The formation of the Rod of Correction (ROC) a few weeks ago is an unprecedented occurrence in the history of Belize. A large number of activist groups, the most prominent of which are Belize’s leading trade unions, came together to address serious national matters. These organizations are unhappy with the Government of Belize’s handling of issues such as the Elvin Penner case, the BGYEA dispute, the SATIIM controversy, illegal rosewood extraction, the pharmaceutical situation, and so on. ROC was joined last week by APAMO, the powerful environmentalist group.
On the face of it, ROC appears so large as to be unwieldy. Our sense is that at this point it represents merely the coming together of the leaders of these organizations to consult with each other. It appears that there is a united front on many important issues which have been in the news for some months. As it presently exists, ROC has major potential for impact on Belize’s public life.
All things being equal, the Opposition political party would be quickly jumping on whatever ROC bandwagon is in place, because ROC is definitely not happy with the UDP Government of Belize. The Opposition People’s United Party (PUP) of Hon. Francis Fonseca, however, has been somewhat circumspect in its opinions on ROC. This says something about the nature of the 2014 PUP. There was a time when the PUP would have been wherever the trade unions are.
Over the years, we have reminded our readers, from time to time, that the PUP was originally built on the foundation provided by a trade union known in 1950 as the General Workers Union (GWU). In fact, when the PUP won massive national elections in both 1954 and 1957, it did so in an open coalition with the GWU. Between 1957 and 1961, the PUP succeeded in ridding itself of the GWU. Still, until the achievement of political independence in 1981, the PUP was always considered the party preferred by the working classes of Belize.
The role of the Public Service Union (PSU) in the socio-politics of Belize is unique. From the 1950s up until independence, the PSU was consistently opposed to PUP government policies. The PSU was predominantly comprised of clerical workers, as opposed to the other unions, which featured manual workers.
In 2005, all the trade unions of Belize were essentially unified in opposition to the financial policies of the Said Musa PUP administration. As a matter of fact, Belizean anger at the Musa government’s handling of Development Finance Corporation (DFC) and Social Security Board (SSB) finances was so widespread that anger included the conservative Belize Chamber of Commerce and Industry. That anger doomed the Musa government.
The present anger is dangerous for the UDP Dean Barrow administration. The Barrow government will do all in its power to divide and confuse the ROC. Between 2004 and 2008, Mr. Barrow benefited from the behavior of Belizeans who were angry at the elected Musa government the same way ROC is unhappy with the elected Barrow government. It was the masses of the Belizean people, the same masses which ROC appears to represent, who put Mr. Barrow in power. Mr. Barrow is well aware of the danger here.
For his part, on the other hand, Mr. Fonseca knows there is opportunity here. He can ride ROC’s back to power. But, Mr. Fonseca seems nervous, hesitant where ROC is concerned.
There is no guarantee of permanence in the case of the Rod of Correction. At this stage, ROC is like an area of tropical disturbance, if we would use a meteorological description. Machiavelli would advise Mr. Francis to use ROC and discard it, even as the PUP did to the GWU almost six decades ago. The question is, does Mr. Fonseca have any of the stature Mr. Price did?