Our sources say that a couple prominent Belizeans in the United States were not pleased with our Tuesday editorial on Belizeans in the diaspora. (That editorial is reproduced in this issue.) Our position is, at least there was a response. We’re not going to take anything personal where Belizeans in the diaspora are concerned: they are in a position where they can save us from Guatemala, but if they believe themselves unable or unwilling, for whatever reason(s), we’ll just do what we have to do.
A Belizean friend of ours in the diaspora has pointed out that the older generations of Belizeans in the United States have largely died out, and the younger generations are not well versed on the Guatemalan claim to Belize, and its history where Belizean politics is concerned. Let’s see if we can address that lack of historical information.
Around 1938 or so, Guatemala was being run by a military dictator named Jorge Ubico, and he saw that Great Britain was tied up with the threat being posed by the German Nazi dictator, Adolf Hitler. So, he took that opportunity to revive the Guatemalan claim to Belize. Note that amongst the neo-European class which runs Guatemala, there is a substantial German element.
This Guatemalan claim to Belize is supposed to be something they inherited from Spain, after Guatemala became independent from Spain in 1821. Spain in theory owned Belize, but Spain never exercised control over Belize. This was a land of the Maya, and then European pirates, mostly British, began using Belize as a base in the seventeenth century. From here they raided Spanish shipping between Spain and New Spain (Cuba, Texas, Mexico, etc.), and afterwards they became woodcutters, cutting and shipping logwood to Europe. In order to expand the woodcutting, they began bringing in African slaves, which is where we Belizeans “of dark complexion” entered the picture. Today, we say the country belongs to us, but Guatemala is demanding that we prove it.
In international relations, there is a thing called (in German) realpolitik. Roughly translated, it means, “the realities of power.” It is only because of realpolitik, and the fact that the Guatemalans are so much larger and more powerful than we are, that the Guatemalan claim to Belize has any traction whatsoever. All this song-and-dance about inheriting rights from Spain is gibberish. Guatemala has the military capacity to invade Belize: that is what the claim is about.
The two great national heroes of Belize, George Price and Philip Goldson, both visited Guatemala. Mr. Price spent a year or more there in a Roman Catholic seminary training to be a priest. This was around 1940. Ubico was still in power. Mr. Goldson spent a week in Guatemala in 1951, after the reformist and ill-fated Guatemalan president, Jacobo Arbenz, had been elected.
Both Mr. Price and Mr. Goldson enjoyed their stays in Guatemala. Mr. Price was impressed with the Catholicism, traditions, cultures, industry and business of Guatemala. Mr. Goldson enjoyed the atmosphere of political freedom and progressive economic growth which Mr. Arbenz brought to the Guatemalan table.
Mr. Price and Mr. Goldson were two of the founding officers of the People’s United Party (PUP) in September of 1950. (Another PUP founding officer, Leigh Richardson, also visited Guatemala.) The British colonial authorities in Belize against whom the PUP were fighting, charged the PUP with receiving financial and other assistance from Guatemala, and they actually held a commission of inquiry about the matter in 1954. Regardless, the Belizean people voted overwhelmingly for the PUP in national elections following that Sharpe Inquiry.
In August of 1956, Mr. Price overthrew Richardson and Goldson and became the PUP Leader. In response, Richardson and Goldson formed the Honduran Independence Party (HIP) in 1957, the same year when the British sent Mr. Price home from London in disgrace on the charge that he was holding secret talks with a Guatemalan Minister, Jorge Granados. But then, Richardson went into exile in Trinidad, and Goldson took what was left of the HIP into a coalition with the National Party (NP) in 1958, thereby establishing the National Independence Party (NIP).
The NP had been the pro-British party formed in 1951 to fight the PUP, and it was a party with a colonial thinking. Mr. Goldson dedicated himself to running his newspaper, The Belize Billboard, and he was relatively low profile in the NIP, until the NIP Leader, Herbert Fuller, died in 1961, and was replaced by Mr. Goldson.
Under Mr. Goldson, the NIP became a flamboyantly anti-Guatemalan party. Belize was still majority black at the time, and Belizeans had ethnic fears where Guatemala was concerned. These same 1960s, however, were the years when the Price-led PUP’s performance in national elections was most impressive. Between 1961 and 1969, the PUP won 51 out of 54 seats in three national elections held in that period.
It appears that the movers and shakers behind the scenes in NIP politics, both in New York City and Belize City, from as early as 1969 decided to replace Mr. Goldson with Dean Lindo, but Mr. Goldson still enjoyed overwhelming popularity with the masses of the Belizean people. It was not until 1974 that the movers and shakers managed to complete the change from Goldson to Lindo.
Under Dean Lindo, the new United Democratic Party (UDP) began to emphasize economic development issues (anti-communism, to be blunt), and essentially ignored the Guatemalan claim. From 1974, the UDP surged dramatically in popularity and became a real threat to the PUP.
Mr. Lindo was a political conservative who was and is pro-Washington and pro-Israel. It is surprising to us that he is now reported as being opposed to going to the International Court of Justice (ICJ). The ICJ is precisely where Washington and Tel Aviv want for Belize and Guatemala to go.
At this newspaper, we have been lamenting for years how much we miss Mr. Goldson when this Guatemala issue arises. We are satisfied, however, that the people of Belize are resolute enough to support a new nationalist leader to take us into battle, and we heard such a new leader’s voice this week. So let it be written, so let it be done.
Power to the people.