There are two important benefits we Belizeans should want to achieve during this period of national and regional focus on the bogus Guatemalan claim. We should focus on increasing our national unity, and we should be interested in increasing our national prosperity.
Let us first consider the matter of national prosperity. The Guatemalan upper classes and the American/transnational corporations which are embedded in Guatemala’s socio-economic matrix, know that the territory of Belize is a wealthy territory where natural resources and development potential are concerned. The Guatemalans and their corporate allies want to acquire as much of Belize’s territory as they can, and they want to, failing that, enter contractual arrangements which will achieve maximum economic benefits for the republic and the corporations.
The situation is, presently, that the Guatemalans export more than ten times the value of products to Belize than they import from Belize. Statistics printed in Prensa Libre recently, and we assume the figures are in U.S. dollars, say that Guatemala exported more than 52 million dollars worth of products to Belize in 2012, and imported five million dollars plus of Belizean products. Belize can sustain these kinds of undesirable trade imbalances with neighbors like Guatemala and Mexico, because of our large and productive work force in the United States. It is important to recognize our diaspora work force. Big respect, Belizean diaspora.
Our newspaper competitors need to examine and edit material contributed by Alejandro Vernon, because some of that material is inaccurate and it is self-serving. Vernon’s material may be classified as not only his personal, but also pro-Guatemalan, propaganda. Readers of Amandala know that our newspaper has published material by writers and columnists which has been both pro-ICJ and anti-ICJ. Our newspaper has not taken an editorial stance on ICJ: neither has the publisher in his column. Yet, Mr. Vernon deliberately and categorically described this newspaper and its publisher as anti-ICJ in a column published last week in The Reporter.
We have seen recently that Guatemala itself essentially blew up the compromis and ICJ referendum process. This was a diplomatic mistake on Guatemala’s part, and it occurred because, we submit, they became fearful of appearing to be on an equal footing with Belize. The Guatemalans are victims of their hubris at the level of their oligarchy and military. Historically, or at least since the middle of the nineteenth century, the Guatemalan upper classes feel that they have been pushed around and disrespected by the British Empire. The Guatemalans, therefore, have a chip on their shoulder.
In this region, the British got away with their arrogant behavior, muscled their way when necessary, and left Belizeans with a problem. The British benefited from the status quo of international white supremacy. Although the Guatemalan ruling classes consider themselves a white nation-state, the British never considered them their equals. Today, Guatemala wants to behave in an imperial manner with respect to Belize. What Alejandro should tell his bosses is that this “ain’t gonna work.”
We Belizeans, non-white as we manifestly are, do not want to be disrespected by Guatemala. We want to be friendly with them because they are our neighbors, and we want that friendship to form the basis of a relationship which will increase Guatemalan prosperity and increase Belizean prosperity.
In order to increase our Belizean leverage when we engage in talks with the Guatemalans wherein we seek to increase our security and our prosperity, we, the Belizean people, have to increase our unity as a people. Belize has a significant ethnic fault line running through our population. Generally, that fault line involves the various differences between our majority Mestizo/Maya population and our black population, which constituted a majority here until three decades ago.
Before we proceed, all concerned must accept this undeniable historical fact: black Belizeans, as marginalized and embattled as we are today, are the ones who built this country. We did the work. That said, black Belizeans have to recognize that the Mestizo/Maya are now not only in better shape socio-economically than black Belizeans are, but they are the population majority. This means that they have the right to speak publicly and authoritatively, and it means that black Belizeans should want to hear them speak and should listen keenly to what they have to say.
The rise of the Mestizo/Maya in Belize has taken place over the last five, six centuries, and the speed of that rise has had two effects that we can see. One is that black Belizeans have not yet gained commensurate respect for Mestizo/Maya Belizeans, and the second is that Mestizo/Maya Belizeans do not speak out enough, appear hesitant to do so, on important national issues.
Ethnicity is an issue which can be totally subversive where national unity is concerned. In fact, it is the issue which is most subversive and explosive in Guatemala itself. It is because of ethnicity, and because of ethnicity’s social, cultural, and economic realities and implications that the republic was torn apart by a bloody civil war, which began in 1960 or 1966, depending on your source, and officially ended in 1996. Guatemala is not a unified country. Guatemala is actually two countries: one of those Guatemalas is a wealthy First World society/economy run by a neo-European elite in alliance with the military, and the other of those Guatemalas is an impoverished, malnourished, desperate, indigenous majority.
In the matter of ethnicity, Belize is substantially more unified than Guatemala is. But, our situation is not ideal. Our situation is too delicate. Ethnicity represents an area where Belize is vulnerable, where the enemies of our people can encourage us to begin quarrelling amongst ourselves. This newspaper is disturbed by the unprecedented voting patterns of the 2012 general elections, which suggested that there were differences in perspective which had developed between urban and rural voters in Belize. Because, in a very general way, Belize’s urban voters are more black, and our rural voters are more Mestizo/Maya, a trend may have begun which requires analysis and attention.
In Belize’s delicate ethnic situation, the most important thing for the Belizean population to know is that the electoral politicians are not part of the solution: they are the ones who would be the core of any future problems, because it is too easy, too convenient, for constituency politicians to become demagogic along ethnic lines.
In September of 2011, this newspaper, all on its lonesome, financed and organized a national conference of Belizean writers, artists, musicians, and intellectuals. Initiatives like these are initiatives which are designed to head off future problems where our national unity is concerned, by identifying the realities through the vision and discourse of those elements of our society who are bold in their honesty and who love Belize more than they love their bank accounts. Those with eyes to see, let them see. Those with ears to hear, let them hear.
Power to the people.