characteristics and the aspirations of the people of American Samoa require flexible, practical and innovative approaches to the options for self-determination, without any prejudice to territorial size, geographical location, size of population or natural resources,

          Convinced that the wishes and aspirations of the people of the Territory should continue to guide the development of their future political status and that referendums, free and fair elections and other forms of popular consultation play an important role in ascertaining the wishes and aspirations of the people,

          Acknowledging the outcome of the referendum held on 4 November 2014, in which the proposal to give the Fono, the Territory’s legislature, the authority to override the Governor’s veto was rejected, and welcoming the discussion opened in the Territory as to the way forward,

          Concerned by the use and exploitation of the natural resources of the Non-Self-Governing Territories by the administering Powers for their benefit, by the use of the Territories as tax heavens to the detriment of the world economy and by the consequences of any economic activities of the administering Powers that are contrary to the interests of the people of the Territories, as well as to resolution 1514 (XV),

          Convinced that any negotiations to determine the status of the Territory must take place with the active involvement and participation of the people of the Territory, under the auspices of the United Nations, on a case-by-case basis, and that the views of the people of American Samoa in respect of their right to self-determination should be ascertained,

          Noting the continued cooperation of the Non-Self-Governing Territories at the local and regional levels, including participation in the work of regional organizations,

          Mindful that, in order for the Special Committee to enhance its understanding of the political status of the people of American Samoa and to fulfil its mandate effectively, it is important for it to be apprised by the administering Power and to receive information from other appropriate sources, including the representatives of the Territory, concerning the wishes and aspirations of the people of the Territory,

          Aware of the importance both to American Samoa and to the Special Committee of the participation of elected and appointed representatives of American Samoa in the work of the Committee,

          Recognizing the need for the Special Committee to ensure that the appropriate bodies of the United Nations actively pursue a public awareness campaign aimed at assisting the people of American Samoa with their inalienable right to self-determination and in gaining a better understanding of the options for self-determination, on a case-by-case basis,

          Mindful, in that connection, that the holding of regional seminars in the Caribbean and Pacific regions and at Headquarters, with the active participation of representatives of the Non-Self-Governing Territories, provides a helpful means for the Special Committee to fulfil its mandate and that the regional nature of the seminars, which alternate between the Caribbean and the Pacific, is a crucial element in the context of a United Nations programme for ascertaining the political status of the Territories,

          Welcoming the Pacific regional seminar held by the Special Committee in Managua and hosted by the Government of Nicaragua from 31 May to 2 June 2016 as a significant and forward-looking event, which enabled the participants to assess the progress made in the decolonization process and to review the existing working methods of the Committee and renew its momentum in implementing its historic task,

          Recognizing the importance of the conclusions and recommendations adopted by the seminar, which are annexed to the report of the Special Committee[5] and which outline the findings of the seminar, including, especially, the way forward for the decolonization process within the context of the proclamation by the General Assembly of the period 2011-2020 as the Third International Decade for the Eradication of Colonialism,[6]

          Noting with appreciation the contribution to the development of some Territories by the specialized agencies and other organizations of the United Nations system, in particular the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean, the Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific, the United Nations Development Programme and the World Food Programme, as well as regional institutions such as the Caribbean Development Bank, the Caribbean Community, the Organization of Eastern Caribbean States, the Pacific Islands Forum and the agencies of the Council of Regional Organizations in the Pacific,

          Aware that, under United States law, the Secretary of the Interior takes administrative jurisdiction over American Samoa,[7]

          Recalling the statement made by the representative of the Governor of American Samoa at the Caribbean regional seminar held in Managua from 19 to 21 May 2015 that, while the Territory enjoyed a great deal of self-government, its current legal status was seen as an anachronism that exposed the Territory to situations beyond its control and needed to be remedied,

          Recalling also the statement made by the representative of the Governor of American Samoa at the 2015 Caribbean regional seminar, expressing concern that the Territory continued to get its authority from the President and the Department of the Interior of the administering Power, that the Territory had no representation in the federal Congress and that its Constitution needed to be approved by the Government of the administering Power,

