Last Friday afternoon I decided to roll up to the airport to view for myself the circumstances of the Belize Prime Minister’s return from Los Angeles by way of Houston. I changed my schedule slightly so that I could reach the airport around the PM’s scheduled 2:30 arrival time. When I got to canalside before 2, however, my younger brother told me that it had been announced on the 12:30 news that Rufus X had called off his airport demonstration because of bad weather.
On the Thursday evening news, it had been reported that Rufus had obtained a license to demonstrate at the Philip Goldson International Airport on the PM’s arrival, and that he would be meeting later Thursday evening with his COLA group to plan the details. On the face of it, it seemed as if Rufus had gotten the license all on his own, and I thought this was a most interesting idea.
Now, please understand. Rufus X and I are friends and colleagues from UBAD days, a matter of 44 years and more. We have major differences from time to time. For example, I think Rufus is the person most responsible for the breakup of UBAD in favor of the UDP in 1973, but Rufus saved my life in 1984. He owns 10 percent of Kremandala, Ltd., and 20 percent of KREM Radio. I personally moved away from COLA after January of 2010, but Rufus has remained prominent in the group’s leadership.
I would say that presently our positions with respect to the Prime Minister are quite different. Rufus is openly and completely hostile to Mr. Barrow, but where Mr. Barrow personally is concerned, I keep my opinions to myself. My activist days essentially ended with that COLA march of January 2010.
On Friday afternoon, nevertheless, I wanted to see Rufus in action. It seems that the decision to abort the demonstration came quite late Friday morning, so that the possibility is strong that the Prime Minister, waiting in the Houston airport for his flight, which would have taken off around 12:30 the afternoon, might not have known that the demonstration was off. (My understanding is that you cannot communicate by cell phone when you are a passenger on a commercial flight.)
I’m glad I went to the airport, because there I saw that the UDP had organized muscle with the expectation that the demonstration was on, and their muscle involved five vehicles flying flags and bringing roots supporters to the airport. There was a vehicle with more society-type supporters which arrived before the muscle. I saw Glenn Stuart and his wife, Pearl, in that vehicle.
There had been a more serious police checkpoint than usual at the Vista del Mar junction, and then at the airport itself the authorities had brought out a barricade before you drove to the arrival section of the airport proper or turned left to the parking area. My intention was to enter the parking area, remain in our vehicle with the engine running, and check out the energy, which would now, with the Rufus demonstration cancelled, involve only the media personnel trying to question the PM.
News of the demonstration cancellation had reached me too late, so even though my reason for deciding on the airport ride had been to see the demonstration, I decided to go up anyway, for the outing and to watch the media in action, from a distance.
Jules came over from the airport section shortly after we arrived, and chatted with us a while. That was when the Stuarts’ vehicle rolled up. It was from Jules I learned that UDP muscle was on the way up to the airport. Then the KREM Radio and Television crew arrived, along with an Amandala reporter. By now, I was outside of our vehicle, and decided to have Barrera turn off the engine and get some orange juice.
Jules soon had to leave, and shortly after that the PM’s United flight cruised in from the western skies. I decided to return to town and take care of some business. We paid our parking fees, and left.
As we were exiting, I can remember seeing a little UDP muscle on the ground. Once on the road from the airport heading to the highway, I saw a couple vehicles loaded with men and flying UDP flags. They were parked on different sides of the road. At the junction where the road meets the highway, in front of Sky supermarket, there were two or three more UDP muscle vehicles.
While we were driving down, strange things were happening on the airport tarmac. The PM’s vehicle had been driven on to the “apron,” enabling him and Mrs. Barrow to drive away without meeting the media people at the southern exit/entrance of the airport building. The media had scurried out to the apron, which is on the northern side of the building, but the PM drove away, which was uncharacteristic of him.
An hour or so later, I managed to get Rufus on his cell, and he claimed that he had “bluffed them.” There was some humor in this, but the political situation in Belize is not so humorous. The following morning, Saturday, October 26, embattled Minister of State Edmond Castro flew in from Miami, and he pulled the same stunt on the waiting media as the PM had pulled the previous afternoon. Castro was apparently in such a haste to leave that he left his baggage in Customs.
You know, the first thing I had thought on Thursday evening when I heard of Rufus’ demonstration license was that, this makes the PUP look bad. Apart from the fact that, in the first instance, it was the PUP which should have been organizing such initiatives, upon hearing of Rufus’ plan the PUP should have “piggybacked” and brought in their organizational expertise. I’ve never seen a political situation like this before, where the government is under so much pressure and the Opposition does not appear to be making much hay.
Rufus and COLA are limited organizationally. In electronics, they would be considered what is called an “exciter.” You can’t turn on one of these powerful radio transmitters directly: first, you have to energize the exciter, then the exciter, in turn, will turn on the transmitter itself. The UDP government doesn’t really have to spend sleepless nights worrying about Rufus and COLA. The danger to the Barrow administration is, however, that Rufus and COLA could become the exciter, or spark, for bigger things, things more in the nature of a conflagration than a bluff.
Power to the people.