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Uphill battle

EditorialUphill battle

An incredible amount of data and knowledge is available on the Internet these days for serious seekers of the truth. The story of the island of Diego Garcia, for instance, is very interesting, and may be relevant where understanding Belize’s situation is concerned. Diego Garcia was/is an island which was strategically located in the Indian Ocean. The United States Defence Department wanted the island for a military base, because its strategic location would enhance their ability to monitor and menace China and Russia, their two greatest rivals for world hegemony.

Diego Garcia was a British possession with two or three thousand native residents, primarily of African and Indian ancestry. The natives needed to be gotten out of the way, by any means necessary. The natives were, of course, considered expendable by the British and the Americans, and the story of what happened has been told by the internationally famous journalist, John Pilger.

In Belize City today, especially its Southside, which has an extended, strategic coastline on the Caribbean Sea, gangs have been creating serious problems for twenty-five years and more. These gangs, led by and featuring young males, present major hassles for each other, because they are always trying to murder each other. The gang rivalries are, moreover, actually devastating to the larger city community, because our community is intimidated by the firepower of the gangs, and social events which bring the community together to relax and interact, such as sporting and cultural events, have been adversely affected. In fact, there is practically no night life from day to day in Belize City, and it is because citizens are afraid to come outdoors, scared that gangsters will appear and engage in their criminal and violent behavior.

Remember now, the gangsters are young males, and they are attracted by social events, just like other young males. The promoters of sporting and cultural events will always look at young females as a primary audience, but it is these young females who are the magnets for the young male gangsters. In fact, the masculinity and aura of danger surrounding the gangsters make it so that many supposedly respectable young females are excited by, and attracted to, them.

In the days before the gangsters took power in the streets of Belize City, sporting and cultural events were the ties which did bind the community together. Because our sports and culture have been so badly damaged by the gang wars, our community is fractured, and our people have become alienated from each other to an unprecedented extent. Telephone conversations and television viewing have been proven to be inadequate replacements for sporting and cultural events where the highly desirable goal of community cohesion is concerned.

Belize City is a relatively small place, and most of our families know each other. If the police and the community were working in cooperation with each other, the gang problem would not be as much of a scourge as it is. But the police in this city have succeeded in provoking ever increasing hostility to themselves in the post-independence era. There are some citizens who view the police, because of the behavior of the police in certain neighborhoods, as just another gang, albeit in uniforms, and one with the backing of the law. The fact of the matter is that the police in Belize City are either unable or unwilling to control gang violence, and as a result of their failure, ours is a demoralized, frightened community.

When heavy drugs began to pass through Belize in the early 1980s, there was a need for Belize police personnel to receive training upgrades. They began to receive these training upgrades from their American counterparts, in American military bases. The evidence of the Vallan Gillett case in May of 1984 suggested that the cocaine game was being played at a level which was so high as to be confusing to the average Belizean layman. (See Amandala No. 772 of Friday, May 4, 1984.) An American journalist by the name of Gary Webb explained the mystery in the San Jose Mercury News a decade after the Gillett case: one arm of the United States government, the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), was running a cocaine operation in order to raise money to support the contras fighting against Nicaragua’s revolutionary Sandinista government, while another arm of the same American government, the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), was basically kept in the dark and carrying out its investigations into drug operations as per usual. The evidence suggests that Vallan Gillett and other Belizeans were working for the CIA when they were busted by the DEA in 1984.

As time went along in Belize, it became clear that there were important police officials who were on the payroll of the local drug traffickers (and their Colombian cocaine sources), and others who were loyal to the Americans and their drug interdiction efforts. The money and incentives involved were such as to seduce most regular human beings: after all, the paychecks the police officials were receiving from Belizean taxpayers every “fifteenth and ending” were small potatoes, as we would say. One side of the police is Colombian: the other side is American. The side which is Belizean is not powerful enough to address the gang problem for real.

Some years ago hand grenades were introduced into the Belize City gang equation. We wonder how many Belizean citizens are willing to consider that such an introduction may be the work of sinister forces? Some people out there, whether you believe it or not, are happy when we are killing each other. The introduction of hand grenades represented a terrifying escalation in gang violence here. A couple of these explosive devices were actually thrown. One exploded on Mayflower Street, claiming at least one dead and several injured, while another, thrown during the September Carnival parade into a large crowd on Princess Margaret Drive, failed to explode, praise God. Nowadays, every now and then the police, with much fanfare, announce that they have taken a hand grenade off the streets. Hand grenades are totally effective enemies of community cohesion: citizens are afraid to gather publicly. What the hell is going on here?

On planet earth, life has become a more competitive proposition than ever before. The concept of home, or homelands, is a concept which one needs to analyze and seek to understand. The Native Americans once thought the Western plains of the United States were their home, their homelands. Then, they experienced centuries of genocidal casualties from invading Europeans. In the early part of the sixteenth century, the Aztecs of Mexico, serenely secure in their homelands, were slaughtered by Cortes, and Pizarro did the same thing to the Incas of Peru. Black Africans, because they had lived there for millennia, believed South Africa was their home, until whites came and made it their home. Black Africans fought back. The same lands that Palestinians had considered their homelands for a millennium, the Israelis came and made theirs in the first half of the twentieth century. The Palestinians have fought back, but the Israelis are heavily armed.

On planet earth, then, people are very serious about whatever and wherever they consider their home. At the same time, there exist predatory human beings who do not consider ancestral rights to be of any particular importance where their business and geopolitical games are concerned. We Belizeans are in a fight for our home and our homelands. That is how we view The Jewel: we view it as our home. The situation, nonetheless, is in flux. Some Belizeans have gone elsewhere and made elsewhere home. People have come here from abroad and made The Jewel their home. It is a question, we suppose, of who wants The Jewel more.

Power to the people. Power to the struggle.

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