A couple months ago I heard Sandra Coye say on KREM Radio that she did not support the UBAD call for the 18-year-old vote in the late 1960s and early 1970s. She had felt that the 18-year-old vote, which was granted by the then ruling People’s United Party (PUP) in 1978, would be an immature vote. It may well be that it has been so.
But, we were fighting for street survival in UBAD, and a very powerful PUP controlled the streets in those days. It was young Belizeans who supported the fund-raising events which enabled UBAD to function, and it was young Belizeans who risked their bodies in the streets to promote and defend the UBAD agenda.
The 1970 sedition arrest of myself and the late Ismail Shabazz indicated to us that the power structure in Belize, as represented by the PUP, had made a firm decision to treat UBAD as a political problem, a political threat. So then, we needed our backbone youth to be able to vote in Belize’s elections.
The matter of putting bodies in the streets requires some elaboration. In Belize today, the Belize National Teachers Union (BNRU) can put bodies in the streets. The National Trade Union Congress of Belize (NTUCB) can put bodies in the streets, but the NTUCB of 2020, for whatever the reason(s), is not the militant NTUCB of 2005. So, if you are a dissident, you normally have to be looking for the BNTU to be activated.
If you are running off your mouth and you can’t put bodies in the streets, then you are merely an intellectual, talking loud and saying nothing. Please, no disrespect. The oligarchical power structure of Belize will always ignore you if you cannot put bodies in the streets. Ask Moses Sulph.
The socio-political climate in Belize and this region has changed substantially since UBAD’s time (1969-1974). The neoliberal Jamaica Labor Party (JLP) just destroyed the more roots People’s National Party (PNP) in the island in national elections. In 1972, it was the roots PNP, led by the charismatic (dare we say then radical?) Michael Manley, which was doing a number on the JLP.
In UBAD’s time, although Mexico was playing post-revolutionary capitalist games and slaughtered its rebellious students just before the 1968 Olympic Games in Mexico City, it was felt in the region that Mexico would never abandon Fidel Castro’s Cuba to the destructive tendencies of the giant United States. Remember, after overthrowing the dictator, Fulgencio Batista, in the 1959 Cuban Revolution, Fidel Castro and his group repelled the U.S.-financed Bay of Pigs invasion in 1961, and then survived the nuclear crisis, when the U.S. and Soviet Russia went “eyeball to eyeball,” which occurred in October of 1962.
Doing UBAD’s time, young Belizeans who were not black-conscious as such, were listening to the socialist voices of the two young Palestinian attorneys, Assad Shoman and Said Musa, who forged an alliance with Rt. Hon. George Price’s ruling PUP in time to run as PUP candidates in the October 1974 general elections in the Cayo North and Fort George constituencies, respectively.
Today, as we survey the situation around us in Mexico, Guatemala, and Honduras, it is for sure progressive observers are disappointed in the new Mexican government of the one Obrador. We had expected AMLO to be roots-oriented, but realities to the north in Donald Trump’s America may have forced Obrador to move to the right. Guatemala remains what Guatemala has been since the CIA’s overthrow of Jacobo Arbenz in 1954: a land where the ladino business/industrial rich oppress the Indigenous rural poor and rule with an iron hand in tandem with the military. Honduras has become even more neoliberal and oppressive, which brings up the matter of the young Garifuna leaders who were recently kidnapped there by armed men in paramilitary gear and who have likely been murdered, because of defending ancestral lands on the coast.
Because Belize has been headed in the direction of Mexico, Guatemala, and Honduras for decades now, it is very important for us in Belize to stay focused on the situation in Honduras, which is our immediate neighbor in the south. The gap between the wealthy oligarchy and the now starving poor in Belize has widened even more since COVID-19 showed its ugly face in March. The increasingly overt militarization of Belize at the domestic level is nothing less than ominous, beloved.
I speak as an old and powerless intellectual, because I am not in a position to put bodies in the streets. I have decided to put my e-mail address ([email protected]) in the column, so that you thinkers who are seeing what I am seeing can communicate directly with me.
You know, during the time of UBAD we were so active in the streets we UBADers paid almost no attention to what Richard Nixon, elected U.S. president in 1968 and re-elected in 1972, and his cold-blooded sidekick, Henry Kissinger, were doing in Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, Chile and the rest of the world. Today, with a much greater technological ability to look at world news, Trump’s words and doings are right out there for Belizean youth to scrutinize and analyze.
I believe we Belizeans are in an extremely dangerous place in 2020. I feel helpless, and somewhat confused. Sometimes I think that we have returned to a form of colonialism in The Jewel. Our leaders look like us in this new form of colonialism, but they absolutely love money, and so they follow instructions from the same place the British Governor was receiving his in 1950. The result of this new colonialism is plain for us to see: daily, increased suffering for the masses of the Belizean people. At the very least, we must be focused on avoiding the dread fate of the masses around us in Mexico, Guatemala and Honduras.
Power to the people.
P. S. An S.J.C. Sixth Form classmate of mine from the Sixties who now lives in Chicago has corrected my last column, to the effect that the two people recently killed in Kenosha, Wisconsin, by a vigilante 17-year-old white, were white, not black. I thank her for the correction.