Editorial — 10 September 2016
The village

(Tuesday, August 30, 2016 {CounterPunch.org}, reproduced on page 25 of Amandala, Sunday, September 4, 2016.)

The National Lawyers Guild (NLG), the oldest and largest human rights bar association in the United States, by its International Committee, its Indigenous Peoples’ Rights Committee and its Environmental Human Rights Committee, as well as the NLG’s Environmental Justice Committee, stands in solidarity with the sovereign Oceti Sadowin Oyate (the Great Sioux Nation), the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, and its people in their just opposition to the construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline across their sacred and ancestral lands. The United States has failed to respect the national sovereignty and interests of the Tribe and its people, has failed to respect the nation-to-nation relationship with the Tribe established by treaties, and has failed to properly consult with the Tribe to obtain its free, prior, and informed consent for the construction of the pipeline. We stand with the great many defenders and protectors of ancestral lands, water, and spiritual, historic, and cultural resources at the Camp of the Sacred Stones currently blocking construction of the pipeline across the Missouri River near the Tribe’s land and territory. We applaud the Indigenous youth who ran 2,200 miles to Washington, DC, to deliver to the United States government a petition signed by 160,000 people in opposition to the pipeline’s construction.

The 30-inch diameter, 1,172-mile pipeline is proposed by Dakota Access, LLC, to connect the Bakken oil fields in North Dakota across South Dakota and Iowa to other pipelines in Illinois for the transport of approximately 470,000 to 570,000 barrels of crude oil per day. It has been estimated that the Bakken oil reserves, the largest in the United States, hold in excess of 5 billion barrels of oil and are producing over a million barrels per day.

In April of this year, researchers at the University of Michigan found that the Bakken field is emitting about 2 percent of the world’s ethane, about 250,000 tons per year into the air, directly affecting air quality across North America. These emissions, combined with combustion of Bakken oil, are major contributors to the Global Climate Crisis that threatens the well-being of our environment, future generations, and the Earth.


A couple decades or so perhaps, it became fashionable in Belize’s intellectual circles to quote an African proverb which says: “It takes a village to raise a child.” The village of Southside Belize City has been wracked by civil war for more than two decades. Sometimes that civil war crosses the Haulover Creek to include Northside Belize City, and sometimes that civil war actually moves outside the city, to Ladyville. Sometimes it even travels west to Roaring Creek, or south to Dangriga.

George McKenzie, Jr., was buried in Belize City on Monday, September 5, and after the funeral there was a lot of gunfire in the old capital. One youth was killed, afterwards another was critically injured by gunfire, and later on there was yet another youth shot, though he was listed in a stable condition.

Nine years to the night before George McKenzie, Jr., was stabbed to death at a concert on Saturday night, August 27, his father, George “Junie Balls” McKenzie, a charismatic gang leader, had been shot dead on North Front Street in front of Pinks Alley.

For several years, George McKenzie, Jr.’s mother had been desperately using the media to publicize police harassment of her son, who was the spitting image of his father. The physical resemblance of the son to his late father probably brought fame and recognition to the youth, but ultimately that physical resemblance may have proved fatal.

For these two decades and more of civil war in the Southside village, the news headlines have told the dramatic stories of the bloodied casualties, and sometimes there is news of an arrest. Very few convictions have been achieved in court for these thousands of civil war murders, but those arrested routinely spend years in jail on remand.

Overall, the damage to the socio-economic matrix of our village is devastating, though after the gunfire, the funerals, and the intermittent arrests, much of that damage is invisible to the wider society. The fact is that most murder victims leave young children, as do most of those charged, and the few convicted. These orphan children, if we may use that description, have to be absorbed by the village, and the Southside, before the civil war, was for several decades already a place where the socio-economics was “dread,” as we would say.

The Southside experienced widespread emigration to the United States beginning after Hurricane Hattie in 1961, and many families were fractured as one or both parents left for America. Their children were left in the care of grandparents, or aunts, distant relatives, even mere friends. After Hurricane Hattie, then, the village began to raise many more children, because the nuclear families were not in place to do it, and then the civil war began a quarter century ago. Week after week, the burden on the village grows. The socio-economic pressure increases. But, the socio-economic pressure is not news. Gunfire murder is.