          Recalling further the position of the administering Power and the statements made by representatives of American Samoa at regional seminars inviting the Special Committee to send a visiting mission to the Territory,

          Acknowledging the participation of a representation of American Samoa at the 2016 Pacific regional seminar,

          Aware of the work of the Future Political Status Study Commission, completed in 2006, the release of its report, with recommendations, in January 2007 and the creation of the American Samoa Constitutional Review Committee, as well as the holding in June 2010 of the Territory’s fourth Constitutional Convention,

          Taking note of the decisions of the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, issued on 5 June and 2 October 2015, affirming the judgment of the United States District Court for the District of Columbia, which dismissed a lawsuit seeking a declaratory judgment that would have asserted that the citizenship clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution of the United States extended to American Samoa, and taking note also of the pending decision by the Supreme Court of the United States on the petition for a writ of certiorari submitted in February 2016,

          Acknowledging the indication by the territorial Government, including at the 2015 Caribbean regional seminar, that certain federal laws have had and continue to have a debilitating impact on the Territory’s ability to achieve sustainable economic growth,

          Aware that, in October 2015, the United States passed Public Law 114-61, providing an immediate incremental increase of $0.40 per hour in the transitional minimum wage for each industry in American Samoa, with additional increases occurring every three years on 30 September until the minimum wage is equal to that in the United States,

          Aware also that American Samoa continues to be the only United States Territory to receive financial assistance from the administering Power for the operations of the territorial Government,

          1.       Reaffirms the inalienable right of the people of American Samoa to self-determination, in conformity with the Charter of the United Nations and with General Assembly resolution 1514 (XV), containing the Declaration on the Granting of Independence to Colonial Countries and Peoples;

          2.       Also reaffirms that, in the process of decolonization of American Samoa, there is no alternative to the principle of self-determination, which is also a fundamental human right, as recognized under the relevant human rights conventions;

          3.       Further reaffirms that it is ultimately for the people of American Samoa to determine freely their future political status in accordance with the relevant provisions of the Charter, the Declaration and the relevant resolutions of the General Assembly, and in that connection calls upon the administering Power, in cooperation with the territorial Government and appropriate bodies of the United Nations system, to develop political education programmes for the Territory in order to foster an awareness among the people of their right to self-determination in conformity with the legitimate political status options, based on the principles clearly defined in Assembly resolution 1541 (XV) and other relevant resolutions and decisions;

          4.       Welcomes the work of the territorial Government with respect to moving forward on political status, local autonomy and self-governance issues with a view to making political and economic progress, and also welcomes the establishment in April 2016 of the Office of Political Status, Constitutional Review and Federal Relations;

          5.       Recalls the indication by the territorial Government that American Samoa should remain on the list of Non-Self-Governing Territories, under the purview of the Special Committee on the Situation with regard to the Implementation of the Declaration on the Granting of Independence to Colonial Countries and Peoples, until such time as its people have exercised their right to self-determination;

          6.       Expresses its appreciation for the invitation extended in 2015 by the Governor of American Samoa to the Special Committee to send a visiting mission to the Territory, calls upon the administering Power to facilitate such a mission if the territorial Government so desires, and requests the Chair of the Special Committee to take all the steps necessary to that end;

          7.       Requests the administering Power to assist the Territory by facilitating its work concerning a public awareness programme, consistent with Article 73 b of the Charter, and in that regard calls upon the relevant United Nations organizations to provide assistance to the Territory, if requested;

          8.       Stresses the importance of the Special Committee being apprised of the views and wishes of the people of American Samoa and enhancing its understanding of their conditions, including the nature and scope of the existing political and constitutional arrangements between American Samoa and the administering Power;

          9.       Calls upon the administering Power to participate in and cooperate fully with the work of the Special Committee in order to implement the provisions of Article 73 e of the Charter and the Declaration and in order to advise the Committee on the implementation of the provisions under Article 73 b of the Charter on efforts to promote self-government in American Samoa, and encourages the administering Power to facilitate visiting and special missions to the Territory;

