There have been three general elections in this newspaper’s 44-year history when we campaigned all-out for a political party. These were in 1979 for the PUP, 1984 for the UDP, and 1998 for the PUP. In all these general elections, the parties we endorsed were successful.
Amandala receives its core support from Belizeans who are not part of this society’s established power structure. Once a government, any government, is formed in Belize, the established power structure immediately begins to assert itself. It doesn’t matter all that much who campaigned for the political party which is forming the government: permanent reality is the established power structure.
What are the elements which comprise Belize’s established power structure? Well, firstly you must look at the foreign powerhouses which are most influential in Belize, and these are the United States and the United Kingdom. Then you must consider those who control the minds and thinking of Belizeans through the educational system, and these are the Christian religions here. The banks are very powerful, the insurance companies, the large merchant houses, and the major industrialists in food production, sugar, citrus, tourism, and the like. You get the picture.
On Partridge, we can campaign for political parties whenever we wish to, but we never control governments, or even seriously influence them. We are not part of the established power structure. It is the established power structure which controls governments here, and we have just told you who they are.
The partnership between PUP Lake Independence area representative, Cordel Hyde, and PUP Albert area representative, Mark Espat, was functional between 2004 and 2011. The partnership received a lot of media and public attention because Cordel and Mark were critical of the richest man in Belize, Lord Michael Ashcroft, because the two young men were very strong in their Southside City constituencies, because they were part of the Kremandala chairman’s family, and because there were some Belizeans who hoped Cordel and Mark would launch a genuine, credible, third party.
Cordel and Mark were members of the PUP Cabinet G-7 initiative in August of 2004. Mainly because of that G-7 “transgression,” Mark Espat was fired from Cabinet by Prime Minister Said Musa in December of that year, whereupon Cordel resigned from Cabinet in solidarity with him. They were returned to Cabinet in November of 2005, in time for the 2006 Belize City Council elections, but were again removed from Cabinet in May of 2007 during the Universal Health Services (UHS) controversy.
In the February 2008 general elections, both Cordel and Mark defended their seats successfully, though the UDP won a landslide victory. With the subsequent resignation of PUP Leader, Said Musa, Mark and Cordel supported Orange Walk Central’s Johnny Briceño for Party Leader, and Briceño defeated Freetown’s Francis Fonseca and became PUP Leader in March of 2008.
When Briceño resigned as PUP Leader in late October 2011, Mark Espat in fact became PUP Interim Leader, and during his 11-day stint as such, he was endorsed for the leadership by 30 of the 31 PUP constituencies. Espat decided, however, that the conditionalities of PUP leadership were not such as he could accept, and so he resigned as Interim Leader. The PUP power structure then appointed Francis Fonseca as PUP Leader, a post he still holds.
With that appointment in November of 2011, the atmosphere in the PUP changed. Cordel Hyde and Mark Espat were removed as Senior Deputy Leaders on November 18. On January 30, 2012, Cordel Hyde received a diagnosis of grave cancer afflicting his son in New York City. The very next day, UDP Prime Minister Dean Barrow called general elections. After urgent meetings with his family and constituency committee, Cordel announced on February 3 that he would not be contesting the March 2012 election, and departed for New York on February 4. A few days afterwards, Mark Espat announced that he would not be running in the Albert constituency for the March election.
Whatever the internal PUP dynamics involved, the PUP lost both the Lake I and Albert divisions in the election, and these two seats, as fate would have it, proved to be the margin by which they lost the general elections. Had the PUP won Lake I and Albert, they would have won the general election, 16-15.
Mark and Cordel were immediately branded as traitors by the PUP. As time went along, it turned out that they were traveling in different directions. Mark Espat received a big time UDP government contract to lead the team which would re-negotiate the superbond, but, despite various rumors, Cordel Hyde remained independent. After the tragic death of his son in the latter part of 2012, Cordel made known his intention to return to Lake I and the PUP. In politics, all things are possible, but it does not appear that there is any chance of a reconciliation between Mark Espat and the PUP.
Recent indications are that Cordel and the PUP leadership are close to reaching a deal. Amandala will, of course, support Cordel Hyde in whatever he does, as we have supported Mark Espat in his business and political activities. If they end up working for opposing political parties, Partridge Street will continue to support them both. In Belize, the instances of members of the same family working at high levels with different political parties are not common. It will be somewhat awkward for us at times, we expect, but we will just do the very best we can.