1798 seems like a long time ago, doesn’t it? 218 years. For the serious historian, however, a couple centuries is yesterday. Consider, we have Belizeans with us who were born in 1916, a century ago. The possibility exists that their grandparents may have been slaves, because the slaves in Belize were not completely freed until 1838. And then, in this month of celebrations, you must confront the fact that in 1798, Belize was a slave society. There was a village here, 218 years ago, where our enslaved African ancestors were struggling to raise children. How much has that village changed since 1798, and how much for the better?

Now then, there was a class of privileged natives which had emerged in the settlement of Belize by 1798. In the history books, these privileged natives are called “free colored” and “free black.” But, the privileged natives were a small minority: the vast majority of human beings in the settlement in 1798 were enslaved blacks, whose labor enriched the Baymen’s clan.

We have been told by official sources for generations that the enslaved villagers assisted the white Baymen and the colored Baymen to defend the settlement of Belize against Spanish naval attacks originating from the Yucatan in September of 1798. Remember now, there was a slave revolt against the Baymen’s clan by these said villagers in 1820, 22 years later. The slave villagers were not freed until 1838. Exactly what the nature and extent of the villagers’ assistance to the Baymen was in 1798, is difficult to pin down. For some reason, it was not until 1898, a full one hundred years later, that organized, official celebrations of the September 1798 victories began to be held in the settlement of Belize.

At this newspaper, established in 1969, our argument has been the same for 47 years: the victories of September 1798 were not victories for the village: the proof is the dire socio-economic situation of the village in 2016. So then, it is incumbent upon Belizeans to place the September 1798 naval incidents in a proper perspective. If the village assisted the Baymen to defend the settlement in 1798, there must have been material incentives offered to the village. And now, what incentives are being offered for the village to defend Belize in 2016? None, Caesar, none. In 1798, the threat was from the north. In 2016, the threats come from the west and the south. And Danny Conorquie lies there, with none so poor to do him reverence.

On Wednesday morning, September 7, 2016, the Government of Belize Ministry responsible for culture financed a symposium at the Bliss Center where Belizean and Yucatecan scholars sought to explain why the Spanish from the Yucatan had lost in September of 1798. The multiple nature of Ministerial portfolios being what they are, this is the very same Ministry responsible for sports in Belize, the same Ministry which has not had one single, solitary word to say about the Olympic disenfranchisement of the lady Kaina Martinez. Why do those people believe the village is so stupid? Perhaps they behave so disrespectfully because they believe the village is powerless. And, indeed they may be right.

Powerlessness is the case with villages all over planet earth. In the evening of that same Wednesday, September 7, 2016, Amy Goodman of KREM Television’s Democracy Now! showed images of corporate security personnel using dogs and pepper spray to attack Native Americans trying to defend their sacred ancestral places in North Dakota, a state in the United States of America. A corporation trying to build an oil pipeline to move oil from North Dakota to Illinois found members of the Standing Rock Sioux tribe standing in their way and protesting. The corporation used violence against descendants of the people who had lived in those places before the Mayflower came.

The lesson for Belize was clear. Whenever U.S. Capital Energy feels the need to use violence against Belize’s Kek’chi Maya in Toledo, this will be done. In the halls of political power in Belmopan, there are “honorable” Belizeans who are fighting against the Kek’chi Maya tooth and nail. They appeal every court decision in favor of the Maya, and have succeeded in turning Belizeans of other ethnicities against the Maya. These same Belizeans of “honorable” political power, nevertheless, hurriedly chose to accept the August 10 homosexuality liberalization decision in Belize’s Supreme Court. They immediately announced they would not appeal that!

This newspaper has been supporting the Toledo Maya for many years. Our position is that villagers of Belize must stand with each other. There is a corporate reality in place which is violent and merciless. Ask the Maya of Guatemala. Each child we save and raise in this village will become a soldier. Belize is in a fight for its very survival. This is the reality of September 8, 2016. Check with Jimmy Morales.

Power to the people. Remember Danny Conorquie – murdered at Caracol in cold blood on September 25, 2014.

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