Editorial — 23 January 2016

Central America was not a high priority for Kissinger, but he continued giving steadfast support to right-wing dictatorships and death-squad states already in power when he took office. In 1970 in Guatemala, for example, Kissinger and Alexander Haig were involved in passing the names and addresses of “Guatemalan terrorists” to security forces, even though Washington was well aware that the government was using its US-funded counterterror program to eliminate not just armed insurgents but ALL political opposition and that the great majority of political prisoners taken were summarily executed. Indeed, in 1971, the CIA reported that Guatemala’s president at the time, Carlos Arana, was directly involved “in drawing up death lists.” The mass slaughter of Guatemalan Maya peasants between 1978 and 1983 is often not included in the genocides Kissinger is associated with since it took place after his public service. But throughout his tenure, aid provided by Washington (which strengthened the security forces that carried out the genocide) steadily increased.

- pg. 147, KISSINGER’S SHADOW, by Greg Grandin, Metropolitan Books, 2015

Brigadier-General David Jones, the Commandant of the Belize Defence Force (BDF), made some very disturbing comments on a LOVE FM morning talk show this week. He said that some kind of “political decision” has to be made in Belize, because the Guatemalan military have been instructed by their political leaders that the entirety of the Sarstoon River belongs to Guatemala. So that, General Jones is saying, on national radio and television, it is only because of the BDF’s “very good relationship” with their “Guatemalan counterparts” that the Guatemalan military are allowing the Belize military to enter the Sarstoon.

This newspaper has not participated in the line of the Opposition People’s United Party (PUP) and other critics who have been saying, for months, that Belize has lost the Sarstoon while under the leadership of Prime Minister Dean Barrow and his ruling United Democratic Party (UDP). The evidence for such a charge had been fairly strong, but it had not reached the point of being definitive.

After listening to General Jones’ comments, however, we would like to warn Prime Minister Barrow that he is in danger of going down in history as the Belizean leader who lost the Sarstoon. We believe we understand the thinking behind the game that is being played at the Sarstoon, but it is a very dangerous game for Belize. The game, and it is a game which one must assume is being orchestrated by the American superpower, is designed to frighten Belizeans into accepting an International Court of Justice (ICJ) resolution to the Guatemalan claim to Belize.

Mr. Barrow has described himself as a “master of games,” but he should be advised that there are no rules, ultimately, when the United States is involved in the game. It is in order to alert the Belizean people to examples of smaller entities being sacrificed to larger ones and more important interests that we have recently published the stories of how East Timor, the Kurds, and the people of Bangladesh, on separate occasions, were sacrificed in “the game” by Washington during the time of Henry Kissinger.

It became clear during the run up to last November’s general election, and it was confirmed in recorded remarks by former UDP Cabinet Minister and then Stann Creek West standard bearer (later replaced), Melvin Hulse, that the matter of a third consecutive term as Prime Minister had become somewhat of an obsession for the famously egotistic Mr. Barrow. In the post-independence era, you see, no Prime Minister had ever won more than two consecutive terms, that being Said Musa in 1998 and 2003, but before Mr. Musa’s success, the Belizean people had replaced incumbent Prime Ministers in four straight general elections – 1984, 1989, 1993, and 1998.

The third consecutive term as Prime Minister for Mr. Barrow was an unprecedented achievement, one for which he deserved the congratulations he received. But the electoral achievement is only “unprecedented” if we use the constitutional achievement of independence as a descriptive technicality. In fact, the Rt. Hon. George C. Price won six consecutive national elections as PUP Leader, from 1957 to 1979, during which period he was First Minister and Premier. At the end of his historic run of victories, Mr. Price led Belize to independence on September 21, 1981, with all our territory intact!

Once the Americans published the Seventeen Proposals in 1968, and the people of Belize violently rejected same in the streets, the Government of British Honduras/Belize, a self-governing colony, began coming under pressure from the United Kingdom and the United States to cede some measure of land and/or sea to the Guatemalans. This was the price Belizeans were supposed to pay for our independence. How Mr. Price succeeded in gaining independence for Belize without any land or sea cession is a remarkable story, and one that demands renewed examination in 2016 as we watch Belize being backed into a corner by the Guatemalans.

After all the controversies involving PUP contact with the Guatemalan government, such as the Sharpe Inquiry in 1954, Mr. Price’s expulsion from London in 1957, the aggressions of Ydigoras Fuentes, and all the accusations by Rosita Williams in the early 1960s, Mr. Price died as a true national hero who had gotten the job done: he had led Belize to independence with all our territory intact! A burden of proof has lain on all subsequent Belizean leaders: protect and preserve The Jewel the sovereign way Mr. Price left it for you!

Unlike some grandstanding elements here, this newspaper has never ruled out the ICJ option. Belize will always be in a difficult position with Guatemala. To begin with, the ruling classes of Guatemala are European, while the people of Belize are African and Maya. Next thing, Guatemala is forty times larger than Belize in population, and therefore Guatemala’s ability to wage war is much greater than ours. Insofar as the power realities, the military realities, are concerned, Guatemala is in a superior position, Guatemala knows it, and the Guatemalan ruling classes have a long history of disrespect for African and Maya people. Even if the Guatemalan claim were to go to the ICJ and be adjudged in Belize’s favor, Guatemala would always be tempted to harass Belize in various ways. Belize will always be in a difficult position with Guatemala.

What did Mr. Price do to defeat Guatemala back then? He went out on the regional and international stage, and he established the moral high ground for Belize. At the time, Guatemala was known regionally and internationally as a genocidal military dictatorship, and Guatemala was a pariah nation.

Guatemala, however, has spent the last two decades sweeping the bloody mess of their 1960–1996 civil war under the rug and working hard to clean up Guatemala’s image. Belize went to sleep during that time, so much so that Guatemala has now asserted sovereignty over the Sarstoon River, in our face, in violation of the 1859 Treaty under the terms of which Belize became independent in 1981 and was admitted into the United Nations and the Organization of American States. Belize has dropped the ball, and the finger has to be pointed at Prime Minister, Right Hon. Dean O. Barrow.

Power to the people. Remember Danny.

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