From our standpoint, this was a very, very, very serious incident on Independence Day afternoon in the waters off San Pedro Ambergris Caye when the Prime Minister of Dominica, Roosevelt Skerrit, was insulted by elements of the Belize Coast Guard.
There are two things you will note about the incident, or its aftermath. The first is that Prime Minister Skerrit, apart from cancelling the remainder of his official schedule for the day, Saturday, September 21, has not made as big a deal of it as he could have, neither in Belize or on his return to Dominica, which is an Eastern Caribbean island. The second thing is that Belize Prime Minister Dean Barrow has not reacted in a characteristic manner: he has been completely silent on the diplomatic disaster which occurred five days ago, as we write.
Let us examine Saturday’s incident more closely. San Pedro Ambergris Caye is the most Americanized piece of real estate in Belize. There is an almost racist atmosphere out there: by that we mean, and we say it bluntly for the first time, they don’t like black people out there. Roosevelt Skerrit is a decidedly black man in appearance. He was insulted in the waters off Ambergris territory.
The Belize Coast Guard was supposed to escort his VIP charter, which included unnamed elements of the Belize Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Belize Ministry of National Security, and the Belize Tourism Board, on a visit to the Hol Chan Marine Reserve. The Coast Guard not only came disrespectfully late, that is, when the Dominican Prime Minister’s vessel was on the way back from Hol Chan, they then stopped his vessel and reportedly put Mr. Skerrit and the occupants through a kind of third degree.
If one wished to look for excuses for Saturday’s infamy, one might say, well, the Coast Guard may have thought Dominica was a Spanish territory, and that it was therefore odd that its Prime Minister should be African in appearance. After all, “Dominica” does sound Hispanic, and there is actually a “Dominican Republic” in the Caribbean which is Hispanic.
On the other hand, if one wanted to be a conspiracy theorist, here’s what one would say. One would say that the Skerrit incident was a message to the Belize Prime Minister from Washington and that this incident suggests that there is a power struggle within the Cabinet of Belize.
We have said to you before that the Opposition PUP, in our opinion, has been seeking to move Barrow’s UDP government in a more neoliberal direction than it is presently traveling. On the other hand, the people of Belize, and that includes this newspaper, have been saying to the UDP government that they are corrupt, and more interested in rich foreign investment than in the indigenous Belizeans, our delicate environment, and pressing issues of concern at the base of Belize’s socio-economic pyramid.
In the case of the Western Hemisphere leviathan, history suggests that where Washington wants Belize to go is where Cuba was before Castro, which is to say, Belize should become an American tourist’s delight with sun, beach, sex, gambling, alcohol, drugs(?), and two Belize dollars (or more) to one U.S. Can you spell for me, “Norwegian Cruise Lines”? In addition, there is the matter of the Guatemalan claim to the territory of Belize and the petroleum deposits in Belize. Washington has a future planned for Belize as an oil-producing satellite of Guatemala. Can you spell for me, “US Capital Energy”?
Remember this, that if a head of state invites another head of state to be his personal guest on an official occasion, any insult to that invited guest is an insult to the host head of state. In other words, someone engineered an insult for Prime Minister Barrow on Saturday afternoon in the waters off Ambergris Caye. The only people big enough to organize that insult are those who believe he is not going neoliberal far and fast enough, with the collaboration of those in the Cabinet who think the same.
We don’t know what Roosevelt Skerrit’s personal ideology is, but he was elected to office on the platform of the Dominica Labor Party. This is the party of Rosie Douglas, about whom we have written in these pages before. Rosie Douglas was the Prime Minister of Dominica until his sudden, untimely death in 2000. He was the most pro-people head of state ever democratically elected in the British Caribbean. Washington did not like Rosie Douglas. You can now fill in the blanks.
There is more. American government officials have certain organizations which they will always target for infiltration in a small, Third World state like Belize. Apart from the ruling and Opposition political parties, these targeted organizations include the security forces (police, army, Coast Guard), business organizations, trade unions, churches, the media, and so on. Where the Belize security forces are concerned, the branches which appear most pro-American are the Gang Suppression Unit and the Belize Coast Guard.
If neoliberal elements around or about are stepping up their pressure on the Belize Prime Minister, it means that we, the people, have to mobilize from the opposite direction. This newspaper is 100 percent against neoliberalism. Right wing elements in America would consider us to be communists. As a point of interest, however, there are intelligent Belizeans who have recently accused us of being capitalists. How you figure? No matter. We came out of the Belizean people in 1969, and there is where we still are. For us, decolonization did not translate to taking orders from Washington. For sure Belizeans can’t fight the United States, but we can resist development philosophies which condemn us to inferior status. Not only can we resist such philosophies, the mandate of our ancestors and our humanity is that we must resist such philosophies.
Power to the people. Power in the struggle.