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Goliath at our waterfront

EditorialGoliath at our waterfront

Happy Independence Day to all USA citizens, and that includes Belizean/Americans!

   Today is a special day for Americans, as it marks the date in 1776 when they ratified their Declaration of Independence from then colonial master, Great Britain, although their war of independence lasted from 1775-1783.  A civil war later followed almost a century later, 1861-1865, a very violent and bloody affair, before that nation began settling into what has become world renowned as a shining pillar of democracy, where the American Constitution is paramount, and no man is above the law.  But their democracy is being severely tested at this very moment, as their citizens’ constitutional right to own and bear arms makes the situation fraught with dangerous possibilities, as previously demonstrated by one Donald Trump who conspired to unleash the racist underbelly of American society in what could still possibly become a violent dismantling of their treasured democracy in his stubborn quest for power.  So far, the rule of law has maintained, and we all hope that it stays that way, because by kinship and money, Belize is closely linked to the USA.

   Our little Belize, in contrast, was supposedly born through a “peaceful, constructive, Belizean revolution,” where the same former colonial master, Great Britain, peacefully transferred power to Prime Minister George Price on our Independence Day, September 21, 1981.  Guns have always been illegal in the hands of Belizean citizens, unless a special permit, not easily secured, is approved by the Commissioner of Police.  But, while we have not experienced an officially declared “civil war” in Belize, over the years, from before slavery days to present, there have been occasional eruptions of violence and civil disturbances requiring the official security forces to intervene and bring the situation back to normalcy.  And with the advent of crack cocaine and the related gang conflicts over the past three decades, Belize has experienced a murder rate that has frequently reached what is internationally recognized as “civil war” levels, above 30 per 100,000 citizens a year.  While guns remain illegal in Belize, it is common knowledge that illegal guns are present in great numbers among the criminal elements through the drug connections with international traffickers.  Consider that reality along with the current cost-of-living crisis facing poor Belizeans, creating a mood of desperation, and on top of that we have what appears to be an economic “hit man” threatening the livelihoods of some of the few remaining workers that have heretofore enjoyed a relative measure of financial comfort and security in the Belizean economy.

   Through her two and a half centuries of existence, the USA has been a country of guns; and they have still managed to maintain law and order and their democracy.  But by exploiting the lingering vestiges of racism at its core, former president Donald Trump has put the American democracy to a real test, as his lies and demagoguery have so infected and inflamed his loyal followers, that many were willing to employ violence “to save their democracy” from what should have been the peaceful transfer of power on January 6, 2020.  Depending on what direction the current U.S. Senate Committee hearing takes, and the screws do seem to be turning against Trump, it is left to be seen whether this power maniac will try again to inflate his fanatical and well-armed followers towards a violent resistance against the course of justice.  As the wheels of justice turn slow, the vaunted American democracy may be seriously tested in the near future; and we in Belize can only watch and pray, because as the saying goes, when America sneezes, we catch a cold.   

   Meanwhile, here in the Jewel, we have our own looming crisis.  With the increasingly hard economic times, many in the over-50% poverty class are already under tremendous stress.  Illegal guns are plentiful among the drug dealing gangs.  The so-called criminal element views established society as their enemy, and they may well sympathize with the workers’ plight, and will certainly take advantage of any civil disorder that might result if the embattled stevedores reach a breaking point in their one-sided battle for economic survival against the perceived tyrant at the Port.

   Belize is still a relatively peaceful country, despite the high numbers of murders, a significant portion being from gang conflicts and occasional random targets related to turf issues.  Our challenge is to try and maintain this little peace, even while dealing with the reality that one big fish amongst us seems intent on devouring all our children.  And somehow, despite the declared purity of our justice system, to the ordinary person in the street, the game does not seem to be fair, because he always wins. 

   “In God we trust” that the mighty USA will solve their Trump problem and secure their democracy.  Many Belizeans have also become American citizens and many others reside there, so as a people we are intricately involved and invested in the outcome of that situation, even as we keep a watchful eye on the international arena and the looming threat of greater global, economic and military upheavals in the East vs West conflict that may emanate from the Russia vs Ukraine affair.

   But here in Belize, our big concern, that is if we want to continue being a proud, independent nation and not become a one-man controlled “banana republic”, should be the Goliath in our midst.  The quicker we take off the blinders, and come to realize that “this English man” did not come here to bring wine and roses to little Belize, but to “rape and plunder” our nation’s wealth through legal but often quite immoral means.  And those with any measure of doubt can start their enlightenment by asking any former, proud shareholding member of BTL back in the nineties, after Ashcroft took control and arbitrarily STOPPED paying dividends, prompting many to sell their shares, which he proceeded to gobble up.  And that was only the beginning of this financial shark’s legal feeding frenzy on the Belizean people’s assets.   

   Governments/politicians come and governments/politicians go in Belize; but, whether red or blue, the “puppet master” remains.  The Belizean prime minister with the best record of trying to stand up to Ashcroft appears to be the Rt. Hon. Manuel Esquivel.  Privy to his thoughts, here is how his wife, Cathy Esquivel, assessed Michael Ashcroft in her 2021 biography of her husband, Manuel Esquivel, “Still Waters”.  On page 218, she wrote:  “Even though making money is at the heart of his strategy, Ashcroft is driven more by his need to win at any cost.  Entering into any agreement with him is unwise since the fine print always gives him an unbeatable advantage, and his deep pockets ensure that he can outlast his adversaries in the Courts.”  

   Belizeans need to pay a little more attention to the developing situation with our brave stevedores at the Port, and whether we will continue to be a peaceful country and an independent nation.  Our conservationists know that when we chop down the forest, our desperate Jaguars will soon begin preying on farmers’ cattle and sheep.  It is one thing to keep a “broken” slave in “his place;” but when a man has tasted freedom and dignity, as have our generations of stevedores, they will not go down to a new enslaver without a fight.  And those of us who think that it doesn’t concern us one way or the other, may soon realize that we have to decide whose side we are on, who we are with, David or Goliath.   And it is clear that this Goliath will not be defeated in court.  Only the people, coming together, can save Belize.       

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