Friday, March 7, 2008

Guam's New Marine Invasion Fuels Economy as Chamorro Protest

March 7 (Bloomberg) -- Elmore `Moe' Cotton had to teach night classes to supplement his earnings as a real estate broker during a decade-long slump on the Pacific island of Guam. Now his day job is paying off again.

Cotton can thank his former employer: The U.S. Marine Corps. The Marines plan to move 17,000 personnel and dependents to Guam from Okinawa, Japan, beginning in 2012, boosting the island's population by 10 percent. House prices have risen 70 percent since 2003 on expectations of increased demand.

``Finally there's a chance to earn some money after seeing losses for a decade,'' said Cotton, 72, who runs Century 21 Commonwealth Real Estate. ``Things really did slide -- people couldn't afford to buy hamburgers,'' he said, recalling his years running the Wendy's International Inc. franchise on Guam.

Many residents of Guam, a U.S. protectorate 3,700 miles (6,000 kilometers) southwest of Hawaii, are counting on the military influx to boost an economy that shrank 35 percent in the 10 years to 2002. Some of the island's native Chamorro people are more concerned that the military buildup will accelerate the destruction of their culture.

Being a Chamorro on Guam is like living under colonial rule, said Hope Cristobal, a former senator in the Guam Legislature. Guam residents are U.S. citizens but can't vote in presidential elections and the island has no vote in Congress. The Chamorro make up 37 percent of the 212-square-mile island's population.

``The world is about more than just counting dollars --we've been here for over 4,000 years,'' Cristobal said. ``All decisions on Guam are about military policy and military programs.''


Guam's slump followed the collapse of the ``bubble economy'' in Japan -- source of 80 percent of the island's tourists -- the Asian financial crisis and the Sept. 11 attacks.

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