Nestor “Net” Vasquez, Sr.’s professional longevity is truly astonishing. Presently In his mid-eighties, Vasquez is the most powerful Belizean executive at Belize Telemedia Limited (BTL). Maximum respect is due him.
There are a few Belizeans who will understand the nuances of my Tuesday column this week, but there are more than two generations who have almost no idea of the personalities involved with the establishment of the now ruling United Democratic Party (UDP) in September of 1973, and all the machinations surrounding that establishment.
The Liberal Party, organized in 1972, was one of the most shadowy parties in Belize’s modern political history. There were five public faces in the party. These were Dr. Manuel Esquivel, a physics teacher at St. John’s College; Net Vasquez, Sr., an accountant whose most important client was the wealthiest merchant in Belize – Santiago Castillo, Sr.; Harry Lawrence, a businessman who had taken over the editorship of The Reporter; Paul Rodriguez, who had studied for the Roman Catholic priesthood and was the editor of The Reporter prior to Lawrence’s assuming the position; and Curl Thompson, a senior public officer who had been elected President of the powerful Public Service Union (PSU).
In both of the UDP’s first two terms of office (1984-89, and 1993-98), their Leader and Prime Minister was a Liberal Party original – Dr. Esquivel. The UDP Deputy Leader and Deputy Prime Minister between 1984 and 1989 was another Liberal Party original, the late Curl Thompson, whose post as Deputy Leader and Deputy Prime Minister in the second UDP government was taken over by Dean Oliver Barrow, a nephew of Dean Russell Lindo, who had led the UDP from foundation in 1973 until 1979. Dean Barrow was an attorney in Dean Lindo’s Church Street law firm from 1974 until 1989.
In my Tuesday column, my thesis was that there were people from the original Liberal Party who stabbed Lindo in the political back, as it were, if not in 1979, for sure in 1989. I flesh out my thesis today by proposing to you that the most deadly of the Liberal Party conspirators was the one Net Vasquez, Sr. One reason he was deadly was because he always flew under the radar. Absolute discretion was the better part of his valor.
Politics is a very vicious game. A successful politician requires a thick skin. A successful politician has to have the capacity for cruelty. One can be a big time power broker in a major political party, however, without ever having his name on a ballot. Net Vasquez, Sr. has been such a man. If there was a single man who “made” Manuel Esquivel politically, it was Net Vasquez.
The first political star of the Liberal Party was Paul Rodriguez, not Manuel Esquivel. In the UDP’s first general election run in October of 1974, Paul narrowly lost the Pickstock seat to Adolfo Lizarraga of the ruling People’s United Party (PUP), by only four votes. In December of that same year, Paul became the very first UDP Belize City Mayor when he was one of six successful UDP candidates in the 1974 Belize City Council election. (The PUP had never lost Belize City before December 1974.)
Probably more interesting than whether Net Vasquez was the one who finished off the great Lindo, was the behavior between 1979 and 1989 of the man who became UDP Leader in 1998 and later won three consecutive terms as Prime Minister of Belize – Right Hon. Dean O. Barrow.
Please understand, I don’t have any tears to shed for Dean Russell. Of all the politicians who have mauled me, he probably did me the most damage during his six years as UDP Leader. No doubt the fact that I was such an inexperienced rookie between 1973 and 1979 contributed to my traumas.
The critical issue is this. You cannot understand the socio-economic disintegration of the Southside if you do not properly analyze precisely what happened when the UDP absorbed Philip Goldson’s National Independence Party (NIP) in 1973 while Mr. Philip was studying law in London. In order to replace Goldson as Opposition Leader, Dean Lindo made a Mephistophelian deal with the Belize City merchant dons. The UDP was a different proposition from the NIP. In September of 1973, the Southside proletariat and lumpen proletariat were cynically sacrificed. The evidence is all around us today. It is the Liberal Party which triumphs when the UDP triumphs. There are questions Net Vasquez needs to answer. Of course, he will not. He doesn’t have to talk.
The two Belizeans who can fill in all the blanks, once one understands that Vasquez is a non-starter where media conversation is concerned, are Dean Barrow and Michael Finnegan. There was a certain point between 1979 and 1983 when Dean Barrow gave up his allegiance to Dean Lindo. The interesting thing in the case of Barrow’s sidekick, Hon. Michael Finnegan, is that there was none of his mentors whom Finnegan ever loved as much as he loved Dean Russell. The UDP saga is such an interesting saga, beloved.
Some of my personal insight is derived from the time I spent working with the aforementioned Net Vasquez, Henry Young, Sr., and the late Santiago Perdomo in the Esquivel campaign for UDP leadership in late 1982.
I don’t deal in gossip. The thing that UDP stalwarts should accept is that, to repeat, the UDP was not the NIP. The UDP was specifically designed to remove Mr. Goldson as Leader, for whatever the reason(s). That is why, eventually, Mr. Goldson broke away from the UDP to form and lead his own party in 1991 – the National Alliance for Belizean Rights (NABR). Again, UDP stalwarts should ask themselves, what is the reason for the enduringly sacred aura surrounding Mr. Goldson’s memory? When you answer that question, you will begin to understand something of what happened to Dean Russell in 1989. More important, you will be encouraged, driven even, to ask questions about the sad fate of the blessed Southside.
Power to the people.