If people bring so much courage to this world, the world has to kill them to break them, so of course it kills them. The world breaks everyone, and afterward many are strong at the broken places. But those that will not break, it kills.
– pg. 226, A FAREWELL TO ARMS, by Ernest Hemingway, Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1929
One November day during the 1971 Belize City Council election campaign, Hon. Philip Goldson, the Leader of the Opposition National Independence Party (NIP), asked me to accompany him on a visit to the New Road (corner Hyde’s Lane) office of Mr. Santiago Castillo, Sr., who was Belize’s no. l business tycoon at the time.
At age 24, I was President of the UBAD Party, which Mr. Goldson had asked to join his NIP, Her Majesty’s Loyal Opposition, in a coalition for the aforementioned BCC election of December 8, 1971. I was one of three UBAD candidates, while the NIP offered six candidates. Mr. Goldson chose not to run on the nine-candidate slate.
In retrospect, the NIP slate was weak (as was the UBAD slate, but that went without saying), so if by a miracle the NIP/UBAD ticket had won, there was nobody on the ticket of mayoral category or capacity. This is merely a personal opinion, and it is in massive retrospect. The point is that the 1971 NIP was a shadow of its 1966 or 1968 self, for instance.
The People’s Development Movement (PDM), an Opposition party formed by attorney Dean Lindo in October of 1969, boycotted the election, even though two years before it had joined the NIP in a coalition to contest the December 1969 general election. I do not remember if I found out about the PDM boycott before or after we agreed to the NIP/UBAD coalition.
I was teaching at Wesley College at the time of Mr. Goldson’s request, so I am wondering about the timing of the visit to Mr. Castillo. But, I am remembering now that Wesley College did not have afternoon classes, so it must have been an afternoon visit.
Mr. Goldson did not give me any instructions or advice prior to the visit. I believed, without being told, that my role during the visit was to play the Uncle Tom and give Mr. Castillo the opinion that the UBAD and I were not as dangerous as some people thought we were.
You must know now that throughout the course of that 1971 City Council campaign, UBAD and I were totally subordinate, and subservient, to Mr. Goldson and the NIP. Not only did we respect the man, a recognized patriot and national hero, immensely, but we felt that we were in that campaign in order to learn from him.
I have waited more than 46 years to tell you readers about this meeting, because I would have preferred to introduce so delicate an incident into a fictional work. I choose now to recount what happened, because there are people who insist on pretending that Mr. Goldson was not the victim, between 1969 and 1973, of a plot at very high levels.
There is no doubt in my mind that Mr. Castillo became a major sponsor of the Liberal Party, which emerged in 1972, the year after the NIP/UBAD coalition was easily defeated by the ruling People’s United Party (PUP) at the City Council level.
But, Mr. Castillo, in November of 1971, must have been known to Mr. Goldson as one who had supported him in his political work, and one who would support him on this occasion.
After a brief conversation that day in Mr. Castillo’s office, he informed us that he would donate $200 to our campaign.
Mr. Goldson then politely asked, “Couldn’t you make it a little bit more?”
I would say that I was embarrassed for Mr. Goldson, because I felt his national standing was such that he should not have had to humble himself in such a fashion. At the same time, one must concede that he may have been going through his political fundamentals. He was making Mr. Castillo understand, in Mr. Goldson’s understated way, that he was not satisfied with the donation, and he was doing it in front of me, for my information and benefit.
Had I been in Mr. Castillo’s position, I would have offered Mr. Goldson a token sum more, but Mr. Castillo refused to increase the $200. Perhaps Mr. Castillo already knew that Mr. Goldson was history where leadership of the Opposition was concerned, and he may have felt that he was wasting the $200, in the first instance. Perhaps he already knew where he was going with the Liberal Party (Vasquez, Esquivel, Rodriguez, Lawrence and Thompson), which became one of the coalition members of the now ruling United Democratic Party (UDP) when it was established in September of 1973. Still, it would not have cost him much to pay respect to Mr. Philip by increasing the donation. (I will not speculate today about what may have been the great Santiago’s opinion about the UBAD Party.)
Clearly, there are different ways to look at this meeting. I immediately felt bad for Mr. Goldson that day. But, in the next jiffy, the meeting was over and we were on our way.
In early 1968, J. Edgar Hoover’s Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) had branded Mr. Goldson a Cuban collaborator, a very, very serious brand during that Cold War era. It was almost like calling Mr. Philip a communist. No one in Belize knew about this at the time. No one in Belize, or anywhere else, knew anything until some long classified American documents were released a couple months ago. There is absolutely no evidence, in fact, that Mr. Goldson himself knew that he had been so branded.
His move in late 1971 to enter into an alliance with the UBAD Party was a desperate one. Just weeks after that election defeat, Mr. Goldson shut down his newspaper, The Belize Billboard, and flew to London to begin the study of law. His wife, Hadie, flew to New York City with the couple’s six children and began a new life there.
You know, I never saw Mr. Goldson the night of the counting at St. Mary’s Hall. I got there after 9 p.m., having worked throughout the day at the Salvation Army polling station. I was told Mr. Goldson had visited earlier, and left. (In fact, before I arrived at St. Mary’s, a PUP Minister had assaulted my younger brother and another Minister threatened the UBAD Party Vice-President, the late Wilfred Nicholas.) From early on, it was evident that NIP/UBAD was going to lose. The UBAD section of the coalition remained at St. Mary’s Hall until early morning the following day. We were wasting our time, but that’s where our lack of experience entered the picture. The thing is, at some point during that night (or even before: who knows?), it became established that the UBAD Party, which had followed NIP instructions throughout the campaign, had become the Opposition which the ruling PUP considered the real threat. Check the stats.