          10.     Reaffirms the responsibility of the administering Power under the Charter to promote the economic and social development and to preserve the cultural identity of the Territory, and requests the administering Power to take steps to enlist and make effective use of all possible assistance, on both a bilateral and a multilateral basis, in the strengthening of the economies of the Territory;

          11.     Takes into account the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, including the Sustainable Development Goals,[8] stresses the importance of fostering the economic and social sustainable development of the Territory by promoting sustained, inclusive and equitable economic growth, creating greater opportunities for all, reducing inequalities, raising basic standards of living, fostering equitable social development and inclusion and promoting the integrated and sustainable management of natural resources and ecosystems that supports, inter alia, economic, social and human development, while facilitating ecosystem conservation, regeneration, restoration and resilience in the face of new and emerging challenges, and strongly urges the administering Power to refrain from undertaking any kind of illicit, harmful and unproductive activities, including the use of the Territory as a tax haven, that are not aligned with the interest of the people of the Territory;

          12.     Requests the Territory and the administering Power to take all measures necessary to protect and conserve the environment of the Territory against any degradation, and once again requests the specialized agencies concerned to monitor environmental conditions in the Territory and to provide assistance to the Territory, consistent with their prevailing rules of procedure;

          13.     Requests the Special Committee to continue to examine the question of American Samoa and to report thereon to the General Assembly at its seventy-second session and on the implementation of the present resolution.



         [1] Official Records of the General Assembly, Seventy-first Session, Supplement No. 23 (A/71/23), chap. X.
         [2] A/AC.109/2016/1.
         [3] Resolution 1514 (XV).
         [4] A/56/61, annex.
         [5] Official Records of the General Assembly, Seventy-first Session, Supplement No. 23 (A/71/23).
         [6] See resolution 65/119.
         [7] United States Congress, 1929 (48 U.S.C. Sec. 1661, 45 Stat. 1253), and Secretary’s Order 2657, Department of the Interior, United States of America, 1951, as amended.
         [8] Resolution 70/1.

20 July 2016

United Nations Decolonisation Committee calls for protection of the environment of Guam from effects of militarisation

 The Special Committee on Decolonisation has recommended that "the General Assembly request the Territory and the administering Power (U.S.) to take all measures necessary to protect and conserve the environment of the Territory against any degradation and the impact of militarization on the environment."



Resolution adopted by the United Nations 
Special Committee on Decolonisation 

Question of Guam


          The General Assembly,

          Having considered the question of Guam,

          Having examined the relevant chapter of the report of the Special Committee on the Situation with regard to the Implementation of the Declaration on the Granting of Independence to Colonial Countries and Peoples for 2016, related to Guam,[1]

          Taking note of the working paper prepared by the Secretariat on Guam[2] and other relevant information,

          Recognizing that all available options for self-determination of the Territory are valid as long as they are in accordance with the freely expressed wishes of the people of Guam and in conformity with the clearly defined principles contained in General Assembly resolutions 1514 (XV) of 14 December 1960, 1541 (XV) of 15 December 1960 and other resolutions of the Assembly,

          Expressing concern that 56 years after the adoption of the Declaration on the Granting of Independence to Colonial Countries and Peoples,[3] there still remain 17 Non-Self-Governing Territories, including Guam,

          Conscious of the importance of continuing the effective implementation of the Declaration, taking into account the target set by the United Nations to eradicate colonialism by 2020 and the plans of action for the Second[4] and Third International Decades for the Eradication of Colonialism,

          Recognizing that the specific characteristics and the aspirations of the people of Guam require flexible, practical and innovative approaches to the options for self-determination, without any prejudice to territorial size, geographical location, size of population or natural resources,

          Convinced that the wishes and aspirations of the people of the Territory should continue to guide the development of their future political status and that referendums, free and fair elections and other forms of popular consultation play an important role in ascertaining the wishes and aspirations of the people,

          Concerned by the use and exploitation of the natural resources of the Non‑Self-Governing Territories by the administering Powers for their benefit, by the use of the Territories as tax havens to the detriment of the world economy and by the consequences of any economic activities of the administering Powers that are contrary to the interests of the people of the Territories, as well as to resolution 1514 (XV),

