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  • By Ken Leon-Guerrero

Decolonization is Guam’s Circus Maximus

Our island has serious problems. There is a growing “meth driven’ crime wave that is getting more invasive, and more violent every day. We have an education crisis where our schools are literally falling apart around the students. We have a rapidly expanding healthcare crisis and our chronic disease rates for heart attacks, strokes, cancer, and diabetes take their toll on our population.

No one likes to talk about it, especially politicians who run the government in a way they would never run their personal finances, because it is not their money - it’s ours. Government of Guam is “technically” broke. It is unable to pay bills when due, and that is why we have a $100-million operating budget deficit, and $4.9 billion of debt that will take decades to pay back to the tune of nearly $200 million a year.

It blows my mind that a small island with 163,000 people; with a little over a third gainfully employed (some as many as three jobs), is being forced to shoulder such a heavy debt burden. On a per household basis, we are nearing the debt levels that forced Puerto Rico to ask the federal government to step in and save them from the damage done to their economy by politicians. And we’ve seen how difficult life has become under the “quasi government bankruptcy” for the citizens of Puerto Rico.

For the past year politicians have been using the decolonization issue, like Roman leaders used the “Gladiator Circus Maximus,” to distract their people from realizing their government was broke. But it’s not working. When I talk with people about their concerns; decolonization is not even on the list for most people.

For most people, the number one concern is the rising cost of living. They worry about the struggle to pay their bills that is getting worse each month. Their second concern is their healthcare. Everyone’s family has been touched hard by diabetes, heart attacks strokes and cancer; the costs of which feed into their concerns about the rapidly increasing cost of living. The few with healthcare complain the deductibles are too high, and likely to get higher as are co-pay amounts.

Third on the list is crime; it is touching everyone. Everything from home invasions, burglaries, robberies, carjacking, and high school riots tells us Guam is no longer the safe place we remember as kids.

When I was young, decades ago, my parents had no concerns when we told them we were going to walk from Sinajana to Snow White in Agana to buy ice cream cones. Or walk to Naval Air Station to go swimming at the pool on base. We rode our bikes to visit friends as far away as Dungca beach in Tamuning and Dean’s Circle housing in Mangilao, and it wasn’t a big deal. Today most parents won’t let their children walk a mile to school.

I have pretty much ignored the entire decolonization effort because the actions of the players tell me they are more concerned about money than actually decolonizing. A fact that became evident by the mad scramble to spend federal funds by putting on a massive party for the “decolonization choir” before the federal funds expired.

The piss poor public education effort that ended with a crappy “live stream” of the final event showing more concern that the banner was clearly visible, than the speakers; spoke volumes that event leaders considered a clear view of the “event banner” to be more important than the “event speakers.” That casual display of arrogance on their part is why about 95 percent of the population does not take decolonization seriously.

Here are my reasons why I think the current decolonization effort is doomed to fail:

  1. Failure to acknowledge the reality that any decision will be decided by the US Congress and not the United Nations. The Congress and US Law have laid out a pathway to “decolonization;” but the “decolonization choir” refuses to acknowledge it. Continuing to do so will just end up with more wasted effort, mirroring the wasted efforts of the past forty years where much was said, but little accomplished, beyond spend millions of Guam taxpayer dollars to expend $300,000 of federal funds before they expired.

  2. Ignoring “Status Quo” as a valid option also guarantees failure to decolonize. George Santayana made an observation that “those who do not learn from history’s mistakes are doomed to repeat them,” and it is particularly true in this case. Puerto Rico has tried to decolonize several times and Guam can learn valuable lessons from their mistakes. Twice Puerto Rico’s efforts were dismissed by Congress because the population was not offered a status quo option as part of the voting process.

  3. Ignoring “non-Chamorro” voters will also guarantee failure as the Dave Davis decision has proven. There are 160,000 people who call Guam home, and again we can learn from history a lesson from Puerto Rico’s third decolonization effort that was denied by Congress on the basis only a small minority (20 percent of 3.5 million residents) of the population; and not a clear majority of the population, participated in the voting process.

As far as I am concerned the “decolonization choir” hasn’t established any credibility to pursue decolonization (other than availability of federal funds) since they have not done the first logical basic step: Asking all the people if we “desire changing our relationship” with the United States.

Since the decolonization choir politicians appear to be more interested in milking the federal funds cow than actually taking the first valid step of the process; I will ask the question and help bring this Decolonization Circus Maximus to an end or a starting point for them.

Please click on the link below (or copy the link and paste in your web browser, or go to for a live link) and take one minute to answer two basic questions so we can let the “decolonization choir” and politicians know how the rest of us feel about changing our political status with the United States.

Ken Leon-Guerrero is the spokesperson of Guam Citizens for Public Accountability. Send feedback to

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