Features — 05 August 2017 — by Neri O. Briceño
The Judas deal

And just like that…Poof!!!! We have reinforced the grip of the Asian master with $60 million of grants and loans to Belize over the next four years. In a letter dated July 5, 2017 in which the Taiwanese Embassy responded to me to a correspondence I had sent to them regarding the negative Asian influences in Belize, the embassy quoted as follows, “There are approximately 600 Taiwanese currently living in Belize.” If you do the math, this works out to about $100,000 per person. In 2017, diplomacy has come down to dollars and sense and a value can even be placed on people.

This agreement was sealed by the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding on Bilateral Cooperation between Taiwan and Belize. For the man on the street, what this means is pretty much that Taiwan has bought Belize’s support for the next 4 years, YES, bought! If you notice the length of the agreement is carefully picked since it corresponds with the length of time this current administration has in office before the next general election. In other words, expect nothing to change as it relates to the Asian domination dilemma in Belize.

Now we can understand all the cloak-and-dagger affair with the recent visit of Taiwanese Foreign Minister Dr. David Lee, and why this visit was never announced and kept under wraps. The reason was simple: the Taiwanese were on a shopping spree to reinforce support after the recent defection of Panama. To put it out there, the Taiwanese are nervous and they have big reasons to be, since China is literally and figuratively on the march globally.

Recently China opened its first overseas military base in the tiny African nation of Djibouti on the Horn of Africa which sent alarm bells throughout the Western world. While China claims that the post will serve as a logistic and fast-evacuation base, most doubt that that is its only objective, since the agreement is until 2026 and China can have as many as 10,000 servicemen stationed there. The US also has a base in the country and so does Saudi Arabia. Rumors of another military base in Pakistan have also surfaced but still not certain. This, along with China pretty much laying claim to most of the islands in the South China Sea and also occupying them, Beijing now seems poised in trying to establish itself as a military rival to Washington overseas.

While some of the rationale for having a non-combat military base in Africa for the Chinese may be valid, since it does have a large investment portfolio in Africa and Djibouti is strategically located to provide that, China also seeks to neutralize US influence in that region. China, with is vast manufacturing capability and huge cash reserves, has long sought to use commerce to extend its reach. It has done this through investment in developing markets such as Africa and Latin America. With its thirst for oil, which is the one commodity which it lacks, it is always in desperate need of energy to drive its huge manufacturing base.

The popular concept known as China’s “String of Pearls” and also its “One Belt, One Road” initiatives seem to confirm China’s foreign affairs ventures in Africa and to some extent the Middle East region. “String of Pearls” is a metaphor for an envisioned network of Chinese naval ports of call, mostly along the Indian Ocean. Its aim is to secure sea lanes of transit, communication and commerce from mainland China to Sudan. The “One Belt, One Road” idea is targeted at strengthening exports of goods and services through commercial land and sea roads, through what was largely the historic “Silk Road,” spanning Europe and the Middle East. The base Djibouti would be vital in securing both goals, since most of China’s $1 billion in daily exports to Europe traverses the Gulf of Aden and the Suez Canal, and Djibouti is the key gateway to both. Additionally, with Chinese personnel, technical advisers, consultants and engineers growing in ever increasing numbers following Chinese investment projects in Africa and the Middle East, the base will provide some degree of logistics for its citizens.

Following the Arab Spring, China had to evacuate over 36,000 of its citizens from war-torn Libya, a move that was costly since it had no evacuation means in the area. China’s moves show that it is doing one thing and that is building its global influence to rival US and Russian domination in the long term.

The nation that stands to lose the most from the strengthening of Beijing is Taipei, and they know it, and the only region where they have a degree of chance of rivaling China is in the small islands of the Caribbean and countries in Latin America. This is the reason why there was a nervousness when Panama defected, and Taiwan quickly tried to close the gap with those nations that it believed were vulnerable. Belize in their eyes being a bastion of corruption where anything goes, was quickly identified as one of those nations that would potentially go to the highest bidder and hence they made a quick move to shore up the alliance.

But Taiwan, like Mainland, lacks one principle that completely infuriates me, and that is their total lack of accountability with the monies they provide to nations, when they know they are contributing to problems. Taiwan craves international support and Mainland wants to crush that. Both in their drive to achieve their objective will contribute financially to any regime that supports their cause. Some of the $60 million that Taiwan has pledged will more than likely end up in private pockets, the social elite and the politically-connected via bribes, contracts to government cronies and kickbacks, but this matters little to the Taiwanese since for the next 4 years they are secure.

If and when the administration changes in the next 4 years, they will attempt the same. This is not helping Belize. Taiwan needs to hold the government of Belize accountable for every cent that they give. This is just fair to the taxpayers of Taiwan and for better governance and democracy in Belize.
It’s all about the people!!!!

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Eden Cruz

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