Following the conquests of 1898, the United States began to pursue a new kind of imperialism that generally avoided the bald-faced seizure of territory. Most scholars emphasize how this period was characterized by informal assertions of dominance exemplified by the Open Door policies in China. While the Open Door became an important template for the extension of U.S. power abroad, the era between 1898 and World War II also featured frequent (and largely underestimated) military interventions in Latin America and the accompanying basing of forces abroad.
In this period, the United States intervened militarily in (and in some cases occupied) Mexico (1914, 1916-19), Guatemala (1920), El Salvador (1932), Honduras (1903, 1907, 1911, 1912, 1919, 1920, 1924, 1925), Nicaragua (1898, 1899, 1909-1910, occupied 1912-33), Costa Rica (naval presence 1921), the Dominican Republic (1903, 1904, 1914, occupied 1915-24), Haiti (1914, occupied 1915-34), and Cuba (occupied 1898-1902, 1906-9, 1912, 1917-22).The military occupations in particular depended on the establishment of local military bases and garrisons to station U.S. troops. In Nicaragua, for example, between 1930 and 1932, the United States established at least eight military garrisons. In Panama, where the United States intervened 24 times between 1856 and 1990, the nation built fourteen bases as part of gaining access to the Panama Canal Zone in perpetuity, as well as extensive powers of land expropriation and interference outside the Zone. Like Cuba, Panama became an “American colony in all but name.”
– pg. 49, ISLAND OF SHAME: THE SECRET HISTORY OF THE U.S. MILITARY BASE ON DIEGO GARCIA, David Vine, Princeton University Press, 2009
On Friday morning last in Benque Viejo del Carmen, Belize’s westernmost municipality, Dr. Assad Shoman made a spectacular re-entry into the public life of The Jewel. Addressing a special national convention of Belize’s single most powerful union – the Belize National Teachers Union (BNTU), he discussed the most passionate issues of the day – ongoing Guatemalan aggressions in the Chiquibul and at the Sarstoon, proposed arbitration (preceded by referendum) at the International Court of Justice (ICJ), and a modern history of the regional and international tactics which enabled Belize to advance to political independence in 1981 with all of our territory intact. Speaking for more than an hour, Dr. Shoman used audio and video clips to telling effect in engaging the huge audience.
As a biographical note for younger readers, we note that Mr. Shoman was area representative for Cayo North from 1979 to 1984, during which period he was a Cabinet Minister in Rt. Hon. George Price’s People’s United Party (PUP) government. He had been appointed a Senator by Mr. Price during the PUP’s 1974 to 1979 government, and he has been considered the leader of Belize’s successful initiatives between 1975 and 1981 to internationalize our right to nation-state status, sovereignty, and territorial integrity. Trained in London as an attorney and in international relations at the post-graduate level, Shoman returned to Belize in October of 1968, whereupon, assisted by Said Musa, he organized the “Ad Hoc Committee For The Truth About Vietnam,” which demonstrated in early January of 1969 against the Vietnam War propaganda movie, The Green Berets, at the Eden Theatre in Belize City.
Evan X Hyde, now publisher of this newspaper, had been one of those graduate Belizeans recruited by Shoman and Musa for the demonstration, but he quickly moved on to lecture at Liberty Hall, which led to the establishment of the United Black Association for Development (UBAD), a cultural organization, on February 9 of 1969. Within a couple months, Shoman and Musa organized the People’s Action Committee (PAC), arguing to the UBAD executive, whose support they enlisted and obtained, that they wanted to make a direct political attack on the evils in the Belizean system.
In October of 1969, UBAD and PAC merged to form the Revolitical Action Movement (RAM), during which period Shoman and Musa were removed from their government jobs as traveling magistrates and entered private legal practice. In January of 1970, the alliance between UBAD and PAC collapsed, and the organizations went their separate ways. (Of archival note is the fact that during the four months of RAM, this newspaper, which had been founded on August 13, 1969, merged with the PAC newspaper – Fire, and so the RAM publication was named Amandala with Fire.) In February of 1970, UBAD president/Amandala editor, Evan X Hyde, and UBAD secretary-treasurer/ Amandala publisher, Ismail Omar Shabazz, were arrested and charged with seditious conspiracy. They were defended in Supreme Court pro bono by Shoman and Musa and were acquitted in July of 1970.
