The 52nd anniversary of the present commonwealth arrangement took place on July 25. Two days before, 500 National Guard troops lay siege to Puerto Rico’s main cities. The weekend before, 17 people were killed and 6 more (including a priest) assassinated a couple of days later. And during the July 25 weekend, 5 more (including a policeman) were killed over a 12-hour period with the National Guard already patrolling the cities of our “Enchanted Island.”

Just before these bloody weekends, commonwealth leaders had dismissed the statehood party’s call for mobilization of the National Guard. They called this uninspired remedy “stigmatizing.” High government officials had denied it was even being considered. But the statehood party’s ads taunting the commonwealth party gubernatorial candidate as “a limp weakling” made commonwealth party leaders drink the water they had muddied in panic over the potential loss of votes as a consequence of the crime rampage. Shortly after, the governor announced she was calling out the National Guard while government officials insisted that such an extreme measure had been under consideration all along.

The official gubernatorial candidate demonstrated his malleability by rationalizing that every governor since the inception of commonwealth had, at some point, resorted to the Guard’s mobilization. His pensive clumsiness called ignominious precedents to mind: thousands of independence advocates detained in the 1950s without valid arrest warrants shortly before the referendum for the creation of commonwealth under a federal statute; Guardsmen deployed in the 1970s to “contain” union workers; and search-and-destroy missions in the 1990s against drug retail “puntos” in the housing projects of the poor -but not in the plush neighborhoods of the politically influential.

By July 25, the year’s murder toll was already near 500, while a strain of nearly 100 cases of viral meningitis in less than 10 days approached epidemic proportions. The governor’s public health plan to fight meningitis promised to be as much an improvisation as the anti-crime blueprint that has led her to appoint a new police chief every year. She announced that she would distribute wet-naps at the paid-by-taxpayers commonwealth party rally on July 25 -a playful gesture on the anniversary of a crumbling commonwealth of which its colonial leaders symbolically washed their hands.

In 2004, Puerto Rico’s income is still one half that of the poorest state (Mississippi), and one third that of the United States -exactly what it was at the inception of commonwealth 52 years ago. About 60% of Puerto Rican families live below poverty levels. The rate of labor participation is only around 46%. Drug addiction, alcoholism, widespread child and spousal abuse, spiraling crime rates, inefficiency in government, and rampant corruption are clear indicators of the deterioration perpetrated on our society by burgeoning economic dependence, paid for by U.S. taxpayers to the benefit of large corporate interests. The majority of working families in Puerto Rico rightfully sense that they are no better off today than they were 10, 20, or even 30 years ago.

The colonial mind shrugs all of this off as inevitable because Puerto Rico is so “small.” Yet today, 9 out of the 10 most prosperous nations, all of them independent, have less than 7 million inhabitants, and 6 have less than 1 million. Small countries -like Trinidad and Tobago, St. Kitts and Nevis, Barbados, Malta, Cyprus, and Singapore- that in 1970 were behind Puerto Rico’s economic development have achieved impressive gains far surpassing Puerto Rico’s GDP, while Puerto Rico has overtaken no one.

The statehood party’s competitive version of the July 25 commonwealth carnival two days later gasped for air by invoking the memory of renowned statehood icons. Attempting to smooth over rough memories of corruption in his administration, the former governor and statehood party candidate shifted focus to status policy. But others continued to wallow in persecution fantasies and senseless criticism of the current government’s initial reticence to mobilize of the National Guard. They appear as ostensibly oblivious as the commonwealth government to the complex genesis of crime in our deteriorating society. Their magical solution: statehood -a federal life sentence of commonwealth’s impotence in perpetuity, only with congressional representation.

Commonwealth suffers the same flaws that would hamper Puerto Rico’s development under statehood. U.S. citizenship (really, the suppression of Puerto Rico’s international legal personality, an attempt to deny our distinct cultural identity as a Latin American nation), “common defense” (with Homeland Security to substitute the U.S. Navy’s infamous history of abuses), “common market” (hampering Puerto Rico’s freedom to conduct free international and commercial relations), and “common currency” (the inability to set our own fiscal and monetary policy) are attributes that make Puerto Rico’s subordination the poster child of U.S. colonialism. Yet, in a rhetorical paroxysm at the commonwealth leaders’ partisan bacchanal of subservience on July 25, their president and candidate for governor giddily accused the enemies of colonial commonwealth, here and in Washington, of seeking its demise.

For once, we agree.