Letters — 01 July 2017
Neri O. Briceño writes the Taiwan Ambassador to Belize

July 2nd, 2016

H.E. Ambassador Charles K. Y. Liu
Taiwan Ambassador to Belize
Embassy of Taiwan in Belize
#20 North Front St
Belize City, Belize C.A.

SUBJECT: Open Letter – The Asian Situation

Dear Ambassador Liu,

I write to you as simply a man, without medals, honours, degrees, positions and titles; just an ordinary mortal as you are, but most importantly as a citizen of this beloved nation of Belize.

This country is one of the most diverse in Latin America and has a long history of cultural and racial diversity that can probably be traced back to the origin of this state. It’s a country that is made of immigrants to whom it has always opened its doors with welcome arms. Some have come with good intentions and managed to integrate and be a productive part of the community and the new nation they live in, while others, we will say, have not been so generous and forthcoming.

It has been no different with the Asian community, who have pretty much become Belizeans in their own right like the rest of us. Belize has a deep history of welcoming the Asian population from the east as far back as the 1920’s. They came with the drive, desire, expertise, reliance and determination to carve a new life in the west and become as Belizean as rice and beans. While culturally, like most other migrant communities, they brought their own language, culture, rituals and practices, no one can say that they did not integrate and become as Belizean like the Creole, Maya, Ketchi, Mestizo, Garifuna or Mennonite. The same cannot be said about today.

The recent decision by the Republic of Panama to sever ties with your country in favour of China is an indication that in 2017 raison d’etre is still at play in modern states and it’s every nation for itself. Simply put, the nation that does not protect itself will get used by another. The switch of diplomatic ties in 1989 by Belize in favour of Taiwan for the most part was a financial one more than a diplomatic one because I believe that by now the entire world realizes that the diplomacy that both nations exercise boils down to “cheque-book diplomacy.” Unfortunately the political directorate in our nation, that is, both past and present administrations, have seen this as a necessary part of everyday business and governing.

Let me categorically state that under the current scheme of things, the nation of Belize has absolutely nothing tangible to gain from either your country or mainland because both have proven to be exploiters like the British who originally settled us. A closer look at the relationship shows that the only thing that would prompt the political directorate to side with your nation is because we find ourselves in a similar situation with our bigger aggressive neighbour Guatemala, similar like yourselves and mainland, and that your nation is democratic as opposed to the communist regime off your shores. Apart from that it’s a matter of dollars and sense.

In a bold statement with the Belizean media following the severing of diplomatic ties with your nation and Panama, you assert that, “ As far as I can see, we take the example of Panama – when China comes there must be some incentive so that China can come in. But see, in Panama, I think they have strategic positions or strategic commercial interest over Laos. And one thing I want to remind our Belizean friends is that your government, Taiwan government, eight years ago we adopted Open China Policy. During that time, in fact the first years there were only less than ten thousand Chinese living in Taiwan legally, but after eight years, of Open China Policy right now there are more than six hundred thousand Chinese living legally in Taiwan.

So, I don’t know – what happens if Chinese come flooding into Belize? Right now I think Belize is only 380,000 people. And then suddenly in eight years there are six hundred thousand Chinese come over here. And then probably you will see Chinese ministers: or Chinese Prime Minister – I don’t think these are things that Belize want to see and of course I don’t want to see it happen.

The plain reality is that your foreign policy is almost indistinguishable from that of the Chinese. Your countrymen have openly sought political office and influence in this nation and I must say they have succeeded. What is there to stop them from seeking higher political office now that most have become citizens of this nation either legally or illegitimately? With a population of over 23 million people in your nation, what is the end game for your nation? It is a dilution of the Belizean population so that Belize can become a satellite nation of Taiwan to guarantee perpetual international support? Your country has shown no real long term interest in the development of Belize or its people, Your “Cash Budget Support,” which is pretty much raw cash is an attempt to stay in the good graces of whatever administrative regime is in power, offers little if no check and balance as to how this monies is spent as long as it guarantees the coveted diplomatic relations.

