At this newspaper, we are watching two different scenarios – one in the West and one in the North. We are watching how calm Chiquibul, Caracol, and Pilar appear to have become in the last few weeks after the violent turbulence of late September and October. That’s out West, in the Cayo. And, we are watching the epic struggle between American Sugar Refining (ASR) and the cane farmers of Belize’s Orange Walk and Corozal Districts. That is, of course, in the North.
Let’s start with the North, where the critical 2014/2015 sugar cane crop was supposed to start on Monday, December 8, with the farmers commencing delivery of their cane to the Tower Hill factory for grinding and processing into sugar and molasses. Reports on Sunday, December 7, were that the crop would be delayed because ASR and the Belize Sugar Cane Farmers Association (BSCFA) have not settled their differences. The most important of those differences involves the matter of bagasse, a by-product when the cane is ground which has become substantially more valuable in the last few years. Bagasse is now used to generate electricity, and ASR is saying that it is the company which made the investment in the equipment which generates electricity from bagasse. The cane farmers are saying that it is their sugar cane from which the bagasse is derived, and they are entitled, on principle, to a reasonable share of the bagasse money.
Both ASR and the cane farmers would have wanted the crop to begin on Monday, because both sides begin to make money once ASR’s factory begins grinding the cane farmers’ cane. Stability and prosperity in the North are the Government of Belize’s concern, so the political directorate is eager for the crop to begin.
If we are to judge from Ya Ya Marin Coleman’s “Two cents cam” show on KREM TV, the Belizean people are quite ignorant about weighty national issues. The Belizean people are not politically educated. The vast majority of the Belizean people would probably see no connection between cane and Chiquibul. The issues are connected because Belize continues to be a young, small Central American nation-state fighting for territorial integrity, self-determination, economic development, and national dignity. Belize is under attack in the Chiquibul from a neighboring republic which claims half of our territory, and Belize is under attack in the North from neoliberal capitalists whose agenda is fattening the bank accounts of their international shareholders. ASR does not give a damn about Belize’s cane farmers: all ASR wants is the cane and the bagasse at the lowest possible price and by any means necessary. This is the cold reality of neoliberal capitalism.
In this region, you must understand that neoliberal capitalism is tied in with the foreign policy of the United States of America, the superpower of the region and the world. In the opinion of the architects of American foreign policy, the showcase neoliberal capitalist nation-state in Central America, and their most important ally, is Guatemala, the same republic which claims half of Belize. The Guatemalan oligarchy has been using the treasures of Belize’s Chiquibul as an economic safety valve for their impoverished Petén province. In late September, Guatemalan incursions became too aggressive, Belizeans began to scream, and there were adjustments made somewhere. How else can the recent quiet on Belize’s “western front” be explained? Someone big somewhere reined in someone big somewhere else, who then turned around and reined in someone small. Call names, and we will whistle.
Our thesis is that the quiet in the Chiquibul is a deceptive quiet. Belizeans are now beginning the pagan orgy of consumerism and bacchanalia we call Christmas, an orgy we excuse by making pious, intermittent references to the Christ Child. Belizeans’ absorption with Christmas is such that the Chiquibul could go to hell for all most of us will care during the festive season.
Belizeans are a divided people. Our nationalism is weak. In our various Districts, six in all, we are always thinking that our respective District concerns are more pressing than Belize’s national issues. The cane farmers in the North have a history of self-reliance which was born and grew during their time of isolation. During the era of British colonialism, Corozal and Orange Walk were isolated. That time is no more. The cane farmers should be working harder to generate national Belizean support.
The Maya of Toledo made serious efforts to bring their cause to the media capital, Belize City, for publicity dissemination nationwide. What happened, it seemed, was that the Toledo Maya had been forced to travel frequently to Belize City for Supreme Court cases, and they developed a rapport with the media. Even as they were winning court cases and receiving some national support, the leadership of the Toledo Maya were being undermined by evangelical Christianity. Today, even if they have not been defeated, the Toledo Maya are definitely on their heels.
Little support for the Toledo Maya, who are Kek’chi and Mopan Maya, came from the Corozal and Orange Walk populations, which are descended from Santa Cruz and Icaiche Maya, overall described as Yucatec Maya. With the Toledo Maya now having their backs to the wall, under pressure from the oil company, they are not in a position to give meaningful support to the Yucatec Maya, under pressure from the sugar company, in the North.
Over the weekend our sources were saying that the cane farmers were under overpowering pressure. The various crises in Belize appear not to be related, but they are. All these crises, such as Sarstoon/Temash, BGYEA, Chiquibul, the streets of Belize City, and Tower Hill are related. If the Belizean people were politically educated, they would be able to see where the interests of the Belizean people are on one side, and the interests of neoliberal capitalism are always on the other. As it is, there is not enough support from the rest of Belize for the cañeros of Corozal and Orange Walk. To a certain extent, the cane farmers may feel they don’t need that support.
In Belize, we were all victims of colonialism. The British divided us. The essence of colonialism was that the colony existed for the enrichment of the colonizer. The Queen of England rode in a chariot of gold. In British Honduras, we defecated in latrines built over canals.
Well now, we are independent. At least, we claim to be. This is our Jewel. Everything that’s here, belongs to us, and should be used for the benefit of the Belizean people first. This is nationalism. If we are going to become the Belize that our ancestors were dreaming of building back in 1950, it has to be Belize for Belizeans. All these ethnic, class, color and religious divisions have to be overcome. Chiquibul and Tower Hill are the same thing. It’s like Belize against the world.
Power to the people.