Editorial — 25 March 2017
Aikman, Ashcroft, and the atomic age

   Government-funded environmental scientists began noticing something curious: nuclear explosions deplete the ozone layer, which protects the Earth’s atmosphere. This finding related to observations made by scientists who were not working for the military.

   In 1963, the U.S. and the U.S.S.R. signed the Limited Test Ban Treaty, an agreement to stop testing nuclear weapons in the atmosphere. Using longitudinal data to study the ozone both before and after the test ban, the Berkeley chemist Harold Johnston found that stopping the testing had slowed the depletion.

– pg. 23, THE NEW YORKER, January 30, 2017, from an article by Jill Lepore entitlted “Autumn of the atom.”

   We are his adversary. Our primary job is to keep an eye on him and everyone in elected office or positions of public trust. If there’s a raison d’etre for the existence of the press, that’s it: to be a government watchdog.

   The vast majority of people in elected office or top administrative positions understand our role and accept it as part of the democratic process. If we weren’t there the worst of them would surely belly up to the public trough and chow down ‘til they burst. Our most important job is to keep a wary eye on those with the power to tax and spend.

   – from an op-ed piece by Michael Putney in the MIAMI HERALD of Wednesday, March 8, 2017

We have said to you before that in October of 1962, when the United States and the Soviet Union (U.S.S.R.) came this close to catastrophic nuclear war because of a quarrel over missile installations in Cuba, just a few hundred miles northeast of Belize, we Belizeans had no idea what was “going down.”

In the Amandala issue of Tuesday, March 21, 2017, we reproduced an article from The New York Times issue of Friday, March 17, 2017, which revealed that video footage is now available on YouTube of thousands of nuclear tests carried out by the United States between 1945 and 1962 in Nevada (a state in the U.S.) and in the Marshall Islands (a formerly idyllic site in the central Pacific Ocean.)

We suspect that most of our readers would have bypassed such a story, considering it not that relevant to us Belizeans. The tens of thousands of nuclear tests carried out by the United States, Russia, China, Great Britain, France, India, Pakistan, Israel and North Korea since 1945 have had serious implications for planet earth and its climate, however, and this planet earth is where we seven billion human beings live. At present, there is no place we can go. We are stuck here.

The dominant way of life on planet earth has featured the burning of fossil fuels and the widespread use of products derived from petroleum. This dominant way of life on planet earth is orchestrated, ultimately, by Europeans, their ancestors having invaded and conquered Africa, America, and Asia, beginning more than five centuries ago. Some scholars say that process of invasion/conquest actually constituted a clash of civilizations, because the way of life which the Europeans have evolved and refined since that clash of civilizations, was fundamentally contrary to the way of life and philosophical perspectives of our African and Indigenous American ancestors.

Even though we Belizeans are descended from African and Indigenous American ancestors, European imperialism, colonialism, and globalization have established and maintained a way of life for us over which we Belizeans do not have that much control, especially when it comes to how the pristine natural resources of The Jewel are being approached and utilized.

Where the Europeans are concerned, and the two great European nations in the Western Hemisphere are the United States and Canada, their corporations have a vision for Belize which involves the opening up of our land and our rivers and our sea to extract petroleum reserves, mine for gold and other valuable metals and minerals, and overall have Belize become primarily a subservient contributor to their European way of life, which is, to repeat, based on the burning of fossil fuels and the widespread use of products derived from petroleum. The vision which the United States and Canada have for Belize has implications where the Guatemalan claim to Belize is concerned, but we will have to address that topic some other time.

So far in this essay, we have tried to give you a regional and international background which hopefully helps to explain some of the developments which have taken place in the politics and business of Belize since our political independence in 1981 and our first modern-era change of government in 1984.

When the United Democratic Party’s (UDP) young Derek Aikman stunningly defeated the People’s United Party’s (PUP) iconic Prime Minister, Rt. Hon. George Price, in the Freetown constituency in the December 1984 general election, it is possible, in retrospect, to view that Aikman victory as that of a pro-European, Aikman, over a man who had always cherished the Indigenous way of life and had expressed some skepticism about the European philosophy, Mr. Price. As a young man, Aikman had been a page in the United States Senate, and as soon as he was appointed Minister of Education after his victory over Mr. Price, he dismantled the nationalist, experimental Belize College of Arts, Science and Technology (BELCAST), and created the University College of Belize (UCB), which he aligned with an American business school, Ferris State University in Big Rapids, Michigan. (Remember the Michigan Partners for the Alliance?)

