I’ve lived long enough to see the United Democratic Party (UDP) achieve the kind of exalted power which the People’s United Party (PUP) enjoyed in the 1960s and for some of the 1970s. There is a danger to our Belizean democracy which arises from exalted power. That danger involves the fusion of police power with street power, and I will go on to explain what I mean.
In the summer of 2003, Ralph Fonseca’s power had grown so immense that he could send underworld elements after me. My wife is not a coward, but she was scared. The civilian citizen in such a desperate situation like mine at that point, turns to the police. But Ralph was in charge of the police. I could not make contact with Carmen Zetina, who was then the Commissioner of Police. The senior police officer I managed to make contact with, treated me in such an offhand manner that I came to a certain conclusion.
In early 1978, I had experienced a similar situation with Deputy Premier of Belize, C. L. B. Rogers. The era of Mr. Rogers’ power was the first time Belize saw street power and police power in the hands of the same man. At the point when a specific underworld thug began stepping on me, I was supposedly in alliance with the ruling PUP. When I mentioned the situation to Mr. Rogers, I concluded from his response that the underworld thug perhaps had his blessing.
Now, here’s the thing. These conclusions of mine are impossible to prove in a British court of law. That’s bottom line. A responsible journalist would never make such charges. I am not a “responsible journalist.” I was out there in the streets, I paid my dues, and I followed my instincts. I still do.
The reason some of the present lightweight UDP politicians are talking and acting so high and mighty is because the recent Petrocaribe moneys have enabled them to get on the good side of underworld elements. Lord Acton famously said that power corrupts. This is now a truism. The chummy relationship between our ruling politicians and the streets represents a form of increased power for the politicians. They can get certain things done with almost no risk of their names being called.
Belize’s economy is a free market economy wherein both the major political parties endorse the concept of so-called foreign direct investment (FDI). In other words, Belize is competing for investments from the large transnational companies which cruise the world looking for abundant natural resources, cheap labor, and friendly governments. These corporations do not care how brutal that “friendly government” may be in the protection of that government’s domestic power. A classic case is right next door to us in Guatemala. In Guatemala, foreign direct investment abounds, but the masses of the Guatemalan people have been oppressed ever since the overthrow of Jacobo Arbenz in 1954. Foreign direct investment does not give a damn about the welfare of native peoples. Straight up.
I’m saying that we Belizeans can’t look outside for help when our democracy becomes skewed by phenomena such as Petrocaribe. In 1961, it was clear that our democracy was skewed: one political party won all 18 seats in the House of Representatives. The relevant phenomenon then was an extraordinary politician who had risen to exalted power legitimately. No matter how extraordinary the politician, however, Lord Acton’s dictum always holds true. Power corrupts.
Over the decades, I have tried to tell you how heroic were the leaders of UBAD who fought for such issues as the 18-year-old vote, radio time, and the teaching of African and Indigenous history in Belize’s schools. Especially noteworthy in the critical year of 1972 were young men such as Norman Fairweather and Rufus X. UBAD kept Belize’s democracy alive. UBAD kept Belize’s democracy real when the PUP controlled everything in sight. It was the UDP, established in September of 1973, which went on to enjoy the benefits of UBAD’s efforts. The UDP should explain why it was that their UDP came immediately after UBAD, but they never do. Such is life.
This newspaper, which has contributed significantly to Belize’s democracy over its 46 years of existence, would not have existed and survived if it had not been for UBAD. The power structure in Belize, which is dominated by European and American systems (NATO, actually) which control Belizean minds through their Christian churches, pretends that Amandala does not exist, and their local minions try to do the same. But Kremandala, which is how we refer to the combination of Amandala, KREM Radio, and KREM TV, is a unique example of an information system which is directly responsible to the masses of the Belizean people.
Over the last few years, a voice for the newer Belizean generations has arisen from the electronic side of Kremandala. Quite predictably, UDP hags and nags, drunk with their party’s exalted power, have been making vituperative attacks on their radio/television and in their newspaper seeking to inflame their party’s followers against that voice. Fair enough. This is how the game has been played in Belize. In their halcyon days, this is how the PUP did it. The UDP learned from the best.
There is a constant here, and that constant is the Belizean people. The politicians come, and the politicians go. The people remain. On Partridge Street, the people are whom we serve, and it is the people who sustain us. There is a history here at Kremandala, and it is a history of honor.
Power to the people. Remember Danny Conorquie.