When citizens in civilized societies have a dispute between/among themselves, or enter a conflict on the landscape of the domestic society, they will usually call in the police or go to court, or both, to settle the dispute, resolve the conflict. Because the business of illegal drugs is just that, illegal, the principals in such a business cannot call in the police or go to court. They settle disputes and resolve conflicts by murdering each other.
In the streets of Belize City, the business of drugs is relatively lucrative if you can control territory, and control of territory is derived from violent intimidation of those around you. For several decades now, we have seen that half our male children will drop out of school before they are 12 or 13, say, and they will not have the skills necessary to earn an honest living. They become cannon fodder for the drug dons.
While one would expect that unskilled youth who are healthy would be able to do construction work, most Belize City employers in construction bring in workers from the other Districts of Belize to do the old capital’s construction work. The main reason for this, apparently, is that Belize City youth are said to refuse the low wages in construction. The construction jobs in the streets and drains infrastructure work, primarily financed by PetroCaribe funds and controlled by United Democratic Party (UDP) Belize City area representatives and the Belize City Council, have been taken up by the aforementioned unskilled, unemployed youth. But there is no evidence that the UDP jobs are higher paying than the ones in private construction. So, it must be that the fact that the youth work in neighborhood organizations, also known as gangs, when they are on the UDP jobs, means that they feel safer traveling to the job sites and on the job sites themselves than if they took individual jobs in private construction projects. We’re just saying.
The previous paragraph is almost an aside, because our intention in this essay was to focus on the reality of civil war-level violence which has existed in Belize City, especially the Southside, for the last quarter century. The drug business is attractive because it is a relatively lucrative business, to repeat, and because you do not need education or skills training in order to succeed in it. The drug business, to repeat, is illegal, and disputes are settled by gun violence and murder. The drug business method of conflict resolution now appears to have actually become the overall culture of conflict resolution for youth on the Southside. Every murder nowadays is not about drugs and gangs. The manhood culture of the Southside has absorbed the culture of the drug business. As this has taken place, young manhood has been defined on the Southside by the ability and willingness to kill. Amazingly, this violent dysfunction has become the norm, and in order to maintain sanity, Belizeans who live and work on the Southside have to accept these wartime rates of violence and casualties as a daily reality.
At the socio-economic root of all of this is the fact that the population of the Southside, and this was once a work force involved, directly and indirectly, with the dominant forestry industry of colonial days, has been producing children who cannot get jobs to sustain themselves and maintain families as they reach the age of maturity. This is an urban population, and the urban youth are reluctant to move into rural areas in search of employment. The urban youth, therefore, have turned to waging war amongst themselves for the finances which are available in the drug trade, and related criminal activities such as armed robbery, mugging, burglary, and the like.
When Kremandala (as Amandala) became involved in the management and financing of sports teams, it was way back in 1972, almost a decade before political independence, and our motivation was not necessarily altruistic. Sports was a fun thing for us. The competition was exciting, and added flavor to life. It soon became apparent to us, though, that Belize’s power structure felt it important to pressure our teams, because of the popularity their success would engender. As a result, Amandala retired from first division football in 1977, and from first division basketball in 1982.
When we returned to basketball in the late 1980’s, it was almost under duress. We had young employees whom we had to sponsor. No one else would. They ended up becoming the core of the Raiders, and by the time semi-pro basketball began in 1992, we had become Kremandala and we saw where sports could help to alleviate some of the problems in Belize City.
Whatever their rationale may be, it has become stunningly evident since that time that Belize’s elected politicians, especially those of the UDP, don’t see things the way we do. It is unbelievable that in the nation’s population center, for years the facilities for top level football have been absolutely unacceptable and the facilities for big time basketball do not even exist. If we were to measure things based on the level of murderous violence for the last twenty five years in the old capital, we would have to conclude that any initiative which alleviates the conditions which feed and aggravate that violence, has to be considered an urgent initiative. But this was not the way the big boys saw things.
It was always clear as day that education and skills training had to take precedence over sports. But our opponents, always apologists for the established order, charged Kremandala with putting sports ahead of education. How absurd! By 1992 on the Southside, Kremandala had already created more jobs than any other roots institution, but we ran afoul of UDP politics. Between 1994 and 1995, the ruling UDP newspaper attacked the Kremandala team so consistently and viciously, we felt forced to disband a championship organization which had won three consecutive titles. (That ended up being four consecutive, but that’s another story.) This is how the politicians work in Belize: they don’t do anything for the masses, but if someone else does something, they turn around and destroy it.
For Kremandala in 1992, semi-professional sports was an emergency antidote for a system which had failed to provide education and skills training for Belizean youth. But it was not permitted to criticize that education system, you see, because it was built around God, and that was Whom the power structure apologists had always used to block change. God will provide. The question the Belizean youth keep asking is: When?