Commissioner of Police, Chester Williams had every right to be beaming when he told the press earlier this month that for the first three quarters of this year homicides were down by 22%, compared to last year. Our murder rate has been among the worst in the world over the past two decades, and while 68 murders between January and September in a country with a small population such as ours is still very high, we have to be grateful that it is 18 less than January to September last year.
Our region has become extremely violent because we are on the route for cocaine from South America on its way to satisfy the habits of rich Americans. The trafficking of illegal cocaine has led to an explosion of violence, and we have seen one of our neighbors, El Salvador, disregard human rights to contain it, and another, Honduras, contemplating the same cure.
In times of war, even the loudest promoters of civil liberties accept that citizens’ rights have to be curtailed. We are in the grip of a war on illegal drugs, and if the violence associated with that trade isn’t contained, occasional SOEs (states of emergency) in strategic areas could become permanent and countrywide. The 22% decrease in homicides gives us hope that we can win this war without having to resort to more draconian measures.
The new brain trust in the Ministry of Home Affairs, led by Minister Kareem Musa, CEO Mr. Kevin Arthurs, and the Com Pol, have been pushing a number of new initiatives, and building on old ones, such as directly engaging those who are most likely to be sucked into the vicious world of violence. Nine months into 2023, they can boast of a measure of success.
As the Com Pol said, the figures indicate progress, but we are not where we aspire to be. In fact, we are far from where we want to be. But it is good to celebrate achievements. The Minister, the CEO, the Com Pol, our police officers and all who work for the department deserve praise for this decrease in homicides.
Belize praying for the best outcome for Haiti
For Belize and countries in the Caribbean that are deploying security personnel to join the Kenya-led peacekeeping mission to Haiti in the next few months, it’s all about love and hope, that the country gets good leadership, that the economic conditions of our brothers and sisters greatly improve, and that peace prevails. No country in our hemisphere has suffered as much as Haiti has over the last 200 years. The Haitian Revolution, and independence in 1804, was the first break of barbaric European rule, and they ganged up on Haiti to ensure that it didn’t prosper.
Though that country is endowed with fertile soils and mineral wealth, stunning beaches and a rich culture, the majority of Haitians live in extreme poverty. Leadership of the island in the last half of the 20th century was dominated by the father-son Duvalier dictatorships, which were propped up by foreign interests and a greedy wealthy class. Rays of hope shone on the island with the election of a democratically elected president, Jean Bertrand-Aristide, toward the latter part of the last century, but that hope was short-lived. Within a few years, Aristide, who sought to uplift the masses, was driven into exile.
Haiti has suffered some natural disasters, mainly hurricanes, and there was a massive earthquake in 2010 which devastated infrastructure and killed over 200,000 people. Foreign aid poured in, but the Haitians say the people who needed help the most got the least. Some foreigners who came to help were accused of sexual abuses, and of introducing and spreading cholera, which ravaged thousands and has now become endemic.
21st century Haitian leaders haven’t done much for the people, and when the president, Jovenel Moïse, was assassinated in 2021, the island plunged into chaos. Al Jazeera said the UN reported that between January and September of this year Haiti recorded 3,000 homicides and over 1,500 kidnappings for ransom.
Haiti’s history with foreigners coming in to “help” hasn’t been positive, and some Haitians are not welcoming of the foreign mission which claims to be coming to stabilize the country so it can have free and fair elections. Peoples Dispatch, an international news organ whose mission is to ensure that coverage of the news “is not restricted to the rhetoric of politicians and the fortunes of big companies”, said that in October 2022, the (unelected) Prime Minister of Haiti, Ariel Henry, had called for a “deployment of foreign troops to help counter the expansion of armed gangs.”
Peoples Dispatch said civil society organizations and social movements in Haiti oppose the peacekeeping mission because of how other interventions turned out. Peoples Dispatch said the organizations “condemned the international community for supporting Henry, who assumed the office following the assassination of the previous de-facto president Jovenel Moïse and indefinitely postponed the long overdue presidential and legislative elections in 2021, citing gang violence as a pretext.”
But Caribbean leaders see hope in a Kenya-led peacekeeping mission, which is being funded primarily by the US. The pressure is on Kenya to prove that it is sincere and capable, that it will not fail the Haitians as so many have before.
Israel was born under a different UN
The United Nations (UN) of 1948, which supported carving out a space in Palestine to make a state for Israel, is far different from the UN we know today. Presently, there are 193 member-states of the UN; in 1945 there were only 51. Of the 54 countries in Africa, only four were members back then—Egypt, Ethiopia, Liberia, and Union of South Africa (that last one we know was an Apartheid state until the 1990s).
Office of the Historian, a US website at history.state.gov, says the US supported the 1917 Balfour Declaration which called for a Jewish home in Palestine, but “President Franklin D. Roosevelt had assured the Arabs in 1945 that the United States would not intervene without consulting both the Jews and the Arabs in that region.” Office of the Historian said that the British, to protect their “political and economic interests … opposed both the creation of a Jewish state and an Arab state in Palestine as well as unlimited immigration of Jewish refugees to the region.”
Israel’s Anti-Defamation League (ADL) said that Palestinian Arabs and the surrounding Arab nations rejected the establishment of a Jewish state in the region; that on May 14, 1948, Israel declared its independence, and on May 11, 1949, it “was granted admission into the UN by a vote of 37-12 with 9 abstentions.” The ADL says that while the UN was pivotal in the creation of the Jewish state, the international body has a continuing history of a one-sided, hostile approach to Israel.
Many nations, including Belize, believe the Jews deserve a space in Palestine. They have a strong history there. But most nations don’t approve of Israel’s belligerence in the region. There are complex political and economic issues at the root of the conflict, and they aren’t so easy to solve. But we can aim for peace. That begins, as our foreign minister, Hon. Eamon Courtenay pointed out, with Israel withdrawing to the pre-1967 borders, and Palestinians who were uprooted having the right to return.