Publisher — 07 October 2017 — by Evan X Hyde
From the Publisher

If there is one thing that the history of the world has shown us, it is that you can kill anybody.

– Michael Corleone in THE GODFATHER, PART II

 

“Cash is king and King is cash,” he said. “This is what it’s always been. Dealing with human nature. And dealing with those who are the downtrodden, the underprivileged, people who have been denied, you’ve got an opportunity, because white and black alike, that green is always there, it stands out … You give ‘em a check, you got to wait till they cash it … But if you give ‘em cash, it’s instant; they can’t stop payment on that.”

– Don King, quoted on page 59 of the October 2, 2017 issue of SPORTS ILLUSTRATED

 

 

Most of us human beings, especially in this Western, capitalist world, spend a lot of time dreaming about money. We would like to own lots and lots of money, in order to buy anything and everything we want for ourselves and our loved ones. There is another aspect to money: money is power, in both personal relationships and public power struggles.

There are a few human beings who actually live out their fantasy. Take Bill Gates, for example. He has acquired so much money that it is totally impossible for him to spend all of it, no matter how long he lives, so he has built philanthropic institutions in order to give away as much of his money as he can.

We native Belizeans are mostly descended from African slaves brought to the settlement of Belize in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, and from refugees fleeing the Caste War of the Yucatan who arrived in the Belize settlement in the latter half of the nineteenth century. Our slave and refugee ancestors were poor where possession of money was concerned, because most of the money being made in British Honduras was going back to England to enrich Albion.

Our history tells us that two native descendants — Isaiah Morter and Robert Sydney Turton, became wealthy in the first half of the twentieth century, and by the beginning of the second half of the twentieth century, another native descendant, the one Santiago Castillo, also became wealthy.

One of the uncomfortable realities with becoming wealthy when you are a native descendant in Belize is that you are surrounded by other native descendants who are all poor and struggling. It would appear that for those native descendants mentioned in the previous paragraph to have become rich, they would have had to develop habits of thrift, frugality, self-discipline, and so on, and they would have had to be more selfish than generous in their daily lives. In order to move from poverty to wealth, how can you afford to be more generous than selfish? We’re just saying.

It happens sometimes that the journey from poverty to wealth is so difficult and arduous that when a poor man achieves wealth, he is so set in his penny pinching ways that he can’t really enjoy his wealth.

Incidentally, we know that Isaiah Morter became a remarkable revolutionary with his wealth, bequeathing everything to Marcus Garvey’s cause of “African redemption” in 1923. Bob Turton, for his part, became a background political activist who, seeking to increase his personal wealth, fought for the cause of Belizean self-government and independence.

Sometime on Friday afternoon last week, Marcel Samuels, 62, a jeweller and butcher, was shot in his head, dead, while walking with his wife on his Butcher Burns cattle ranch. Marcel used to associate a lot with us in the UBAD Educational Foundation until perhaps eight or ten years ago. He was quite close with the late Dr. Leroy Taegar, and he and I were good friends.

Marcel was a remarkable man, in that he had acquired world-class skills in jewellery from Jewish teachers in Chicago, Illinois, and then had decided to return home. Marcel never offered me the details of his sojourn in Chicago, and I never pressed him. I respected his space. I did notice that he was extraordinarily disciplined: he did not smoke, drink, party, gamble, or womanize. That extraordinary discipline, coupled with his world-class knowledge of jewellery, suggests to me that Marcel may have accumulated a bunch of money before he was murdered. It is only a suggestion: I have no inside knowledge of Marcel’s business.

I did not understand his decision to involve himself in cattle ranching as a business, because ranching appeared, at first glance, completely alien to the world of jewellery. My son Mose has said that Marcel told him that he was having trouble charging appropriate prices for his jewellery work, my understanding being that those who could afford to pay for his quality became reluctant to do so.

I never visited Marcel at his ranch, but I noticed that about fifteen years or so ago he began to wear a holstered pistol around his hip in his jewellery shop. It being the case that there was only the main entrance to his jewellery workshop, and that entrance had a bolted door and the type of grilled grating you see on Chinese grocery shops, it seemed to me that his security there was pretty tight.

When I heard that Marcel had been murdered on his ranch, I wondered what kind of security he had in Butcher Burns. A holstered pistol was evidently not enough, since, according to police, Marcel was in a court case trying to prevent some individual or individuals from stealing his cattle.

Dara Robinson told the KREM Radio WUB audience on Monday morning that Marcel Samuels had been a significant contributor to his feeding program who never asked for any kind of publicity. That is the kind of man Marcel was — private, but seriously concerned about Belize and his Belizean people.

I think Marcel may have considered himself a tough guy. He did not see himself as soft in any kind of way. And yet, the preliminary evidence indicates that this was a relatively simple execution. Marcel’s is a frightening murder, but he was definitely more vulnerable at Butcher Burns than in his Belize City jewellery shop. Was Marcel relaxed at Butcher Burns, was he less careful, did he let down his guard?

At the end of the day, it may be fair to say that Marcel Samuels was a loner. He had achieved success on his own terms, and that is how he lived his life. His is a huge loss for the productive native community. Marcel was a special brother. We will miss him. We mourn him.

It seems surreal how dangerous Belize has become. When someone can put a bullet in the gut of the Prime Minister’s law partner, you know how crazy the old capital has become. The prominent attorney’s was an attempted murder I still cannot figure out, because it is clear to me that someone somewhere had to have put out a contract. The young man from Hattieville charged with Marcel’s murder and shown handcuffed on national television Tuesday evening, showed absolutely no remorse. Was he a contract killer?

I will close by recalling, for you younger readers, a murder conspiracy against me in late October of 1984. A high-ranking army officer was instructed to “murder or maim” me. The instructions came from the highest desk in the Belize Police Department. I survived that murder conspiracy because I had a friend, Rufus X, to whom I ran for assistance. To whom could Marcel have run? Nobody, I guess.

(Incidentally, more than two decades after that murder conspiracy, the former army officer told me that he had been on the payroll of the Central Intelligence Agency {CIA} for $250 a week at the time. On receiving the “murder or maim” instruction, he consulted with his CIA handler, who said to him, “Just don’t get us involved.” Since, if I had to bet, I would bet that the highest desk in the Belize Police Department was also on the CIA payroll, you realize how intricate all this may have been. As the old people say, there is always a wheel within a wheel.)

Dr. Manuel Esquivel, whom this newspaper had supported from late 1982 in his political aspirations, became Prime Minister six or seven weeks after the murder conspiracy against me, and he never felt the need to investigate it. This attitude on Esquivel’s part set the tone for our deteriorating relationship after December of 1984.

Power to the people.

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