It is not clear to us at what precise time Assad and Said chose to become affiliates of the PUP government, but both of them became unsuccessful general election candidates for the PUP in October of 1974. Shoman was defeated by the United Democratic Party’s (UDP) Joe Andrews in Cayo North, and Musa was defeated by the UDP Leader, Dean Lindo, in the Fort George constituency of Belize City.
In the 1979 general election, Shoman won Cayo North, defeating Andrews, and Musa defeated Lindo in Fort George. Assad became Minister of Health, and Said, the Minister of Education. They were considered socialist, if not communist, pro-Cuban, and therefore sympathetic to the guerrilla movements which the various military dictatorship governments of Guatemala sought to crush throughout the 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s.
There was a significant right-wing, pro-American, pro-capitalist faction in the three PUP administrations between 1969 and 1984 which was led by Communications Minister, Louis Sylvestre (Belize Rural South), and Works Minister, Fred Hunter (Belize Rural North). The disagreements between Shoman/Musa, on the one hand, and Sylvestre/Hunter, on the other, became heated in 1982 and 1983, after independence had been achieved.
When Bill Lindo, a sometime Amandala columnist, onetime Kremandala Show panelist, co-host of Ya Ya Marin Coleman’s Sunday Review on KREM Radio/TV, and recently appointed national executive member of the Opposition PUP, launched savage attacks against Shoman and his pro-ICJ position on this Sunday morning’s Sunday Review show, the historical background to that is that Lindo was a ranking, hard core supporter of Louis Sylvestre during the post-independence ideological battles in the PUP, and very much anti-Assad.
One of the most important of Mr. Lindo’s statements on Sunday morning, forty eight hours after Mr. Shoman’s glorious return to public life in Benque, was that Shoman and UDP Foreign Affairs Minister, Sedi Elrington, were saying the same thing on Friday morning, in his opinion, but that the teachers supported Shoman and booed Elrington. Bill ascribed Assad’s warmer reception to Shoman’s “flair.” He, Lindo, accused Shoman of being a liar, of being a British agent, and of having cut all his ties to Belize.
The most interesting aspect of the 2016 disagreement between Bill and Assad is the fact that Lindo has for some time been proposing a financial and political Belizean alliance with the BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China, South Africa) countries, as opposed to Belize’s traditional Anglo-American thinking. Russia and China, the two most powerful members of BRICS, are two of communist Cuba’s most important allies. Dr. Shoman is so pro-Cuba he actually lives in Havana (though his mother and his two siblings live in Belize), so one would think that it would be he, not Lindo, who would be the supporter of BRICS.
In any case, of more consequence than the renewal of a feud from the early 1980s, is the recent emergence of the BNTU as an aggressively patriotic body of Belizeans with respect to Guatemalan aggressions. During their annual general meeting in Punta Gorda a couple weeks ago, the teachers took time to travel to the Jalacte border between southern Belize and Guatemala, where their invited guide, Wil Maheia of the Belize Territorial Volunteers (BTV), showed teachers just how exposed Belize was to Guatemalan incursions at critical border points. And, following Friday’s special national convention in Benque, the BNTU marched to Belize’s western border with Guatemala, in Belizeans’ largest show of patriotism and nationalism since the present series of aggressions began in February of 2015.
The stepping up of the BNTU is in marked contrast to the stumbling and bungling within the Belizean diaspora. But, the diaspora have several excuses for their relative lethargy. Within the territory of Belize itself, the trade and labor union umbrella body, the National Trade Union Congress of Belize (NTUCB), has no good excuse for remaining in the shadows while the BNTU marched to the southern and western border fronts.
The Guatemalans will never give up their claim to Belize. That is our position at this newspaper. Their claim will be a curse with which we Belizeans will always have to contend. At the same time, you must understand that, acre for acre, Belize is the richest country in the Western Hemisphere. Belize “di red Guatemala eye.” More and more Guat intruders are panning gold in the Chiquibul, and Belizeans don’t really care, at least not yet. Historically, you know, the discovery of gold has often caused a phenomenon referred to as a “gold rush.” Historically, Europeans go crazy over gold. We have to understand what’s going on here. “Who fu go, gawn aready: who fu stay, betta siddown steady.”
Power to the people. Remember Danny Conorquie. Honor Staff Sgt, Richard Lambey. Big up, Wil Maheia and the Belize Territorial Volunteers (BTV). Salute SATIIM. Stand strong, BNTU.