Editorial — 09 December 2017
A strange silence

An FBI paper dated January 5, 1968, claimed that a then confidential source, one William George Gaudet (the publisher of LATIN-AMERICAN REPORTS), stated that he was in Belize (British Honduras) during the Christmas holidays (1967), and that “he heard several comments from acquaintances that Philip Goldson … was giving every indication of working with the Cuban Government. Goldson, it was rumored, was conducting a siege of agitation to create continued friction between Belize and Guatemala.” Gaudet, who claimed to be a “personal acquaintance” of then British Honduras Governor, Sir John Paul, said he had “interviewed Sir Paul in connection with the Goldson matter.” The same FBI paper to which we referred earlier in this paragraph, says that Sir Paul reportedly told Gaudet “that British Intelligence is almost sure that Goldson is being paid by Cuban authorities in cash monies by the courier route … that British Intelligence is conducting their investigation with the assistance of Jamaican informants to the extent that they hope to trap Goldson cold when he is contacted by a courier for a payoff.”
–    pg. 23 , excerpted from the headline story in the AMANDALA issue of Tuesday, December 5, 2017

As we write this editorial early Thursday morning, December 7, 2017, it is definitely interesting, and perhaps even strange, that, to the best of our knowledge, there has been absolutely no comment in the Belizean media about the headline story in this newspaper published 48 hours ago. The headline in our Tuesday issue this week read: “FBI DOCUMENTS LINK GOLDSON WITH CUBA IN 1967.”

For sure we understand, by way of possible explanation for the silence, that we are talking about fifty years ago, that the younger generations are in a different Belize today, and the older generations are focused on Christmas. But, we are talking about the internationally known FBI (The Federal Bureau of Investigations), and we are talking about the legendary Hon. Philip Stanley Wilberforce Goldson, a national hero of Belize, a member of the Belize House of Representatives from 1965 to 1998, and a high-ranking leader of four important political parties in Belize, including the two major political parties today – the ruling United Democratic Party (UDP) and the Opposition People’s United Party (PUP).

Mr. Goldson helped to found the PUP in 1950. After forming the Honduran Independence Party (HIP) with Leigh Richardson in 1957, he led the HIP, after Mr. Richardson left British Honduras and went into exile, into a coalition with the National Party (NP) to form the National Independence Party (NIP) in 1958. While Mr. Goldson was studying law in London in September of 1973, his NIP joined a coalition with the People’s Development Movement (PDM) and the Liberal Party to establish the UDP. He became a Cabinet Minister in 1984 in the first UDP government, led by Dr. Manuel Esquivel. In 1991, Mr. Goldson broke away from the UDP to found and lead the National Alliance for Belizean Rights (NABR), which he led until his death in 2001. Mr. Goldson led NABR into a temporary, election coalition with the UDP in May of 1993 on the promise that if the UDP/NABR coalition won the June 30, 1993 general election, the Maritime Areas Act (MAA) of 1991 would be repealed. The UDP won the general election, and Mr. Goldson became a Cabinet Minister in the Dr. Manuel Esquivel UDP/NABR government, but the MAA was not repealed. Mr. Goldson retired from electoral politics in 1998.

Hon. Philip Goldson enjoyed an outstanding credibility with the Belizean people, and his stature has grown since his death. That is because his integrity was impeccable. That is because he was a political prisoner of the British colonial government in 1951. Along with Richardson, he served nine months in Her Majesty’s Prison on an exaggerated sedition charge. That is because Mr. Goldson owned and edited the leading newspaper in British Honduras, the daily Belize Billboard, in the late 1950s and throughout the 1960s. And that is because, for Belizeans fearful of the Guatemalan claim to the colony, a claim which reached fever pitch during the Guatemalan presidency of Ydigoras Fuentes from 1958 to 1963, Mr. Goldson became the most strident, heroic voice of Belizean nationalism. His leadership of the NIP was dramatic, including a hunger strike and his sensational revelation of the Thirteen Proposals in 1966.

The news that he was under FBI surveillance fifty years ago because of alleged ties with Fidel Castro’s Cuban government, may throw some light on two extraordinary developments in Belize between 1967 and 1969. First, Mr. Goldson’s newspaper cash flow, the source of his financial independence, was attacked by the establishment of a new newspaper in 1967 which had modern offset printing technology. Mr. Goldson’s Billboard was still using the ancient letter press technology at the time. And second, a little over a year after the official release of the Seventeen Proposals in 1968 confirmed Mr. Goldson’s Thirteen Proposals national hero status, there was an attempt to replace Mr. Goldson as NIP Leader in May of 1969.

