“Last night we showed you how for the last few weeks, the British Army Training and Support Unit (BATSUB) had been training in Belize after 4 years of scaled back activity.
“They left Belize behind in 2011 after Prime Minister David Cameron and the British military brass decided that it would cut back on military bases worldwide. At that time, the British were focusing their military energies on Iraq and Afghanistan.
“But, since 2013, Prime Minister Dean Barrow and Brigadier General David Jones have been lobbying the British Government to bring back BATSUB to mid-2011 levels.
“Well today, 2 years later, the British Army has committed to a renewed, full scale BATSUB facility in Belize. That commitment was cemented with a visit from Lieutenant General James Rupert Everard, the Commander of the British Army’s Land Forces. Military experts tell us he is the highest ranking British soldier to ever visit Belize.”
– Channel 7’s headline news on Wednesday evening, October 28, 2015, Belize City, Belize.
Exactly one week before general elections in Belize, the only British Commonwealth country on the Central American mainland, the British know exactly what they have done here. This is a military announcement at a precise time when it will have a political impact in Belize.
On Tuesday of this week, Prime Minister Dean Barrow had spoken scathingly of Guatemalan President-elect Jimmy Morales, disrespectfully referring to him as a “neophyte,” with specific reference to Morales’ aggressive statements about “recovering” Belize for Guatemala. Mr. Barrow’s Tuesday remarks had been a noticeable change of direction where this United Democratic Party (UDP) administration’s posture towards Guatemala was concerned. For almost the whole of this year, the Barrow government has been backpedaling on all the Guatemalan incidents and Guatemalan statements which have taken place since late February of 2015. So much has this backpedaling been the case that the Opposition People’s United Party (PUP) has seized on it to focus on the Barrow administration’s appeasement attitude toward Guatemala as a prominent feature of their general election campaign.
After Wednesday’s announcement of this move by the British, some wind is taken out of the PUP’s foreign policy sails. The PUP has to, as they say in deejay circles, wheel and come again. And, they only have six days to do it.
Wednesday’s BATSUB announcement and General Everard’s visit will have the greatest benefit for the incumbent UDP where their disaffected voters are concerned. Yes, these do exist, and they have been growing in number ever since the Guatemalan incidents and statements began in earnest in late February of this year. The UDP, with overflowing campaign coffers, has been doing a very successful job of sweeping their disaffected minority under the propaganda rug. These disaffected UDP voters would probably not have voted PUP next Wednesday: the likelihood is that they would have stayed home.
Some UDP history is important here. Of the three political parties which came together to form the UDP in September of 1973, the largest party and the one with the most credibility was the National Independence Party (NIP). When Hon. Philip Goldson took over the leadership of the NIP in 1962 and up until the UDP was formed in 1973 while Mr. Goldson was studying law in London, the NIP’s political issue became and remained, “No Guatemala.”
This was not what the United States government wanted to hear: Washington made it abundantly clear in the 1968 Webster Proposals that they wanted Belize to cooperate with Guatemala, they in fact wanted Belize to be a satellite state of Guatemala’s. At foundation, the new UDP, under the de facto leadership of the attorney Dean Lindo, explicitly departed from the NIP’s “No Guatemala”mantra and began to stress “economic development” and anti-communism for Belize. This was what Washington wanted to hear. The UDP surged in popularity and campaign financing, and Lindo was officially declared UDP Leader following the October 1974 general elections.
To a certain extent, however, Philip Goldson remained the heart and soul of the political opposition to the PUP. It is because of Mr. Philip’s enduring legacy that there were disaffected voters in the UDP. These are Belizeans who are hard line on the Guatemalan question. Wednesday’s BATSUB announcement and the Everard visit will contribute to allaying their fears.
There are certainly enough domestic political issues for the PUP to continue making a strong run for the roses, but the time is short and BATSUB/Everard will throw them off stride.
We have seen in this instance that the British, as they say in legal circles, still reserve the right to involve themselves in the affairs of Belize. This “right” comes from their military function. In this case, they are also operating as American surrogates. There is little doubt that Washington and London would have consulted with each other before BATSUB/Everard. With Jimmy Morales getting out of control on the Belize issue, the Americans get him reined in through BATSUB/Everard without losing their favored status in Guatemala City. In Guatemala City, representatives of Washington will simply blame London for BATSUB/Everard. But, this had to be a joint operation.
One of the things we have surely learned after all these years publishing this newspaper is that there is a day after election, then another day, and another, and many more days really. There are issues we Belizeans will need to examine after all the votes are cast. One of these issues is the exact nature, the exact extent of our sovereignty, and what it is that we need to do to preserve what sovereignty we have and to proceed to enhance that sovereignty. This discussion will be November 5, and after. For now, the issue is Jimmy Morales and the BATSUB/Everard response to him. This is Thursday, October 29, 2015.
Power to the people. Remember Danny Conorquie. Fight for Belize.