Yet before Elizabeth I is written off as some 16th-century version of Neville Chamberlain, we also learn that, as early as December 1587, she had brought together her whole fleet of 105 ships on the south coast of England and had given her admirals considerable leeway to act on their own initiative. From May 1588, she had put her militias on standby, moved her headquarters to the easily defensible St. James Palace, and had been building fortifications, erecting camps and raising armies.
“Elizabeth,” Mr. Guy writes, “rather than her advisors, was in overall control.” Suddenly, we see a Winston Churchill in ruffs peeping out from behind the Chamberlain figure, and this becomes doubly apparent when the author quotes from Elizabeth’s August 1588 speech at the camp in Tilbury, along the Thames estuary, as her troops are girding themselves for the possible arrival of the Spanish fleet. Her words were taken down verbatim at the time by the Earl of Leicester’s chaplain Dr. Lionel Sharpe, so she probably did indeed tell her 8,000 men from horseback: “Wherefore I am come among you at this time but for my recreation and pleasure, being resolved in the midst and heat of the battle to live and die amongst you all, to lay down for my God, and for my kingdom and for my people, my Honour and my blood even in the dust.”
– excerpted from a review by Andrew Roberts of ELIZABETH: THE FORGOTTEN YEARS, by John Guy, Viking, published in the Tuesday, May 31, 2016 edition of THE WALL STREET JOURNAL
Two surprising things occurred within the last week. The first was on Friday morning when a boatload of Opposition People’s United Party (PUP) parliamentarians, constituency chairmen, and party officials visited the Sarstoon River, entered it and circled the Sarstoon Island. Not a member of the Guatemalan armed forces appeared. The second surprising incident took place earlier this week when a Belize Cabinet Minister, Hon. Gaspar Vega, addressed a meeting of the Association of Caribbean States in Havana, Cuba, and spoke in a manner which most Belizeans wish that Belize had been speaking a long time ago. Earlier last week in fact, another surprising thing had happened. The British had been caught, on the evidence of their own archives, having colluded with the Guatemalan army and having assisted them in the early 1980 in fighting leftist insurgents.
In the wake of these surprising events, to hear the Belize Minister of Foreign Affairs, Hon. Wilfred Elrington, speak in the same manner of appeasement and apology for Guatemalan aggression and misdeeds at a Tuesday press conference in Belmopan, was very disappointing. The Guatemalans, meanwhile, were quick to declare that the Friday morning détente was a one-off action, or lack thereof, on their part. In other words, they intended to resume their belligerence at the Sarstoon based on their claiming the whole of the river, in defiance of the 1859 Treaty.
Mr. Elrington is an attorney, and these are professionals who have to study some Latin. He will therefore know what the title of this editorial is saying. It means, “If you wish for peace, prepare for war.”
There have been human beings throughout history who have wished for and enjoyed war. But they are always very much a minority. There are very, very few Belizeans who desire violent confrontation with Guatemala. But there are a majority of Belizeans, at home and abroad, who are willing to fight for Belize. The newspaper states this as an opinion, one we consider a categorical opinion, but it may well be that such an opinion would have to be verified by a professional poll for Mr. Elrington’s benefit and for the benefit of those to whom he is presenting a wrong impression of Belizeans.
Across our western and southern borders is a militarized state which claims The Jewel known to the rest of the world as Belize. What happened historically in Guatemala was that an elite, neo-European oligarchy commandeered the land and resources of the republic and marginalized the majority Indigenous population. They used brutal violence to accomplish this, through the centuries. In 1873, they began the construction of the most powerful army in Central America in order to consolidate their gains and grab for more. The army generals became part of Guatemala’s power structure, and then they actually began to rule Guatemala. Eventually, this undemocratic state of affairs led to the civil war of 1960 to 1996, during which some 200,000 Indigenous Guatemalans were slaughtered.
Since 1996, Guatemala has sought to convince the region and the world that the genocidal militarized, nature of their society has changed. But, their last two presidents have been Otto Perez Molina, a former army general during the aforementioned civil war, and Jimmy Morales, a professional clown who is considered a tool of the Guatemalan military.
Yet, this is the Guatemala which has been going to the region and the world and declaring that Belize’s army is not only “cowardly,” but that Belize’s army has been murdering Guatemalan civilians, the latest being a 13-year-old Guatemalan boy on the night of Wednesday, April 20, 2016.
Belize’s defence is supposed to be a diplomatic one, because it is supposed to be the case, if we listen to Belize’s Foreign Minister, that we Belizeans are deadly scared to defend our own patrimony. But, during Mr. Elrington’s watch, Belize’s vaunted diplomatic defence has been shredded by civilian Guatemalan politicians and diplomats acting for and on behalf of their murderous, genocidal military. The rest of the world now believes that Belize’s soldiers go around shooting Guatemalan teenagers in the back, when the truth is that Belizean soldiers are coming under armed attack by desperate Guatemalan civilians who have been marginalized by the land grabbing of Guatemalan generals in the Peten since the time of Ydigoras Fuentes.
The Prime Minister of Belize, Rt. Hon. Dean Barrow, has done a huge disservice to Mr. Elrington and the nation of Belize by leaving him in a portfolio for which the present circumstances do not suit him. On Tuesday, Mr. Elrington told the press that he is sure that the Prime Minister shares his views. If that is so, then a plague on them both.
The Government of Guatemala has begun a “diplomatic” invasion of Belize, which includes military violation of our borders and the encouragement of its civilians to invade Belizean territory for the plundering of our natural resources. The response of the Belizean nation-state has been weak. We have been in a chronic state of retreat. In a time of incipient war, Belize has been pleading for peace. Some things have to start changing in Belize, and soon.
1798 was not a sure thing. Neither was 1981. Mr. Price took a gamble to go to independence, because he did not trust the British. They were pressuring him to cede land to the Guatemalans. The British wanted Belize to pay a debt they owed the republic. As small as Belize is, we would have been permanently crippled if we had given up Toledo in order to let wealthy London off some kind of hook.
The bottom line in 2016 is the universal right of self-determination of peoples. We here in this 8,867 are a Belizean people. This is the most important guarantee of our sovereignty and territorial integrity. The Government of Belize should be focused on the absolute unification, education, and mobilization of our people. If the leaders of Belize do not really believe that we are a Belizean people, then such lack of faith must be the reason for their pusillanimity.
Igitur qui desiderat pacem, praeparet bellum.
Power to the people.