Editorial — 17 December 2016
Belizeans of The Year

“The undercover cops are the only ones who ask, ‘Who’s the leader?’” she says. “Presumably, if they know who our leaders are, they can take them out. The fact is we have no leader. There’s no leader, so there’s nothing they can do.

“There was a woman (in the medics unit),” she says. “This guy was pretending to be a reporter. The first question he asks is, ‘Who’s the leader?’ She goes, ‘I’m the leader.’ And he says, ‘Oh yeah, what are you in charge of?’ She says, ‘I’m in charge of everything.’ He says, ‘Oh yeah? What’s your title?’ She says, ‘God.’”

– pg. 255, DAYS OF DESTRUCTION: DAYS OF REVOLT, by Chris Hedges and Joe Sacco, Vintage Canada, 2013

With the benefit of hindsight, we can see that the re-colonization of Belize may have begun only a few months after our political independence in September of 1981. The re-colonization of Belize, certainly a case of cultural, entertainment, and intellectual colonialism, began with the introduction here of American cable television in 1982.

(The change of Belize’s school holidays in 1964 from April and May to June and July, apparently in order for our school holidays to coincide with the summer holidays in the United States, was overlooked at the time and that change has still not been properly calibrated by Belizean nationalists. All Belizean families which can afford it for decades have been sending their children to America’s inner cities for summer vacation. Before 1964, our children spent the long holidays in the countryside, at the cayes, and in the coastal villages of Belize. Belizean children used to learn to love Belize during the old time holidays. These days, our children become seasoned in America.)

The effects of the re-colonization were especially devastating to the two generations of Belizeans who have grown up since cable television, and who had no knowledge of the pre-television Belize. The effects of the re-colonization were exacerbated by the spraying of Belize’s marijuana fields with paraquat in 1985, almost immediately followed by the introduction of crack cocaine.

What the coming of the gangs in 1987/88 did was to take advantage of the destruction of Belize’s cultural matrix. The coming of the gangs established permanent, violent division amongst the youth in the population center, Belize City, thus making organized youth activism a thing of the past in the old capital.

It was in this re-colonized Belize that the teachers of Belize, originally organized in the Belize National Teachers Union (BNTU) in 1970, first flexed their muscle in early 2005. The teachers stepped into the socio-political vacuum which had been created when re-colonization ruined the traditional focus and energy of Belize City youth, a traditional focus and energy as had been expressed, most notably in our lifetime, during the 1969 to 1972 era of the United Black Association for Development (UBAD) and the 1969 history of the People’s Action Committee (PAC).

Several incidents of organized, disciplined activism on the part of the teachers of Belize during 2016 established our teachers as the vanguard of a revolutionary nationalism which addressed Government of Belize corruption frontally and made action statements against Guatemalan aggression. There is no doubt that the teachers of Belize were the Belizeans of The Year 2016.

Government of Belize propagandists have been employing an old colonialist/imperialist tactic in their media outlets of singling out BNTU President, Luke Palacio, for personal venom and attempted ridicule. It is for this reason that we chose not to focus on Mr. Luke’s leadership achievements in 2016. But, he did very well indeed as the BNTU spear point, and deserves maximum respect.

Even though the teachers returned to their classes after eleven days of strike in October, this is a saga which continues with court cases involving financial disputes between the Ministry of Education and the BNTU, and this is a saga which may heat up dramatically in two weeks’ time if the teachers refuse to report to classes on Tuesday, January 3, 2017.

In this age of irresponsible party political propagandizing in the electronic and print media, combined with reckless postings on the bourgeoning social media, it is more important than ever that this newspaper’s editorials be sober and analytical.

In 2016, our support for the teachers was unconditional. We believed our teachers to be true heroes, and we believed that they were being bullied by the giant, corrupt, unprincipled, ruling United Democratic Party (UDP). In addition, we saw that the Opposition People’s United Party (PUP) remained unable to play its constitutional role as effectively as the BNTU needed Her Majesty’s Loyal Opposition to do. These were the bases on which our support for the teachers was unconditional.

With Belize’s public finances in dire straits, the New Year 2017 will quickly become one of volatility and uncertainty once the holiday euphoria wears off. The Opposition PUP has improved its performance, but toxins remain within its corpus. At the same time, the ruling UDP, which has four years remaining in the five-year team of office it won in November of 2016, appeared to be in shambles almost when we viewed them in the House of Representatives last Friday, December 9, 2016. The defiantly embattled former Deputy Prime Minister, Gapi Vega, remained absent from the UDP benches, but so was Prime Minister Dean Barrow, ailing in New York City at the time. National Security Minister, John Saldivar, is damaged goods. Erwin Contreras, the Minister of Economic Development, may soon have to answer some questions. Edmond Castro, the Transport Minister, is still controversial. The beat goes on.

The UDP enjoys major, intimidating, constitutional power. Everybody knows this. But the hubris which has set in amongst the UDP leaders and their followers is offensive. What the UDP must remember is that their power is conditional upon the consent of Belize’s invisible power structure. If that power structure ever becomes convinced that the masses of the Belizean people have turned against the UDP, the arrogance of BelChina may evaporate as quickly as did that at Independence Hall in January/February of 2005. We are saying that we want the teachers to be responsible, but we are demanding that the UDP be respectful.

Power to the people.

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