We thought former People’s United Party (PUP) Toledo area representative and former Toledo Progressive Party (TPP) Leader, Alejandro Vernon, last week made very, very interesting revelations about the financial support Rt. Hon. George Price and the PUP were receiving from Guatemalan governments in the 1950s and 1960s. These revelations were in last weekend’s issue of The Reporter.
The relationship between Price/PUP and Guatemala was an explosive political issue in the 1950s and 1960s, because Belize was British Honduras, a British colony, at the time, and so political parties which were in opposition to Mr. Price and the PUP during those two decades – the National Party (NP), the Honduran Independence Party (HIP), and the National Independence Party (NIP), made a very big deal of the Guatemala matter. But, the fact of the matter is that these were precisely the two decades when Price/PUP, supposedly in “contact” with Guatemala, were most popular with the masses of the Belizean people.
Mr. Vernon’s revelations are unprecedented in their precision, first, and their credibility, second, because Alejandro is so much a “fish from di river bottom.” Over the course of the last four decades, Alejandro Vernon is the Belizean politician who has been most sympathetic to the Guatemalan claim to Belize and he is the Belizean politician who appeared to be most openly accepting Guatemalan assistance. In fact, Mr. Vernon went so far as to address the United Nations in the late 1970s to oppose Belizean independence and territorial integrity.
There have been quite a number of Belizean politicians over the last six decades who have accepted Guatemalan money and matériel in one form or the other. There was a Guatemalan Consulate on Albert Street back in the 1950s and 1960s, and even Belizeans who were not politicians, such as football teams, went there to get some of the 10 million quetzales the Guatemalans reportedly budgeted annually for the “recovery of Belize.” (In those days, the quetzal was the equivalent of the American dollar.)
In their precision and credibility, to repeat, the Alejandro Vernon claims are almost sensational, but only for Belizeans who are political observers and students of politics. The masses of the Belizean people were deep into September celebrations last week, and were not interested in the Guatemalan claim and connection. So why did Alejandro do this now, one year after Mr. Price’s death when all the honors he received at his funeral last year were being repeated on a so-called National Service Day? This was a severely discordant note struck by Mr. Alejandro.
We are not going to speculate as to Mr. Vernon’s motivations, but rather we will give him some time to think and come back to the people of Belize. He needs to explain the timing of his article. If not, political observers will have to assume this is a case of malice.
Where Mr. Price (GCP) may be faulted in the modern context is for giving his unconditional and repeated blessings to Glenn, Said and Ralph (GSR), whose handling of public funds between 1989 and 1993, in the first instance, and then between 1998 and 2004, in the second, has come under serious scrutiny, scrutiny which has gone as far as public inquiries and even a couple arrests. Mr. Price’s position, until the end, was that because these men were elected PUP leaders, they deserved the total support of the PUP rank-and-file. That support was apparently supposed to take place “with no questions asked.”
We do not hold malice against Mr. Price, but we do not think he was a god. Incidentally, we have probably not said this publicly, but we believe that Mr. Price did not really have to give up power in 1984. His party and government had been infiltrated by serious gangsters who would have defended absolutely anything he did to foil the UDP’s Manuel Esquivel, who did not have anywhere near the national reputation Mr. Price enjoyed in 1984. Mr. Price could have staged an incident to justify a postponing, indefinitely even, of the 1984 general elections. This was how great his prestige was. He decided, however, to go ahead with elections, and graciously accepted his removal from office. That is our personal opinion, and we believe he did this in the best interests of Belize.
Over the decades, our relationship with Alejandro Vernon has been rancorous. But, we understand that Toledo’s was a unique situation, and we understand why Alejandro became friendly with Guatemalan officials to the point where he became a crony of theirs. In 2012, however, he should publicly confess his misdeeds and ask forgiveness from the Belizean people. He should humble himself in order for the masses of the Belizean people to forgive him. The Belizean people are a kind and loving people.
(NOTE: Myrtle Palacio’s WHO AND WHAT IN BELIZEAN ELECTIONS: 1954 to 1993 states that Alejandro Vernon won Toledo North for the PUP, defeating the NIPDM’s Edwin Morey in the 1969 general elections. Alejandro Vernon lost Toledo South for the PUP to the UDP’s Charles Wagner in the 1974 general elections. In the 1961 general elections, Samuel Vernon, Sr., who was Alejandro’s father, won the Toledo South constituency for the PUP. One “Samuel Vernon, Jr.”, according to Mrs. Palacio’s book, then lost Toledo North to the NIP’s Edwin Morey in the 1965 general elections. One “Samuel R. Vernon” was the TPP’s unsuccessful Toledo North candidate in the 1979 general elections. One “Samuel Vernon” was the PUP’s Toledo West candidate in the 1993 general elections. He lost to the UDP’s Wilfred D. Usher. At this newspaper, we are inclined to think that Alejandro Vernon and Samuel Vernon, Jr., Samuel R. Vernon, and Samuel Vernon, are one and the same person.)