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Home Editorial The power versus the people

The power versus the people

Nobody likes being held to ransom. However, this is a real world; and in international affairs there is a certain inevitability to the consequences of what the diplomats like to call “power disequilibria.”

In that context, we are obliged to grasp the nettle now and accept the painful fact of the territorial sea concession. For the alternative is a stalemate in the negotiations, the possible premature pullout of the British troops, and the certain erosion of our international support. The danger attendant on such circumstances is too horrible to contemplate.

In other words, our real choice may be to give up a little now, or risk losing a whole lot later. And that is no exaggeration.

– pg. 17, AMANDALA, Friday, October 18, 1991, BELIZE AND GUATEMALA: THE LARGER PICTURE, by Dean Oliver Barrow

Every now and then, the veil of purity over the face of the power structure in Belize is drawn aside, for one reason and another, and the Belizean people can see the portrait of Dorian Grey: we can see the reality of the oppression, the injustice, and the collaboration with regional and international white supremacy at the highest levels of our society.

In the last week or so, there are two different cases of the power structure’s veil of purity being drawn aside, and it was for those Belizeans with eyes, to see. These are the matters of

The Reporter editorial of last weekend and the exclusion of the lady sprinter, Kaina Martinez, from Belize’s Olympic team for Rio de Janeiro 2016.

Let’s begin with Kaina. When you rise from amongst the people to become a star in Belize, it is not a development which is viewed with favor by Belize’s power structure. This is because the power structure in Belize is jealous of its power, and the power structure, although it is very, very well entrenched, becomes nervous. The reason for their nervousness, we submit, is because they know their positions are derived from family, from favor, from connections, from Buckingham Palace, and so on, and not from talent. The power structure in Belize is fearful of talent, and they always seek to crush native talent, no matter the danger of their bureaucratic perfidy’s being exposed. In a country like the United States, on the other hand, for all America’s evils, they welcome stories of young citizens rising from anonymity to fame: the Americans see it as proof of equal opportunity in America. But, the power structure in Belize doesn’t cut black youth any slack, as we would say. Belize is bogus.

The people of Belize have taken some days to react to the Kaina Martinez issue. But, with Mose Hyde’s call for justice Wednesday morning on his KREM TV/KREM Radio morning show, the Kaina matter may become a firestorm. We saw almost the exact same thing happen last year. The power structure decided that Deon McCaulay had gotten too big for his britches. There’s a glass ceiling in this territory once you’re a black youth from the Southside. The power structure conspired to leave the great Deon off the Belize national football team for our World Cup qualifiers against the Cayman Islands. It was the people of Belize who had to dig deep, campaign militantly, and raise money for Deon to be included for the Dominican Republic qualifiers after the Belize team barely got past the lowly Caymans.

You know, we had watched the leading anti-Deon conspirator do something similar more than two decades ago. Belizeans don’t pay enough attention to sports programs in Belize, maybe because life is so hard. If you paid attention to sports, you would understand that what the local sports programs are about, or should be about, ideally, is establishing who are our best athletes and coaches to represent us and defend our honor in regional and international competition. At its peak, in 1994, the Kremandala sports program had produced back-to-back semi-pro basketball champions, the Kremandala Raiders, coached by Marshall Nunez. But when the Belize national basketball team prepared to travel to the Bahamas for the CARICOM basketball tournament tin 1994, the conspirator denied Marshall the head coaching assignment, an assignment Nunez had plainly earned. The conspirator unilaterally chose, instead, one of the coaches defeated by Marshall Nunez’s team in both 1993 and 1994. The conspirator was never asked to explain his act of blatant discrimination. In 1994, you see, the United Democratic Party (UDP) was in power, Kremandala was non grata, and Marshall Nunez was suspect politically.

When the conspirator pulled a similar stunt with Deon McCaulay in 2015, the people of Belize rose up. Hopefully, the conspirator has learned his lesson. But now, someone of a similar stature must be responsible for this Kaina exclusion debacle. Bun fayah! Bun fire!

We move now to The Reporter editorial of last weekend. In it, the newspaper’s publisher expressed very controversial opinions about the ownership and nature of the Sarstoon River, which represents the southern boundary of the nation-state of Belize. Some would go further than “very controversial,” but, as Mr. Lawrence’s professional colleagues, we must restrain ourselves.

The UDP Government of Belize used the Chief Executive Officer in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to deliver a mild public rebuke to The Reporter publisher, but it went no further than that. When you consider the daily weekday savagery of the UDP’s radio station targeting opponents of the administration, and when you read the same kinds of weekly attacks on critics of the administration in the UDP’s newspaper, you may have expected similar treatment for Mr. Lawrence. Not so. Because, a story goes with this.

The publisher of The Reporter is an appointed ambassador of this UDP government. He is the Ambassador to the Holy See (the Vatican in Rome) appointed by the Government of Belize of Prime Minister, the Right Honorable Dean Oliver Barrow. It goes deeper than that. While Mr. Barrow was in law school in Jamaica in 1973, the publisher of The Reporter was one of the founders of the aforementioned United Democratic Party. He was the UDP candidate for Belize Rural South in the 1974 general elections, and he also ran as a candidate for the UDP in Belize City Council elections.

The thing is that, in retrospect, what the UDP represented at the time it was founded in September of 1973, was the end of the leadership of the Opposition by Hon. Philip Goldson. And what the end of Mr. Goldson’s Opposition leadership represented, was a move by the Opposition towards more friendly relations with Guatemala based on a shared neoliberal capitalist thinking.

Mr. Goldson had come out of the General Workers Union (GWU) era of the People’s United Party (PUP), and he was not neoliberal. Perhaps more important, his leadership of the National Independence Party (NIP), which preceded the UDP as the leading Opposition party from 1958 to 1973, was characterized by militancy against the Guatemalan claim. And remember, as we point out elsewhere in this issue of our newspaper, the Guatemalan claim to Belize was at its most aggressive during the presidency of General Miguel Ydigoras Fuentes, which lasted from 1958 to 1963.

It is fairly clear today that the movers and shakers of the Opposition made a kind of Mephistophelian deal with the United States government of Richard Nixon and Henry Kissinger when they formed the UDP in 1973. The key aspect of this deal was the change in Opposition attitude towards Guatemala, in line with Bethuel Webster’s Seventeen Proposals of 1968. Hence, when we see the 2015 and 2016 UDP behave in this strange manner which Mr. Goldson would undoubtedly have condemned, it is a case of the chickens of 1973 coming home to roost.

Mr. Goldson was something special. The UDP is troubled by his memory. In 1991, angered by the collusion of the Esquivel/Barrow UDP leadership in the Maritime Areas Act, Mr. Goldson left the UDP to form the National Alliance for Belizean Rights (NABR). Even though he agreed to form a coalition government with the UDP in June of 1993, Mr. Goldson died as a NABR in 2001. He never returned to the UDP.

Because of his trade union past, Mr. Goldson did not fit in well with the neoliberal UDP. But, from 1974 to 1991, he was loyal to the UDP, and there is no doubt that his decision to fall in line with the Dean Lindo-led UDP when he returned from studying law in London, contributed greatly to the growth of UDP credibility.

The question today is, of course: what would Mr. Goldson think, what would Mr. Goldson say, and what would Mr. Goldson do about the Sarstoon situation? This is the question the Belizean people must ponder. Belize cannot afford to make mistakes with this Guatemalan claim on The Jewel, otherwise we will be swallowed up. We will be swallowed up demographically, legally, and militarily.

Power to the people.

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