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Sunday, July 5, 2020
Home Editorial “Self-induced duress”

“Self-induced duress”

In Belize, as a majority Christian nation, we say that all men are created in the image and likeness of God. We say that all men are created equal. It should be the case, therefore, that we consider an order of things wherein some men overpower and dictate to other men, as an unnatural order of things. It should then follow, if we believe in the Holy Scriptures, that we resist such an unnatural order of things, that we fight for a more just order. In the words of the late Jim Carney, S. J.: to be a Christian is to be a revolutionary.

At this newspaper, we have said to you over and over again that we Belizeans began our territorial reality in this settlement of Belize as Africans and Maya who were being enslaved and crushed by Europeans – mostly British, but also Spanish. In the beginning of this settlement, then, there was an unjust, unnatural order of things, and our African and Maya ancestors fought in different ways for a more just and natural order in this Belize. It was our human right to resist injustice: it was our human duty to fight oppression.

In this year 2015, our political leaders are African and Maya descendants who were elected to office in free and fair elections. Unfortunately, our political leaders have somehow gotten themselves into a situation where they believe that the corporate entitlements of the transnational American Sugar Refining (ASR) are more important to them than the struggle of Belize’s native cane farmers. It appears that the leaders of the ruling United Democratic Party (UDP) believe that the agitation of the Belize Sugar Cane Farmers Association (BSCFA) is an agitation which has become embarrassing to their ruling UDP, and an agitation which is giving comfort and encouragement to the Opposition People’s United Party (PUP). The leaders of the UDP decided last week, then, that their government would assist in the smashing of BSCFA and the submission of the cane farmers to the will of ASR as expressed in an agreement which the BSCFA general assembly had voted to reject.

We think the government is going too far in the direction of support for an order of things which is historically unjust and unnatural. On Wednesday morning, the Prime Minister sent two of his Cabinet emissaries, Minister of Labor Godwin Hulse and Attorney General Wilfred Elrington, to present the Government of Belize’s side of the cane industry argument on LOVE FM, the national radio monopoly. The UDP government, our sources say, instructed the LOVE owner, Rene Villanueva, Sr., to remove the regular anchor interviewer of the LOVE morning talk show, Nuri Muhammad, from the Wednesday morning show. The UDP, it appears, considered Muhammad too formidable and hostile a host/interviewer.

Without Muhammad, Wednesday morning’s show went well for the UDP government. The two ladies hosting the show tried to put up a fight, but they were overpowered.

A problem for GoB arose, however, when the press corps of Belize attacked the two Ministers when they exited the LOVE show. At one point, Attorney General Elrington said, in response to a question from KREM Radio’s News Editor, Marisol Amaya, that he did not believe the cane farmers had been acting under duress, and if it was so, it was “self-induced duress.” Preposterous.

Minister Elrington also said that the cane farmers had always been negotiating from a “position of weakness,” because the sugar cane commodity they produce is a perishable one. In his devastating press conference last week, the Honorable Prime Minister himself conceded, though not in so many words, that this is a one-sided negotiation: ASR can lock its doors and absorb any losses; but the cane farmers are suffering, meanwhile, and the Belizean economy is in great peril. There is a giant called ASR, and there are Lilliputians called Belizean cane farmers. You can jump as high as you want, or as low as you want: this is, inherently, an unjust order of things. Straight up. Hulse and Elrington are apologizing for injustice. This newspaper’s position has always been that injustice must be resisted by the Belizean people.

For different reasons, the African and Maya government of Belize found itself taking the side of international investment capital – ASR. This should never have been. We are headed down a slippery slope in Belize. All we have to do is watch what happened in Mexico from 1910 onwards because of unbridled international investment capital. All we have to do is watch how many of its own people Guatemala decided to kill between 1960 and 1996 because of unbridled international investment capital.

The Government of Belize has gotten away with many transgressions because it is not clear if the Opposition to them has a different agenda where economic development philosophy is concerned. Since 1961, Belize has had seven (7) PUP governments and four (4) UDP ones. If there is anything we have learned during this time, it is that the Office of the Prime Minister is an inordinately powerful one. The Prime Minister can do you something terrible one day, and publicly comfort you the next. The Prime Minister can interfere in the business of the courts, and no one can say anything. Our political system is flawed: the Prime Minister is like a monarch. The Prime Minister giveth and the Prime Minister taketh away. Blessed is the name of the Prime Minister. The order of things Belizean remains unjust and unnatural in Belize. Who is to gainsay that?

Most times at the end of our editorials, we say, “Power to the people; power in the struggle.” We have identified with the masses of the Belizean people these 46 years. We think it is self-evident that the people of Belize should be powerful. This is the dictionary definition of “democracy” – power to the people. We also think that if the people are to exercise power, then there must be a struggle. That is because of where we African and Maya people began life five centuries ago in the imperial, followed by the colonial, reality of Europe. We Africans and Mayas are fighting our way upwards, Mr. Godwin and Mr. Wilfred. We have a human right to resist injustice in our own country. Because of imperialism and colonialism, Belize has always been an unjust place for us Africans and Maya. When you find yourself arguing on behalf of the heirs of imperialism and colonialism, and against your own Belizean people, then we think the tide of history will sweep you aside. It is written.

Power to the people. Power in the struggle.

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