          Convinced that any negotiations to determine the status of the Territory must take place with the active involvement and participation of the people of the Territory, under the auspices of the United Nations, on a case-by-case basis, and that the views of the people of Guam in respect of their right to self-determination should be ascertained,

          Noting the continued cooperation of the Non-Self-Governing Territories at the local and regional levels, including participation in the work of regional organizations,

          Mindful that, in order for the Special Committee to enhance its understanding of the political status of the people of Guam and to fulfil its mandate effectively, it is important for it to be apprised by the administering Power and to receive information from other appropriate sources, including the representatives of the Territory, concerning the wishes and aspirations of the people of the Territory,

          Aware of the importance both to Guam and to the Special Committee of the participation of elected and appointed representatives of Guam in the work of the Committee,

          Recognizing the need for the Special Committee to ensure that the appropriate bodies of the United Nations actively pursue a public awareness campaign aimed at assisting the people of Guam with their inalienable right to self-determination and in gaining a better understanding of the options for self-determination, on a case-by-case basis,

          Mindful, in that connection, that the holding of regional seminars in the Caribbean and Pacific regions and at Headquarters, with the active participation of representatives of the Non-Self-Governing Territories, provides a helpful means for the Special Committee to fulfil its mandate and that the regional nature of the seminars, which alternate between the Caribbean and the Pacific, is a crucial element in the context of a United Nations programme for ascertaining the political status of the Territories,

          Welcoming the Pacific regional seminar held by the Special Committee in Managua and hosted by the Government of Nicaragua from 31 May to 2 June 2016 as a significant and forward-looking event, which enabled the participants to assess the progress made in the decolonization process and to review the existing working methods of the Committee and renew its momentum in implementing its historic task,

          Recognizing the importance of the conclusions and recommendations adopted by the seminar, which are annexed to the report of the Special Committee[5] and which outline the findings of the seminar, including, especially, the way forward for the decolonization process within the context of the proclamation by the General Assembly of the period 2011-2020 as the Third International Decade for the Eradication of Colonialism,[6]

          Noting with appreciation the contribution to the development of some Territories by the specialized agencies and other organizations of the United Nations system, in particular the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean, the Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific, the United Nations Development Programme and the World Food Programme, as well as regional institutions such as the Caribbean Development Bank, the Caribbean Community, the Organization of Eastern Caribbean States, the Pacific Islands Forum and the agencies of the Council of Regional Organizations in the Pacific,

          Noting the statement made by the representative of the Governor of Guam at the 2016 Pacific regional seminar, in which he presented an update on the efforts of Guam towards decolonization, including by securing funding for the public education programme on self-determination, and on the work of the Guam Commission on Decolonization for the Implementation and Exercise of Chamorro Self-Determination in reinforcing public awareness ahead of the planned plebiscite on self-determination,

          Recalling the concern expressed by the representative of the Governor and the Speaker of the Guam legislature before the Special Committee in October 2015 about the reinstatement of a lawsuit challenging the voting restrictions for the Territory’s plebiscite on self-determination,

          Cognizant of the efforts made by the Guam Commission on Decolonization to promote in the Territory the holding of a plebiscite on self-determination, to populate the decolonization registry, as required by public law, to enhance the ability to expediently register those who have not yet been registered and to identify and secure territorial and federal resources for a self-determination education programme,

          Aware that the Department of the Interior of the United States of America has approved a grant to support the self-determination education campaign, as stated by the representative of the Governor of Guam at the 2016 Pacific regional seminar,

          Aware also that, under United States law, the relations between the territorial Government and the federal Government in all matters that are not the programme responsibility of another federal department or agency are under the general administrative supervision of the Secretary of the Interior,[7]

          Recalling that, in a referendum held in 1987, the registered and eligible voters of Guam endorsed a draft Guam Commonwealth Act that would establish a new framework for relations between the Territory and the administering Power, providing for a greater measure of internal self-government for Guam and recognition of the right of the Chamorro people of Guam to self-determination for the Territory,

