Sometime last year the Belize Grassroots Youth Empowerment Agency (BGYEA) demonstrated in Belmopan to publicize their Harmonyville grievances. The support they received was disappointing. Now this Saturday, BGYEA comes to Belize City, the population center of the nation, to seek public support for their cause after last month’s bushwhacking by the Ministry of Natural Resources. BGYEA had cleared land along the highway to grow corn in order to finance infrastructure development in Harmonyville. The Ministry arbitrarily said no, and the Cabinet of Belize agreed, going so far as to get an injunction to stop BGYEA with the threat of incarceration and seizure of assets.
The problem for BGYEA this Saturday will be similar to the one they faced when they marched in Belmopan. The eight UDP Belize City area representatives will be united in making sure none of their people support the BGYEA protest. On the Opposition PUP side, their two Belize City area representatives, which are the present PUP Leader, Francis Fonseca, in Freetown, and their 1996-2008 Leader, Said Musa, in Fort George, would like the ruling UDP to be embarrassed by a successful BGYEA rally, but the PUP will not bring out its people. The rich people who own huge tracts of idle land in Belize do not wish well for BGYEA, and these rich people include some important PUP campaign financiers.
In retrospect, we have to believe that the UDP Belmopan area representative, John Saldivar, who is also the powerful Minister of National Security, did his best to ensure that last year’s BGYEA protest in Belmopan did not get off the ground. The fact that Saldivar is a known ally of Gaspar Vega, the UDP Minister of Natural Resources who has been in the eye of the Harmonyville storm, was added incentive for Saldivar to prevent any anti-UDP embarrassment on his political turf.
With the ruling UDP firmly opposed to their protest, and the Opposition PUP less than even lukewarm in their encouragement, BGYEA has to go behind the scenes and lobby support from the trade unions and other members of civil society. BGYEA has to go so far as to ask for support from Belize City’s Rastafarian community. The odds are against BGYEA on Saturday, but they can do much better than they did in Belmopan, if they know where to seek support and ask for it.
KREM Radio and KREM Television have been strong supporters of BGYEA from foundation. Easy access to the electronic media fooled the BGYEA leaders. Many people like to talk the talk: getting them to walk the walk is a different proposition. BGYEA representatives have not been doing enough work door-to-door, so to speak. For sure, they have been under stress. The Harmonyville project was itself demanding a lot of work on the ground, and BGYEA leaders were putting in their work building the community and working their own land. It may be that Harmonyville now requires a special public relations team to educate the Belizean people about what exactly is going on there, discuss the positive implications for roots Belizeans, and press the need for public support.
We mentioned before that the big landlords in Belize, not to mention foreign absentee landowners, will be hostile to Harmonyville because of its very definition. But, we will now go further. Harmonyville, in our opinion, violates the sense and spirit of the 1968 Seventeen Proposals, which basically called for Belize to become a junior state of Guatemala’s. In this respect, Harmonyville has to be a project which the United States and Great Britain oppose.
Way back in the eighteenth century, there was one time when the Spanish, who claimed all of the so-called “New World” east of Brazil, said to the British Baymen who were cutting logwood here and selling it to European markets: you can grow your wood, but “don’t you plant no corn.” Don’t get permanent here. Don’t send your roots into the ground.
People who work the land are the salt of any nation, and history shows that Belize was a place where only a small minority of the roots people worked the land, mostly in the Belize River Valley and along the Belize Old River. Because our roots here were not deep, we quickly ran off to America after Hurricane Hattie. Harmonyville represents a reversal of the mindset which dominated roots Belizeans for centuries. No one is supporting Harmonyville, except the roots Belizean people who stayed behind when everybody else split for the lights across the Rio Grande.
BGYEA has to find a way to bring out our roots Belizeans on Saturday. They can’t do that making calls on radio and television. BGYEA has to find out where the non-PUDP people are. When you’re looking at non-PUDP, you’re already looking at a minority. BGYEA, therefore, has to work hard. No one said this was going to be easy.
Power to the people. Power in the struggle.