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Friday, June 5, 2020
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Drama in Toledo

“Like, Western civilization has taken us to the moon, but still it murders in Vietnam, lynches in Mississippi, and exploits in Belize. Western civilization makes cars and tanks and bombs but has no peace and love in it. Western so-called civilization has given us nothing but bloodbath after bloodbath. This would need to be culturally revolutionized.”

– pg. 1, Amandala No. 1, Wednesday, 13th August, 1969

“Fresh evidence keeps coming to light – including revelations from top-secret British memos – about the intensity of the Bush administration’s determination to invade Iraq, whether or not Iraq had weapons of mass destruction. Yet we don’t insist on knowing ‘why?’

“Any suggestion of a possible oil motive in the war is still routinely dismissed as the terrain of conspiracy theorists.

“The fact that Iraq is the last easily-harvested oil bonanza left on earth – a vast, virtually untouched reservoir of the world’s most valuable resource – is largely ignored, as pundits focus instead on the administration’s professed concern about building democracy in Iraq.

“The refusal to take seriously the possibility of an oil motive is bizarre, given oil’s obvious geopolitical significance and the intense focus on oil exhibited by U.S. administrations …”

– pg. 1, War, Big Oil, And The Fight For The Planet, Linda McQuaig, Anchor Canada, 2005


Our sources are saying that the Toledo Maya have been divided, and that the leader best known to Belize’s national media, Greg Ch’oc, is in danger of being isolated, perhaps even humiliated. The combined forces of the Government of Belize, U.S. Capital Energy, and the evangelical churches in Toledo have broken the unity of the Toledo Maya, and the oil company – U.S. Capital Energy, has succeeded in bringing its oil drilling rig across our northern border and down south into Toledo.

The Maya in the so-called buffer communities of the Sarstoon and Temash Institute for Indigenous Management (SATIIM) have remained loyal to the relatively militant Ch’oc, but the Toledo Alcaldes Association (TAA) and the Maya Leaders Association (MLA) are marching to different drums from SATIIM, and they have a working majority over SATIIM.

It was always the case that SATIIM’s campaign was an uphill battle, and that everything depended on the unity of the Toledo Maya. From the beginning, the other ethnicities in Toledo were skeptical of the Maya fight for “customary land rights.” The Creole, the Garifuna, and the East Indian communities in Toledo tended to see the “customary land rights” as exclusive.

Our editorial position at this newspaper is environment-friendly to an almost radical extent. If you go all the way back to the very first issue of Amandala published on August 13 of 1969, you will see that our leading front page statement questioned where European/Western development philosophy had taken planet earth. Remember now, August of 1969 was less than a decade after Rachel Carson attacked DDT and the indiscriminate use of chemical pesticides, defoliants, and the like, and this was just before the environmental movement really took off in the United States, and indeed the world.

In declaring where we have stood on environmental matters, you will understand why our support for the Toledo Maya has been unwavering. We are concerned about how humanity approaches the planet when the development philosophy is decided by individualistic capitalist greed. The earth, in such a scenario, is viewed as merely a short-term facilitator for corporate neoliberal profits. Insofar as its role as provider for human life for generations yet to come, planet earth has not been treated with the love and respect it deserves. Many more people see this truth today than did so in 1969. So the Toledo Maya became poster Belizeans for a way of life which cherishes the indigenous and defies Wall Street.

The issue in Toledo, and specifically at the Sarstoon/Temash, is oil, which is a Wall Street obsession. The people and Government of Belize, whether that government is PUP or UDP, have been in love with the dream of oil, because they see oil’s potential for national financial benefits. Whichever political party was in power, that party in power always fought against SATIIM and its “customary land rights,” while whichever political party was in Opposition, would provide legal support for SATIIM. To be in power, was to fight for oil. The people of Belize, although they sound disappointed with their domestic oil experiences during the seven years of Belize Natural Energy (BNE), and although they have seen some of the horrors oil has caused in Nigeria, Iraq, and Ecuador, support the drilling for oil in Belize. Prime Minister Dean Barrow is betting his UDP government and his political future on that: “Drill, we will!”

SATIIM was always, to repeat, fighting an uphill battle, because SATIIM was fighting against the people and Government of Belize. SATIIM was fighting for an ideal which this newspaper supports, but which the people and Government of Belize do not. It gets worse. The reason the Maya of Guatemala, just across Belize’s western and southern borders, were being slaughtered by the government/military of Guatemala between 1966 and 1996, was precisely because their traditionally indigenous way of life was a problem for the Wall Street-oriented ruling classes in that republic. SATIIM’s enemy is bigger than Belize.

Guatemala, the United States’ most important ally in Central America, claims half the territory of Belize, including the all-important South. Wall Street is positive that oil and other petrocarbons lie in the South of Belize and in the Amatique Bay. That is why both the then ruling PUP and the then Opposition UDP were “convinced” to support the Maritime Areas Act (MAA) in 1992. Only Philip Goldson could have blown up that bipartisan conspiracy. Goldson was, of course, the man who had blown up the Seventeen Proposals, the original oil deal, back in 1968. For these acts of courageous patriotism, and others, Mr. Goldson remains a genuine national hero around these parts.

After all the diplomatic jumping high and jumping low – Seventeen Proposals (1968); Heads of Agreement (1981); Maritime Areas Act (1992); and Ramphal/Reichler (2002), Wall Street finally got tired and decided on a frontal assault. Enter U.S. Capital Energy, in the exact same area where SATIIM had taken a stand. Now SATIIM was no longer fighting just the puny Government of Belize: SATIIM was fighting Wall Street; SATIIM was fighting the military-industrial-corporate complex of the world’s greatest power. SATIIM was doomed. It was only a matter of time.

We like Greg Ch’oc a lot. Where Greg is today, we have been before, in 1973. In the words of the old Mexican proverb: all my friends are false; all my enemies are real. Apart from continuing to express publicly our solidarity and asking blessings for Greg, we are not in a position to assist him. The Government of Belize, Wall Street, and God are an unbeatable combination.

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