[News] The Tragedy of the Missing C: The (Colonial) Fiscal Control Board in Puerto Rico

Anti-Imperialist News news at freedomarchives.org
Wed Aug 16 13:28:32 EDT 2017


  The Tragedy of the Missing C: The (Colonial) Fiscal Control Board in
  Puerto Rico

by Ana Portnoy <https://www.counterpunch.org/author/ana-portnoy/> - 
August 16, 2017

There have been quite a few names for it, pseudonyms protecting its top 
secret identity, barely revealing, if not completely concealing, the 
truth behind its seemingly impenetrable Armani fortress. Financial 
Oversight and Management Board, a deceptive title feeding the gullible 
fantasies of hands-off supervision and horizontal guidance. /La Junta de 
Cobro, /or The Collection Board, a somewhat more critical epithet, 
highlighting the greedy and profit-filthy fingers of the committee under 
discussion. Fiscal Control Board, the top hit single, in Spanish widely 
used in acronym-form: /JCF/^[1] <#_ftn1>, counteracting the first name, 
underscoring the authority and domination hiding under the covers.

But these titles, and the others in circulation, are missing a vital 
component, are devoid of their basic kernel, deprived of their 
fundamental constituent, bereft of their cardinal component. The /JCF/ 
is short a “C.” /JCF*C*/, /Junta de Control Fiscal *C*olonial/, 
*C*olonial Fiscal Control Board. And this synchronic “C” is part of a 
larger, older, more complex diachronic “C,” one that spans the length of 
524 years, a “C” so ancient its amnesia has grown contagious, a “C” that 
only the sea has lived long enough to watch it become the monster of a 
letter, of a force, of a power it’s today. And so the sea was witness, 
and perhaps a forced contributor, to a third wave of colonialism in 
Puerto Rico.

Puerto Rico is currently facing one of the most detrimental financial 
and socio-political crises of its contemporary history. Faced with an 
unaudited $74 billion debt, and $49 billion in pension obligations, the 
likes of which are the result of decades of corruption, illegal bond 
issuances and trades, and an overly-advertised tax haven, the United 
States Congress, endlessly infantilizing the Archipelago and the agency 
of its people^[2] <#_ftn2>, forced upon Puerto Rico an unelected and 
undemocratic (Colonial) Fiscal Control Board. Whether they deemed us 
incapable of cleaning up this mess; felt entitled to intervene (take a 
look at the US’s history of international intervention, it usually ends 
up in devastation and drones blowing up everything in sight); or 
prioritized the creditors and hedge funds that went bargain shopping for 
bonds; the (Colonial) Fiscal Control Board landed on the shores (an 
airport runway) of Puerto Rico with a very specific and overlooked 
purpose: to (re)colonize the Archipelago, to put on a show of colonial 

Like every “-ism” throughout the course of history, Puerto Rico has seen 
the rise and fall, the evolving and changing waves of colonialism. 
First-wave colonialism in Puerto Rico was a period of Spanish rule; of 
indigenous genocide; of the Trans-Atlantic “Slave” Trade; of ecological 
demolition and plunder; of religious impositions; of gold mining, the 
sugarcane industry and /Hacienda/ socio-economic hierarchies; of extreme 
poverty, starvation and disease; of political exiles; of 400 years of 
Europeanization and exploitation. But of course, there were also 
resistances: Taíno rebellions (The Taíno Rebellion of 1511), slave 
revolts (which were happening since 1812, like the revolt lead by 
enslaved Marcos Xiorro in 1821^[3] <#_ftn3>), marronage and /jíbaro/ 
culture, anticolonial uprisings (the /Grito de Lares/ and the /Intentona 
de Yauco/), among other forms and traditions of resistance.

