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From the Publisher

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BELIZE CITY, Tues. June 30, 1981

   Mr. Santiago Perdomo, former Minister of Government, was formally accepted into the UDP today at a meeting of UDP leaders and advisers at the Party’s Headquarters.

(pg. 3, AMANDALA No. 620, Friday, July 3, 1981)


BELIZE, Sun. Dec. 20, 1981

   While Radio Belize stressed the fact that both the UDP (San Ignacio, Benque, and Dangriga) and the PUP (Corozal, Orange Walk, and Punta Gorda) now controlled three Town Boards each as a result of last Wednesday’s Town Board elections, the underdog United Democratic Party pulled more votes nationwide, 33,290 to the PUP’s 32,589, and captured 26 seats to the Goliath governing party’s 16.

(pg. 1, AMANDALA No. 653, Tues. Dec. 22, 1981)

The United Democratic Party (UDP) was devastated by their defeat (People’s United Party [PUP], 13 seats: UDP, 5) in the 1979 general election. Their UDP Leader, Dean Lindo, remains the only Leader of the Opposition ever to lose his seat in a general election. Lindo owned the party newspaper, The Beacon, which used to be printed at #7 Church Street in Belize City. The party was in disarray for a while.

Of the five UDP area representatives elected in that election, three were from the Toledo and Stann Creek Districts, as opposed to just two from Belize City – Philip Goldson (Albert) and Curl Thompson (Mesopotamia). The three area reps from the South, Dr. Ted Aranda (Dangriga), Charles Wagner (Toledo South) and Basilio Ah (Toledo North) joined forces and decided to choose one of their own – Dr. Aranda, for Leader.

Looking back, a student of local politics would likely wonder why it was that Mr. Goldson, who had been Leader of the Opposition from 1961 to 1974, by virtue of being Leader of the National Independence Party (NIP), had not been chosen UDP Leader to replace Lindo, but you must remember that the financiers and power brokers of the Opposition had spent years trying to replace Mr. Goldson in leadership. In fact, it was probably precisely in order to remove Mr. Goldson from his leadership position that the Opposition’s financiers and power brokers, based mainly in Belize City and New York City, had founded the UDP in September of 1973. They had been trying to move Mr. Goldson from the summer of 1969, when they supported Lindo’s challenge to Goldson’s leadership of the NIP. But, mild-mannered Philip Goldson was a full-fledged national hero, for several reasons, and the rank-and-file of the Opposition supported him. (So did my faction of UBAD.)

When Dr. Aranda returned to Belize in 1969 as Associate Director of the United States Peace Corps, he was a relative unknown in the nation, to the best of my knowledge. But he was one of the very first Belizeans to earn a Ph. D., so his qualifications, when you considered that he enjoyed security clearance from the mighty U.S., were highly impressive. He should have been a superb choice as UDP Leader, but he was a Garifuna, and Belize is a bigoted place, especially bigoted amongst the rich and famous.

Dr. Aranda never received the financial support Dean Lindo had received during Lindo’s six years of leadership, and it appeared to me that he was forced out in late 1982. Dr. Aranda himself told me more than two decades afterwards that it was actually a case of his resigning. But, he would have resigned, in my opinion, under duress. He had tried to run the UDP from Dangriga, and that did not work.

The rare photograph which accompanies this column shows Dr. Aranda chairing a June 1981 meeting of UDP leaders and advisers at what used to be the King Street office of the party. From right to left, you see the late Santiago Perdomo, Derek Aikman, Henry Young, Dr. Aranda (at the head of the table), Manuel Esquivel, someone I believe to be Hubert Elrington, the late Curl Thompson, and Sam Rhaburn. (I do not see Mr. Goldson in this photo.)

Dr. Aranda never got an opportunity to lead the UDP into a general election. Under his leadership, the UDP lost Belize City Council elections in 1980, but in late 1981 Dr. Aranda’s UDP won the majority of seats in national Town Board elections. San Perdomo played an impressive role for the UDP in its San Ignacio and Benque Viejo victories.

