In this essay, we hope we have given you an idea of how racism and capitalism, ethnicity and ideology, factor into this Guatemalan claim. When we were children, we believed this dispute was all about nationalism. Yes, the Guatemalan claim to Belize is about nationalism, but once you understand that there are two Guatemalas, then you will appreciate a certain complexity to the matter which requires education and analysis. If you begin to suspect that there may also be two Belizes, then your educational and analytical challenge will become even greater.
– pg. 6, Editorial in AMANDALA issue of Friday, November 17, 2017
In the last few weeks, the public finances of Belize have been hit by several devastating blows to the head. We are no financial experts at this newspaper, but we have to believe that these blows represent some palpable danger to Belize’s currency peg, which is officially two Belize dollars to one American, in the cumulative sense and in the foreseeable future.
Let’s give you an idea of how weak and ignorant we Belizeans are at the base of our socio-economic pyramid. No one here has ever said when it was exactly that we were told to begin celebrating Columbus Day in British Honduras. All we know is that it had to have been the British colonial authorities here who instructed us to begin celebrating, because they are the ones who declared October 12 an annual public and bank holiday.
We know that when the British first declared the Garifuna Settlement Day holiday in 1941, it was a holiday only for the Stann Creek and Toledo Districts, where most of the Carib population lived at the time. In 1977, a self-governing Belizean government extended the holiday to the entire nation of Belize.
Our vague sense is that Columbus Day was originally confined to the Corozal and Orange Walk Districts, and then later extended to the whole of Belize. In Belize City, which was first given the Tenth of September Centenary holiday in 1898, exactly one hundred years after the Battle of St. George’s Caye, Columbus Day, which marked the day in 1492 when Christopher Columbus first landed in the “New World,” seemed like a “Spanish” holiday,
In 1992, a militant movement began regionally and internationally in that quincentennial year of Columbus’ arrival in the Caribbean, an arrival which began genocidal horror for the Indigenous peoples who had lived here for millennia before the Europeans came, and would soon lead to brutal chattel slavery for hundreds of millions of Africans chained and transported to the Western Hemisphere in the holds of sailing ships. Recognition gradually spread that there was really nothing, absolutely nothing that the majority African and Mayan population of Belize had to celebrate on October 12. In Belize, our eyes slowly began to open. Slowly.
In 2017, there are two Belizes. One Belize understands economics and finances, and that Belize includes the Chinese, the Indians, and the Mennonites, and the greatest one in that Belize is Lord Michael Ashcroft, from Great Britain. The other Belize is the rest of us, and we rest have been led by our noses onto Lord Ashcroft’s chopping block. We were led there by our PUDP political leaders, beginning in 1992, the same year, coincidentally, of the Columbus quincentennial.
In retrospect, it is clear that PUDP attorney politicians thought highly of their own intellectual abilities, and it is also clear that they were immoral, selfish and greedy. The PUDP attorney politicians were not like Mr. Price, or even like Mr. Esquivel. After all, the new breed were lawyers, and they believed they could go dancing with the devil – Lord Michael. They did not appreciate that the Britisher had a large battery of world class attorneys and accountants at his beck and call in London and other places. When you fight Lord Ashcroft, you are fighting the world.
The dry run Lord Ashcroft organized for the immoral, selfish and greedy PUDP attorney politicians was the political beheading of Freetown area representative, Derek Aikman, utilizing financial instruments in 1992. PUDP attorney politicians cooperated, following the instructions of the Lord, to destroy Aikman, who was the common enemy of a few PUDP principals. The plot worked perfectly. Ashcroft was now considered a genius. The PUDP attorney politicians were dazzled by his brilliance, not to mention his money.
The following year, just before the June 30 general elections of 1993, a couple attorney politicians of the then ruling People’s United Party (PUP) removed the legal firewall which protected Belize’s telecommunications monopoly, Belize Telecommunications Limited (BTL), from foreign predators such as Lord Michael. This was done specifically to create opportunity for Lord Ashcroft, and it proved to be the thin edge of the wedge which, driven to the butt, today has the Belizean financial system on concussion protocol.
A PUP attorney politician ruled Belize from 1998 to 2008, and a United Democratic Party (UDP) attorney politician has ruled Belize since then. The party politics of Belize has been featuring, since 1998, the pointing of fingers at each other by these two worthies. For the benefit of their respective party faithful, these two are always blaming each other and their respective administrations for the carnage which has been wrought on Belize’s public finances, with Lord Ashcroft, a friend and associate of both the two attorney politicians, being the greatest beneficiary of all.
The masses of Belizeans are not free from blame in what has transpired, because at some point we began to view party politics as a cash cow at campaign and election time. We began to sell a vote which had originally been so precious to us when universal adult suffrage was introduced in 1954.
The 1984 campaign in Queen’s Square, a new constituency at the time, was the first time this newspaper can recall seeing a lavishly funded campaign. We passed it off at the time as a result of the business magnate Barry Bowen’s personal interest in ensuring the defeat of the PUP Queen’s Square candidate, Ralph Fonseca.
Nine years later, in June of 1993, we saw the aforementioned Ralph, having been burned by money in 1984, literally buy out the new Belize Rural Central constituency for himself. This is real. A trend was being set.
In 2017, you cannot campaign successfully in Belize’s politics without cash to spend. This type of landscape, where we voters are demanding financial handouts, makes us sitting ducks for people like Lord Ashcroft. He has bought political power in both the major parties, and the fact of the matter is that smaller parties have no chance in Belize’s first-past-the-post electoral system. Our so-called “one man, one vote” democracy has become a sham. We have returned to being slaves, on the auction block of the other Belize, the rich Belize, the predator Belize.
What are the implications of our 2017 political slavery where the Guatemalan claim to Belize is concerned? This is a question which has been troubling serious Belizean nationalists for some time, both at home and abroad. The nature of the decision-making process with respect to the International Court of Justice (ICJ) arbitration is like that of a campaign/election. The so-called Friends of Belize have subscribed double digit millions to “educate” Belizeans about the ICJ. But, so far that “education” has been one-sided, seeking to take Belizeans in the direction where the Friends of Belize want us to go.
Garifuna elders and leaders say that frightening, genocidal experiences on St. Vincent, Balliceaux, and Roatan increased their people’s spirituality (duo) and led them towards more collective thinking and action. One for all, all for one. Unfortunately, we have been seeing diametrically opposite tendencies amongst the Creoles in Belize City. For whatever the reason(s), we see a commitment to individualism and dispute for dispute’s sake. All we would say in closing is this: if Lord Ashcroft can’t force us to come together for the good and preservation of The Jewel, then nothing and nobody will.
Power to the people!