          Aware that negotiations between the administering Power and the territorial Government on the draft Guam Commonwealth Act ended in 1997 and that Guam has subsequently established a non-binding plebiscite process for a self-determination vote by the eligible Chamorro voters,

          Cognizant of the importance of the administering Power continuing to implement its programme of transferring surplus federal land to the Government of Guam,

          Noting that the people of the Territory have called for reform in the programme of the administering Power with respect to the thorough, unconditional and expeditious transfer of land property to the people of Guam,

          Aware of the deep concern expressed by civil society and other parties regarding the potential social, cultural, economic and environmental impacts of the planned transfer of additional military personnel of the administering Power to the Territory,

          Recalling the statement of the Speaker of the thirty-third Guam legislature made before the Special Committee during its 2015 session that the most acute threat to the legitimate exercise of the decolonization of Guam was the incessant militarization of the island by its administering Power, and noting the concern expressed regarding the effect of the escalating United States military activities and installations on Guam,

          Recalling also its resolution 57/140 of 11 December 2002, in which it reiterated that military activities and arrangements by administering Powers in the Non-Self-Governing Territories under their administration should not run counter to the rights and interests of the peoples of the Territories concerned, especially their right to self-determination, including independence, and called upon the administering Powers concerned to terminate such activities and to eliminate the remaining military bases in compliance with the relevant resolutions of the General Assembly,

          Recalling further its resolution 35/118 of 11 December 1980, and conscious that immigration into Guam has resulted in the indigenous Chamorros becoming a minority in their homeland,

          1.       Reaffirms the inalienable right of the people of Guam to self-determination, in conformity with the Charter of the United Nations and with General Assembly resolution 1514 (XV), containing the Declaration on the Granting of Independence to Colonial Countries and Peoples;

          2.       Also reaffirms that, in the process of decolonization of Guam, there is no alternative to the principle of self-determination, which is also a fundamental human right, as recognized under the relevant human rights conventions;

          3.       Further reaffirms that it is ultimately for the people of Guam to determine freely their future political status in accordance with the relevant provisions of the Charter, the Declaration and the relevant resolutions of the General Assembly, and in that connection calls upon the administering Power, in cooperation with the territorial Government and appropriate bodies of the United Nations system, to develop political education programmes for the Territory in order to foster an awareness among the people of their right to self-determination in conformity with the legitimate political status options, based on the principles clearly defined in Assembly resolution 1541 (XV) and other relevant resolutions and decisions;

          4.       Welcomes the convening of the Guam Commission on Decolonization for the Implementation and Exercise of Chamorro Self-Determination and its ongoing work on a self-determination vote, as well as its public education efforts;

          5.       Stresses that the decolonization process in Guam should be compatible with the Charter, the Declaration on the Granting of Independence to Colonial Countries and Peoples and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights;[8]

          6.       Calls once again upon the administering Power to take into consideration the expressed will of the Chamorro people as supported by Guam voters in the referendum of 1987 and as subsequently provided for in Guam law regarding Chamorro self-determination efforts, encourages the administering Power and the territorial Government to enter into negotiations on the matter, and stresses the need for continued close monitoring of the overall situation in the Territory;

          7.       Requests the administering Power, in cooperation with the territorial Government, to continue to transfer land to the original landowners of the Territory, to continue to recognize and to respect the political rights and the cultural and ethnic identity of the Chamorro people of Guam and to take all measures necessary to address the concerns of the territorial Government with regard to the question of immigration;

          8.       Also requests the administering Power to assist the Territory by facilitating public outreach efforts, consistent with Article 73 b of the Charter, and in that regard welcomes the financial assistance granted by the administering Power in support of the decolonization educational campaign, calls upon the relevant United Nations organizations to provide assistance to the Territory, if requested, and welcomes the recent outreach work by the territorial Government;

          9.       Further requests the administering Power to cooperate in establishing programmes for the sustainable development of the economic activities and enterprises of the Territory, noting the special role of the Chamorro people in the development of Guam;

          10.     Stresses the importance of the Special Committee on the Situation with regard to the Implementation of the Declaration on the Granting of Independence to Colonial Countries and Peoples being apprised of the views and wishes of the people of Guam and enhancing its understanding of their conditions, including the nature and scope of the existing political and constitutional arrangements between Guam and the administering Power;