Second-wave colonialism in Puerto Rico consisted of a war between 
empires, resulting in the transaction and transference of “colonial 
property”; of U.S. military invasion; of the sugarcane (enough already), 
military and tourist industry; of forced upon American Citizenship; of 
The Cabotage Laws; of WW1, WW2, the Vietnam War and the Korean War; of 
linguistic terrorism; of the Gag Law; of the Great Depression colonial 
style and Operation Bootstrap; of mass migrations; of sterilizations and 
lab-rat experimentations; of extreme political repression and political 
prisoners by the dozens; of racism hiding behind myths of racial 
democracy; of market dependency; of endless ping-pong games between 
commonwealth-ers and statehood-ers. But, once again, there were also 
resistances: the Jayuya Uprising, the Puerto Rican Nationalist Party, 
the Puerto Rico Independence Party, the Armed Forces of Liberation 
(CAL), the Armed Forces of National Liberation (FALN), the poetry 
collective /El Atalaya de los Dioses/ or /Atalayismo/, the Student 
Movement of the University of Puerto Rico, The Young Lords, the 
Nuyorican School of Poetry (we must not forget our diaspora), among a 
great number of other movements and collectives.

And now, still under the imperialist thumb of the United States, Puerto 
Rico is riding third-wave colonialism, riding it all the way to the 
shore, the (Colonial) Fiscal Control Board arising, in god-like fashion, 
from the fizzling sea foam.

The show of colonial force particular to this latest wave of colonialism 
in Puerto Rico has been strategic and carefully concerted, timed and 
placed with utter preciseness. I mean, what a better way to celebrate 
100 years of having been granted American citizenship (ownership) than 
by bestowing upon us a commemorative reminder of our dependant, 
agency-less and subservient state, a four-letter gift, a century 
year-old present, an eternally returning *C*^[4] <#_ftn4>.

But the colonial curtain didn’t fall there, the show had (has) only 
begun. In a symbolic performance of power, the (Colonial) Fiscal Control 
Board’s first meeting in Puerto Rico, their first formal gathering as a 
super power, was held at the gated after gate after gate after gate /El 
Conquistador, A Waldorf Astoria Resort /(the tourist industry itself 
another colonizing entity, slowly transforming the Island into an 
Island-resort, a “paradise” for the colonizer). And very much 
/(re)conquistando^*[5]* <#_ftn5>/ the landscape, the people and the 
already colonial government itself, the (C)FCB, under the ordinances of 
PROMESA^[6] <#_ftn6>, is basically granted full and ultimate authority, 
command and jurisdiction over Puerto Rico, which it has had no trouble 
in exerting or reminding us of, the governor and his /batatas^*[7]* 
<#_ftn7> /made puppets of (once again).

To continue twisting the plot even further, the last two years haven’t 
been smooth sailing for Puerto Rico, what with the debt being declared 
un-payable by former governor and avid advocate for Commonwealth status, 
Alejandro García Padilla; the constant and uninterrupted closing of 
schools; the concerning number of health-workers migrating; the eviction 
of individuals and families from their homes and the foreclosure of 
these properties by the same banks that got us into this mess of a debt; 
the continued bureaucratic and partisan scandals and corruption the 
University of Puerto Rico has had to withstand; the environmental 
injustices and racism plaguing the island; the rising rates of poverty, 
unemployment and suicides; the ever-increasing exodus of blue collar 
workers and professionals to the United States; the list goes on.

All of the aforementioned have taken a toll, a devastating toll, on the 
people of Puerto Rico, and a considerable number of sectors of the 
society were and have been pushed to the very limits of their 
colonially-induced endurance. Protests, demonstrations, acts of civil 
disobedience and full-fledged outrage have experienced an escalation and 
seen a historic rise, socio-political mobilizations gaining considerable 
strength; therefore, the arrival of this third-time-is-the-charm 
colonial venture, of the (C)FCB and the politically repressive measures 
that were (are) a part of the package deal are no surprise. One of the 
most prominent acts of this show of colonial force has been the recent 
amendments to the penal code orchestrated by our colonial government 
(now under the control of the (C)FCB; the constitutionality of these 
amendments heavily questioned by the ACLU and other legal associations), 
and this act has played an important role throughout the (re)colonizing 
venture in operation by continuing to engender and instigate colonial 
numbness, fear and obedience.

