One of the ways you can know when politicians are going great guns, as we would say, is when they can get away with accusing their opponent/enemy of crimes of which they themselves are guilty. The Guatemalan government scored such a great regional and international propaganda victory the last few days of last week that their President, their Foreign Minister, and their recalled Ambassador to Belize were all accusing Belize of being a human rights violator, and they were getting away with it. Imagine. More than that, the Guatemalan Foreign Minister was sailing on such a fair wind that he could become patronizing, and actually suggest that the Belize army (the Belize Defence Force) needed training from the British and the Americans.
One of the big reasons Belize achieved independence in September of 1981 was precisely because Guatemala, a racist, genocidal Central American republic, had been exposed early in 1980 for what she was when the Guatemalan army and police bombed and burned the Spanish Embassy in Guatemala City with forty or fifty Spanish officials, Indigenous protesters, and university students inside. Guatemala had been continuing the slaughter of her Indigenous people, which had been going on for more than twenty years, when Belize achieved independence. United States president Jimmy Carter had become so disgusted in 1977 with Guatemalan government and military atrocities that he stopped arms shipments to Guatemala in 1977. (Israel and Taiwan filled Guatemala’s arms void until Ronald Reagan resumed American arms shipments in 1981.)
Belize enjoyed 12 years of relative freedom from Guatemalan worries from 1981 till 1993, when the British decided to end their “appropriate period” of military presence in Belize. In that 12-year period, Belize had been riding so high that in 1991 a Guatemalan president, Jorge Serrano, actually recognized Belize’s independence, whereupon the Guatemalan politicians and generals ran him out of town. (Serrano has lived in exile in Panama ever since.)
Guatemala is a country where their majority Indigenous population has been crushed by European invaders and immigrants over a period of centuries. There was never a successful Indigenous revolution in Guatemala, as there was in the twentieth century in Mexico, Guatemala’s neighbor to the north. The Guatemalan economy and most of Guatemala’s land are controlled by a small group of families of European descent. The civil war in Guatemala between 1960 and 1996 was fundamentally about land, and the European oligarchy of Guatemala, supported overall by the United States, Israel, and Taiwan, used their famously brutal army to terrorize the countryside and to maintain the centuries-long subordination of Indigenous Guatemalans.
Who is to blame for the fact that Guatemala, the most notorious human rights violator in Central America, got away over the weekend with smearing the human rights name of Belize, a known paragon of civilian, democratic rule in the modern era? There was a cocksure complacency, an arrogance which had set in at the very highest levels of Belizean leadership. Perhaps the most important factor in our achieving independence had been our outstanding record of democracy and human rights. More than that, in the late 1970s Belize had begun a humanitarian campaign of accepting refugees from the Central American revolutionary wars in Guatemala, Salvador, and Nicaragua, even at the cost of altering our country’s longstanding ethnic makeup. Belize has shown love for Central America. Belize accepted many, many Guatemalan families as refugees. Belize, in tandem with the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR), gave these refugees land, even as the Guatemalan oligarchy was refusing to share land with their own desgraciados.
Today, it is clear that at the very highest levels of Guatemalan leadership, they have decided that it is we wimp Belizeans who will become the refugees. The Guatemalan ruling classes have a plan in place. The bare bones of the plan feature the movement of their citizens into the west and south of Belize, with the armed backing of their military. The Guatemalans who are entering Belize no longer consider themselves refugees: they have come to take what they were taught in Guatemalan schools is theirs, and on Thursday last the Guatemalan president, Jimmy Morales, said in so many words that his monster military will support the illegal incursions. Morales knew that the Guatemalan minor shot and killed in the Chiquibul dark last Wednesday night was inside Belizean territory. That didn’t matter to Morales. There was political opportunity to embarrass (not to mention threaten) Belize while inflaming and mobilizing Guatemalans. Cold like that.
In 1981, you know, the ruling People’s United Party (PUP) took a gamble when they took Belize into political independence. (We will discuss details of that gamble another time.) The gamble worked. It was up to succeeding generations of Belizeans to build on that constitutional foundation. Perhaps amongst all the subjects our local Chamberlain studied, international relations must not have been one of them. Our local Chamberlain would have learned, had he really studied international relations, that there are no guarantees out here. The world’s reality is Darwinian, not religious. You absolutely cannot be caught with your pants down. On Thursday, Belize was caught with its pants down. In retrospect, even if you went so far as to say Jimmy Morales was bluffing, you would have to say his bluff worked: Belize collapsed psychologically right before our eyes.
On the other hand, perhaps time will show that we have learned a lesson. On September 10, 1931, no hurricane had struck Belize for so long that when the 1931 cyclone tore the old capital apart, our people were helpless in our ignorance. Because we were ignorant, we had not prepared. We Belizeans learned a lesson on September 10, 1931. Kremandala has spent many years trying to prepare Belizeans for such a dark day as Thursday, April 21, 2016.
So many careless Belizeans have been saying for months, “Oh, I di hear ‘bout dis Guatemala ting long time.” The inference is, why bother, this too shall pass. Others have been quoted as saying, “The British will defend us.” Or, “The Commonwealth will protect us.”
Personally, I prefer two roots Creole sayings. One is, “Sleep wid yu own eye.” The second is, “A no wan pick no fight, but a no wan run fran none neither.” On Thursday, April 21, Jimmy Morales picked a fight. The response of the nation of Belize and our leaders was unsatisfactory. We have to do better. Much, much better. Jesus can’t help us when our deadly enemies are praying to Him the same way we are. This is the real world.
Power to the people. Remember Danny Conorquie. Honor Staff Sgt. Richard Lambey. Big up, Wil Maheia and the Belize Territorial Volunteers. Right on, Admiral John Borland. Support the Friends for Conservation and Development. Salute SATIIM. Stay strong, BNTU!