The June 1993 general election produced a stunning result in that the hastily-constructed UDP/NABR coalition defeated the heavily financed incumbent PUP by a margin of 16 to 13 in seats, even though the PUP polled 2,000 more votes overall in the 29 electoral constituencies.
When the PUP went on to lose Town Board elections in March of 1994 by huge margins, there was a rebellion against what some PUP constituency bosses thought was the inordinate influence of Ralph Fonseca over party decisions. These dissident area representatives and standard bearers included Deputy PUP Leader Florencio Marin, Sr. of Corozal, Dan Silva of Cayo, Dr. Ted Aranda of Dangriga, and Senator Joe Coye of Belize City. I believe Johnny Briceño of Orange Walk and Vildo Marin of Corozal were involved at some point in what we have called the “May 15 Movement.” Cordel Hyde, who had recently won a constituency convention to become the chairman of PUP Lake Independence, and Senator Dolores Balderamos-Garcia, now the Belize Rural Central area rep, were members of May 15. Jorge Espat was an early visitor thereto, but he did not stay for long. The coordinator of May 15 appeared to be Bill Lindo.
The June 1993 general election had been called fifteen amazing months before they were scheduled, and the feeling at the leadership level of May 15 was that it was Ralph who had forced the issue.
Ralph Fonseca, who had returned home from Canada after the untimely traffic death of his esteemed Financial Secretary father, Rafael “Falo” Fonseca in 1979, had been fired by Barry Bowen early in 1984, and then gone on to lose badly for the PUP in Queen’s Square in the December 1984 general election. He had become a big man in the PUP as a result of the blue’s September 1989 general election victory. The scuttlebutt in party circles was that Ralph had taken a couple millions he was supposed to invest for a multimillionaire Belizean businessman and diverted the money to the PUP’s 1989 general election campaign; he then made the money good for the businessman after the PUP won a surprise victory and went to Belmopan.
When the Rt. Hon. George C. Price led the PUP to victory in 1989, he was about 70 years of age, and he was tired. Ralph was the eldest son of Mr. Price’s great favorite, the aforementioned Mr. Falo, and Mr. Price had known Ralph from childhood. Ralph was brought into Cabinet through the Senate, having declined to run again in Queen’s Square, and he was made Minister of State in Mr. Price’s Ministry of Finance. Ralph quickly became de facto Finance Minister.
At the time the May 15 dispute was essentially settled before the PUP’s November 1994 national convention, most of the May 15 principals assumed that Ralph would not be in charge of government finances when the PUP returned to office. They assumed wrongly. The “big boys” in the party forced Mr. Price out of PUP leadership in 1996, and Said Musa, with big time support from Ralph and Glenn Godfrey, defeated the aforementioned Florencio Marin, Sr., in a leadership convention and replaced Mr. Price. When the PUP returned to power in August of 1998, Ralph Fonseca quickly took charge of Belize’s public finances. His fiscal policies were totally neoliberal. The nation of Belize went deep into debt during his so-called “growth economics.”
With Cordel Hyde now set to “return” next week Saturday at the PUP’s Lake I convention, there are political implications for both the ruling UDP and the Opposition PUP. A returned Cordel, with his guarantee of Kremandala support, will be a concern for the UDP in their Belize City stronghold. Inside the PUP, for its part, Ralph’s neoliberal wing, which controlled party financing from 1989 onwards, will not be happy with the PUP’s populist surge in the Lake.
There are people in the PUP who feel that Ralph deserves some blame for the UDP’s apparent lock on Southside Belize City. They point to the extraordinary friendship between Ralph and UDP Mesopotamia area rep, Hon. Michael Finnegan. This abiding friendship began in the early 1980s when both men were Barry Bowen employees. Some PUP observers think Ralph has allowed Finnegan to run free in Mesop, with negative results for the PUP in other Southside constituencies, such as Port Loyola and Collet.
I have been trying to get Belizeans to consider the development philosophy aspect of party politics in our country. It’s a difficult process, because we have been and are being so bombarded with the UDP/PUP paradigm. There have been elements in the UDP who shared Ralph’s neoliberal outlook, and Ralph was so big back then in the early third millennium that he actually brought UDP politicians like Melvyn Hulse under his umbrella. Check stats.
Ralph Fonseca’s power derives from the absolute confidence which the financial and business oligarchy of Belize place in him. They will give him anything he requests, because they are confident they will recover their principal, with interest to spare, and that is putting it mildly.
At Kremandala, we can’t see how any meaningful, sustainable national development can occur in a game which is based on the rich getting richer and the taxpaying masses going deeper into debt. Cordel Hyde’s record shows that he has taken positions for the Belizean people against Ralph’s financial and business oligarchy. Kremandala supports Cordel Hyde, but we do not instruct him nor can we dictate to him. It is the people of PUP Lake I who have stayed the course, have spoken, and have demanded his return. We will support Cordel to the best of our ability, and the chips will fall wherever they may.
Power to the people.