A former British High Commissioner to Belize, Peter Thomson, writing in his book Belize: A Concise History, published by Macmillan in 2004, refers to Amandala on page 180 as a “radical newspaper.” One is tempted to ask the question, if Amandala is a radical newspaper and had been the leading newspaper in Belize for 23 years at the time Mr. Thomson wrote his book, what does this say about Belize?
No one can describe the national party politics of Belize as in any way radical. The country experimented with a “mixed economy” under Rt. Hon. George Price in the 1970s, but has been moving to the right wing ever since. The second term UDP government of Prime Minister Dean Barrow has experimented, under duress, with some social welfare programs, while the Opposition PUP appeared about to welcome the former Lake Independence representative Cordel Hyde, a roots voice, back into their fold last week, but both the two major political parties remain right of center.
The issues on the national stage presently include the cane farmers of the Northern Districts fighting the transnational American Sugar Refining (ASR) for a slice of bagasse revenues, and the FECTAB group of Belizean tour guides fighting for their market share from cruise tourism against the transnational Chukkah group. The fight of the Toledo Maya for customary land rights and their SATIIM national park against the American oil company, U.S. Capital Energy, and the fight of Belizean environmentalists to prevent offshore drilling for petroleum near Belize’s Barrier Reef, are fights which have been going on for years.
We at this newspaper, and indeed the larger Kremandala organization, consistently support the interests of roots Belizeans in their various battles with representatives of international venture capital. This support is merely an editorial one. We present the arguments from both sides for the benefit and judgment of our readers. Amandala began in 1969 as the voice of a radical roots organization, but in 2013 Kremandala is a professional media house. Is all.
As we and the world continue to mourn the passing of the great Nelson Mandela, it is important that the whole of his story be told. As a young man, Mandela decided that he had to commit himself to armed struggle if he was going to overturn the vicious, racist system of apartheid in South Africa. For acts which that apartheid government condemned as terrorist acts, Mandela and his co-defendants were sentenced to life imprisonment in 1964.
During his 27 years in jail, there were several occasions on which the South African government cynically offered to free Mandela if he would publicly renounce violence as a tool of liberation. Each time such an offer was made, Madiba refused. When he was finally freed from prison in 1990, it was because international pressure against the foul apartheid regime had reached the level where the South African minority whites had to yield.
Mandela was an old man, 71 years of age, when he was finally freed from jail. He made concessions to the minority whites in order to hold South Africa together. The political party which Mandela led, the African National Congress (ANC), has not fulfilled the promises of its charter, and South Africa has remained a part of the neoliberal narrative. Yes, some black South Africans have become extremely rich and powerful, but the levels of poverty and suffering in South Africa remain very much unacceptable.
The achievements of South Africa under Mandela and his black successors can in no way be compared with the achievements of Cuba under Fidel Castro and Raul. This is real. While Mandela is and will always be a heroic icon for the ages, there will be righteous resistance arising in South Africa after his funeral. That righteous resistance will arise out of the unequal, unjust conditions which remain in South Africa.
On Partridge Street, we do mark our anniversaries as they come along, but we don’t spend a lot of time congratulating ourselves on any modest achievements. In the dialogue between the rich North and the poor South, Belize is assuredly a member of the poor South brigade. This means that on a daily basis in Belize, anyone who cares to, can witness human suffering of various and painful kinds.
The socio-economic system in Belize emphasizes profits over people. This is called capitalism. There are those who also call it Christianity. This is a lie, perhaps a sophisticated and well-established lie, but a lie nevertheless. Jesus Christ was not a capitalist. But in Belize it is in Christ’s name that the system is promulgated.
At this newspaper, we are not pleased with the present socio-economic status quo. But, we are not in a position to change that status quo. If one wishes to change the status quo, one must dedicate oneself to electoral politics. As a democratic society, Belize holds free elections so as to allow the Belizean people to choose how they wish to be governed. We have reached a point in Belize, however, where it does not appear there is much of a choice between the two major parties: they are quite similar.
This is so because there are larger powers, such as the rich North, which influence the games of politics and governance in Belize. None of our leaders can really do what the Belizean people want, because there are rules by which they must abide and power realities which they must respect. The Belize Prime Minister is meeting with the ASR executives on Monday. The PM has said that he believes that the cañeros are legally entitled to some bagasse revenue. ASR has taken the opposite position. In this standoff, the newspaper unconditionally supports the Belizean cane farmers. Is this a radical position? We consider it more a case of righteous resistance.
Power to the people.