Ferdinand and Isabella decided to appeal to a higher authority: the representative of God on earth, Pope Alexander VI. (As it happened, the pope was of Spanish descent and had recently been elected with the support of Spain.) Acting as arbitrator, Alexander VI drew a line from north to south running from pole to pole dividing the Western Hemisphere. Lands west of the boundary would belong to Spain, territory east to Portugal. Judging this arrangement unfairly favorable to Spain, Portugal at first rejected the pope’s proposal. Nevertheless, it became the basis for negotiations leading to the Treaty of Tordesillas, which was signed in 1494. As historian A. R. Disney notes, Tordesillas “became a basic charter of empire, defining respective spheres of ‘conquest’ well into the eighteenth century.”
– pgs. 189, 190, DESTINED FOR WAR, by Graham Allison, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, New York, 2017
Although during its brief history the UBAD Party seemed a very loose and undefined organization from the outside, in reality it was a very tight, cohesive and disciplined Party internally.
– pg. 252, READINGS IN BELIZEAN HISTORY (Second Edition), 1987: A HISTORY OF POLITICAL PARTIES IN BELIZE, by Lawrence Vernon
The pattern of the majority of Opposition political parties since 1951 has been a history of mergers, coalitions and alliances, none of which proved effective. The pattern continued up to 1973 when the National Independence Party, the People’s Development Movement and the short-lived Liberal Party became amalgamated to form the United Democratic Party (UDP) in 1973.
– pg. 250, ibid.
The Guatemalan claim to Belize, the racist, aggressive Guatemalan claim to Belize, was a very big issue for the leadership of the UBAD movement, which became the UBAD Party in August of 1970 in the immediate aftermath of the sedition trial and acquittal of myself and the late Ismail Omar Shabazz.
It is impossible to recreate for you the nature and nuances of party politics in British Honduras during the 1960s, one reason being that what is Belize today was so different in population composition back then.
Very big people (I would feature the major Christian churches) and very rich people in Belize have almost no visibility here with respect to the activities of the major political parties. But the Christian churches are very influential in our party politics because they control so many votes, and the big-time capitalists (very rich) write the large checks which the two major parties use to finance their campaigns.
In the 1960s, the Leader of the ruling People’s United Party (PUP), Hon. George Cadle Price, had become so powerful that it appeared he was outside of the control of the very big and the very rich. Mr. Price was a very devout Roman Catholic, but, partly because he had been a political protégé of Mr. Bob Turton’s until Turton’s death in 1955, it was not the perception of the Belizean people that he was dictated to by the Roman clergy. Yes, Mr. Price was friendly with the Jesuits and consulted with the Catholic clergy, but he was, first and foremost, PUP Leader, dedicated to the interests of the Belizean people. (You don’t have to agree with this opinion.)
The very rich in Belize in the 1960s included the Belize Estate and Produce Company (BEC), Santiago Castillo, Ltd., and James Brodies, I suppose. The Sharps and the Bowmans were wealthy families in the Pomona Valley, and the Perez-Schofield and Blake families were rich families in the Corozal District and San Pedro Ambergris Caye, respectively. These matters were not researched and studied in the 1960s, so I’m offering you just a rough sketch. Of the rich entities I mentioned, the one most involved in party politics was BEC, which had been seriously opposed to the PUP from its formation in 1950, while most observers felt that San Cas, the local businessman with the highest profile at the time, was a financial supporter of the Opposition National Independence Party (NIP). But, Mr. Castillo was discreet politically.
In the late 1950s, following the election of Ydigoras Fuentes as President of Guatemala in 1958, the Guatemalan claim to Belize became a real hot button issue in the politics of British Honduras. Even though the Hon. Philip Goldson, a founding officer of the PUP in 1950, had joined the NIP at the leadership level in 1958 when his Honduran Independence Party (HIP) made an alliance with the older National Party (NP), Mr. Goldson’s primary role was as owner and editor of the daily Belize Billboard, the colony’s leading newspaper, where he threw almost daily fuel on the Guatemalan controversy fire surrounding Mr. Price following his expulsion from London in 1957. When Mr. Goldson became NIP Leader in late 1961 succeeding the ailing Herbert Fuller, then the Guatemalan claim to Belize became our dominant, sometimes monopoly, political issue.