In other words your nation’s financial influence and otherwise have become part of the Belizean problem. I commend the Americans for condemning the use of their taxpayer bought assets for personal use, a move that you, your government or the nation of Taiwan has never done over all the years, when they are fully cognizant that millions of dollars of the so-called “Budget Support” that you give ends up in private hands. If this represents the concern and love that you have for this nation, then it must be a twisted one. Your interest had always been to appease the politicians and I can assure you that the people of Belize have become weary of most politicians since their interest is surely not in sync with that of the population.

And please do not try justifying your good deeds about the number of scholarships and technical support that you offer to Belize and Belizean students because that is but a drop in the bucket by the amount of monies that is expatriated out of this nation. While the British were open with the exploitation of the nation in the form of raw material and natural resources, yours has been more covert and secretive. It is an open secret that your citizens’ ultimate goal is financial and political influence of the nation. They have exploited weak policies, procedures and legislatures and not to mention an overall atmosphere of institutional, private and governmental corruption to advance the Asian cause.

The “Budget Support” that you so proudly give is extracted back to foreign banks in Honduras, Nicaragua and other Latin American nations through human trafficking, outright theft of GST via all the Asian stores that now not only dominate the landscape but also threaten the food security of the Belizean people. Your citizens stores and restaurants are known to exercise poor hygiene practices, will adjust scales to gain a competitive illegal advantage, serve expired goods, sell products that are not what they claim to be and its curious that they will not even eat the food that they serve, which they proudly market as Asian and which we all know is not representative of the Asian cuisine. It seems that behind every illegal scheme is a citizen of your nation, passport scandal, land grab, human trafficking, money laundering, prostitution through the many Asian controlled bars and brothels, exploitation of natural resources, illegal timber extraction and now a targeting of the fuel industry. Your people have shown the age-old affinity to keep people of colour down and I can probably count on one hand the number of Black people employed in any of their establishments.

As the new ambassador to Belize you may probably not be aware of this but I am hoping that this will shed light on it and action will be forthcoming. The phenomenon of Belize being a passageway for your citizens has to be true when we are yet to see one of your many shopkeepers in many of the Asian stores staying in Belize for more than 5 years. It seems like they are rotated constantly to some strange destination in some mysterious sphere or parallel universe. I would really like someone to explain this strange transfer of your population here in Belize.

The fact is that, like mainland, your nation uses poor, cash-strapped, resource-rich, Third World nations like Belize for your own gain and your nation’s ultimate interest. The blame of this, however, cannot be ultimately placed at you or your nation’s feet since we have people within our own nation, communities, society and government that, like under the British, are willing to now bow to an Asian master. It’s a remarkable coincidence that your people have access to some of the highest government offices in the nation which are normally off-limits to true Belizeans and especially the Belize Police Force. I guarantee you that if I were to pick up the phone and call for police assistance in Punta Gorda that the same police unit would probably reach faster in Corozal if one of your citizens called them from there.

Is this correspondence a condemnation on your entire nation and people? The simple answer is an absolute “no.” Belize understands the nature of international politics and world affairs and what both China and Taiwan are trying to achieve. Taiwan, like any other nation, has good, honest and hardworking citizens who have built that nation from the dirt up from the days of Chiang Kai-Shek into the successful modern state that it is today. This is not an indictment of you, your people or your nation, but we Belizeans cannot rise from under the yoke of one slave master from the west or Europe to fall under the yoke of one from the east.

The Belizean people, and you notice I did not say the politicians, need to reevaluate the position of Belize with Taiwan and this is not to say that we will look any more favourably at mainland either. Belizean interest in a foreign diplomatic global battle has to be front and foremost, and we are not getting that from Taiwan. The cost of diplomatic relations with Taiwan is at the cost of the ordinary Belizean and for this relationship to flourish, that has to change.

Whether you chose to address or response to this correspondence is totally up to you. Honestly I do not expect one; however what I can promise is that I will continue to advocate at every level that Belizean interest is placed first in every diplomatic situation that we share. The nation and people of Belize deserve nothing less.

Sincerely,

Neri O. Briceño

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