Monday, April 30

Guam corruption report

It sounds like the US government is starting to lay the groundwork for some kind of federal take-over of Guam -- or at the very least they are rattling the sabers. They have just produced a scathing report on the effects of corruption and nepotism on the island. The report suggests that things are so bad that Guam is to the point of being a national security threat.

Many of the locals see the report as one more indicator of Uncle Sam's anti-Guam attitude. The US government controls a major portion of the island (about 30%), most of which is used for military operations. Many Chamorro families feel that the US stole their land from them. The US retorts that there was major compensation paid to the people of Guam through a system of reparations that GovGuam is supposed to administer. But because the local government is so corrupt the money and resources never seem to make to the people.

Actually, there are quite a few locals who see corruption as being the real source of the problem -- although they also contend that the federal government should throw more money this direction to fix the problem. Publicly they would oppose any kind of federal take-over but privately I suspect they would welcome change imposed from the outside because no one local would lose face or disrupt family loyalties by having to fire people.

I haven't been here long enough to have it all figured out but that's my sense of what's going on. The whole thing is complicated because culturally there is a certain level of family and clan obligation that goes with having a position of authority. If you get power you are supposed to share it with your family (even if you can't stand your family members you are under obligation of some sort. Sharing is a high value.). Of course, this is in tension with American democratic ideals. So Guamanians are not only trying to deal with corruption but they also have to straddle between two (maybe more) cultures and all the expectations that go with each. It's not an easy spot to be in.
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