Editorial — 28 February 2018
Déjà vu, ma cherie …

Psychologists include Machiavellianism as part of the so-called dark triad of personality traits, alongside narcissism and psychopathy. Psychologist Kibeom Lee of the University of Calgary in Alberta and his colleagues have shown that people who score high in all three of these traits also tend to score low in measures of honesty and humility. These individuals will do almost anything to achieve material wealth and social dominance.
– from an article by Theodor Schaarschmidt in the May/June 2017 issue of SCIENTIFIC AMERICAN MIND, pg. 53.

Mazeppa’s Ride
Time at last sets all things even
If we do but watch the hour.
There never yet was human power
That could evade, if unforgiven,
The patient search, and vigil long,
Of him who treasures up a wrong.
–  Lord Byron (1788-1824)

Late last week, Belize Financial Secretary Joe Waight essentially confirmed what we entrepreneurial business people could feel coming from late 2016: the Belizean economy has collapsed. In the months leading up to the November 2015 general election, Prime Minister/Minister of Finance, Rt. Hon. Dean Barrow, had used hundreds of millions in Petrocaribe loan moneys to create an artificial spike in our economy. The fact of the matter is now stark in its clarity: the man who had spent his entire adult life surviving and thriving on commissions from litigations has no idea how a Third World economy operates, and what he needed to do to stimulate and sustain real economic activity.

The masses of the Belizean people were always willing to “wake up and work,” to toil and sacrifice in order to attain human dignity and national sovereignty during the decades when this country was led by the Right Honorable George Cadle Price. The Belizean people saw, at least they believed, that Mr. Price was an integral part of Belize’s struggle upwards, that he felt the people’s pain, that he saw himself within their socio-economic context.

This has never been the case with Mr. Barrow. We always knew he aspired towards his own socio-financial upliftment, in the first instance. We could see that the sufferings of the Belizean people had no relevance for him. He sought political power in order to enhance the financial status of himself, his family members, and his friends and cronies. For achieving the aforementioned goals, Mr. Barrow is a United Democratic Party (UDP) hero: after ten years of his Prime Ministership, however, we see Mr. Barrow as a Belizean villain.

How did such a vain and selfish individual come to power? Mr. Barrow came to power because he was the Leader of the Opposition UDP in August of 2004 when the then ruling People’s United Party (PUP) leadership became accused of financial irregularities and abuses in the court of Belizean public opinion. The question then becomes, how did Mr. Price’s PUP find itself in such a culture of financial irresponsibility when Mr. Price’s brand was, indisputably, restraint, financial prudence, even austerity.

The truth is that Mr. Price’s PUP was hijacked sometime between the late 1980 and early 1990s. Mr. Price oversaw that hijacking (he was still PUP Leader at the time), in effect he condoned it, and he did so, we suggest, because the struggle for political independence for Belize had made him a prisoner of the PUP: the pro-British enemies of that struggle had become larger than life in Mr. Price’s political psyche, and he believed that the only way forward was through the PUP. To a certain extent, because of the desperate days of the late 1970s and the Heads of Agreement, Mr. Price could only see, when he looked at the UDP leadership, the bigoted, elitist descendants of the National Party (NP) which had opposed self-rule in the 1950s. So it was, that the troika of PUP leaders which Mr. Price blessed to lead the PUP and the nation-state of Belize into the third millennium, abandoned Mr. Price’s road and betrayed Mr. Price’s vision.

That troika, that multimillionaire troika, created the opportunity for Mr. Barrow and the UDP. Mr. Barrow’s and the UDP’s assignment, when they came to power to replace the PUP in February of 2008, was to set matters right, to correct the excesses, to return honesty to government. The job of Mr. Barrow and the UDP was not to choke the economy, it was not to restrict domestic entrepreneurial initiative, and it was not to cover up UDP corruption. The UDP was not elected to office in 2008 to embrace predatory foreign investors in areas of the economy where Belizeans were experienced, functional, and productive.

We have looked at Mr. Barrow’s ten years of Maximum Leadership, and we have concluded that the socio-political crises which have led to Belize’s economic collapse began with the Citizen Kim/Minister Elvin Penner passport scandal of September 2013. Mr. Barrow covered up that scandal because he believed that his 17-14 margin of seats in the House of Representatives was too narrow. At that moment in time, Mr. Barrow chose power over truth.

So then, why had his margin of seats become so narrow, after he had come to power with a landslide 25-6 majority in the House in 2008? Apparently, something had begun to go wrong in the rural, District areas of Belize that we in Belize City were not seeing. It may have been that voters outside of Belize City realized that the Prime Minister was a city slicker and little more, a man of polysyllabic flights of fancy, and studied gesticulations without substance or sincerity. Our leader was a con, but the old capital could not see that in 2012. Three and a half years later, we were bought and paid for in 2015. We began to suffer for real in late 2016.  And now, in February of 2018, the UDP’s chickens have come home to roost, as the saying goes. It appears that the people of Belize have risen up in electoral arms all over The Jewel.

After the Citizen Kim/Minister Penner scandal in September of 2013, we in the old capital were able to see Mr. Barrow exposed as bogus. He lost consciousness of his own feeble mortality: he forgot all the lessons of the UDP’s past. That is why 2018 will become a case of deja vu: a repeat of 1989.

Younger generations will not know that this newspaper campaigned hard, perhaps recklessly, for the UDP in 1983 (Belize City Council) and 1984 (general election). This was a party that had never won national power before. And 1983/1984 was a time when the PUP had led Belize to independence just a couple years before. This newspaper went all out for Mr. Esquivel’s UDP.

The UDP won a landslide general election victory in December of 1984, but by 1987 the party had begun to close its doors to democratic challenges from within the party. To our recollection, there were at least five UDP electoral constituencies in which the incumbent leadership was being legitimately challenged. The two we remember vividly are Belize Rural North and Stann Creek Rural.  It so happened that two of the five challengers had UBAD Party (1970-1974) connections. Rufus X, who wanted to challenge Sam Rhaburn in Belize Rural North, had been a UBAD Party officer before he became a UDP loyalist in 1973. Clifford Augustine, a former Roman Catholic priest, had left the Church to marry a lady, Elma Whittaker, who had been a UBAD Party officer in the early 1970s. In response to those challenges, the UDP’s leadership closed the party’s doors and made the party a closed shop. Hon. Dean Barrow agreed to Mr. Esquivel’s closed shop decision. The UDP subsequently lost to the PUP in the September 1989 general election. The UDP was not supposed to lose.

There are a lot of you out there who do not expect the UDP to lose on March 7. We don’t see things the way that you do. At this newspaper, we feel a sense of déjà vu today. We see that human beings in the UDP leadership have made themselves into gods. This is how it was in 1987. The UDP turned its back on some of the same people who had elected them to office in 1984.

The situation in 2018 is a bit different. The UDP has not turned against itself. In fact, they have glorified themselves. Where the ruling party has gone wrong is in their disrespect for the institutions which are fundamental to our democracy. Where the UDP has gone wrong is in their repeated violations of the truth. And, where the UDP has gone wrong is in their selfish greed. Indeed, what does it profit a man to gain the world and lose his soul?

Power to the people.

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Deshawn Swasey

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