From 1944 to 1954, there was a democratic revolution of sorts in Guatemala. When that revolution entered the phase of land reform under President Jacobo Arbenz, the United States government and its Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) decided to overthrow the Arbenz government, which they did. Arbenz gave up power and left Guatemala without offering military resistance to the invading forces of Carlos Castillo Armas, the Americans’ choice as his replacement. So it was that the gains of the 1944-1954 Guatemalan revolution were reversed, and the Guatemalan peasants became landless once again.
The Argentine physician, Ernesto “Che” Guevara, happened to be in Guatemala when Arbenz was overthrown, and he felt that the critical mistake Arbenz made was that he had not armed the Guatemalan people to protect their revolution. Guevara afterwards travelled to Mexico, where he met and joined Fidel Castro, who was preparing a group of Cubans to invade Cuba to overthrow dictator Fulgencio Batista. Batista fled Cuba on New Year’s Day of 1959, and Castro took over. He soon declared himself a Marxist-Leninist and began a land reform (amongst other things) similar to what Arbenz had initiated in Guatemala. The United States government and its CIA decided to overthrow Fidel, as they had done Arbenz, but Castro armed the Cuban people and they successfully resisted the American-financed and sponsored Bay of Pigs invasion in April of 1961.
There are some historians who believe that it was Guevara who urged Castro to arm the Cuban people, as opposed to relying exclusively on a professional army, which was what Arbenz had done. In Guatemala, the professional army, for several reasons, did not defend the Arbenz government as vigorously as they probably should have done.
The Belize Coast Guard is impressively uniformed, trained, and equipped, but the Belize Coast Guard is not an indigenous Belizean institution. The Belize Coast Guard belongs moreto the United States of America than it does to Belize. The hearts and minds of the Coast Guard personnel here have been Americanized. This is the real of the Coast Guard deal, as we see it.
There are so many areas in which Belizeans think like Americans and have similar interests. But there is one crucial area where the existential interests of Belizeans and Americans are different. Guatemala is the United States’ most important ally in Central America, and the Americans have Guatemala’s back, as we would say. Guatemala claims half the territory of Belize, which became a sovereign nation-state with all of its territory intact on September 21, 1981. The Americans cannot understand why Belize does not accept the embrace of Guatemala, so as to ensure that Cuban land reform ideas do not enter the Central American mainland from the east.
Perhaps it is not that the Americans cannot understand. Perhaps the Americans do not wish to understand, and it is for sure that you can have a hard-headed mentality like that when you are the most powerful nation in the world, as the Americans are. The Americans have decided to tell Belize what Belize should do. The way we see it, they decided to do that in 1968, reaffirmed that decision in 1981, and continue to behave the same way today.
The commandant of the Belize Coast Guard this week made it his business to explain to the Belizean people why it was that the building of a Belize Coast Guard forward operating base on Hunting Caye by a Guatemalan construction company was no big deal. In so doing, the commandant was doing damage control for the United States government and the Belize Ministry of National Security. An arm of the United States government had given out such a contract, and the Belize Ministry of National Security had approved. The commandant was a mere employee, but he was the one on the chopping block this week.
Now, such a contract was odious and remains odious to the Belizean people, because in Belizean territory it is Belizeans who should have priority when there is opportunity in such matters as construction contracts. This is a fundamental aspect of nationhood: Belize is for Belizeans. And, let it be said, Guatemalan companies should be the last ones to receive contracts to do such work inside the sovereign territory of Belize. Guatemala publicly claims Belize. A neighbor who claims your territory is not a good neighbor. The Americans refuse to accept this logic. The greater problem arises when Belizeans, in seeking to please said Americans, refuse to stand in solidarity with the rest of us Belizeans.
In his propaganda presentation to the media this week, the Belize Coast Guard commandant used several spurious arguments to defend the U.S. Southern Command’s contractor choice at Hunting Caye. The most naïve of these arguments was that the Guatemalan company is not a part of the Guatemalan state, and it is the Guatemalan state which claims Belize, not Guatemalan private companies. You have to go and do your homework, Mr. Commandant. Guatemala is an oligarchy. The oligarchy is the state.
And, by the way, at this newspaper we are still not happy with the disrespect the Belize Coast Guard showed to the Prime Minister of Dominica in September of 2013. That was a regional black eye for Belize, and it sticks in our craw. If you think you are Americans, you guys can go join the United States Coast Guard. This one here is the Belize Coast Guard. That is the real. If the Americans want to take away their fancy boats and stuff, we Belizeans can figure out something. This is an independent nation-state. This settlement began with sea pirates, and if there is one thing we know how to do, it is how to operate on the sea. This is Belize’s real.