Editorial — 16 April 2014

Catherine Susan “Kitty” Genovese was a New York City woman who was stabbed to death near her home in the Kew Gardens neighborhood of the borough of Queens in New York City on March 13, 1964, by Winston Moseley.

Two weeks after the murder, a newspaper article reported the circumstances of her murder and the lack of reaction from numerous neighbors. The common portrayal of her neighbors as being fully aware but completely unresponsive has since been criticized as inaccurate. Nonetheless, it prompted investigation into the social psychological phenomenon that has become known as the bystander effect or “Genovese syndrome” and especially diffusion of responsibility.

– WIKIPEDIA, The Free Encyclopedia

The shooting murder of Darrington Lauriano which took place early Saturday night at Mike’s Club, just two blocks away from Belize City’s Central Police Station, occurred a few feet away from Port Loyola area representative and Cabinet Minister, Anthony “Boots” Martinez.

Martinez gave an interview to Channel 7 in which he explains that he dove to the floor in an act of self-preservation. There is little doubt that the other people who were in the club will tell similar stories. A form of the Genovese syndrome has hit Belize big time.

Four other murders occurred over the weekend, two of them on a farm in Carmelita, a village outside of Orange Walk Town. What reportedly happened in Carmelita was that the owner of a farm caught burglars stripping his home and opened fire on them with a shotgun, killing two of them. This is how these situations routinely play out in American movies, and gloriously so for enthusiastic audiences, but the traditional British law in Belize was always strictly against victims using lethal force against thieves. We have, nevertheless, seen numerous occasions since Belize’s 1981 independence where the law has been lenient on robbery victims who have used lethal force, but the Carmelita victim who employed lethal force has been charged with murder and remanded to the Hattieville prison.

Since independence, Belize has become a country where everyone is “rodded up,” with both legal and illegal firearms, and our murder rate has skyrocketed. The big reason for much of the homicidal violence is the business of illegal drugs, where the bosses and gangs have to punish people themselves, and it is important to have both your friends and your enemies fear you.

It has reached the point where it is not the Supreme Court which hands out death sentences in 2014 Belize, but rather such sentences are handed out by the bosses and the gangs in the city streets. Only the bosses and the gangs can respond to such death sentences and executions, retaliating in similar fashion, because the citizenry of Belize absolutely have to close their eyes and turn their heads. To witness a murder is to become an endangered individual. The state of Belize is not now able to protect murder witnesses. This is a fact.

There are educated Belizeans who have opined that this situation makes Belize a “failed state,” in the category of places like the Congo, Iraq, and Afghanistan. In this essay, our thesis is that whether this is so or not in a technical sense, we, the Belizean people, have no choice but to pretend that it is not so and go about our lives as if tomorrow will bring better things.

Belize’s violent instability is not only about the illegal business of drugs. There are specific Cabinet Ministries where it appears impossible for politicians and public officers to refuse the large financial blandishments of foreign individuals and companies. The foreign oil companies have a lot of say. There has been a hot market for Belizean land for decades. There has been a hot market for Belizean passports and other Belizean travel documents for decades. There haven’t been audited public accounts in Belize for decades. The place has become a kind of free-for-all. Some Belizeans, and politicians and political insiders are prominent amongst them, are living big, while most Belizeans feel that they are being left out of the action. Those Belizeans outside of the fiesta have become cynical. They have also become desperate.

What is happening to Belize has happened to other countries where populations without technological expertise have found themselves sitting on raw materials which were very valuable in the developed world. Remember, we native populations have no value or relevance, as human beings, for the developed world. For Wall Street and other world financial centers, it is all about access to our natural resources, such as petroleum deposits. Neoliberal capitalism is totally rapacious. Only seriously nationalistic leaders, such as Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez, can guide humble nation-states through all the naked bribes and destabilizing conspiracies originating in the rich countries. And, such leaders run the risk of being labeled, “communist.”

Belizeans are fighting for survival. But the two political parties are the most powerful indigenous organizations in Belize. Sustaining a major political party costs millions annually, and hundreds of millions in campaign years. Roots Belizean people cannot provide these levels of funding, so it is to the local oligarchy and foreign investors that the political leaders have to turn. The major political parties do not, then, belong to the Belizean people any more. When the most powerful organizations the Belizean people have built in the last six decades do not belong to us any more, to whom do we turn? Only to ourselves, beloved, only to ourselves. We are fighting for survival.

Power to the people. Power in the struggle.

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