Usually one does not see the correlation between events as quickly as the following correlation jumped out at us this week. The Government of Belize is moving Senior Superintendent of Police, Chester Williams, to a desk job in Belmopan: they are replacing him with Marco Vidal, who made his name as the first commander of the brutal Gang Suppression Unit (GSU). This is happening at the same time as the Christian Workers Union (CWU), under pressure from waterfront firebrand Raymond
Rivers, is officially giving the Port of Belize Limited (PBL) the required 21-day notice of intended industrial action.
At first glance, one will see the complete philosophical turnaround in Southside policing from Chester to Vidal as intended to bring more direct pressure on the Southside gangs in order to appease the old capital business powerhouses such as Bowen & Bowen, Brodies, San Cas, the banks, the Chinese, the Indians, and so on. But the Southside youth continue to do a really “good job” of killing out themselves. From a humanitarian standpoint, the post-law school Chester Williams has been a community godsend for the Southside. Even though his spectacular early successes is community policing have run into the unavoidable law of diminishing returns, no Southside Belizean who views our youth as human beings instead of how the business powerhouses view them, as animals, can want Chester to be replaced so suddenly and arbitrarily.
But Vidal for Chester is not about the gangs: it is probably about Michael Ashcroft, as usual, and this time his Port of Belize Limited (PBL). The last time the waterfront section of the CWU became noticeably militant, it was around Christmas time, and the multimillionaire importers panicked. As the Southside’s top cop, Chester approached the situation in his cool, confident way, but he didn’t bring any death squad vibes to the table. It is reasonable to assume, however, that it is death squad vibes, Guatemalan vibes, which the big boys wanted.
Dianne Finnegan gave an extraordinary interview to Channel 7 on Wednesday this week in which she criticized the decision to replace Chester on the Southside. Mrs. Finnegan, the wife of the retiring Housing Minister and Mesopotamia area representative, Hon. Michael Finnegan, has made a name for herself in the streets and homes of the Southside as someone who genuinely cares for the youth. Her sincere solicitude has contributed to her husband’s Southside credibility, but in the matter of Wednesday’s extended interview condemning the ouster of Chester Williams, the chances are, the dynamics of party politics being what they are, she will create some intra-party discomfort for her husband.
Raymond Rivers has become a courageous spokesman for waterfront workers, and for the Southside poor overall, but Rivers is more passionate than strategic. The power structure can read him like a book. So heroically courageous is Raymond Rivers, nevertheless, that he is taking on a martyr-like aura. Rivers presents a unique challenge for the ruling politicians and the established power structure, because we do not produce martyr-types. In Belize, on the contrary, everybody wants to be Brer Anancy. Our thesis is that it is because of Raymond Rivers that the United Democratic Party (UDP) has decided to replace Chester with Vidal.
Inside the CWU, Rivers presented a major problem for the immediate past president, Audrey Matura. At the recent annual general meeting of the CWU late in February of this year, the Rivers faction had their own candidate for the presidency, Moses Sulph, but Sulph was disqualified because of procedural technicalities. Dale Trujeque proceeded to win a big victory over the UDP’s choice for the presidency, Willmo Staine. The Rivers faction now becomes Dale Trujeque’s problem.
This week the Government of Belize casually took a million dollars out of the supposedly austere 2017/2018 budget to provide some Easter Bunny rewards to those teachers who had not gone on strike along with the Belize National Teachers Union (BNTU) in October last year. In his first high-profile statement since assuming the CWU presidency, Dale Trejuque condemned the Ministry of Education move as union busting, and expressed CWU solidarity with the embattled BNTU. As a result of this bold statement, Trujeque will be marked for pressure from the Barrow administration.
With the Opposition People’s United Party (PUP) having gone almost bourgeois, especially in Belize City, what anti-UDP storm clouds there are have had to gather in trade union circles, beginning with the BNTU. The increasing hardness of the economic times has contributed to growing dissatisfaction with the Barrow administration, but the socio-politics of Belize has changed substantially in our lifetime. First of all, there are thousands of guns around, both licensed and otherwise, and the weekends provide our distracted youth with unprecedented episodes of excitement and drama. Perhaps the most important change in Belize since our UBAD times, is that Belize’s youth are now totally apolitical. But, this does mean that there is no volatility in their ranks. In fact, because of the guns and the alcohol and the drugs and the motorcycles and the SUV’s, Belize is more volatile than ever before. But, the volatility is not political in nature and it is not macro in breadth. Exhibit A is the violent confrontation between San Pedranos and the cops last weekend. In Belize today, you have to expect anything at any time. The place is spinning out of control. See you next week, Inshallah.
Power to the people.