Editorial — 25 January 2013

On Wednesday evening there were things happening on the Channel 7 newscast which should have given you an idea of the games behind the games in Belizean politics. That is, if you knew some things you probably don’t know to the extent that we would.

UDP Housing Minister Michael Finnegan launched a broadside against PUP Leader Francis Fonseca, ostensibly because Francis had made a big thing, propaganda wise, out of having gone into the Plues and Dean neighbourhood to counsel and console the residents after the January 8 slaughtering. Plues and Dean, and the area surrounding same, are Finnegan’s Mesopotamia turf. It sits right next to the Prime Minister’s Queen’s Square constituency, so it is possible that Mr. Fonseca thought he was embarrassing the Prime Minister by going in there. Perhaps he was, but, more important as it turns out, he was interfering in Michael Finnegan’s business.

Despite the fact that he is doing everything he can to fly beneath the radar, despite the fact that his profile has been so low it is practically invisible, Ralph Fonseca remains a very big man in the PUP. He is a very big man in the PUP because the oligarchs who control the really big money here, swear by Ralph. They will give him money because they know that once the PUP wins and Ralph is in play, they will get back their money and then some. And then some, Jack …

Many years ago when we were young, Ralph Fonseca’s dad, Rafael (known to his friends as “Falo”), was Mr. Price’s Financial Secretary. Even though there were some in the public service who believed that the brilliant Cornelius Patrick Cacho was the better man, it was Falo who took charge of Mr. Price’s treasury, and Mr. Price swore by Mr. Fonseca through the years, until Mr. Rafael died in a Western Highway traffic accident in 1979. (Leaving Belize in the early 1960s, “Pat” Cacho became a standout World Bank economist. His eldest daughter, Myrtle Cacho Palacio, is now the PUP’s secretary-general.)

To a certain extent, Francis Fonseca is “fronting” for Said Musa and Ralph Fonseca. Said and Ralph felt that the PUP needed a new face at the top because of all the controversy, to put it gently, surrounding the Said/Ralph stewardship of 1998 to 2008. Francis is loyal to Said and Ralph, the latter of whom happens to be his first cousin, and one of Michael Finnegan’s best friends. The Ralph/Finnegan friendship began when both were employees of the late Barry Bowen during the early 1980s. In punishing Francis on Wednesday, Finnegan was putting the wood to Ralph. Ralph Fonseca is considered one of Belize’s richest men, but Michael Finnegan is a living case of power from the people.

On the same Channel 7 newscast, Finnegan openly went against the advice of UDP Leader and Prime Minister, Dean Barrow, and supported Patrick Faber’s campaign to unseat Orange Walk’s Gapi Vega as Deputy Party Leader and Deputy Prime Minister. The P.M. is supporting Vega because he wants to preserve what he calls “ethnic and geographical” balance in the party and in the government. Faber’s support is coming from an element of the party which feels that Gapi is involved in too many shenanigans.

This is a very interesting situation. Finnegan and Barrow are the best of friends, and Finnegan is a master politician. There is precedent for the present confrontation. When Anthony Michael challenged Zenaida Moya for the UDP mayoral nomination before the 2009 City Council election, Mr. Barrow was supporting Anthony Michael, but Finnegan openly supported Zenaida. Zenaida won. The present Vega-Faber race is substantially more meaningful than the Moya-Michael competition a few years ago. Mr. Barrow is making a mistake in publicly supporting Vega, because if Vega loses, the Prime Minister’s prestige is diminished. At the same time, Mr. Barrow knows that it would suit the Opposition PUP’s purpose for Faber to replace Vega. This is the reason he felt pressed to broadcast his Vega endorsement. Mr. Finnegan, on the other hand, always knows what he is doing when it comes to politics. How you figure?

From an overview standpoint, the newspaper believes that Belize is being destabilized. For some years now, that destabilization has been a financial one. Recently, the destabilization has become sociological. At the base of the socio-economic pyramid, thousands of Belizeans are literally battling for their lives. On a daily basis, Mr. Finnegan has more direct contact with these Belizeans at the base than Mr. Barrow does. This power which Mr. Finnegan has, brings with it great responsibility. At the same time that Mr. Finnegan must be responsible, Mr. Barrow must be careful. The UDP is more democratic internally than the PUP. Politics is a rough-and-tumble game. As inconceivable as it may seem to most of you, Mr. Finnegan may have Mr. Barrow’s eventual political fate in his hands. That would be from the standpoint of looking down the road …

Power to the people.

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