^[8] <#_ftn8>And the driving feature of this third wave of colonialism 
in PR and of its particular show of colonial force is the direct and 
powerful involvement of corporations and the financial sector. The 
involvement of corporations in colonial ventures is not a new 
phenomenon; corporations, such as the West India Company, were involved 
in the colonial enterprise since the 17th century. However, the role of 
many was restricted to issuing loans for the purchase of enslaved 
Africans, for travel, and other nitty-gritty details. However, what we 
have come to know as the financial sector, Wall Street and the sort, is 
a fairly recent phenomenon, a 70s baby nurtured and raised by the mother 
of all contemporary maladies: neoliberalism. And so, this third wave of 
colonialism in Puerto Rico, rather than being financed by the banks and 
corporations that have for too long managed to camouflage seamlessly 
into our lives (Banco Santander, Wells Fargo, UBS, Banco Popular, etc.), 
is being /led/ by them. These banks and corporations /are/ the 
colonizers, which is why we have a FISCAL Control Board, not an 
Industrial Control Board, not a Political Control Board, not a Trade 
Control Board, not an /Arroz-con-habichuelas^*[9]* <#_ftn9>/ Control 
Board, but a (Colonial) FISCAL Control Board. And like the good 
(Colonial) Fiscal Control Board that it is, it has conquered Puerto 
Rico, and is in the process of pillaging and plundering it by doing what 
it does best: financially hijacking and destroying everything in sight; 
members of the audience, a round of applause for the cast and crew: 
austerity measures, neoliberal politics, draconian budget cuts, 
creditors over essential services, profit over people, bondholders over 

The (C)FCB, in third-wave fashion, has come to Puerto Rico carrying the 
financial white man’s burden, entranced and consumed by an economic 
savior-complex, (re)claiming the Archipelago as its property, sinking 
its flag into our bruised landscape for all colonized eyes to see, a 
green Benjamin-Franklin-faced bill, $100 dollars, 100 years^[10] 
<#_ftn10>, waving in the wind.


^[1] <#_ftnref1>/Junta de Control Fiscal/

^[2] <#_ftnref2> Well, those outside of the corrupt and colonial 
government and partisan circles that condemned Puerto Rico to its 
decades-long fall into indebtedness.

^[3] <#_ftnref3>“Slave revolts in Puerto Rico: conspiracies and 
uprisings, 1795–1873”; by: Guillermo A. Baralt; Publisher Markus Wiener 

^[4] <#_ftnref4> http://lapupila.net/manufacturing-paradise/

^[5] <#_ftnref5> (re)conquering

^[6] <#_ftnref6> The Puerto Rico Oversight, Management, and Economic 
Stability Act (PROMESA) —designated as  S. 2328 — 114th Congress 
(2015-2016)— is a federal law 
<https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Law_of_the_United_States> enacted by the 
United States Congress 
<https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_States_Congress> that establishes 
an oversight board, a process for restructuring debt, and expedited 
procedures for approving critical infrastructure projects in order to 
combat the Puerto Rican government-debt crisis 
particularly relying on austerity policies, undemocratic impositions, 
and neoliberal politics to achieve this.

^[7] <#_ftnref7> Yams; a colloquial term used to refer to the followers 
of the political party in office granted positions of privilege and trust.

^[8] <#_ftnref8> A special acknowledgement to Dr. Jose Atiles-Osoria; 
this entire paragraph/segment was written thanks to his specialized 
knowledge in the fields of: Crimes of the Powerful, Colonial State 
Corporate Crimes, and Colonial and Post-Colonial Studies. For more on 
his work, visit http://uprm.academia.edu/Jos%C3%A9MAtilesOsoria

^[9] <#_ftnref9> Rice with beans.

^[10] <#_ftnref10> This year, 2017, marks the 100th anniversary of 
Puerto Ricans being granted American Citizenship. However, Puerto Rico 
has been a colony of the US for 119 years.

Freedom Archives 522 Valencia Street San Francisco, CA 94110 415 
863.9977 www.freedomarchives.org
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