Editorial — 29 August 2014
Greg steps down

“Although Allen Dulles and his friends at United Fruit had managed to turn Arbenz into a demon for most Americans, they had a harder time persuading Guatemalans. Techniques the CIA had used before seemed unpromising. False or misleading articles in the press would be of limited value since most Guatemalans were illiterate. Fake radio broadcasts would reach only those who owned radios – about one of every fifty. Bombs dropped on military targets would frighten only those who lived nearby. Allen looked for another way to mobilize the emotions of Guatemala’s poor masses. He found it in their spiritual soul.”

– pg. 168, THE BROTHERS: John Foster Dulles, Allen Dulles, and their secret world war, by Stephen Kinzer, Times Books, 2013

“After Cardinal Spellman’s meeting with the CIA agent, a pastoral letter was read on April 9, 1954, in all Guatemalan churches. The pastoral letter was a masterpiece of propaganda, steeped in the vocabulary of faith, fear, and patriotism. This broadside, which was printed the following morning in Guatemalan newspapers, had a profound impact. Ordinary people who had until then admired Arbenz heard for the first time that he was in fact their enemy. Most important, the warning came from their pastors, who many considered veritable messengers of God. It had a deep, transformational effect on Guatemala’s collective psyche. Overjoyed by this success, CIA operatives in Opa Locka directed their Guatemala team to use religious-based propaganda ‘on a continuous and rapidly increasing scale.’”

Greg steps down- pgs. 169, 170, ibid.

On Tuesday the news broke that the chairman of the Sarstoon and Temash Institute for Indigenous Management (SATIIM), Greg Ch’oc, was stepping down and was headed to the University of the West Indies to study law. Over the last decade or so, Greg had become the national face of the Kek’chi Maya of Toledo, so this move, though not completely unexpected, was of deep, troubling significance.

It was ironic that the following day, Wednesday, Tate & Lyle announced that they would be cutting the preferential sugar quota of our Northern cane farmers from 65,000 tons to 10,000, a thunderbolt decision which will cost the cane farmers in the neighborhood of five million dollars in the 2014/2015 crop year.

The cañeros of the Corozal and Orange Walk Districts are, to a substantial extent, descended from the Santa Cruz and Icaiche Maya, who are referred to as “Yucatec” Maya, having come down into the former British Honduras from the Yucatan in the second half of the nineteenth century.

Now, while the Santa Cruz Maya, also called bravos, and the Icaiche Maya, also called pacíficos, have a long history of hostility against each other, it is the case in Belize, where Corozal is more Santa Cruz and Orange Walk more Icaiche, that they are basically the same where their position on the Kek’chi Maya of Toledo is concerned. The Yucatec Maya have accepted the philosophy of private land holding, while the Toledo Kek’chi have been fighting for customary land rights, which involve land being held in common by the village unit.

The Yucatec Maya began climbing out of poverty in the mid-1960s when the Tate & Lyle investment took place and a new sugar factory was built at Tower Hill. The Kek’chi Maya of Toledo remained in poverty because they lived in a kind of no-man’s-land between Belize and Guatemala, while Toledo was considered Belize’s “Forgotten District” until the opening of the Southern Highway in this third millennium.

But now the Yucatec Maya and the Kek’chi Maya are both under attack from powerful American corporations, the Yucatec from American Sugar Refining, who reportedly own Tate & Lyle, and the Kek’chi from an oil company, U.S. Capital Energy. The Yucatec and the Kek’chi Maya have, nevertheless, remained distant from each other.

It is U.S. Capital Energy which is most responsible for Greg Ch’oc’s fall from power, though the oil company is also supported by the Government of Belize and the other ethnic groups in Toledo. The oil company found a way to divide the Kek’chi themselves; evangelical religion was a crucial factor in the demise of Greg Ch’oc. Mayhap U.S. Capital borrowed a page from the book of John Foster Dulles, the U.S. Secretary of State, and his brother, Allen, the Director of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), who used religion in 1954 to “reach” the indigenous masses of Guatemala and overthrow the republic’s democratically-elected President, Jacobo Arbenz.

Whatever the case, Greg was probably well-advised to step down from the leadership of SATIIM. His base had been divided, he was isolated, and old friends had turned against him. At Kremandala, we have been Greg Ch’oc’s faithful supporters, but we did not possess the kind of resources to save him from his enemies, and we said so publicly.

Belizeans are making a mistake with their love affair with oil, we think, but our opinion is a minority opinion. We would have liked for our country to remain pristine, and to be special. We were never influenced by what our neighbors chose to do, because there is no other country in the region or the world like Belize. Okay, so the Yucatec Maya chose private land holding. If the Kek’chi Maya preferred customary land rights, and if that customary land usage appeared to us to be a solid guarantee of environmental care and protection, we were for that. Big time.

Belizeans in the majority, however, may have fallen in love with quick money and the fast life. The politicians and the international corporations have sold us this bill of goods that oil will make everybody here rich. It is only the politicians and the international corporations who will get rich off oil.

In our old-fashioned way, we are focused on this indisputable fact: you can’t drink oil and you can’t eat oil. In the world which is to come, clean water and healthy food will be more important than petroleum. But the masses of Belizeans can’t see that right now. So, this newspaper can only have a say: the majority of Belizeans are having their way.

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