Editorial — 01 September 2015
Turned tables

    “… the Carter administration had suspended aid in 1977 over the Guatemalan government’s continued violation of its citizens’ human rights – that is to say, the United States had suspended aid on the basis of human rights even before the era of massacres began. (In fact, the lack of aid to Guatemala was not as draconian as it appeared, as the United States continued to send military aid to Guatemala steadily throughout the period through third-party proxies, namely Israel and Taiwan.)”

–    pg. 147, TERROR IN THE LAND OF THE HOLY SPIRIT: Guatemala under General Efraín Ríos Montt 1982-1983, by Virginia Garrard-Burnett, Oxford University Press, 2010

        “Despite the symbolic importance of the withdrawal of military aid, the gesture was to a large extent window dressing: even during the Carter presidency the CIA remained quietly active in Guatemala, continuing to assist Guatemalan military intelligence. The United States delivered as promised weapons and ammunition that were already in the pipeline prior to the Carter ban, including $8.5 million in military assistance and $1.8 million in export licenses for commercial arms sales. At the same time, human rights abuses continued to escalate, including the deaths and disappearances of workers employed at American–owned firms and other U.S. citizens, such as American-born Catholic clergy.”

–    pg. 150, ibid.

    “ … it became evident by early 1983 that the Guatemalan military’s counterinsurgency was succeeding even without direct assistance from the United States: this was what Latin American military circles meant when they spoke of the ‘Guatemalan solution.’ Already fat from more than two decades of U.S. military aid totaling at least $60 million, the Guatemalan army was powerful enough by the early 1980s to carry out its plan without continued overt support from the United States. (A Guatemalan army publication from early 1984 gloated over this very point: ‘Our own and outsiders ask: How is it possible that they have accomplished this level of pacification and stability? Could it be that this is a land blessed by God? If U.S. assistance has been absent in giving military attention to Guatemala, one must then give proper recognition to the Armed Forces.’) In May 1983, the London Economist also commented upon the Guatemalan army’s achievement, pointedly noting that ‘with the help of Israeli advisors, Guatemala has succeeded where a similar campaign in neighboring El Salvador, pushed by American advisors, has failed.’”

–    pg. 151, ibid.

        After the Puerto Rico conference in 1962, a triangulation of resistance to Anglo-American plans for Belize slowly began to emerge, and that triangulation of resistance was fully evident by the time of the Thirteen Proposals in 1966. The triangulation involved domestic organization and protest led by Hon. Philip Goldson’s Opposition National Independence Party (NIP), but it perhaps starred the British Honduras Freedom Committee in New York City, led by Compton Fairweather. The least publicized, but perhaps the most important side of the triangle, because it was in the “belly of the beast,” involved London-based Belizeans and other Belizeans in the United Kingdom whose most powerful personality was Nadia Cattouse. Nadia was a singing, acting and show business star in London who knew many people who were powerful in British society and politics. She brought Belize’s case directly to them. It may well be that Nadia has not gotten the credit she deserves.

        In their push for self-rule back then, Hon. George Price’s People’s United Party (PUP) began sitting at the table with the British and the Guatemalans at that aforementioned 1962 Puerto Rico conference, from which Goldson and the NIP were excluded. As the elected representatives of the people of British Honduras, the PUP leaders were participating in confidential discussions, the details of which they could not reveal to the masses of Belizeans. But, the masses of Belizeans were becoming more and more nervous and suspicious, so that in 1966 when Goldson and the NIP were invited to the talks, Belizeans believed Mr. Goldson when he broke a vow of secrecy which all the Belizean delegates had taken and revealed the Thirteen Proposals.

        In 2015, the tables have now turned with respect to Belize’s two major political parties. It is the PUP which is in Opposition now, and it is they who, seemingly in slow motion and almost reluctantly, have begun to take advantage of the fact that Belizeans are, understandably, so nervous and suspicious when it comes to the Guatemalan claim/issue. The ruling United Democratic Party (UDP) leaders, several of whose families were prominent in the NIP’s “No Guatemala” era, now find themselves handcuffed by negotiation protocols and the jurisdiction of the mighty United States of America, as represented by the Organization of American States (OAS), and today it is the UDP which appears timid, compromised, appeasing, and weak.

In the 1960s, most Belizeans who were living in Great Britain were there because they had travelled from British Honduras to help the British war effort in World War II. These Belizeans, we assume, believed the United Kingdom owed them and Belize something. The bulk of the Belizeans who are in the United States began travelling there after Hurricane Hattie in 1961, and it seems to us that most Belizeans  in America feel they have been done a favor by the United States. In other words, unlike the case with U.K. Belizeans, they do not believe the U.S. owes them anything; they do not believe they can demand anything for Belize.

        Fifty years ago and more, the match between Belizeans and the United States looked like one made in heaven. Belizeans were literate, English-speaking, law-abiding, Christian, and, compared to black Americans, we were Uncle Toms: we held white people in reverence. The United States had become the most powerful economy in the world, it was just six hundred miles away from Belize, and the Americans got two things from Belize: Washington got willing bodies for their Vietnam War effort and they got docile black faces to fill quota jobs which the black American civil rights campaign had forced open.

        Ten years ago, Hurricane Katrina exposed things in New Orleans, one of America’s major cities, for all the world to see. Katrina exposed the fact that there were aspects of the American Dream which were a daily nightmare. In planet earth’s wealthiest economy, there are many people who do not live well, do not eat well, do not have access to adequate medical care, who are unemployed, who are incarcerated, who are victims of chemical abuse, and so on.  When Cuba offered to send 1200 doctors to assist New Orleans in the aftermath of Katrina, the United States government, embarrassed, refused the Cuban offer.

        Most Belizeans who left Belize for America in the 1960s were pretty sure they would not be coming back Belize’s way in a hurry. Most of us did dream of a heroic, glorious return home some day down the road, but in the 1960s it was not as if we were making a choice between Belize and America. There was no choice: Belize was nothing, and America was heaven. In regional and world affairs, we Belizeans all unquestioningly believed that the Americans were the “good guys.” We cried for President Kennedy in November of 1963. It was many years before we found out he had been selling us out to Ydigoras Fuentes.

        Today, Belizeans in America are having to confront the sobering reality that in this matter of the Guatemalan claim to Belize the United States government is on Guatemala’s side. At this newspaper, we have been trying to show you this for 46 years, but most Belizeans have rejected this reality? Since February of this year, America’s support for Guatemala has become a reality which is difficult for thinking Belizeans to avoid. For those of us who are brave enough to face up to reality, the situation is traumatic: our best friend is our worst enemy.

    Power to the people. Remember Danny Conorquie. Fight for Belize.

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