This tourism business is never where we who publish this newspaper wanted to go, and it really wasn’t where Mr. Price and Mr. Goldson wanted Belize to go. When this newspaper began in August of 1969, informed Belizeans had already seen where raw tourism had taken Cuba, and how violently the Cubans had felt forced to resist tourism’s decadence and debauchery. The United States had made Cuba into its tourism whorehouse, and this was what Castro’s revolution, victorious on New Year’s Day of 1959, had been about.
By 1969, American investment capital was definitely looking for another playground for its citizens who wanted somewhere outside of the United States, but not too far away, to “let loose” and enjoy their wealth. Belize, just 600 miles away from Florida, appeared to fit that bill. So it was that a proposal came for Belize to grant casino licenses. This was the summer of 1969, mind you. Mr. Price’s PUP government, led by Madame Gwendolyn Lizarraga, a Cabinet Minister and the most powerful woman in the ruling party, firmly rejected that casino proposal, whose leading Cabinet advocates were the two right wing PUP Ministers – Ambergris Caye’s Louis Sylvestre and Crooked Tree’s Fred Hunter. In the campaign to reject the gambling casino initiative, Roman Catholic Bishop, Robert L. Hodapp, played a leading role.
Where the excesses of tourism are concerned, gambling casinos are the “thin edge of the wedge,” as can be seen from the well-publicized story of Las Vegas, Nevada. If you have enough money, you can get anything you want at a gambling casino: that’s the bottom line wherever casinos are introduced.
Tourism had already begun to grow in Belize during the mid-1960s under Tourism Minister, A. A. Hunter. It seems to us that Belize tourism back then featured small fishing lodges, the most high profile of the set being Vic Barothy’s. Tourism Minister Hunter was also the Natural Resources Minister, which meant he was responsible for oil exploration in Belize. The contradiction between tourism and oil had not become evident back then, because both industries were nascent in Belize.
One reason the Norwegian Cruise Lines’ package for Harvest Caye went through so quickly and relatively smoothly is because the four Opposition PUP area representatives in the South – Toledo and Stann Creek, essentially supported the foreign direct investment. The leaders of the Belize Tourism Industry Association, who own the medium-sized overnight hotels, were not able to mobilize the environmental lobby and the masses of the people in the population center.
The Opposition PUP itself, which, in this third millennium, often seems well to the right of the ruling UDP, has been hammering at the UDP for failing to cater to foreign direct investment (FDI). Packages like last year’s sugar industry FDI and now this giant Norwegian FDI, leave them with their collective mouths open. The UDP was always more right wing than the PUP. What happened? When did the PUP become more capitalist than the UDP?
Well, it is plain to be seen that both Belize’s major political parties are to the right of center. The similarity between the UDP and the PUP is that both their national hero icons were philosophically displaced in the early 1990s. The UDP’s Mr. Goldson broke openly with the UDP and formed his own party – the NABR. The PUP’s Mr. Price allowed the Musa/Fonseca/Godfrey troika to take the PUP on a reckless neoliberal frolic, and he gave his blessing in the name of party unity, party continuity, whatever. But, no one can argue this, if you consider matters philosophically, both Mr. Goldson and Mr. Price were displaced from their parties. Such is life.
So, we return to the opening paragraph’s thesis, and we amplify. Norwegian Cruise lines would not have been where Mr. Price and Mr. Goldson wanted to go. That giant tourism which Norwegian represents, condemns the masses of Belizeans to second-class status here: we will work as servants for visitors. Ultimately, the implications are sinister, we think.
There are sincere Belizeans at leadership levels who will argue that we have to be realistic. They say Belizeans are desperate for work, but we have no cutting-edge skills. In the first instance, our PUDP political leaders agree, Belize has no investment capital, and therefore must seek such from foreign sources. The sources of Belize’s investment capital, however, are predatory corporations in that exact same world which enslaved our ancestors and later colonized us. It is the money of the slave and colonial world which is now theoretically supposed to free us from the shackles of our ignorance and poverty. It does not add up. Giant tourism like Norwegian’s cements the master-servant paradigm which the nationalist revolution of 1950 was supposed to overturn.
Over the last five decades, our post-World War II generation had been forced to accept growing doses of tourism. We opened Belize’s doors grudgingly and carefully, because we followed in the philosophical footsteps of Mr. Price and Mr. Goldson. These two icons are now gone, of course, and things have changed. For real. The doors to Belize have been flung open, and things will become a free-for-all for big money. Belize’s youth will be the sacrifice.
In the Kremandala yard, we understand that our newspaper voice is the aging one. We accept that the younger voices at our electronic media partners – KREM Radio and Television, are more important in such as the foreign direct Norwegian matter. We elders condemn this invasion masquerading as investment, but our younger, electronic media will speak for themselves.
Power to the people.