The incidence of gun violence on the Southside of Belize City, which remains the population center of the nation of Belize, has been established as having reached what the United Nations considers civil war levels. This is not what Amandala is saying: this is what regional experts have calculated.
This gun violence has been taking place for the last quarter century and more. As soon as the United Democratic Party (UDP) came to power for the first time, they sprayed Belize’s profitable marijuana plantations with the deadly herbicide called paraquat. This was 1985. Around the same time, crack cocaine was introduced into Belize. Two years later the Crips and Bloods gang phenomenon entered Belize from Los Angeles, and soon the old capital became a killing field.
The sale of passports, which the UDP also began soon after first taking power and which the People’s United Party (PUP) continued, enabled a wealthy class of Taiwanese, Chinese, and Indian business families to set up shop in Belize, and they are clearly visible on Belize City’s Southside. These rich immigrants have bought up many properties, especially strategic corner lots, in the exact same Southside where there is a civil war in progress. They have proceeded to build large, ferro-concrete structures which climb many stories high.
There are also a number of poor Chinese immigrants on the Southside. These are distinct from the wealthy immigrant families. They operate small grocery shops/bars and restaurants. They are the ones who are exposed on the front line of the raging civil war, and this brave class of immigrants has taken many casualties in the Southside’s quarter century of gun violence. When one falls or one flees, another takes his place. It’s like clockwork.
In this editorial, we want to focus on the wealthy immigrant families who have been buying out Southside real estate and investing in huge buildings in the middle of the poverty and the civil war. These families are inside the Southside, but they are not of the Southside. They are not even of Belize, because they do not support any indigenous, authentic Belizean institutions, such as Belize’s national football selection. The wealthy immigrant families pay protection money directly to the Southside politicians and to the police, who insulate them from the civil war as much as is possible. On Independence Day, the wealthy immigrants may sponsor a token participation in the Belize City parade, but for the remainder of the year they only provide business services to roots Belizeans: they do not mingle with us or support any of our institutions.
One of our mentors has said to us that there is a macro plan in place to get all the traditional roots families out of the Southside, which would then become a giant tourist site. Our mentor points to the very valuable seafront real estate which stretches from the Yarborough Bridge westwards, but which is still owned by too many traditional roots families. This seafront real estate would become even more valuable if the whole Southside became a tourist mecca – filled with hotels, restaurants, shopping malls, nightclubs, and so on. If this sounds farfetched to you, let us ask you a question. Do you know that Native Americans used to own the whole of Manhattan, which is today the most valuable piece of real estate on planet earth?
A few years ago, some Maya scholars were holding a radio discussion in Belmopan, and one of them, pointing out that the Maya did not build on swamps, asked the question why Belize City had been so located. (Can you say Barrier Reef?) When Belmopan was opened for business in 1970 in the new capital, it was felt in some circles that this would begin the decline of the old capital. Infrastructurally, it didn’t happen. If you look at the major investments in Belize over the last fifteen years, they are on the Northside – the PUP’s casinos and Marine Parade, the UDP’s Memorial Park and BTL Park, Ashcroft’s Renaissance Towers. These are all tourism-related investments. Now the UDP will spend $14 million on a “colonial museum” at the House of Culture. You may argue that the House of Culture is on the Southside. Not really. This area, we submit, is more Northside than Southside. Regent Street is Little England. From Albert Street westwards is where the Southside proper begins.
Leroy Taegar used to tell us that we descendants of slaves lived from day to day, from hand to mouth, whereas the “big people” of the world thought in 50- and 100-year chunks. In four years time, the Seventeen Proposals will be 50 years old. The Heads of Agreement, just 13 years older than the Proposals, called for Guatemala to have the “use and enjoyment” of our Ranguana and Sapodilla Cayes. The Heads meant, “the Guatemalan elite.” They have taken Hunting Caye. In the vision of the “big people,” Belize has tourism written all over it.
Such a tourism does not require the unskilled services of the masses of Southside Belizeans. The Southside masses have become expendable. It is obvious that the “big people” do not care when our youth murder each other. What is worse, is that the Southside politicians have been paid off: they turn their heads and pretend they don’t see the carnage. Their “master plan” is about tourism – present and future. This is as the Americans and the Guatemalan elite want it. This is why crocodiles and manatees are more important than Southside youth. Southside youth are not factored into the “master plan.” This is our message to you on Independence Day. Only the people can save the people.
Power to the people.