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  • Guam
  • Michael Lujan Bevacqua, Elizabeth Isa Ua Ceallaigh Bowman, and Tiara R Na'puti

Reviews of the Federated States of Micronesia, Kiribati, Nauru, and Palau are not included in this issue.

July 2017 to July 2018 spanned a time of fire and fury for the island of Guam. A war of words erupted between Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un in August 2017, local protests blazed against the US military, and the government was swamped by crisis and mismanagement. All of this took place within the context of an island preparing to elect a new Maga'håga or Maga'låhen Guåhan (Governor of Guam).

North Korean threats to Guam as a proxy for the United States have become commonplace in recent years. However, in August 2017, these threats reached a new level. Following another round of sanctions instituted by the UN Security Council, North Korea threatened to turn the Pacific into "a sea of fire" (nyt, 8 Aug 2017). US President Donald Trump promised "fire and fury" in response, escalating the war of words and triggering massive international news coverage (nyt, 8 Aug 2017).

The people of Guam expressed a range of responses to the media, including fear but sometimes also faith in the United States (nyt, 9 Aug 2017). They asked the rest of the world not to let their home be lost in the global power struggle, as Guam too often appears on the map only in times of catastrophe (ut, 14 Aug 2017).

Despite the heated rhetoric, the Trump administration soon sought to deescalate the war talk with a new strategy of engagement, and Trump met with Kim during a June 2018 peace summit in Singapore. Returning from the summit, Air Force One stopped on Andersen Air Force Base in Guam for two hours in the middle of the night. Trump made no public appearances or statements, although he did meet briefly with I Maga'låhen Guåhan, Eddie Baza Calvo, for a photo op aboard his plane (gdp, 14 June 2018).

After two terms and seven years of service, Calvo's term as governor—marred by both internal and external problems—was set to end in 2018. In particular, the Trump Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 threatened catastrophe for Guam's finances and caused heightened discord between the governor and Guam's legislature.

The Calvo administration had sought in early 2017 to borrow us$225 million for tax refunds (gdp, 6 March 2017). When I Liheslaturan Guåhan (Guam Legislature) resisted, Calvo called them into special session. His Bill 1-s passed in session, with seven votes in favor and six against; however, rules require that a bill be passed with at least eight votes (gdp, 23 Jan 2018). Calvo sued the legislature and, although the Guam Superior Court ruled in his favor, the senators [End Page 162] stated that they saw the court ruling as only advisory and did not transmit the bill for the governor's signature (pdn, 16 July 2018).

This financial squall soon threatened to become a full-fledged typhoon with the passage of the Trump administration's Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017. Guam is linked to the US federal tax structure and assigns local income taxes based on federal rates. The tax cuts led to projections of a massive shortfall in Government of Guam (GovGuam) revenues, with estimates ranging from us$100–160 million (pdn, 11 July 2018). The Calvo administration called on I Liheslaturan Guåhan to raise taxes as a means of keeping GovGuam from falling off a financial cliff. The Democrat-controlled I Liheslaturan Guåhan followed a different philosophy: Many of its members disagreed with Calvo's financial projections, arguing that, rather than raise taxes, outstanding taxes should be collected or nonessential government staff be furloughed (pdn, 24 July 2018).

Despite the immediate fiscal concerns that lay ahead, I Liheslaturan Guåhan had difficulty agreeing on proposals to increase revenue, due to it being an election year. With more than half of its current members either running for higher office or retiring, thirty-nine individuals (twenty Democrats and nineteen Republicans) filed paperwork seeking election or reelection...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1527-9464
Print ISSN
1043-898X
Pages
pp. 162-170
Launched on MUSE
2019-02-28
Open Access
No
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