          11.     Calls upon the administering Power to participate in and cooperate fully with the work of the Special Committee in order to implement the provisions of Article 73 e of the Charter and the Declaration and in order to advise the Committee on the implementation of the provisions under Article 73 b of the Charter on efforts to promote self-government in Guam, and encourages the administering Power to facilitate visiting and special missions to the Territory;

          12.     Reaffirms the responsibility of the administering Power under the Charter to promote the economic and social development and to preserve the cultural identity of the Territory, and requests the administering Power to take steps to enlist and make effective use of all possible assistance, on both a bilateral and a multilateral basis, in the strengthening of the economies of the Territory;

          13.     Takes into account the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, including the Sustainable Development Goals,[9] stresses the importance of fostering the economic and social sustainable development of the Territory by promoting sustained, inclusive and equitable economic growth, creating greater opportunities for all, reducing inequalities, raising basic standards of living, fostering equitable social development and inclusion and promoting the integrated and sustainable management of natural resources and ecosystems that supports, inter alia, economic, social and human development, while facilitating ecosystem conservation, regeneration, restoration and resilience in the face of new and emerging challenges, and strongly urges the administering Power to refrain from undertaking any kind of illicit, harmful and unproductive activities, including the use of the Territory as a tax haven, that are not aligned with the interest of the people of the Territory;

          14.     Requests the Territory and the administering Power to take all measures necessary to protect and conserve the environment of the Territory against any degradation and the impact of militarization on the environment, and once again requests the specialized agencies concerned to monitor environmental conditions in the Territory and to provide assistance to the Territory, consistent with their prevailing rules of procedure;

          15.     Requests the Special Committee to continue to examine the question of Guam and to report thereon to the General Assembly at its seventy-second session and on the implementation of the present resolution.
 



         [1] Official Records of the General Assembly, Seventy-first Session, Supplement No. 23 (A/71/23), chap. X.
         [2] A/AC.109/2016/9.
         [3] Resolution 1514 (XV).
         [4] A/56/61, annex.
         [5] Official Records of the General Assembly, Seventy-first Session, Supplement No. 23 (A/71/23).
         [6] See resolution 65/119.
         [7] United States Congress, Organic Act of Guam, 1950, as amended.
         [8] Resolution 217 A (III).
         [9] Resolution 70/1.

13 July 2016

Banco Popular de Puerto Rico to offer ATM services in Cuba

Latin American Herald

Cuba Gives Green Light to MasterCard at Havana ATMs

HAVANA – Starting Monday, Havana ATMs will accept MasterCard cash advances, including those from Stonegate Bank, the first U.S. bank authorized to provide this service on the communist island, and the Banco Popular de Puerto Rico, the Cuban Central Bank, or BCC, said.

BCC vice president Irma Margarita Martinez confirmed that MasterCard is already being accepted at Cuban sales points along with Visa, which have been authorized on the island for some time, speaking at the first Conference on International Monetary Transfers being held Monday in Havana.

“That possibility is starting now that the pending financial and legal issues have been resolved and thanks to the efforts of the Cuban entities tasked with processing MasterCard and the foreign provider who is facilitating the handling of its operations for us,” she said in a BCC communique made available to the press.

The Cuban bank said that the service, which at first will be offered only in the capital, “will be expanded to the entire country” in the future.

In addition, she confirmed her willingness to “continue expanding” the types of U.S.-bank-issued credit cards authorized for use in Cuba.

She said that currently banking transfers from the United States to Cuba are still being done via third countries due to restrictions imposed by Washington’s economic, financial and trade embargo on the island.

So far, the Florida-based Stonegate Bank is the only U.S. bank authorized – since July 2015 – to maintain a commercial relationship with a Cuban bank, the Banco Internacional de Comercio.

Stonegate Bank said that a limited edition of 1,000 MasterCards will be issued to people who want to use them in Cuba.

