The way the media organs of the ruling United Democratic Party (UDP) continue to focus on and hammer Luke Palacio and the Belize National Teachers Union (BNTU), it appears that the teachers remain a major, major concern of the UDP leadership. I am fascinated, because the teachers have been back in school for weeks working hard to impart their knowledge to their students.
The issue of whether those teachers who went on strike should be paid for the 11 days they were on strike, was a very emotional issue for the UDP when the question first arose. One reason for this is that there were pro-UDP teachers who remained in class, and hardliners in the UDP leadership felt that those teachers who walked out on strike had to be punished, not only to intimidate them with respect to their future decisions, but also to let the administration’s teacher/supporters know that they had benefited because of their loyalty during the crisis.
For me, the election of Donald Trump to the presidency of the United States on November 8 was not as stunning as his absolute devastation of a slew of candidates during the Republican primaries. One of those candidates in particular, the one Jeb Bush, was Republican royalty: his father, George H. W. Bush, had been the 41st President of the United States between 1988 and 1992, while his older brother, George W. Bush, had been the 43rd President of the U.S. between 2000 and 2008. Trump made Jeb Bush look like a political clown during the Republican primaries. Amazing.
In retrospect, of course, we can see that a paradigm shift was occurring in American politics, and what it involved was a rejection of the established political order. The possibility is large that Bernie Sanders would have upset Hillary Clinton, who is Democratic Party royalty for her part, had not the hierarchy of the Democrats worked to undermine and defeat him. And if Bernie had won the Democratic nomination, we would now have to grant the likelihood that he would have given The Donald a better run for his money than Hillary did.
How the two previous paragraphs about American presidential politics relate to Belizean politics is as follows. Even as American voters were losing faith in the established politics of their superpower nation, in little Belize something began changing a while back. The then Opposition UDP were badly beaten in the March 2003 general elections – 25 PUP seats to 6 UDP. That election should have been closer, but we were looking at a fumbling UDP. By early 2004, the financial abuses in the ruling People’s United Party (PUP) government were evident enough for the UDP to decide to march against said abuses. That UDP march was feeble.
By July/August of 2004, however, the financial scandals in the PUP administration were such as to occasion a rebellion inside the PUP Cabinet itself. To this day, there is a Ralphista faction of the PUP which blames the “G-7” Ministers for ruining a good thing, so to speak. I’m pretty sure that what the G-7 was about, was saving the PUP Musa government from itself, or more specifically, from Ralph.
But the weak street performance of the Opposition UDP a few months earlier had convinced the Ralphistas that their boy was God and that the Musa PUP was invincible. In the aftermath of the July 2004 Social Security Board (SSB) and Development Finance Corporation (DFC) scandals, which sparked the August 2004 G-7 Cabinet rebellion, the teachers and the other trade unions entered the fray as the backbone of a massive Belize City demonstration, on which the UDP “piggybacked.”
The frustration of Belize’s political process for honest Belizeans like the principled teachers of Belize is that that same feeble UDP of early 2004 has now become a juggernaut government in 2016. The UDP leaders are smart enough to know that it is the anti-establishment political mood in Belize which has made it almost impossible for the now Opposition PUP to march in militant numbers against the UDP government’s financial abuses and corruption. The teachers stepped into the breach and walked out of their classrooms. It was “déjà vu all over again.” PUP in 2004, UDP in 2016. The teachers essentially forced the Dean Barrow government to yield to their righteous demands. In real time, the teachers became the Opposition. For that, they must be targeted. For that, they must feel pain.
The tricky thing about the vengeful mood in the UDP camp with respect to the teachers is that it is their Prime Ministerial candidate for 2020 who is the present Minister of Education. Faber is in a real pickle. At the same time, if the PUP believe that this “fu yu, fu me” traditional PUDP politics assures them a victory in 2020, this is a ball game which could change drastically. Trust me. I’m not saying that electoral politics in Belize will so change, but I am saying the possibility exists.
The population core in Belize is unhappy with both the UDP and the PUP. It is important to understand that Donald Trump is not a classic Republican: he is a strange political creature who brings major uncertainty to the White House (or the Trump Tower). No one is sure what he’s going to do, because the Republican Party blue bloods do not control him. Trump exploited massive unhappiness in America with the political system. There is a vague possibility of something like the Trump phenomenon happening here before 2020. If, for example and for argument’s sake, all Belize’s trade unions ever came together with a common political purpose, the old-fashioned PUDP bets would be off. I’m just saying.