Your children are not your children.
They are the sons and daughters of Life’s longing for itself.
They come through you but not from you,
And though they are with you, yet they belong not to you.
You may give them your love but not your thoughts.
For they have their own thoughts.
You may house their bodies but not their souls,
For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow, which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams.
You may strive to be like them, but seek not to make them like you.
For life goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday.
- Khalil Gibran
First, of course, this newspaper congratulates the United Democratic Party (UDP) and Prime Minister Dean Barrow for a noteworthy feat unprecedented in the post-independence political era in Belize – a third consecutive term of office. On Wednesday, November 4, 2015, the Belizean people felt they had no choice, and they spoke clearly and decisively. The UDP won 19 seats, and the Opposition People’s United Party (PUP) won 12.
Late Wednesday night, our sources informed that there were recounts taking place in Cayo North East (PUP), Stann Creek West (UDP), and Corozal South East (PUP), where the margins of victory were considered relatively narrow. The recounts, however, could not possibly affect the overall result. Incidentally, there were other narrow margins of victory in Toledo East (PUP), Belize Rural Central (UDP), Port Loyola (UDP), Pickstock (UDP), and Caribbean Shores (PUP).
As nationalistic Belizeans, we felt that the five-week-long campaign and the conduct of the election day voting and election night counting of the votes were massive victories for the young nation-state of Belize. The public officers, the police, the army, and the people of Belize must be congratulated. Big time. We have no evidence of any violence having to do with the campaign, the voting, and the counting. In Belize, we began to take our peaceful elections for granted a long time ago, but this one, especially, cannot be taken for granted, because Belize is a more violent society than it has ever been and there are more firearms around, both legal and illegal, than there have ever been.
The PUP, which won five consecutive general elections, from 1961 to 1979, after the present Ministerial constitution was introduced in 1961, has not won a single election of any kind – general, municipal, or village, since March of 2003. Of the eight general elections held since independence in 1981, the PUP have now lost five.
The PUP brass, nevertheless, felt they had a chance to win on Wednesday because they knew that the Belizean people wanted to remove the UDP from office. And, the PUP was the only option. As we keep saying, Belize is a small place, and most politicians in office end up involved in hanky-panky after a while. The Belizean people know what’s going on with the UDP incumbents. But, the stubborn PUP obviously did not offer a suitable option on Wednesday, and a story goes with that. For the purposes of this essay, that story probably begins in March of 2003.
Having won a second consecutive term of office in the March 2003 general elections, the troika which had begun taking power during the PUP’s 1989 to 1993 term of office (by 2003, the troika had actually shrunk to a duo), and had pushed out the Right Honorable George Price from PUP leadership in 1996, moved to consolidate power. They had added a small social justice wing in 1994 in the person of a Kremandala candidate in Lake Independence, but with the second term secured, social justice was no longer necessary. And, after all, the business/industrial oligarchy despised Kremandala anyway. So. Ralph was God.
A so-called G-7 rebellion took place inside the PUP Cabinet in August of 2004. The rebellion featured 7 Cabinet Ministers, and when the dynamic duo moved to crack the whip and make an example of specific rebels in December of 2004, it was the Kremandala-linked Ministers who ended up outside of Cabinet – Mark Espat and Cordel Hyde.
As the years went by, and defeat followed defeat, it became clear that it was more important for sacred cow powerhouses in the PUP leadership to retain control of the party rather than allow for a return of the social justice philosophy which would make the party more palatable to roots Belizeans. The roots PUP of the 1950s and 1960s had become firmly neoliberal in the third millennium.
Having regained control of the PUP in late 2011 after a Johnny Briceño interregnum between February 2008 and October 2011, the PUP came within 75 votes of winning the March 2012 general elections. Inside sources will tell you that the PUP’s neoliberal ruling faction had not expected to win or even come close to winning in March 2012. The party’s surprising performance was a godsend, however, because the neoliberals were able to blame the aforementioned Mark Espat, and to a lesser extent, Cordel Hyde, for that defeat. In fact, Espat and Hyde had essentially been sacrificed in late 2011/early 2012, even though their seats were safe ones for the PUP, because the ruling neoliberals, feeling they had no chance in March 2012, were cleaning house once and for all.
After March 2012, the PUP again began to lose by huge margins, and early this year a rebellion larger than the G-7’s broke out amongst the party’s standard bearers. It featured first 12, then 11 standard bearers, of which two, Cordel Hyde and Johnny Briceño, had been part of the August 2004 G-7. The ruling neoliberal faction spent most of this year fighting off the G-11 reform attempts, and went into Wednesday’s elections with full control of the party.
In cementing that control, however, the party rulers had imposed some election candidates, especially on Belize’s Southside, who had absolutely no chance of winning and were standard bearers only because of their loyalty to the ruling faction. Still, it may well be that neoliberal is the way to go. Of the 11 victorious PUP standard bearers on Wednesday, 8 came from the 20-member ruling neoliberal group. Only 3 came from the G-11. But it was from the ranks of the ruling neoliberal 20 that the most devastating PUP defeats took place, especially in Southside Belize City.
Amidst the PUP’s Southside City carnage, mention must be made of the valiant stand taken by the voters of Lake Independence, who rejected the UDP’s neoliberal candidate, Mark King, who was heavily financed by government and oligarchy funds, and returned Cordel Hyde, the PUP’s social justice candidate, to office.
Our sources say that neoliberal business will continue as has been the norm since 2003 in the PUP. The Kareem Musa win in Caribbean Shores means that a father, Said, and son, Kareem, will sit together in the House of Representatives for the first time in Belize’s history. A father and son have been elected in different general elections before. They were Sam Vernon, in 1961, and his son, Alejandro, in 1969. (The Vernons ran for the PUP in Toledo. Other father and son area representatives include Joe Briceño, followed by his son John, in Orange Walk, and Florencio Marin, Sr., followed by Florencio, Jr. in Corozal.) But now, Said and Kareem will sit together in the House on the PUP side.
Months ago the UDP candidate, Belize City Mayor, Darrell Bradley, was the odds-on favorite to win the Caribbean Shores seat, but he was betrayed from inside his party. Politics is a rough, rough game.
The ruling faction of the PUP will now have to blame someone for this latest defeat, and the possibility is that their scapegoat will be Orange Walk’s Johnny Briceño. The PUP performance in the North was very disappointing, especially in Corozal, where the blue won only one seat out of four. Strictly speaking, it is probably the Florencio Marins who should be blamed for Corozal, but that is not the way how this will work. The Marins have protection.
Power to the people. Remember Danny Conorquie. Fight for Belize.