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Gerald Cattouse kidnapped and shot to death in Guatemala City

BELIZE CITY, Tues. Aug. 25 (1981)– News was received here this morning of the kidnapping and shooting death of Belizean-born Gerald Cattouse in Guatemala City.

Gerald Cattouse, eldest son of the late Hon. Albert Cattouse and Mrs. Kathleen Fairweather Cattouse, had lived in Guatemala for the last thirty years and owned a very lucrative tourist business – Jerry’s Tours – which catered mostly to Americans. His business reportedly had branches in many towns and
Cattouse was a wealthy man.

He disappeared on Friday night after work, and it was on Saturday that one of his former secretaries picked out and identified his face from among the bodies at the Guatemala City morgue awaiting burial. There were 9 bullets in his body.

(Of the 70, 6 were beheaded. Political killings in Guatemala now average 50 a day.)

Speculation here is that the Belize native was kidnapped by guerrillas. The motive was either ransom or as part of a widespread guerrilla offensive against the tourist industry and all related businesses in Guatemala, including airlines.

The guerrillas say that income from tourism helps to prop up the repressive Romeo Lucas government, and they have vowed to destroy the tourism industry.

– pg. 5, AMANDALA No. 630, Tuesday, August 25, 1981

Let’s talk today about the Creole people, their leadership specifically, over the course of my lifetime, which is basically post-World War II. This is a discussion which is never encouraged by the ruling United Democratic Party (UDP) Creole generals, those who in fact have led and dominated the Cabinet of Belize for the last eleven and a half years. My personal opinion is that these UDP Creole generals are at the beck and call of oligarchs who do not consider themselves Creole in any manner, shape, or form. Hence, under the UDP, roots Creole have been, you may say incongruously, abandoned to the “mercy of the world,” as the saying goes.

It is very often said that a people who do not know their history are condemned to repeat it. In the case of the generations of Creoles born since political independence and the coming of television in the early 1980s, it is not that they are repeating any kind of Creole history here by slaughtering each other. It is more a case of their violating a basically honorable history because they have never been taught about the real of British colonialism here in the first half of the twentieth century, and how heroically their Creole ancestors fought against said British colonialism in the second half of the twentieth century.

Before I proceed, let me say, for the umpteenth time, that unless those who have the power and authority do something positive and constructive about it, we will lose the unique, fabulous historical research of Dr. Jerome Straughan. The Creole people cannot understand themselves and their present situation unless they know something about Belizean migration to the United States, which, Dr. Straughan has discovered, began from after the United States Civil War (1861-65) freed African slaves there.

Before I proceed, again, let me say that the Creole people, unlike the Garinagu, are really two people, because there are black Creoles and there are brown Creoles. Creoles are a divided ethnicity. Some scholars may argue that the fundamental division is one more between classes instead of between colors, so that that one might focus on the separation between the public service (clerical) class and the public works (manual) class, so to speak, during the colonial days. I’m not going to spend a lot of time today on this division issue.

(By the way, for many years, for many reasons, I preferred to refer to our people as “Africans,” instead of using the established “Creole” designation. Well, in the 1990s some educated Belizeans established a whole organization to maintain the “Creole” or “Kriol” designation, and I believe I have to yield to their energy, so as to prevent any confusion in communication.)

It is important to have a consciousness of the division amongst the Creoles, because it was at the heart of the division in political parties which began with the anti-colonial struggle in the second half of the twentieth century. The People’s United Party (PUP) was black and working class; the National Party (NP), which became the National Independence Party (NIP) in 1958 and then the United Democratic Party (UDP) in 1973, was basically brown and public service (middle class).

The subject of Creole leadership in my lifetime is a subject which has quickly become much too large for a simple newspaper column. In this column I will therefore look at just one example of a Creole leader who has been completely lost to our history, and this took place during the brief lifetime of yours truly.

