Publisher — 14 January 2017 — by Evan X Hyde
From The Publisher

I like to listen to Captain Nicholas Sanchez when he speaks on the radio. Actually, I think he is a distant relative of mine, through the Gibson connection. I may have met him, but we have never held a real conversation.

Captain Sanchez is a Belizean who migrated to Canada when he was a young man in the 1950s and spent most of his adult life there. He has been doing tourist tours in Belize for quite a few years now; he has a reliable knowledge of the architecture, historical sites, and colonial realities of the old British Honduras which is fascinating. The man is a treasure trove of information about British Honduras/Belize.

Captain Sanchez called in on Mose’s talk show on Tuesday morning this week to complain about the use of the word “diaspora” to refer to the Belizean population which has migrated abroad. In this opinion, the host of the show agreed with him, but I would like to say to them both, when you find a word you like better than “diaspora” to describe migrant Belizeans, tell me about it.

Anyway, this is not what I am interested in today. I have heard Captain Nicholas mention something on the ruling United Democratic Party (UDP) radio station on more than one occasion, and I believe him to be telling the truth. Captain Sanchez has said that in 1953 (he even gives the month, I think) he was a 17-year-old in British Honduras and a minor union official who was a supporter of the People’s United Party (PUP), when “George Price” told him that the goal of the party was to hand the country over to Guatemala. This statement by Mr. Price, who was not the PUP Leader at the time, turned the young Nicholas Sanchez off big time. And it is still a bone in the throat of the senior gentleman.

It is important to know that in 1953 Guatemala was in the ninth year of a democratic revolution which had begun in the republic in 1944, after the ouster of the military dictator, Jorge Ubico. Jacobo Arbenz, a former military general, had been elected president in 1951. Arbenz’s rule was an enlightened and reformist one. Those Belizeans, including Philip Goldson and Leigh Richardson, who visited Guatemala during the Arbenz presidency were very impressed. (Arbenz was overthrown in 1954 by the American Central Intelligence Agency {CIA} after he came into conflict with the United Fruit Company – el pulpo.)

It is also important to remember that the nature of British colonialism here in 1953 was very bitter. The masses of the people in the capital city, Belize, had to use canals as open sewers to empty the bodily wastes which they had stored overnight in buckets; water supply was a terrible problem, especially during the dry season. There was a small class of natives, mostly brown, who had essentially divided themselves from the masses and supported British colonialism because they were privileged over the black masses. Carib and Mestizo Belizeans were definitely discriminated against in the government service. The road system here was extremely primitive, so much so that trips to the Districts in the north, west, and south, took four, five times as long as they do today. Toledo, in fact, was basically inaccessible by road. You had to travel there by motor boat, and that trip took from early morning until nightfall. Of British Honduras, a British writer named Aldous Huxley had famously written in the 1930s: “If the world had any ends, British Honduras would be one of them.” In 1953, then, British Honduras was the pits for the Belizean masses, and Guatemala was “moving on up” under Arbenz.

I cannot be considered an apologist for Mr. Price. There are still older relatives and admirers of the Father of the Nation who nurse grievances against yours truly because of the vicious nature of the fight between us from 1969 to 1972. I said what I had to say and did what I had to do back then. In February of 1970, Mr. Price attempted to imprison me using an old colonial sedition law which the British had used against him twelve years earlier. If you look at the sedition arrest of 1970 in historical context, it was a declaration of war against the United Black Association for Development (UBAD) by the ruling PUP. In 1970, I was the leader of UBAD and Mr. Price was the leader of the PUP.

I’m saying that so I can say this. In September of 1981, Mr. Price led Belize to independence with all our territory intact. The fact that Belize did not have a defence guarantee when we became independent, made that independence controversial for nationalist leaders like Mr. Goldson. In 1981, Mr. Price and those PUP leaders closest to him believed that the Heads of Agreement provided an opportunity for Belize to achieve the political independence which had been delayed from 1964. Seen from a certain perspective, this was an adventurist independence, but we Belizeans have had 36 years to figure out how to protect and preserve that independence. In other words, as a constitutional upgrade and as an uplifting of Belizean national dignity, independence worked. Whatever Mr. Price said to Nicholas Sanchez in 1953, is irrelevant in 2017.

This newspaper had played a significant role in the PUP general election campaign of 1979, the election which became the final springboard to independence. As the editor and publisher of Amandala, however, I had experiences with the PUP Deputy Premier in early 1978 which convinced me that the PUP would not tolerate Amandala in an independent Belize. My 1978 opinion was proven accurate when the PUP launched arguably the two largest libel suits Belize had ever seen against this newspaper after independence. In addition, and even more important, there were aspects of the March 1981 Heads of Agreement which placed odious conditions on Belize’s independence before we had even achieved it. I’m just saying.

Since 1981, this has been a rocky road. An elite class has emerged in Belize with visible pretensions to oligarchy, while life has deteriorated for the Belizean masses and the Belizean youth. In that sense, Belize has become more like Guatemala since 1981. This was the publicly expressed desire of the United States when they published the Seventeen Proposals in 1968: that Belize should become like Guatemala.

American foreign policy experts believed that an independent Belize would represent a potential danger to the two military oligarchies the United States had been supporting to the west and south of Belize – Guatemala and Honduras. Washington absolutely did not want a Belize which would roam free philosophically and possibly be influenced by Fidel Castro’s revolution in Cuba. This is why the Americans have usually allowed the Guatemalans to bully us over the years. Belize is in a strategic position in Central America which could create problems for the Guatemalan and Honduran oligarchies.

If we could find some way to convince Washington that we Belizeans have no interest in the ongoing humanitarian crises in Guatemala and Honduras, perhaps the State Department would adjust its Belize policy with respect to the Guatemalan claim. The problem is not only that we roots Belizeans have a heart and, therefore, bemoan what is going on in Guatemala and Honduras, but that there are so many Guatemalans and Hondurans who have made a new life in Belize that have concerns about the human tragedies in their home republics. A democratic Belize has no choice but to condemn the human rights violations by the oligarchies in Guatemala and Honduras.

In closing, let me return to Captain Sanchez. There are Belizeans who have a love for the old days here, but it is unfair to describe them, strictly speaking, as colonial. The corruption, disorder, and lawlessness which have come to Belize since independence must be condemned unconditionally. There was no corruption, no disorder, and no lawlessness in colonial British Honduras, but there was oppression, there was white supremacy, and there was imperialism. We Belizeans have paid a socio-political price for our independence. At the same time, however, despite the fact that that independence brought corruption, disorder, and lawlessness, we are determined to maintain that independence, no matter what. I do not believe that Captain Nicholas is a colonial. I agree with him that Baron Bliss deserves our gratitude and that he should be honored eternally. Where I disagree with my relative is in the area of nostalgia. As a warrior people, it was necessary for us to move the British, by any means necessary. The Belizean who did the job was the Right Honorable George Cadle Price. Respect is due.

Power to the people.

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Eden Cruz

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