When you read the material produced by the Government Information Service (GIS) here in 1965 and 1966, you can see that the PUP Government of Belize was headed in a decidedly pro-American direction. It was during this time that the Michigan Partners for the Alliance deal was formalized; Peace Corps volunteers were pouring into Belize; American oil companies were doing seismic exploration in offshore areas of Belize; and on a whole, Belize was viewed in American political and business circles as a small, “Christian democratic” country which was making a smooth transition from British colonialism to becoming a regional base for United States’ investment, influence and recreation.
The classy American Jesuit, Fr. Leo Weber, was almost like a Belize Cabinet Minister, so prized was his counsel and so prominent were his Government-sanctioned initiatives, primarily in education. Weber’s relationship with Premier George Price was viewed with great skepticism, and some outright venom, by the Anglican and Methodist-laden Opposition NIP. This is how things were in 1965 and 1966.
When I came home from school in June of 1968, the British-trained attorneys, Assad Shoman and Said Musa, were already traveling magistrates in Belize, and I think they had been so from 1967. 1967 was also the year when the Belize Chamber of Commerce financed the establishment of the Chamber Reporter, the precursor to today’s Reporter. The first editor of the Chamber Reporter was also British-trained, a journalist named Zelma Tucker who later became Belize’s most successful novelist – Zee Edgell. But, whereas Shoman and Musa were acquiring local reputations as left-wing, socialist thinkers, the Chamber Reporter and its editor were clearly right-wing, free market advocates.
In his authorized biography, written by Godfrey Smith, the Rt. Hon. George Price does not give any inkling of when his PUP government would have begun moving in a direction which would spark the 1972 organizing of the Liberal Party. The Liberal Party was Paul Rodriguez, Harry Lawrence, Manuel Esquivel, Net Vasquez, and Curl Thompson. The first four named were and are prominent Roman Catholics, St. John’s College-trained public figures.
Some people prefer to look at the Liberal Party from the perspective of its two most important merchant financiers – the late Santiago Castillo and the late Ismael Gomez, but I personally preferred to focus on the Liberal Party’s Roman aspects, because I believed that Rome was incalculably more powerful than Castillo and Gomez.
When one looks back with the benefit of hindsight, one has to wonder if our 1967 game was bigger than Belizean politics and religion, if the game involved Washington and oil. Before the spectacular entry of the Chamber Reporter, with modern, offset printing, into Belize’s newspaper industry, Philip Goldson ruled the roost with his Belize Billboard, and had done so from the latter part of the 1950s. Under Goldson, the Billboard was a daily, and made so much money that Mr. Goldson could personally finance the law training of his wife, Hadie, in London between 1961 and 1965. If Philip Goldson was the person who would be most negatively affected in 1967 by the Chamber Reporter, what had he recently done to make it desirable to weaken his newspaper power? The obvious answer would be the Thirteen Proposals of 1966.
Risking jail after taking a vow of secrecy before the Webster talks, Mr. Goldson had revealed to the people of Belize what he could remember of the proposals being made by the American mediator/New York attorney, Bethuel Webster, for the settling of the Anglo-Guatemalan dispute over Belize. Goldson’s version of the Webster proposals became known as the Thirteen Proposals, and they sparked uprisings in the streets of Belize City, probably the worst uprisings since the labor uprisings of 1934.
With the Thirteen Proposals, Goldson essentially established that he could bring Belize to a standstill, and that he could not be trusted by Washington and the oil companies. The Chamber Reporter began to weaken Goldson financially in 1967, and then in 1969 there was a public attempt to replace him as NIP Leader.
When and where did Mr. Price get himself into trouble with the “big boys”? Shoman and Musa did not run for office as PUP general election candidates until October of 1974. I do recall, however, that Mr. Price once invited Shoman, Musa, Lionel del Valle, myself, and a couple others to his Treasury Building office in early 1969, and offered to make us PUP candidates for the next Belize City Council election. I can’t recall if UBAD had already been established (February 9, 1969), or if it had just been organized. The point is that Mr. Price, then still at the absolute height of his power, was reaching out to leftist elements as early as 1969, and perhaps even earlier.
I’m sure the Chamber Reporter hurt Mr. Goldson’s business, because he was still using the ancient, letter press technology. In August of 1969 there was a fire at the Billboard press, for which Mr. Goldson received full insurance benefits. With the insurance award, Mr. Goldson began to go offset, sending his employees for training in Miami, and I believe the Billboard was also being printed there at one point. But in January of 1972, Mr. Philip abandoned the newspaper business and went to London to study law. His wife and their six children went to live in Brooklyn, New York.
Later that year came the Liberal Party. I can’t recall when it was exactly that Chamber of Commerce elements put together an anti-communist organization which was supported by a Cabinet Minister, Cayo South’s San Perdomo. Those were interesting times. The new UDP, which included the Liberal Party in a coalition established in September of 1973, came within 17 votes of throwing the House of Representatives into a 9-9 tie in the October 1974 general elections. This was a sensational result, the PUP always having been a crushing juggernaut in previous elections. Then, in December of 1974, the UDP defeated the PUP 6-3 in CitCo elections, the first time the PUP had lost in Belize City.
Important things happened between 1969 and 1974. Mr. Goldson lost his leadership of the Opposition, and Mr. Price lost his aura of invincibility. Though Mr. Goldson was already experiencing eyesight problems, they were both still relatively young men. Belize was entering its Washington era for real: we’ve had a hard time adjusting to the new game. It is what it is: time, and the river …