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Wednesday, September 30, 2020
Home Editorial The faceoff at the Sarstoon/Temash

The faceoff at the Sarstoon/Temash

“Belize has gone oil mad, and SATIIM will be the sacrifice. We cannot save SATIIM, but we can support SATIIM. And, that is what this newspaper will continue to do.”

– pg. 7 editorial in Amandala of Sunday, May 4, 2014

“All your friends are false; all your enemies are real.”

– A Mexican proverb quoted on page 127 of From Beirut to Jerusalem, by Thomas Friedman, Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1989

“’What surprised me most was how much the Indians believed the white man over and over again,’ Dee Brown told a newspaper reporter in the early 1970s. ‘Their trust in authority was amazing. They just never seemed to believe that anyone could lie.’”

– pg. xvii, FOREWORD by Hampton Sides to Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee, Dee Brown, Picador edition, 2007

Cheap, abundant petroleum is a primary foreign policy objective of the United States of America, the world’s superpower and the undisputed boss of the planet’s Western Hemisphere. The political leaders of the United States are elected by voters who want an ever improving standard of living. Cheap, abundant petroleum is a prerequisite for maintaining and improving America’s wealth and power.

When British Honduras became a self-governing colony in January of 1964, we Belizeans did not realize that at that point we were really entering the orbit of United States’ influence. Even if we had so realized, very few of us would have objected. The research of California-based Belizean Dr. Jerome Straughan has established that Belizeans had been travelling to the United States to work and live from the latter part of the nineteenth century, after the U.S. Civil War was won by the Union under Abraham Lincoln, a Union which had abolished slavery. Early in the twentieth century, especially during and after World War I (1914-1918), a great deal more movement from British Honduras to America took place, especially through the New Orleans port of entry.

And so it was that after Hurricane Hattie devastated Belize City and Stann Creek Town in late October of 1961, and the United States government of President John F. Kennedy made it so that those stricken Belizeans who had relatives in the U.S. could take refuge with their American relatives, there was a highly significant movement of Belizeans to America which has never been quantified. This movement “sealed the deal” where majority black Belizeans were concerned: we became Americanized.

The role of the various U.S. governments in supporting Guatemalan governments which oppressed and persecuted Guatemala’s majority indigenous population was little known in Belize, except perhaps in our remote western and southern border areas. In fact, by the time we urban Belizeans embraced America big time after Hurricane Hattie, civil war conditions existed in Guatemala wherein the Guatemalan army, fully supported by the American government and military, was carrying out brutal anti-insurgency campaigns in the Guatemalan countryside. The army’s targets and victims were mostly indigenous Guatemalans, who were accused of becoming or supporting communism.

In 2014, the most educated, skilled, sophisticated and wealthy sector of the Belizean population is constituted by those Belizeans who live and work in the United States. Those Belizeans in the diaspora have minimal involvement of a direct nature in Belizean electoral politics, and they have fewer socio-political rights in Belize than they would like, but they do contribute substantially (apart from financially) to the Belizean mood and perspective at home, especially in this age of modern telecommunications.

We are not going to blame diaspora Belizeans for the present state of affairs wherein some Belizean indigenous citizens are being victimized in southern Toledo where the Sarstoon and Temash rivers run. What we would say is that we at this newspaper, who conditionally support the rights of Belize’s indigenous people, cannot now appeal to Belizeans in the diaspora, as we have done in the past specifically where the Guatemalan claim is concerned, because we cannot expect diaspora Belizeans to support the Toledo Maya. Diaspora Belizeans are pro-American in their thinking, and they are Americanized in their outlook. They will see nothing wrong with a Belize government going overboard to facilitate oil drilling and riding roughshod over our indigenous people’s rights at the same time.

The issue in the Sarstoon/Temash is an emotional one for us at this newspaper, because we have seen similar things happen to indigenous people in North America itself, in the centuries before this one. When we saw the faces of the Kek’chi Maya demonstrating last Wednesday in an attempt to enter their own lands in the Sarstoon/Temash, we saw the faces of the Seminoles, the Cherokee, the Crow, the Sioux, the Navajo, the Apache, and all the Native American peoples who were thrust backwards violently and ground under by the wheels of European invasion/”progress.” We had hoped that such an inhumane era had passed, that such a scenario would not take place in twentieth-first century Belize. Indeed, hope springs eternal, but this ain’t looking nice.

Belize’s politics is controlled by attorneys, and after these several decades we have all seen how they operate. The lawyers are cynical and cold-blooded. They “believe” one thing when they are in office, and “believe” the exact opposite thing when they are in Opposition. Hence, today the ruling UDP support U.S. Capital Energy while they beat down the Maya. If the UDP were to lose power tomorrow, however, they would immediately begin to attack U.S. Capital Energy and glorify the Maya. Needless to say, vice versa holds true for the PUP.

Not all the indigenous people’s friends are false. Among the real friends of the Maya we humbly count ourselves at Kremandala. It is by their fruit that ye shall know them. Thus, it is written.

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