23 1st Avenue,
August 24, 2014
In the Sunday edition of Amandala, you published a letter from Jack Linker concerning the importance of exercising your vote. Whereas I agree with this sentiment, there were factual errors in the letter that require pointing out. “…in the USA, the largest democracy….”
Mr. Linker does not specify if he means the largest democracy in size, or in population. Not that it matters, because both are incorrect. The largest democracy in land mass is Canada, the 2nd largest country in the world.
The largest democracy in number of people is India. Around 1.2 billion people live in India and everyone over the age of 18 has the right to vote. The population of the USA is around 315 million.
While we are on the subject of democracy, it is worth pointing out that the U.S.A. became a true democracy in 1965, following the passing of The Voting Rights Act, which repealed the Jim Crow laws in the south of the country.
Belize became a self-governing territory in 1961 and an independent nation on September 21, 1981.
So, Belizeans are only 16 years behind the United States when it comes to universal suffrage.
It should also be remembered that at one time, the USA actively blocked the independence of Belize. In the 1960’s, former Guatemalan president Ydigoras Fuentes claimed that while he was president, in 1961, the U.S. had agreed to support Guatemala (in their land claim against Belize) in return for using Guatemalan territory as a base for the invasion of Cuba.
From 1975 to 1979, the U.S. abstained on all the United Nations resolutions concerning Belize’s independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity. Fortunately for Belizeans, the USA later changed its mind (from A History of Belize).
The same letter also states, “The participation and opinion of ALL citizens is what democracy is about and the military of every democracy is there to protect that right”.
The U.S. and local military supported the overthrow of democratically elected President Jacobo Arbenz of Guatemala. The military seized democratically elected President Manuel Zelaya of Honduras and supported his overthrow. The democratic country of Pakistan has suffered 3 military coups since 1958.
Generally, the military is there to protect the rights of the business elite.
Lieutenant Commander Linker is correct; we all need to exercise the hard-won privilege of a say in our future. But, please, do not hold up the USA as our example. The United States has a higher percentage of its population incarcerated than any other western nation. Currently an estimated 5.9 million Americans have lost the right to vote due to a felony conviction.
Maybe this letter would have been better if it had been written by a Canadian.