Editorial — 02 February 2019
Belize guided on a tight rope by principle of self-determination

There is an old adage that a friend in need is a friend indeed. There are friendships that are mostly for good times, those times when we are eating, and drinking and making merry. We can’t expect those kinds of friends to make too much effort to help us carry our load when we are sick, or have lost our job. They are good-times friends, mostly.

There are true friendships, and those are for all times – for the best times, the good times, the bad times, and the worst. These friends’ doors are opened to you whenever there is a party going on within, and these doors you know you can knock on when times are not so good.

Whether for good times or for all times, all have concern when their friends are experiencing troubles. We can expect the support of our friends, with the quality and quantity of their support depending on the extent, depth of the friendship.

There are friendships between nations too and, like friendships between individuals, these can be casual or true. One of the most difficult times is when a problem comes up between two (or more) of them . You would like to help, but it is not always advisable for you to try to do so.

Our “friend”, the USA, is quarreling with two of our friends, Venezuela and Nicaragua. Our bond with the USA runs deep. Our soldiers fought beside theirs in the world wars. As former colonies of the British we share a lot of common experiences. There’s too many of our people there, and too many of their people here, and too much history between us for us to not be friends.

The USA, with its mighty army, is largely responsible for the stability between/among countries in our hemisphere, and the USA, with its voracious appetite for material goods, is largely responsible for the instability within a number of countries in our hemisphere. The USA could argue that we OWE them — that what they extract from us is payment, for the financing of their mighty army which keeps order in our hemisphere and world. That is not an argument without some merit.

The Americans (USA) have a rather uncomplicated view of the world. American businessmen are to get preferential treatment in your country. They don’t have any kind of issues with you, as long as their businessmen get the run of your country. The Americans are very serious, are aggressively jealous about their businessmen being first choice. That is American foreign policy.

This American foreign policy becomes a problem for some countries in our region when their business interests are too aggressive, ambitious.

Conscientious leaders in our region, to save their countries from the excesses of the Americans, try to adjust the playing field with the introduction of a system that is different from the capitalist system under which the Americans get the best terms for their businessmen. The aggressively jealous Americans respond with the intention of forcing such countries with the conscientious leaders to revert to the path most conducive for American businesses to prosper. If they don’t, the Americans call for a regime change. Their first tool to get what they want is economic pressure.

The politics can get more complicated than that, of course, but that is what it is at the core. American foreign policy, which features some greed, keeps creating refugees at their borders. Most times it’s just a trickle, but sometimes people band to form caravans. American leaders are blamed for their foreign policy, but it is that many of their people can’t get enough too.

Belize has had friendly and business relations with Venezuela for many years. Carlos Andrés Pérez, a leader in Venezuela who served terms that spanned the 1970s to the 1990s, was one of their leaders who used Venezuela’s massive oil wealth to uplift economies in our region.

Venezuela’s support for the region came in the form of low interest loans to regional banks, direct loans to countries (including ours) and preferential payment plans for oil purchases. Pérez, remembering the support the great liberator, Simón Bolívar, received from Haiti, reached out to help that country when assistance was scarce for them.

Venezuela under Carlos Andres Pérez concentrated on promoting peace and integration in our region, and largely made no demands of political allegiance from the recipients of their generosity.

None of Venezuela’s past assistance programs approached the Petro Caribe arrangement which was initiated during the leadership of Hugo Chávez, and continued under the leadership of their present leader, Nicolás Maduro. Belize has questioned how our leaders handled and spent the massive injection of cheap capital from Venezuela, but our gratitude to the donor of the out-of-this-world low interest loans is unquestioned. Venezuela is aware that in a dispute it has with Guyana, Belize stands with Guyana. Outside of that, Belize’s support for that country is strong.

The Guatemalan claim prevented Belize from deepening ties with the countries on the Central American Isthmus, all of whom have historical ties as former colonies of Spain. But Nicaragua, under the leadership of the Sandinista, Daniel Ortega, became a big supporter of our country on our march to independence in 1981. Previous to Sandinista rule, which is socialist, Nicaragua was ruled by dictators, the Somoza family, who were heavily supported by American interests.

Nicaragua’s relationship with Belize has been mostly ideological, but we never forget how they stood by us in 1981. Belize’s government, under its first leader, George Price, featured land reform and cooperative associations, with hefty doses of foreign investment from the Americans, and British. Despite the heavy foreign investment, Belize under Price was somewhat considered socialist, especially when compared with regimes in Guatemala.

Over the last three years, in Venezuela, and over the last year, in Nicaragua, there have been reports of unrest, with opposition parties calling for elected leaders to step aside. At this time, the Americans are not happy with the leaders in Venezuela and Nicaragua, and they are calling on their friends to support them in their efforts to bring Venezuela and Nicaragua into line, so to speak.

This, obviously, puts pressure on Belize. It is a difficult situation; we are friends with all the parties and want to help. Individually, we take sides; those of us who are socialist leaning want the regimes in power to survive, for the betterment of their people. Those of us who are capitalist leaning buy into all the news on Fox and other American television stations that socialist vehicles cannot improve the lot of nations.

As a nation we are guided on this tight rope by the principle of self-determination. In a teleSur story which was published on page 19 of the January 22 Amandala, PM Barrow told journalists in Cuba: “Interference is a threat to peace. You should not try to interrupt the government that is right now in Nicaragua, what is needed is to promote dialogue.” PM Barrow also “stated his rejection” of attempts to destabilize the Bolivarian Revolution in Venezuela.

In respect to the internal problems in Venezuela and Nicaragua, we are limited to prayer that their leaders resolve their issues for the benefit of their people firstly, and secondly, for our region. In respect to the external matter, the pressure being applied by the Americans, we are limited to praying that they allow us (countries in our region) a little more space so we can take better care of our peoples.

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Deshawn Swasey

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