This past week on KREM Radio, the lady Sandra Coye opined that there is presently an urgent need in Belize for a conversation on race. For whatever the reason(s), she did not mention that there had been such a conversation in 2003 when a Belize Black Summit was held at the Biltmore Hotel. (That summit was organized by the UBAD Educational Foundation and the World Garifuna Organization.)
Economic and sociological catastrophe has been visited upon the descendants of slaves who live mostly in Belize’s population center – Belize City. The political contradiction of our situation lies in the fact that for the last twelve years the Government of Belize has been dominated by a Prime Minister and several other Cabinet Ministers who are area representatives for the aforementioned, largely Black, Belize City.
In order to understand what has happened, the matter of class has to be introduced into the conversation. The original People’s United Party (PUP), established in 1950, was considered Black. When Rt. Hon. George Price replaced Leigh Richardson as PUP Leader in 1956 in a “palace coup,” there was a feeling in some quarters that the PUP had now gone Latin, because Mr. Philip Goldson was ousted along with Mr. Richardson from PUP leadership.
So that, when Richardson and Goldson formed the Honduran Independence Party (HIP) in 1957, there was the possibility of an ethnic type of political rivalry emerging in Belize (then British Honduras) which we have seen in both Guyana and Trinidad, from the 1950s in Guyana and a bit later in Trinidad. But it did not happen in Belize as it did in Guyana and Trinidad, because the working class blacks of Belize remained loyal to the PUP under Mr. Price.
Yes, the middle class Blacks, as specifically organized in the Public Service Union (PSU), became the base of the Opposition National Independence Party (NIP), under the leadership of Mr. Goldson after 1961.
There was no discourse on ideology back in those days. (Guatemala was the hot topic.) No one here had ever heard about neoliberalism, as such, in Belize in the 1950s and 1960s. We had a sense of the enormous power of the British company, Belize Estate and Produce Company (BEC), but the economy in Belize City was being taken over by businesses involved in importing products, primarily canned and processed foods, from abroad. This import commission world was ruled by the Santiago Castillo group of companies. It was a “buy and sell” world, and it was highly profitable for the merchant class. But, the masses of Belize City people were quite poor.
It was said that BEC and the San Cas companies were financial supporters of the NIP under Mr. Goldson in the 1960s, but Mr. Goldson had come out of the trade union movement in Belize, which is to say, he had a roots consciousness. His newspaper, The Belize Billboard, made enough money for Mr. Goldson to be financially independent.
After the 1965 general election, when the NIP, supported by the British Honduras Freedom Committee in New York City, won only two of the eighteen seats in Belize’s House of Representatives, even though Mr. Goldson’s status as a national hero was cemented by his courageous nationalism at the time of the Thirteen Proposals (1966) and the Seventeen Proposals (1968), somewhere in the Black middle class world (Belize City and New York City), a feeling and talking began that Mr. Goldson could never defeat Mr. Price the way things were going. So a challenge to Mr. Goldson’s NIP leadership suddenly and surprisingly occurred in mid-1969, in the person of the attorney Dean Lindo.
Trained as an economist at New York University before he did law in London, Mr. Lindo was aware of the ideological issues involved with economic development in the Third World, so that when two younger attorneys, Assad Shoman and Said Musa, entered public life at the beginning of 1969 and began to promote an economic development for Belize which was socialist in concept, the red warning light which began flashing in the import commission circles of the local merchants obviously caught the attention of Mr. Lindo. The Shoman/Musa ideas were branded as communist by the merchants of Belize.
These merchants, led by the San Cas group in the person of Mr. Castillo’s accountant, Net Vasquez, Sr., organized themselves in a so-called Liberal Party in the latter part of 1972 after the black power group, UBAD (United Black Association for Development), which had allied itself with Mr. Goldson in late 1971, essentially took over the streets of Belize City in mid-1972. (UBAD had been allied with Shoman and Musa from October of 1969 to January of 1970.)
My point is that when Mr. Lindo made an alliance in 1973 with the merchants of the Liberal Party to form the United Democratic Party (UDP) and basically overthrow Mr. Goldson as Opposition Leader, that move split and destroyed UBAD, because the faction led by myself had given its loyalty to Mr. Goldson and stood by that commitment.
In early 1979, the Liberal Party element of the UDP, led by the one Net Vasquez, threatened to overthrow Mr. Lindo as UDP Leader because of his drinking and a reported relationship with the controversial California preacher, Jim Jones. That threat split the UDP and cost them the 1979 general election.
In 1989, the said Net Vasquez then tried to unseat Lindo in his Fort George constituency, using a lady member of the Santiago Castillo family as a challenger. Lindo managed to hold on to his leadership of the UDP Fort George committee, but the division, again orchestrated by Net Vasquez, led to Lindo’s being destroyed in Fort George in the September 1989 general election by Said Musa.
That was the end of Dean Lindo’s political career. The same man he had made common cause with to overthrow Mr. Goldson in 1973, cost him the general election of 1979 and then cost him his political career in 1989. For me, this was a kind of poetic justice.
In the early 1980s, Dean Barrow abandoned his maternal uncle, Lindo, to win and preserve the support of Vasquez and the San Cas empire, and Michael Myvett, who had renamed himself “Finnegan,” moved his loyalty from Lindo to Barrow around the same time. This was how black youth have been betrayed. The UDP is a neoliberal organization. The UDP is not Mr. Goldson’s NIP. That is why Mr. Goldson had to leave the UDP and form the National Alliance for Belizean Rights (NABR) in 1991. This is real.
Power to the people.