In early 1968, the American mediator, a New York attorney named Betheul Webster, formally released his Seventeen Proposals for the end of the Anglo-Guatemalan dispute over the territory of British Honduras.
In 1966, the people of British Honduras had been given a preview of Webster’s Proposals when the National Independence Party (NIP) Leader, Hon. Philip Goldson, rushed home to reveal what he could remember of the proposals being put to a bipartisan delegation of Belizeans led by representatives of the ruling People’s United Party (PUP). Because he had been sworn to secrecy before the conference, Goldson was risking jail to expose what he remembered, and what became known as the Thirteen Proposals.
Both the Thirteen Proposals and the Seventeen Proposals sparked rioting in the streets of Belize, then the capital city and population center of British Honduras, then a self-governing colony. The Government of British Honduras, led by Premier George Price, was forced to reject the Seventeen Proposals, under the terms of which Belize would have moved on to political independence.
Those terms, however, were seen by the vast majority of Belizeans as condemning Belize to a satellite state status with respect to the neighboring republic of Guatemala.
Two weeks ago, the Foreign Ministers of Belize and Guatemala, with the President of Guatemala and the Prime Minister of Belize as witnesses, signed 13 points of agreement between the two countries. The signing took place at Placencia in South Stann Creek, Belize, at the 44th summit of the Sistema de Integración Centro Americana (SICA) – the Central American Integration System, a summit which featured four heads of state from Central America.
Signed on Wednesday, December 17, these points of agreement were not made available for perusal by the people of Belize until Friday, December 19. The points of agreement had been negotiated by Belizean politicians and technocrats over a period of months with their Guatemalan counterparts. The Opposition PUP was represented in these negotiations by Senator Lisa Shoman. Needless to say, Senator Shoman is no Philip Goldson. But, to be truthful, the 13 points of agreement (2014) are not the potent poison of the Thirteen Proposals (1966) and the Seventeen Proposals (1968).
At the same time, the December 2014 reaction of the Belizean people is noteworthy. After 46 years of population change and various kinds of brainwashing, the people of Belize have become relatively passive, at least if we are to judge by our soft, quizzical response to those arbitrary 13 points of agreement.
We would suggest in this editorial that it is Belizeans in the Diaspora who need to analyze exactly what it is that has happened here. Inside the Belizean Diaspora in the major American cities, the most active and influential Belizean politician is the Hon. Wilfred Elrington, Belize’s Foreign Minister. Inside the home population of Belize, Mr. Elrington is viewed as an accommodationist where the Guatemalan claim and the Organization of American States (OAS) presence are concerned. Mr. Elrington is not influential in Belize. His statements with respect to the claim, the negotiations, and the OAS, have consistently provoked resentment and anger in The Jewel. The same is not the case with the Belizean Diaspora: they appear to be impressed by the same Cabinet Minister who frustrates home Belizeans. We’re just saying.
Until apartheid fell in 1990 in South Africa under international pressure, there was a troika of pariah nations which persecuted huge populations under their power. The minority white South Africans persecuted the majority black ones; Israeli Jews persecuted Palestinians; and ladino Guatemalans persecuted Maya Guatemalans. South Africa, Israel, and Guatemala were the closest of friends from the time Israel was founded in 1948. All three nations were client-states of the United States, because they were anti-communist. During the Cold War, that was all Washington wanted to hear, and you could rule in as brutal and racist a manner as you wished.
Since 1968, Belize has changed in population and perspective. These changes were orchestrated by the United States, the United Kingdom and those nations who have been described as the “Friends of Belize.” If you are a Belizean who is resident abroad, the burden of proof lies upon you to find out exactly where The Jewel is today. That’s if you believe you want to maintain rights in the land of your birth. In the Seventeen Proposals of 1968, the United States made it clear where they intended for Belize to go. Those of us who remained in Belize have spent the last 46 years fighting those American intentions. After December 17, 2014, we have to wonder if it is not the case that Uncle Sam is having his way. Check stats, Belizean Diaspora.