If we remember correctly, there is a part of the Bible which says, to those who have much, more will be given, and those who have little, even the little they have will be taken away. These are dog days in our community, because we are in that economic lull between the September celebrations and the Christmas season. Normally, Belize’s tourist industry picks up in November when the United States starts to get colder. Hurricane Sandy’s devastation of the American East Coast, will, however, probably affect our tourism negatively. The thing is, the depressed Southside of Belize City gets very, very little out of the tourist dollar in any case. That is because, it is dangerous to take people into the Southside; because things are so bad, desperation breeds aggression. You can’t attract money into the Southside because of the level of violence, even though this is the area which needs some money to circulate in the worst kind of way.
Politicians from Toledo say that their District is the one most affected by poverty, but the level of interpersonal violence is much less in Toledo than in Belize City. There are different ways to measure poverty, you see, and because Toledo is a District with a lot of rural communities, there are ways to eat without having cash money. You can farm or fish. You can’t do much of that in the city. If you are hungry, you have to become a criminal. The poverty on the Southside, it appears, is of a more deadly variety.
The level of political awareness in the old capital, partly because of the proliferation of the media, is higher than in the rural areas. The Opposition PUP has been trying to convince Belize City voters that they made a big mistake in going so overwhelmingly for the ruling UDP in March, but their agitation seeds are not falling on fertile ground. This is because of skepticism about the PUP’s Francis Fonseca leadership. Why this is so in the old capital, we could submit a thesis, but we won’t bother.
The UDP government has decided that the crime and violence are so bad they have to take draconian measures on the Southside. Certain areas of Belize City will be declared “crime ridden” areas, allowing the police and other security forces “to search any or all houses in the area without the need for a warrant” and “allowing them to restrict movement in and out of” specific areas that will be cordoned off. Minister of National Security, John Saldivar, said, “Every person entering and exiting the area will be searched. A systematic house-by-house search of these areas will be done with immediate effect.” Wow! “The cost of the new measures, said Saldivar, is in excess of $100,000 weekly.” More wow!!
The first reaction of the average city resident was to expect the “usual suspects” to be declared “crime ridden.” These would be Caesar Ridge Road, Kraal Road, George Street, Taylor’s Alley, Mayflower Street, and so on. But, our sources say, the hottest spot on the Southside has become the area around the Complex, where streets like LaCroix Street have become the sites of what can only be described as “carnage.” Young boys/young men who grew up as neighbours have been shooting each other dead for months. It is very bad back there in the western section of Lake Independence.
There is no progress or initiative to bring in money for these areas; there is nothing to build community spirit or foster unity. There are only dog days.
Between 1992 and 2006, this newspaper, along with KREM Radio and Television, invested in semi-pro basketball and semi-pro football teams which were based on the Southside. We encountered serious problems, because of political opposition and business competition. In the case of semi-pro basketball, the then ruling UDP apparently identified our Raiders team with the Opposition PUP because we had made a PUP alliance in 1993/1994. Our competitors in media business, for their part felt they had to attack our sports investments because the success of our sport teams would make us stronger competition for them. After many years beating our heads against a wall, as it were, Kremandala withdrew from sports. It wasn’t worth it. The thing is, no one stepped into the breach, because no one wants to invest in the Southside.
What has happened to the Civic Center is criminal. When it was opened a little over three decades ago, this was an important public sector investment on the Southside. The politicians don’t want to talk about it, because both of the major parties have neglected or sabotaged the Civic. (When it was built, it was in the Collet constituency. There were only three divisions on the Southside back then – Collet, Mesopotamia, and Albert.)
Beloved, you know what an enlightened sports investment group could do with $100,000 a week at its disposal? The politicians ignored the Southside, and now this is a humanitarian crisis. The thing is, we will now spend $100,000 a week on security measures, but this is only a case of some emergency treatment. No one loves the Southside, and the Southside no longer loves itself. It didn’t used to be like this.
Juvenile offenders “for even misdemeanors and petty crimes” will be isolated at Mountain Pine Ridge, under BDF guard. This is bad news, because when you take institutions like this outside of the city, abuse of the inmates increases, because that abuse becomes invisible. We saw what happened when the Seaview mental hospital went to Gracie Rock; ditto for the Princess Royal Youth Hostel.
When we thought things couldn’t get any worse, they have. On the Southside we are a community without power, because we have no money. When we do get money in our hands, we take it to Chetumal, or wherever. Who is to blame? Well, consider this. In the last half century, since things began to crumble, only two organizations have spent all the public funds in this country. These two organizations are the PUP and the UDP. They can point fingers at each other, but they can’t point fingers at anyone else. All the vouchers are signed in red and blue – PUDP.