Editorial — 25 February 2017
A sick media landscape …

The equipment and technology at Channel 5 are all sparkling and state-of-the-art. Channel 5 is a member in good standing of the Caribbean Broadcasting Union (CBU). The television station is owned by a billionaire international business mogul who has been feeding off the flesh and blood of the Belizean people for more than three decades.

The young Belizeans who are employees at Channel 5 are honest professionals who need their jobs in Belize’s struggling, Third World economy. There is no one to explain to these young Belizeans that they are being used to further the predatory appetites of a man whose god is money.

This week the British peer summoned the lovely hostess of Channel 5’s morning talk show, who doubles as the news anchor, to Washington for her to do an “exclusive” interview with him. From what we saw on Wednesday, the “interview” was more like a sermon from on high spoken by mighty Massa himself – Lord Michael Ashcroft.

In The Jewel today, one of the questions amongst non-partisan Belizeans is, who is more responsible for our nation’s crushing superbond debt – the ruling United Democratic Party (UDP) or the Opposition People’s United Party (PUP)? For independent thinking Belizeans, such as those who have supported this newspaper through the decades, the question is merely an academic one, because the answer is not that important. It doesn’t matter who is more to blame, because when the PUDP politicians are in power, they both play with “house money.” They gamble with money from the people – Belizean tax funds. The ruling politicians never lose. Neither does the Lord. We, the people, always lose.

Next week the UDP newspaper will publish their Baron Bliss Day issue. Some misguided UDP intellectuals unilaterally decided a few years ago that the holiday, first celebrated in 1926 to honor the death of Belize’s greatest benefactor, Baron Bliss, needed to be rebranded in Belize’s nationalist era. Thus, Baron Bliss Day arbitrarily became “Heroes and Benefactors Day.” “Diss” for the Baron.

No matter, as on every one of the excessive amount of weekend holidays in Belize, every single one of Belize’s many Cabinet Ministers next week will send a full page advertisement to the UDP’s Guardian newspaper, paid for with the aforementioned “house money,” congratulating the Belizean public on whichever holiday occasion it happens to be. No Belizean is asking any Cabinet Minister to congratulate him or her, but very few Belizeans read the Guardian, so Belizean taxpayers don’t know that they are being congratulated, in the first instance, and they don’t know, in the second instance, that they are actually paying Cabinet Ministers to congratulate them. This is an example of how a government which is in terrible financial straits absolutely insists on throwing away taxpayers’ moneys.

Both major political parties in Belize feel the need to have full house media systems – newspaper, radio, television. There is no need for any ruling party here to have a media house, because they have a fully-staffed government press office to publish their propaganda, and nobody is interested in government propaganda anyway. In the cases of the UDP radio and television systems, they supplement their revenues with private concert promotions, so they are not as depressing as the UDP newspaper, which is almost completely dependent on our involuntary taxpayer subsidies. It is the case, however, that the fanatically UDP management of their radio and television stations cruises the business sections of Belize’s commercial center from day to day, threatening and intimidating business owners who dare to advertise with independent media houses and investigating those who are not up to date with their taxes. We’re talking real thug mode.

To get a sense of the origin of our superbond crisis, we have to return to the British peer. In 1993, he correctly identified our telecommunications sector, the then Belize Telecommunications Limited monopoly, as the business sector of Belize’s economy with the most explosive growth potential. Carlos Slim had made a similarly correct read in Mexico, and his dominance in Mexican telecommunications made him the richest man on planet earth. In Belize, when a UDP administration had privatized telecommunications in 1988, Manuel Esquivel and Net Vasquez had firewalled BTL in such a way as to prevent precisely the kind of hostile takeover which Michael Ashcroft intended.

Shortly before the general election of June 1993, Glenn Godfrey and Ralph Fonseca inveigled then PUP Prime Minister, Rt. Hon. George Price, into breaking down the BTL firewall and allowing Michael Ashcroft unimpeded entry into our telecommunications treasures. It is clear that at that point of his career in 1993, Mr. Price was no longer the man he had once been, because when the UDP Leader, Manuel Esquivel, challenged him for a Prime Ministerial-level debate, Mr. Price’s advisers ignored/avoided that challenge.

Facilitated thus by Godfrey and Fonseca, Lord Ashcroft began to cream off BTL. All requests by the PUP Said Musa government, which was elected to office in 1998, to have him assist government projects with BTL’s excessive profits, were met with rejection. The aforementioned Glenn Godfrey, who was primarily responsible for opening the gate which let the Ashcroft wolf in among the BTL chickens, then came up with the ill-fated Intelco project, an initiative to force the Lord to share some of the BTL sugar. Intelco was originally supported by Ralph Fonseca and Said Musa, but these two ran for political cover when Ashcroft, well-defended by Dean Barrow’s UDP, specifically the Hon. Michael Finnegan, began to play hard ball.

Intelco crashed, but Glenn Godfrey was such a PUP favorite that the Accommodation Agreement was specifically drafted by Prime Minister Musa so that Godfrey could be bailed out the $20 plus million he had borrowed to invest. The multimillionaire Godfrey not only ended up running to the UDP’s embrace when his welcome inside the PUP came to an end, he turned around and sued the UDP government for $40 plus million in a U.S. Court, and our sources say he may win.

The long and short of all this is that more and more Belizeans have come to the conclusion that Lord Ashcroft is protected by, and has subverted, the leaderships of both the major political parties. Belizeans therefore turned to the Belize National Teachers Union (BNTU) last year when they reached the end of their patience with filthy UDP corruption. But the BNTU is not designed for this type of political activity, and cannot sustain this level of intensity indefinitely. Belize’s sick media landscape reflects the confusion within the ranks of the PUDP, political parties which have been re-colonized by a Britisher.

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