In January of 1972, Mr. Goldson suddenly flew to London to begin studying law, although he was already beginning to experience problems with his eyesight. His wife, Hadie, an attorney whose legal studies in London between 1961 and 1965 had been financed by Mr. Goldson, took their six children to New York City, where she began work as a legal clerk. Mrs. Hadie Goldson did not return to Belize and seek reconciliation with her husband until after the UDP came to power in 1984. Mrs. Goldson has never, ever spoken publicly to the Belizean media, although she would be the best source for an opinion on the recently revealed FBI documents concerning Mr. Goldson.

During the 1960s when Mr. Goldson led the “No Guatemala” campaign in British Honduras, his most important ally was the British Honduran Freedom Committee of New York, an organization founded by Samuel Haynes and led by Comptom Fairweather. The Freedom Committee provided major financial assistance to Mr. Goldson. This newspaper has always believed that the attorney Dean Lindo could not have challenged Mr. Goldson for NIP leadership in 1969 unless the Freedom Committee had withdrawn some of its allegiance to Mr. Philip. The recent FBI documents suggest that the situation might have been more sinister than that: it might have involved the FBI, the State Department, and perhaps even the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA).

The fact of the matter is that Hon. Philip Goldson was the most vehement opponent in Belize’s political circles of the Guatemalan claim to Belize. When he was essentially replaced as Leader of the Opposition in 1973 when the UDP was established, the UDP explicitly began to de-emphasize the “No Guatemala” issue.

It would be difficult for younger generations of Belizeans to relate all the Opposition politics of the 1960s and the early 1970s to the Special Agreement of 2008 and the apparent call by the ruling UDP for Belizeans to go to the International Court of Justice (ICJ) for arbitration with respect to our borders with Guatemala. ICJ proponents in the UDP have argued that Mr. Goldson wanted to go to the ICJ in 1967, but that was fourteen years before Belize became a sovereign, independent nation-state in 1981 with all our territory intact.

If Mr. Goldson was in contact with Fidel Castro’s Cuba in 1967, as the FBI documents charge, and there is no reason to doubt the FBI, you will appreciate that he might well have reached a level of desperation in 1967 where Belize’s future was concerned. As we pointed out in Tuesday’s headline story: “The revelations are astounding for political historians, because Mr. Goldson was surrounded in the late 1960s by people who were pro-British, pro-American, Christian, and definitely anti-communist.”

Only older Belizeans will remember that when Mr. Goldson risked jail to reveal the Thirteen Proposals in 1966, it was the first time Opposition supporters took to the streets violently. (Only the ruling PUP had ever behaved that way before.) The Americans had been hosting talks in Washington between Great Britain and Guatemala about the future of Belize. When Mr. Goldson realized that the British and the Americans were preparing to “sell out” Belize, he flew home and warned the Belizean people. This was a singular act of courage and national devotion for which Mr. Goldson’s name will live forever, or as long as there is a Jewel.

Political historians will now have to ask themselves if the incredibly visionary Mr. Goldson had established ties with the Cubans before the Rt. Hon. George Price, Premier of Belize and PUP Leader, did. Insofar as Mr. Price is concerned, we believe at this newspaper that by early 1969, he was already in a working relationship or serious discussions with the attorney Assad Shoman, who had returned to Belize around October 1968 from studies in London. Because of his relationship  with the socialist, pro-Cuban Shoman (and his fellow socialist/attorney Said Musa), the devout Roman Catholic Mr. Price ended up losing the support of the conservative business sector of the Catholic Church in 1972. That Catholic business sector founded the Liberal Party in 1972, which then became a part of the UDP coalition in 1973. When the UDP finally came to power for the first time in 1984, their Leader was an original of the 1972 Liberal Party – the one Manuel Esquivel.

This is a tangled web, beloved, but it is important to unravel it if we are to understand how the Guatemala and ICJ game is being played in December of 2017, and why the change from NIP to UDP may have been orchestrated in Washington.

Power to the people.

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Deshawn Swasey

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