Editorial — 01 July 2014

“And when thou prayest, thou shalt not be as the hypocrites are; for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and in the corners of the streets, that they may be seen of men.

“But thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret; and thy Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly.”

- MATTHEW, Chapter 6, verses 5, 6.

Dr. Jerome Straughan’s research establishes that Belizeans have been paying attention to the United States of America from as early as the post-Civil War period. During the course of the United States Civil War, which lasted from 1861 to 1865, President Abraham Lincoln declared Emancipation, which is to say, the African Americans who were slaves were freed. Some Belizeans (British Hondurans at the time), and Belizeans were mostly of African descent in the second half of the nineteenth century, began to venture to the United States, mostly through the port of New Orleans.

There were mahogany and other hardwood exports from Belize going to New York and Boston, but the colonial tariff structure of British Honduras made it difficult for American manufactured goods to compete with British ones in the colony.

The Prohibition era in the United States, between 1919 and 1933, meant that there was money to be made by Belizeans transporting alcohol from British Honduras, where it was legal, to the Gulf ports of the United States, where Prohibition had declared alcohol illegal. The Prohibition era was a preview of the marijuana era in the 1960s/1970s and the cocaine era, from the 1980 onwards, when the profits to be made from shipping an illegal commodity into U.S. markets were such as to tempt Belizean entrepreneurs to become gangsters.

The United States came out of World War II (1939-1945) as the most powerful economy in the world, but American markets were difficult for Belizean businessmen to penetrate, because of the aforementioned colonial tariff structure which essentially pressured Belize’s business people to buy and sell exclusively with Great Britain. The Belizean businessman, Robert Sydney Turton, had been doing most of his business (exporting mahogany and chicle and importing manufactured goods) with American companies. British colonial tariff regimes cramped his style. Turton wanted Belize to free up itself from Britain and become more closely tied with the United States. For this reason, he supported the anti-colonial People’s United Party (PUP), founded in 1950.

The British and the Americans, allies in the so-called Cold War against Russia (and then against China after 1949) which began after World War II, were in consultation with respect to changing political situations in the Caribbean and Central America in the 1950s. These “unstable” situations included Cheddi Jagan’s Guyana, Jacobo Arbenz’s Guatemala, and Fidel Castro’s Cuba.

Colonialism as a philosophy was under attack all over the world after World War II, and specifically in the United Nations – the world governing body. After failing to suppress the PUP, the British decided to move British Honduras to internal self-government. The PUP’s George Price led Belize to self-government at the beginning of 1964. The largest ever migration of Belizeans to the United States had begun taking place after Hurricane Hattie in October of 1961, when the United States government allowed hurricane-stricken Belizeans with relatives in America to take refuge there. Thousands of Belizeans left and did not return. They became Americans.

Enough Belizeans remained at home, however, to rebel against the Seventeen Proposals in 1968. These were the United States’ suggestions for a solution to a dispute between Britain and Guatemala over the Belize territory. The Seventeen Proposals established that Washington wished for Belize to become a state subordinate to Guatemala. There is no indication that Washington’s position has changed since 1968.

Guatemala is 40 times larger than Belize. The United States is 25 times larger than Guatemala. In this game of giants, how can Belize compete? Even when Belizeans on the ground believe they are fighting against nefarious American initiatives, such as the UNIBAM, LGBT, and gender policy business, those institutions which are leading that fight, that is to say, the evangelical churches, are headquartered in and financed from the United States.

In Belize today the most critical area of the country is the Toledo District, and the most critical section of the Toledo population is comprised of the Kekchi and Mopan Maya. The indications are that the Toledo Maya are infiltrated and influenced by evangelical churches. This suggests to us that in any confrontation with the oil company on the Sarstoon/Temash, the Toledo Maya will be unable to focus on the earthly economics of the situation in a historical context. Many Toledo Maya have accepted Jesus Christ as their personal Lord and Savior. It is for this reason that some months ago thousands came out in Toledo, the largest gathering by far in Belize on the gender policy issue, to protest matters related to the gender policy, UNIBAM, and so on.

Our thesis is that the Toledo Maya are divided, and it may be the case that the most powerful force among them is evangelical religion. From the beginning, it was a difficult proposition for Belizeans to think of fighting against Washington-supported investments like oil companies. But, there is more difficulty: the historical record shows that American evangelical churches support Washington’s foreign policy no matter what. The Toledo Maya have to add one and one, and they will get two.

Power to the people.


About Author