People I consider reliable have told me that the key person in Rt. Hon. George Price’s political survival after the British ran him out of London “in disgrace” in 1957 was the Hon. Albert Cattouse, Sr.  Remember now, there had been somewhat of a black (Creole) backlash against Mr. Price after he overthrew Leigh Richardson (and Philip Goldson) to become undisputed PUP Leader in late 1956.

Belize’s majority black population had always been more concerned, or at least it seemed that way,  about the aggressive Guatemalan claim to Belize than our Belizean Mestizo counterparts, so when the British Governor here, Sir Colin Hardwick Thornley, explained Mr. Price’s being sent home from London to the citizens of British Honduras on the colony’s monopoly government radio station (British Honduras Broadcasting  Service – BHBS), and personally accused Mr. Price of selling Belize out to Guatemala “lock, stock, and barrel,” Thornley panicked a large portion of the Creole population.

Mr. Cattouse, who was a retired civil servant who had entered PUP politics as an older man, in his late fifties/early sixties I would guess, stood loyal to Mr. Price, thus weakening the black backlash against Mr. Price because of the Guatemalan fear.

Mr. Cattouse had been a ranking cricket player in the colony, a fast bowler for the championship Rovers team. I assume he must have played football also, as the Cattouses are known to be a very athletic family. But, “Dandy Cat” loved cricket above all else, so that when the beautiful MCC Grounds, a donation from the British, was opened in 1960 thereabouts, as a cricket grounds, and football opportunistically moved over from Edwards Park and soon began to call the shots at MCC, it was Mr. Cattouse, as Minister of Local Government, who protected cricket’s rights. I remember that clearly, because as a fan I loved both football and cricket, but was leaning more to football as a teenager.

Mr. Cattouse was married to Kathleen Fairweather, a member of the anti-PUP Fairweather family, and Nadia Cattouse, a gifted singer and actress who was an anti-Guatemalan activist, was his daughter.   Nadia has lived, and starred, in London for many decades. There was talk that during the 1957/58 political uproar in Belize, there had been an actual fight between Mr. Cattouse and his daughter, which ended up with Nadia’s being injured. But, I was only a child at the time, so this has to be considered hearsay.

On the other hand, Mr. Cattouse had a son with his wife, Gerald Cattouse, who had become a businessman prominent in Guatemala City tourism circles. (See the story from the August 25, 1981 issue of Amandala at the top of this column.) Incidentally, Mr. Cattouse fathered at least three children (two daughters and a son, Albert Cattouse, Jr.) after he and his wife separated.

Mr. Cattouse won two narrow general election victories over the NIP’s Edward Flowers, in 1961 and 1965, in the old Collet constituency in Belize City’s Southside, and he was Deputy Premier under Mr. Price until 1967 or 1968, when he was succeeded by Hon. C. L. B. Rogers. Mr. Cattouse retired from electoral politics in 1969.

Mr. Albert Cattouse, Sr., was a stern man. He was a man of respect. It is to Belize’s discredit that he has never been written about or discussed in our national narrative. He played a very significant role in the latter part of the turbulent 1950s. I guess we would have to ask Mr. Hector Silva, Mr. Fred Hunter, and Mr. Florencio Marin, Sr., to fill in some of the blanks.

When Mr. Cattouse was replaced as Maximum Leader of the Creoles in the ruling PUP by Lindy Rogers, things changed. Rogers had not been the patrician civil servant and community icon that Mr. Cattouse had been. An incredibly gifted man, physically and intellectually, Lindy Rogers had grown up as a child of the streets who lifted himself up by his bootstraps. His story is indeed a sensational one. But, today belongs to the one his contemporaries knew as “Dandy Cat.” He was something special.

In closing, beloved, I want to reiterate, if you respect researched knowledge about our people, Creole Belizeans must find a way to place Dr. Jerome Straughan on the teaching pedestal where he deserves to be. It probably won’t happen, because in Belize the ruling politicians are too dominant, and what they are interested in is money, money and more money, and power, power and more power. Knowledge for its own sake is of no account here. This is just the way it is, and the way it has been since independence and television.

Power to the people.

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