In his first term as UDP Prime Minister, Rt. Hon. Manuel Esquivel showed tendencies which were definitely pro-Washington, and the pro-Washington Aikman appeared to be one of his favorites. In fact, Dr. Esquivel had Aikman replace Dean Lindo as UDP Chairman in 1987, and then Aikman did most of the dirty work in disenfranchising the revolutionary Rufus X between 1987 and 1988. The political future seemed rosy for the young Derek. So powerful did he appear in Freetown that Mr. Price’s younger advisers decided to move him from Freetown to Pickstock, where he could be assured a safe House seat.

Thus it was that Mr. Price led the PUP to an upset victory in September of 1989 as the new area representative for Pickstock, while Aikman easily defended the Freetown seat for the UDP. With the UDP in Opposition, however, Derek Aikman soon made mistakes which proved fatal. First, he took the PUP’s new Cabinet Minister, Hon. Glenn Godfrey, at face value in an airline deal which crashed, and then in 1991 he joined Hon. Philip Goldson in the new National Alliance for Belizean Rights (NABR). At this point, Aikman had made enemies at the highest levels of both the ruling PUP (for having defeated Mr. Price) and the Opposition UDP (for having gone with Mr. Goldson against Mr. Esquivel and Mr. Barrow.)

Enter Lord Michael Ashcroft. A bipartisan conspiracy was hatched to destroy Derek Aikman, with Ashcroft in the middle bridging the PUP and the UDP with his Belize Bank. UDP stalwarts like Hubert Elrington, Sam Rhaburn, and the late B. Q. Pitts, who had originally joined Goldson in NABR, soon ran back to the UDP. But Aikman did not. He stayed with Goldson long enough for Dr. Esquivel to consent to his destruction, by way of having him declared bankrupt.

The Maritime Areas Act (MAA) which drove Philip Goldson away from the UDP in 1991 was even bigger than people like this newspaper thought at the time. Yes, the smart money was always saying that the MAA was an oil deal, and yes, the MAA cost Jorge Antonio Serrano Elias the 29th presidency of Guatemala in 1993 after he agreed to recognize Belize’s independence, but the MAA was even more than that. Indirectly, the MAA cost Derek Aikman his political career and the MAA thereby paved the way for Michael Ashcroft to enter Belize’s PUDP politics at the very highest level – PUDP Cabinets. From the time of the December 1983 Belize City Council election, Dean Barrow had wanted to “discipline” Derek Aikman: Ashcroft showed him how to do it. In a sense, after 1992 both Glenn Godfrey and Dean Barrow belonged to the Lord. Derek Aikman became toast.

So what does all this have to do with the atomic age? Well, the atomic age was a product of the European vision of civilization which conquered our ancestors. Derek Aikman was a pro-European and he was doing pretty well until a real European, Lord Michael Ashcroft, entered the Belizean scene in 1985. In the Ashcroft scheme of things, Belize exists to serve the interests of American and Canadian mining corporations, and, of course, to fatten Mr. Ashcroft’s international bank accounts.

This here is a very big ball game, and the only institutions Ashcroft does not now own are the labor unions of Belize. That is why the election of Floyd Neal last Saturday to the presidency of the National Trade Union Congress of Belize (NTUCB) was so important. Floyd Neal’s election means that Prime Minister Barrow does not control the NTUCB. The indications are strong that Mr. Barrow has been cutting deals with American and Canadian mining corporations. This is as Lord Ashcroft would want it. No matter how much Barrow and Ashcroft appear to be feuding publicly, in private they make deals together. This is what the record shows. And when you look across the House aisle to the PUP side, the situation vis-à-vis Ashcroft seems just as bad, if not worse. Under these PUDP circumstances, all we roots Belizeans can say is: go deh strong, NTUCB.

Power to the people.

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Eden Cruz

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