When former US president, Donald Trump, referred to countries such as ours derogatively in a 2018 session with senators in that country who were discussing immigration issues, none of us in the countries he spoke of should have been overly surprised, that that was how we were seen in Washington. American media reported that President Trump said it was preferable that the US accepted immigrants from, no surprise, countries like Norway.
If we are in the game of hiding our heads in the sand, we could say that the derogatory comment wasn’t aimed at us, but how can anyone be proud in a country where poverty keeps increasing, from 41% in 2009 to 52% in 2018, as the Statistical Institute of Belize reported. Our people want better, demand better.
Being realistic, it’s not the easiest task for our leaders to lead us to the promised land. The way the world is set up, the country that looks down on us pulls many strings, and their main game is to make the resources of the world flow in their direction, so the standard of living for their people keeps getting better.
We shouldn’t complain about the USA, not too much: in times of crisis they always come to our aid, and our countries have always been close. Belizeans have fought alongside American soldiers in probably every war in which that country was engaged in the last century and this one, and there might be as many Americans with Belizean roots as there are Belizeans.
Our leaders have always been on good terms with the USA’s leaders, and that is not a bad thing, because it is established that things can be very difficult for a country when its leaders buck heads with them. Unfortunately, having leaders who are favored by the Americans hasn’t translated to betterment for the masses, and the evidence of that is here at home, and all around us.
However, it being infinitely worse to be on their wrong side, we must look for solutions to our grim reality within ourselves. The consensus is that our US-friendly leaders are/have been engrossed with enriching themselves, their families, and their cronies, and have been short on capacity. Those are the reasons why, between 2009 and 2018, poverty in our country increased by 11%!
Unrest in Cuba, increased instability in Haiti
A shortage of food and medicine in Cuba has triggered protests in that country, and the government there is getting no sympathy from the Americans, who have had them in a chokehold since Fidel Castro wrested power on the island from the country’s corrupt leader, Fulgencio Bautista, in 1959.
Presidents Carter and Obama, of the Democratic Party, tried to ease the pressure their country has placed on Cuba. Jimmy Carter, the USA’s most honest and compassionate leader, called out US allies who were trampling on human rights, and during his four-year term, 1977 to 1981, he signed the treaty which set the stage for control of the Panama Canal to ultimately pass from the US to Panama (in 2000), ended US support of the cruel Somoza regime in Nicaragua, and helped pave the way for Belize’s independence in 1981.
Jennifer Lynn McCoy, a professor at Georgia State University, in the 2015 essay, “Jimmy Carter in Cuba”, said Carter and Cuban president, Fidel Castro, “agreed to open downgraded embassies called Interest Sections in Havana and Washington, DC”, with Carter’s intent being “to normalize relations between the two countries during his tenure.” In 1977, Carter removed all travel restrictions to Cuba.
Because of the political realities at home, Carter couldn’t do much during his presidency, but Ms. McCoy said that in 2002 he declared that the US, being the more powerful country, should “take the first step and lift the embargo”, while calling on “the Cuban government to respect its own constitution by protecting free speech and assembly, and allowing the citizens to petition for a change in the laws.”
Ms. McCoy said that in 2011 Cuba’s Raul Castro initiated economic reforms “to wean half a million citizens from the state’s payroll and allow small businesses to begin the transition from a state-owned economy to a partially market-led one”, and that by “December 2014, public opinion in the US – even among Cuban-Americans – favored normalization and lifting the embargo.”
Carter paved the way, and Obama, US president from 2009 to 2017, continued building the relationship with Cuba. In 2016, US president Barack Obama became the first sitting US president to visit Cuba in 88 years.
However, no surprise, on taking office in 2017, new American president, Donald Trump, a Republican, increased the pressure on Cuba with new financial and banking restrictions. Then the pandemic came along, crushing the island’s tourism industry.
New American president, Joe Biden, of the Democratic Party, was expected to walk more in the footsteps of Carter and Obama, but it’s possible that he and his party see the situation as being too ripe with possibilities to force Cuba to completely open up its economy in one fell swoop.
Speaking about the recent protests in Cuba, Biden expressed solidarity with the brave people of Cuba for “their clarion call for freedom and relief from the tragic grip of the pandemic and from the decades of repression and economic suffering to which they have been subjected by Cuba’s authoritarian regime.”
The instability in Haiti had been increasing of late, to the point where even sports was affected – remember our Jaguars being harassed when they went for a World Cup qualifier match over there – and it spilled over last week when the president of that country, Jovenel Moïse, was tragically assassinated.
There is much speculation as to who masterminded the assassination, and there is division over who the physical assassins were, if they were hired guns from abroad or Haitian security guards.
The story we have of Haiti is that it is a country blessed with material wealth untold, but its people are the poorest in our hemisphere. We know some of the history of that country, how the brilliant leader Toussaint L’Ouverture overthrew the French, and how the European world ganged up on Haiti to crush it, and how the US invaded the country in 1915 and took control of the country’s wealth, and how the US has interfered in that country’s internal politics since then to ensure that its leaders are compliant with US wishes.
There are reports that the assassinated president was a Washington favorite, maybe because Haiti is a strong ally of the US in the latter country’s anti-narcotics fight; what we are certain of is that the US always has a keen eye on who leads Haiti, and who leads most of the countries around the world, especially in our region.