Editorial — 10 October 2018
The fence against the octopus

In the early spring of 1865, not long after the southern tribes reached the Powder River Country, the leaders of the Sioux and Cheyenne soldier societies convened a war council on the Tongue. With over 2,000 braves at their disposal, Lakota war chiefs such as Red Cloud, Hump, and Young-Man-Afraid-Of-His-Horses plotted strategy with an assortment of Cheyenne counterparts including the regal Dull Knife and the ferocious Roman Nose, who had lost kinsmen at Sand Creek. Although each tribe kept its own laws and customs, all were gradually coming to think of themselves as “The People.” They had the Americans to thank for that.  

– pgs. 196, 197, THE HEART OF EVERYTHING THAT IS: The Untold Story of Red Cloud, An American Legend, by Bob Drury and Tom Clavin, Simon & Schuster, 2013

Most of the families which are prominent in the party political life of Belize are monolithic. That is to say, almost all the members of families which are involved at leadership levels with the ruling United Democratic Party (UDP) and the Opposition People’s United Party (PUP) are loyal to that one particular party, come what may and no matter what.

In the case of the modern version of the Hyde family, which controls the Kremandala media system and which began with the marriage in 1946 of Charles B. Hyde, a Roman Catholic, to Elinor W. Belisle, a Methodist, the family has never been monolithic.

Cordel Hyde, the grandson of Charles B. and Elinor W., entered party politics in 1994 when he won a PUP convention to decide who would lead the party’s Lake Independence constituency. He was a very young man at the time. Cordel went on to win the Lake I seat in the August 1998 general election and became a Cabinet Minister in the ruling PUP’s Cabinet.

Between 2004 and 2007, there was turmoil inside the Said Musa PUP, which had won a second consecutive term of office in March of 2003. Cordel Hyde first resigned from Cabinet in December of 2004, in solidarity with his brother-in-law, Mark Espat, the then area representative for the Albert constituency, who had been expelled from Cabinet by Prime Minister Musa. Espat and Hyde returned to Cabinet late in 2005, but they were both expelled from Cabinet in May of 2007 by PM Musa in a dispute over the UHS debt.

Mark Espat and Cordel Hyde were two of only six PUP area reps to defend their seats in the February 2008 general election, which was a landslide victory for the UDP. Mark and Cordel were appointed Deputy Leaders of the Opposition PUP by the new Leader, John Briceño, who defeated Francis Fonseca in March of 2008 in a leadership convention to replace the Rt. Hon. Said Musa, who had resigned following the PUP’s defeat in the 2008 general election.

On his own accord, Briceño resigned as PUP Leader in late October 2011, and after an 11-day Interim Leadership by Mark Espat, Espat also resigned, and a small group of PUP power brokers appointed Francis Fonseca the PUP Leader in November of 2011. Espat and Hyde were immediately removed as PUP Deputy Leaders, and neither of them, for different reasons, ran for their seats in the March 2012 general election, which was narrowly won by the UDP.

At some point thereafter, Mark Espat became the Economic Ambassador for the Dean Barrow-led UDP government, while in August of 2014 Cordel Hyde returned to the ranks of the PUP as the chairman of the Lake Independence constituency. He reclaimed the Lake I seat for the PUP in the November 2015 general election, in which the UDP won a third consecutive term. At that point, the PUP had not won any significant election for more than 12 years.

The PUP’s victory in the Belize City Council (BCC) section of national municipal elections in March this year was considered a major upset, because Belize City had been the unquestioned stronghold of the UDP from 2006 onwards. Johnny Briceño had again become PUP Leader, having defeated Francis Fonseca and Cordel Hyde in a PUP leadership convention in January of 2016. But the PUP’s BCC campaign had been masterminded by Cordel Hyde, the only PUP area representative on Southside Belize City.

As the only PUP Southside Belize City area representative, Cordel Hyde had been receiving especially venomous attention from the ruling UDP for years.The Southside had sent six UDP area reps to the House in November 2015 (after seven in March of 2012), including Prime Minister Dean Barrow, Deputy Prime Minister Patrick Faber, and four other powerful Cabinet Ministers. In other words, Cordel Hyde was surrounded by UDP powerhouses: to them, he represented the only PUP threat.

Almost immediately the PUP won the March 7 2018 BCC election, however, and an increased hype began to attach to the political reputation of the one Cordel Hyde, as the result of the PUP’s underdog victory in the nation’s population center, an anti-Cordel and anti-social justice campaign began in the ranks of the PUP. It was difficult to believe what was transpiring.

Major parties go through internal power struggles on a regular basis, and this newspaper has learned to avoid being involved in such matters. In the case of the anti-Cordel campaign, however, the problem hits close to home, because the pluralism of the Hyde family has become a liability for the Lake I area rep, who is the national deputy leader of the PUP.

Why would the PUP react so unusually in the aftermath of winning control of Belize City’s municipal government for the first time in twelve years? It is because an ideological battle between the party’s neoliberals and its social justice proponents has surfaced. This is a PUP issue. The fact that policy differences within Kremandala have also surfaced, is something to which the Hyde family will have to pay attention.

In the Caribbean, not to mention Central America, no such media animal as Kremandala exists. Media systems in this region such as Kremandala are all owned by wealthy families of an oligarchical bent, whereas Kremandala was born out of a black power organization with socialist influences in 1969. Kremandala is not the revolutionary United Black Association for Development (UBAD) which is responsible for the newspaper’s birth, but Kremandala is located in the middle of the Southside cauldron. To forget our roots and ignore the socio-economic realities right around us, would amount to a betrayal of the people who have been our core support since 1969.

No one wants to talk about the best and the brightest of Belizeans who have been bought out by Lord Michael Ashcroft over the last quarter century. Behind the zinc fence, we view the present situation as akin to re-colonization. But the best and the brightest of our professionals who have become employees, in some cases partners, of the Lord, view their present situation through the neoliberal prism. Through that prism, every man and every woman is entitled to seek the best deal for himself/herself which he or she can negotiate. Lord Ashcroft has the most money, so he offers the best deals.

During the dark days of slavery and colonialism, there were always natives who made private, profitable deals with the masters. The anti-colonial uprising of 1950 was about the masses of the Belizean people rebelling against those private family deals wherein the welfare of the Belizean people was being sacrificed. In 2018, re-colonization is real. Behind the zinc fence, our problem has always been the philosophy of white supremacy. Those Belizeans who collaborate with such a philosophy for private gain are traitors to the Belizean people. They sold us out. Straight like that.

Power to the people.

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Deshawn Swasey

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