I am especially intrigued by the presence of San Perdomo and Derek Aikman in this photograph, and I will proceed to elaborate.

The Perdomos, whose patriarch used to run a saloon at Santiago Castillo’s Majestic Theater on Queen Street, are the highest ranking family to change political parties here in my lifetime. (The Courtenays changed political parties circa 1958, but they had never been elected to political office before they moved from the Opposition to the PUP.) San Perdomo was the Cayo South area representative for the ruling PUP and a PUP Cabinet Minister from 1961 to 1979. Carlos, his younger brother, became the UDP’s Cabinet Secretary in 1984 and a UDP area representative (Caribbean Shores) and UDP Cabinet Minister in 2008. (Long past public officer retirement age, Carlos Perdomo has again been serving as UDP Cabinet Secretary.)

The key to deciphering the family’s paradigm move from PUP to UDP, probably lies in the business career of one of San’s and Carlos’ brothers, the late Omario Perdomo, who founded the present day business empire, Traveller’s Liquors, in 1953 and began turning against Mr. Price’s PUP because of the socialist influence Assad Shoman and Said Musa brought to the party during the 1970s.

Incidentally, I saw the most extraordinary thing happen in 1992. The then ruling PUP went out of their way to create a position at the Center of Employment Training (CET) for Carlos Perdomo, whose absolute UDP loyalties were well known to all and sundry. Another story, another time.

I remember thinking when Derek Aikman joined the UDP’s Belize City Council election slate in 1980 that he must really be a UDP fanatic. Derek was only 21 at the time, and there was no way the UDP could win the City Council in 1980 after collapsing so dramatically after the 1979 general election. (The UDP recovered to win the majority of Town Board seats in 1981 because the Heads of Agreement had badly damaged the PUP in March/April that year.)

You will note that the present UDP Leader, Right Hon. Dean Barrow, does not appear in this photo. A nephew of Dean Lindo, the first UDP Leader, Mr. Barrow never served under Dr. Aranda. Barrow became an active Belize City Council candidate for the December 1983 BCC election after Mr. Esquivel was chosen UDP Leader in January of that year. Dean Barrow had been a poster boy for his uncle’s UDP in the streets of Belize City from 1974 to 1979. He did not choose to put his name on a UDP ballot until the summer of 1983. His timing was impeccable, exquisite. Dean Oliver was being very well advised by his younger brother, Denys, and by Michael Finnegan.

Derek Aikman, on the other hand, while he proved how spectacular a campaigner and candidate he was in the aforementioned 1983 BCC election and his 1984 and 1989 general election runs, apparently never had advisers at the level of Denys and Finnegan. Early on, Derek was considered a favorite of the Santiago Castillo family, but that family later switched their loyalty to Mr. Barrow. Derek ended up being declared a bankrupt in 1992 and expelled from the House of Representatives. He was the victim of a joint PUP/UDP conspiracy, a conspiracy aided and abetted by Lord Michael Ashcroft. For the political record, after the UDP’s landslide victories in BCC 1983 and generals in 1984, Derek Aikman had been thought of as a potential, serious rival to Dean Barrow’s ambitions.

In closing, I would say that the official UDP was not in much evidence during the March/April Heads of Agreement uprising in the streets of Belize City. Of those in the photograph accompanying this column, only Sam Rhaburn, who had been a Corporal in the Belize Police Force (he arrested me in early 1972 for fighting with policemen at their Queen Street gate), was active in the Belize Action Movement (BAM) of 1981. There were anti-Heads warriors at the time, such as Kenworth Tillett, Leroy Panting, Shubu Brown, and Rodwell Pinks, who were heavy UDP supporters. But the big boys of the UDP were absent from the revolution. That revolution was led by Odinga Lumumba and Soccorro Bobadilla. Their names should be remembered, and honored.

Power to the people.

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