“We interpret the agreement as, effectively, a decision to give Sapodilla and Ranguana Cayes to the Guatemalans, to cede land to them under the euphemistic description of ‘use and enjoyment.’
“Sapodilla and Ranguana Cayes, if we understand the meaning of territorial integrity and sovereignty, are intended by God for the use and enjoyment of us Belizeans and our children and their children. This is a legacy we inherited from our much maligned ancestors. It is a sacred trust. It is a legacy for which we should be prepared to die.”
– pg. 2 editorial, AMANDALA, Friday, March 20, 1981
“And five of them were wise, and five were foolish. They that were foolish took their lamps, and took no oil with them.”
– MATTHEW, 25, 2-3.
A week has passed since Mose Hyde broke the news on his KREM Radio/TV WUB morning show that the United States had hired Guatemalan contractors using exclusively Guatemalan workers to construct a base for the Belize Coast Guard at Hunting Caye. For you Americans, listen here, the outrageous arrogance in the choice of contractors has to do with the fact that Belize is a sovereign nation-state which is embroiled in a territorial dispute with the Guatemalan republic which is home for the Hunting Caye contractors/workers. (This dispute is inherited by Belize from our former colonial masters, Great Britain, who granted Belize independence in 1981.)
So far, the United States, the colossus of the Western Hemisphere, and indeed of the world, has gotten away with ignoring the righteous indignation of the Belizean people, an indignation which has been confined to Belizeans in Belize. Construction has proceeded on Hunting Caye, and there has been no indication by the United States Embassy in Belmopan that they have heard the Belizean voices of protest.
Confronted with this embarrassment and disrespect of Belize as articulated by the Leader of the PUP Opposition in the House of Representatives, Hon. Francis Fonseca, just hours after the news broke on WUB, Belize’s Minister of National Security, Hon. John Saldivar, basically excused himself by saying that he had not been prepared to “look a gift horse in the mouth.” And Belize Prime Minister and UDP Leader, Hon. Dean Barrow, referred to the American choice of contractors as an act of “insensitivity,” then washed his hands by saying that he had not been aware of the details of what was taking place at Hunting Caye.
Once the UDP government responded as it did with respect to the Hunting Caye issue, then the ball was in the court of the PUP Opposition. The PUP standard bearer in Port Loyola, which is presently a UDP constituency in Belize City, led an egg-throwing demonstration last Friday at the Guatemalan Embassy in the old capital, and PUP Leader, Hon. Fonseca, followed up his attack on the government in the House last Thursday with more criticism of the UDP administration on the Hunting Caye matter in a session with the media this week, but the PUP, as a mass party, did not demonstrate or march, and gave no indication that it would.
It is a breach of Belizean law for foreigners to be working on Belizean land and sea without appropriate documentation. It is also a breach of Belizean law to be in possession of a stick of weed. The government of the United States provides funding and equipment for the Belize police to hunt down weed smokers and funding and equipment for the Belize army to search the jungle for weed fields. That same United States government appears to be in breach of employment laws in the nation-state of Belize.
The participatory democracy of Belize is built on the foundation of the two major political parties – the ruling UDP and the Opposition PUP. They control the clear majority of the adult population of Belize. Once the two major political parties behave as casually as they have with respect to the Hunting Caye violation of Belizean sovereignty, the society of Belize takes its cue.
There are third parties and activist groups in Belize, but they are small minorities, and they have not been able to unite to make any kind of forceful, national statement in the decade or so they have been on the scene. The Cayo-based third party, led by Nefretery Nancy Marin, has addressed the issue, as has the Toledo-based third party, led by Wil Maheia, who for several years has been in the forefront of exposing Guatemalan incursions of various kinds inside the land and sea of Belize.
But there has been no evidence of Belizean youth being galvanized on the Hunting Caye issue. Hunting Caye came just a week after the murder of Belizean tourism police officer, Danny Conorquie, on September 25 at the Caracol Maya site by Guatemalan villagers/bandits. When Belize, in response, began the construction of an observation outpost at the border in the vicinity of Caracol, Guatemalan villagers, presumably from the base of the Danny Conorquie murderers, came across the border last Friday, October 3, to threaten the Belizean builders and their small army guard.
The Danny Conorquie murder and the border aggression a week later were more emotional incidents than the sovereignty/employment law violations at Hunting Caye, but even the first two incidents had not sparked a public reaction from Belizean youth in any of our population centers.
For us at this newspaper, this says something about the inadequate nature of the education which is being offered to our young people in Belize’s educational institutions. Our youth have been targeted by cable television, alcohol and drugs, and frequent public concerts featuring regional superstars. Belizean youth are not a nationalistic or militant sector of our population. This bodes ill for Belize’s future.
We have said recently that it may be that the masses of the Belizean people are no longer being intimidated by Guatemala’s military might. The indications are in the aftermath of the Hunting Caye revelations, however, that Belizeans are intimidated by the United States colossus. A few weeks ago this newspaper published a copy of the Seventeen Proposals submitted in 1968 by one Bethuel Webster, the United States mediator in the Anglo/Guatemalan dispute over Belize. Our thesis was and is that the Seventeen Proposals document has remained the blueprint guiding United States policy and decisions on matters having to do with Guatemala and Belize. There has been no public examination or discussion of the Seventeen Proposals for many years, except for the Amandala reproduction.
The tweaking of the Seventeen Proposals in 1981 which we know as the Heads of Agreement, called for Guatemala to be given the “use and enjoyment” of Belize’s Ranguana and Sapodilla Cayes. Since Hunting Caye is included in the Sapodilla Cayes, perhaps you lackadaisical and/or compromised Belizeans may now be interested in a reproduction of the Heads of Agreement. Presently, we are reminded of the Bible’s foolish virgins as we survey the Belizean landscape, at home and abroad.
Power to the people. Power in the struggle.