Personally, I never, ever intended to participate in electoral politics in Belize, because on my initial airplane flight to the United States in late August of 1965, I found out that I had a serious problem with airplanes, and it had always seemed to me that you could not be involved in Belize’s politics at a high level without flying here and flying there on various assignments.
In restrospect, life had its own plans for me, however, which involved my involvement in said electoral politics, beginning with the December 1971 Belize City Council election as a candidate for an NIP/UBAD coalition, which turned out to be the iconic Mr. Goldson’s last fling as Leader of the Opposition.
What I really want to discuss today is the June 30, 1993 general election, when the United Democratic Party (UDP) won a freak, surprise victory, 16-13 in seats, even though they polled 2,000 fewer votes than the incumbent People’s United Party (PUP), which had been considered the overwhelming favorite to win in 1993. (The PUP was so confident, overconfident actually, that they called the 1993 general election FIFTEEN MONTHS early.)
It was widely assumed amongst UDP leaders that I had been a part of the 1993 PUP campaign, and their assumption was buttressed by the fact that I had publicly endorsed the PUP’s Joe Coye, a distant cousin of mine who had another cousin of mine, Bill Lindo, as his campaign manager, for the Caribbean Shores seat held at the time by the Hon. Manuel Esquivel, the UDP Leader who had been Prime Minister between 1984 and 1989, and would become P.M. from 1993 to 1998.
My endorsement of Joe Coye was too high profile. It was a mistake, and I did it because I was in the middle of a personal vendetta with Mr. Esquivel, Net Vasquez’s great favorite, someone Net considered his personal project. But I could not have supported the PUP full bore because of the circumstances following the birth of KREM Radio in November of 1989, and because of the selfish, cynical exploitation of the youth of the Kremandala Raiders by the one Ralph Fonseca in order to get himself elected in the newly created constituency – Belize Rural Central.
Ralph took advantage of the explosive popularity of the newly introduced semi-pro basketball in 1992 to push a contract for the crony David Courtenay through Cabinet. The contract called for the refurbishment of the original Civic Center, which could not hold the 1992 crowds. (Mexican basketball fans were coming across the border in droves to see the 1992 playoffs in Belize City.) The evidence is strong that most of that $4.5 million Courtenay contract went to finance Ralph’s 1993 Belize Rural Central campaign, and the Civic became a wreck, an oven where fans perspired and punished.
Fonseca and Courtenay took a wildly popular roots industry, and ruined it. They were ably assisted in their nefarious behavior by Mr. Esquivel’s 1993-1996 government, which carried out a vicious propaganda campaign against the Raiders. But, so much of that for now.
The PUP used the Partridge Street KREM Radio concept, which involved introducing private, commercial radio to Belize, to win a surprise victory in the September 1989 general election. But, it is clear that they had assured their big financial backers that the addition of the radio station to the Partridge Street newspaper supremacy would not create a monster. Glenn Godfrey assured the Bowen empire that the new radio station would be derailed by whatever means was necessary once the PUP had defeated Esquivel’s UDP.
Because of what the PUP, and specifically attorney Godfrey, did to KREM Radio between 1989 and 1993, I could not campaign for the PUP in 1993. (The beneficiary of Mr. Godfrey’s sabotage was a public officer, Rene Villanueva, who also was the main beneficiary of the Radio Belize divestment in 1999.) I remained friends with Said Musa, and I preferred for the PUP to win in 1993, but I did not campaign for the PUP in 1993. But, the UDP really believed that I did, and they proceeded to put a hurt on me after they won.
Beginning in the October 1974 general election, it had been established that Amandala and myself had a small, loyal coterie of voters, to the amount of roughly 4 percent. It sounds quite small, 4 percent, but the indications are, if we are to judge from the results of the 1979, 1984, and 1989 general elections, that where this 4 percent chose to go, is where victory went. I’m just saying.
Again, it must be noted that the football fight between Kremandala and the Sir Barry Bowen empire between late 1990 and early 1991 suggested that the addition of KREM Radio to the Amandala newspaper had indeed created a problem for oligarchs like Sir Barry. This was too much power in the hands of yours truly. I’m not talking about 2020. I’m talking about more than a quarter century ago.
In 1974, the late Santiago “Chich” Castillo, Sr., was a more powerful local business oligarch than Sir Barry, and his organization was tight, very well-oiled. An Orange Walk native, the mestizo SanCas had his relatives, Epich Castillo and Leo Castillo, close to him in his central headquarters at the corner of New Road and Hyde’s Lane. (One of Mr. Castillo’s sons-in-law, Efrain Aguilar, had already failed with Pepsi, when Mr. Castillo had challenged Sir Barry’s mighty Coca Cola.) The late Clive Tucker, Sr., was the Creole superpower, and other Creole powerhouses in Mr. Castillo’s empire I remember included people like Cyril Gibson, Bertie Ellis, Roy Dixon, John Chessman, and so on. Net Vasquez, Sr., was Mr. Castillo’s accountant, and the beautiful and sophisticated Ester Noble was his executive secretary. Ester was ably assisted by people like Edilia Zayden. (Respect always, Edilia.)
Well, in 1969 and 1970 the late Charles X “Justice” Eagan (Ibrahim Abdullah) was in the habit of visiting the SanCas and Ismael Gomez (Mosul Street) offices on his trips in from More Tomorrow, the village on the Belize Old River (near Cotton Tree and Never Delay) where he was the chairman. I believe it was through their common love for horse racing that Justice was so familiar with, and friendly to, Mr. Castillo and his people, and Mr. Gomez. His noisy, dramatic visits to their offices involved all kinds of hustling, call it begging if you feel like doing so.
Having lost my job at Belize Technical College, I would tag along with Justice when he made these office visits. More than twice my age and far tougher and more knowledgeable about the streets, Justice had become my teacher, mentor, muscle, whatever.
One day he said to me that the beautiful Ester was interested in me. This was a surprise to me, but Justice insisted that this was the case. The long and short of that was that Ester and I had a brief affair back there in the early 1970s. She was very kind to me, but I was too wild for anyone to tame back then. And, so that went.
This has nothing to do with sexual ego. My point is that when the Castillo and Gomez business empires organized the Liberal Party in 1972, the evidence suggests that Ester, who went on to set up her own businesses after the UDP first came to power in 1984, was a significant part of the Liberal Party political process. (So was Henry Young, I only recently discovered.) It was for sure that Net Vasquez held Ester Noble in very high regard.
As an old man looking back, I now have to wonder if Ester’s motives in messing with me were strictly romantic. But, as I said, she was kind to me, and I will always have nothing but good things to say about the lady Ester Noble.
In the early 1970s, Manuel Esquivel was a lightweight in Liberal Party circles. My personal opinion. Dean Barrow was still in law school in Jamaica: he graduated in 1974. These are the two UDP Leaders who became Prime Ministers of Belize. Barrow was loyal to both the Castillo and Bowen empires. My personal opinion. Esquivel was owned by the Castillo empire. You and I and our 4 percent, yes, we kicked up a little dust, but there’s people who are bigger than people. That’s how Manuel and Dean Oliver see it.
Power to the people.