11 July 2016

Puerto Rico: Fellow Colony in Crisis


NO REST FOR THE AWAKE - MINAGAHET CHAMORRO

It has become common to say and hear lately that Puerto Rico, a fellow colony of the United State is in crisis. Numbers I have come across cite more than $70 billion in debt, with the island suffering with an unemployment rate of 11.4% and a poverty rate of 45%. Basic public services in health care and education have been dramatically affected and the island is experiencing a rapid brain drain as those who have the means to leave, seem to be doing so. 

But what type of crisis this is or the causes of it are almost always lost in the discussion. The usual colonial or developing nation narratives ties problems like this to why islanders can’t take care of themselves. In this way, the problems Puerto Rico is having are about local corruption, political immaturity and a cultural unwillingness to become more civilized. All of these things lead to the notion that Puerto Rico must therefore be saved by those who are politically or economically better than it. Curiously enough, throughout recent human history, this sort of discussion is largely self-serving and the saviors tend to be those who lust after the lands of others, or are already trying to justify their control.

More than 100 years of being a territory of the United States points, far more than anything, to the crisis in Puerto Rico as being a colony one. It is an example of how colonialism, that most wretched of human institutions, can still lurk beneath a fa├žade of friendliness or benevolence. On Guam, this is something of which we must be wary. Even though there is a difference in name between Puerto Rico and Guam, with one being a Commonwealth and the other an unincorporated territory, we occupy the same basic subordinate status, as being possessions of the United States.

There are cries by some on Guam that we should enhance our current status by writing a new Constitution or even just rewriting parts of the Organic Act to serve as our foundational document. This debate was thought to be settled decades ago when voters decidedna ti maolek anggen un na’fo’na i kareta kinu i karabao, but it continually resurfaces as a seemingly easy or simpler way of solving a complex problem. The crisis in Puerto Rico does not give much hope for this thinking, as the Constitution of the territory and the problem with crafting one while still a colony is the source of most of their problems.

Submitting a constitution to your colonizer doesn’t end the colonial relationship and doesn’t really improve it. It simply legitimizes it. It adds a veneer of formality and respectability to something the United Nations and the majority of the world’s nations have decried should be eradicated. Under Guam’s current status, any Constitution is supposed to be submitted to the US Congress for their approval. But far more than simply approve it, the US Congress would have the right to reject it or change it as they see fit. This is tragically true for Puerto Rico, which over the years has been restricted and hindered in its own ability to self-govern by various provisions that have been inserted into their foundational document.

In the Puerto Rican constitution, there is a clause that prioritizes the payments to the debtors of the territory over any other obligations. This means that instead of using what funds it has to protect the people of Puerto Rico and ensure that they are safe, healthy, educated, employed, the government is constitutionally required to take money away from all other needs to pay its debts first. Another issue is that according to US law, Puerto Rico is simply not allowed to file for Chapter 11 or declare bankruptcy in order to restructure its debt or its finances. The current representative has sought to gain this right from the US Congress, but the body has refused to consider it.

These restrictions are all tied to the island’s long-standing status as a laboratory of neoliberalism and neocolonialism. Various predatory social and political policies that have become common in the ways in which First World and extra-national economic bodies deal with the developing world, were tested in Puerto Rico. These economic restraints are just another example of the ways the United States has sought to keep the island open and friendly to the interests of US corporations and hedge funds, even at the expense of the millions that live there.

Recently the US Congress proposed a bill named PROMESA which means Promise in both Spanish and Chamorro. It stands for “Puerto Rico Oversight, Management and Economic Stability Act” and it is meant to stabilize Puerto Rico prior to its possible default on almost all of its debt at the start of next month. The key feature of this bill is the creation of a seven-member oversight board that could theoretically have control over the laws of the island and its public and natural resources. The bill itself empowers this oversight board, with authority that supersedes any local laws of Puerto Rico.

The use of the word PROMESA in the title of the bill is meant to refer to the obligation the United States is supposed to have to their poor Caribbean colony, to save it from itself and keep it a lucrative cash cow for US corporations and hedge funds. I find this to be ironic because the promise that the United States should be recalling and taking seriously, is their obligation as a nation that claims to stand for freedom and democracy, to decolonize their own territories.