Although Ydigoras was removed from office in 1963 and Guatemala had had to begin paying attention to a civil war which had begun in 1960, the United States government attempted to mediate a settlement between Great Britain and Guatemala which became an explosive issue in Belize when Mr. Goldson, courageously and without authorization, revealed the Thirteen Proposals in 1966. Two years later in 1968, the Americans officially released mediator Bethuel Webster’s Seventeen Proposals, thus confirming the essential validity of Goldson’s Thirteen Proposals.
The party politics of Belize in the 1960s, where the majority black population at the time was concerned, represented a separation between the black working class, who supported the PUP, and the black/brown middle class, the core group in the NIP. The PUP, however, was not doing a good job of relating to working class black youth, so that when the black-conscious UBAD movement was formed in February of 1969, its appeal was across party lines, including PUP youth. We must emphasize that point. In the summer of 1969, UBAD became a black youth thing which temporarily consigned the PUP and the NIP to irrelevance.
It appears that Mr. Goldson misread the early UBAD, that he believed it to be a PUP initiative, and he would have believed that because, if we are to judge from the Belize Billboard, he appeared to think that the real UBAD leaders were the attorneys Assad Shoman and Said Musa.
Inside the NIP itself, meanwhile, another attorney, Dean Lindo, was preparing to challenge Mr. Goldson for leadership, which he did in May of 1969. When he lost, Lindo left the NIP and formed his own party – the People’s Development Movement (PDM), and began to publish his own newspaper – The Beacon.
When Mr. Price suddenly called general elections in early November of 1969, five months before they were scheduled to take place, the NIP and PDM were forced to put together a hasty, obviously insincere coalition – NIPDM, which they invited UBAD to join. At that precise moment in time, UBAD was in a coalition with Assad Shoman and Said Musa in an organization called the Revolitical Action Movement (RAM). RAM declined the NIPDM offer.
In early December of 1969 general elections, the PUP destroyed the NIPDM coalition by a 17-1 margin in seats. Three weeks later, mid-January 1970, UBAD broke away from Shoman and Musa to resume its UBAD life, and five weeks after that, the PUP launched its first all-out attack on UBAD with the sedition arrests we referred to in the first paragraph of this column.
Throughout the various phases of UBAD’s existence, basically four in all before leadership divided in early 1973, the Guatemalan claim to Belize remained a major concern, and understandably so. UBAD was black-conscious, and there was clearly a racial undercurrent in Guatemalan’s hostility to Belize and Belize’s aspirations for independence and territorial integrity.
At a certain point, I believe as early as 1969, Mr. Price began to think radically where his dream of political independence for Belize, a dream he had “inherited” from Bob Turton, was concerned. When Mr. Price began thinking radically, inviting and welcoming Assad Shoman and Said Musa, who were considered left-wingers, into the PUP, he lost the support of the conservative, business sector of the Roman Catholic Church, led by Santiago Castillo, Sr., and Ismael Gomez, and that sector, representing itself as the Liberal Party, joined Lindo’s PDM and an NIP led by Simeon Hassock and Ulric Fuller (Goldson was studying law in London at the time) in establishing the now ruling United Democratic Party (UDP) in September of 1973. It was essentially the issue of the new UDP which divided and destroyed the UBAD Party in 1973.
Why does this matter today? It matters because the Guatemalan claim is perhaps more dangerous in 2017 than it ever was. It matters because there are remnant UBAD officers and members from that foundation UBAD era who have been talking and reasoning with each other since the Sarstoon River crisis began in 2015. Remember now, these remnant UBAD officers and members are senior citizens. It is, needless to say, younger generations of Belizeans who have to take charge in the coming International Court of Justice (ICJ) crisis.
What matters here, I submit, is historical clarity. The foreign policy of the State Department of the United States indicates that they do not consider the independence and territorial integrity of Belize to be a viable geographical proposition, because, in their thinking, the Guatemalan claim must be honored. The fact of the matter is that Belize is an independent, sovereign territory. How we got there 36 years ago, and who led us there and how, does not matter. What matters is that we Belizeans have something to defend. That something is called The Jewel. In 1798, there were 51 people who voted to run. These 51 have been condemned by our history. Historical clarity comes into play when we seek to differentiate between the 65 stand-and-fight and the 51 cut-and-run in this third millennial context. For you, beloved, this may be a matter of reading between the lines.
Power to the people.