In June 1989 Cuban authorities arrested three-star general Arnaldo Ochoa, forty-nine years of age, for drug trafficking and other offences. Ochoa was a “Hero of the Revolution” who had fought with Castro and Camilo Cienfuegos in the Sierra Maestra; he had subsequently distinguished himself in the guerrilla forces in Venezuela and Nicaragua and in the wars fought by Cuban forces in Ethiopia and Angola. Along with Ochoa, high-ranking officials in the Ministry of the Interior were also arrested and charged with corruption and drug trafficking. These men were tried by a military tribunal in what became known as Causa 1, Trial Number 1, and found guilty; four of them were sentenced to execution by firing squad “for high treason,” and the others were sent to prison. On 9 July the Council of State ratified the death sentences, and four days later, on 13 July, General Ochoa, Colonel Tony de la Guardia, Captain Jorge Martínez and Major Amado Padrón were executed. Under accusations of complicity in the drug trafficking, Minister of the Interior Jose Abrantes and several others were arrested, tried (Trial Number 2, 1989) and sentenced to prison. Abrantes, given a twenty-year sentence, died in prison on 21 January 1991.
– pgs. 693, 694, FIDEL CASTRO: MY LIFE, Fidel Castro and Ignacio Ramonet, Scribner, New York, 2007
Very serious business is going on in Orange Walk Town. Perhaps the most serious aspect of this situation, from a constitutional standpoint, is the public indictment of the police leadership in the town. Theoretically and ideally, the police are supposed to be the first line of defence for the general citizenry, in the police’s role as the street arm of the judiciary. It is true that the present indictment of the Orange Walk police originates from interested political sources. But, you and I know that today’s business is more serious than the usual horse dead and cow fat.
The national leadership of the Police Department was already rendered lame duck, we submit, by events having to do with the Elvin Penner passport scandal from September 2013. It appears to the majority of the Belizean people that the Commissioner of Police decided, even after he was ordered to do so by the Chief Justice, that he could not or would not pursue an aggressive investigation of the Penner case. Under the circumstances, the Commissioner should have resigned. It is to be presumed that the executive arm of the Government of Belize, which had appointed him to the Commissioner’s post in the first place, preferred for him to stay put.
Now when Belize’s various intellectuals start talking about the executive, the legislature, and the judiciary, I don’t think they do an adequate job of explaining to the people the difference between the executive and the legislature. The Belizean people probably have a better understanding of the difference between the executive/legislature, on the one hand, and the judiciary, on the other.
It is understandable that Belizean intellectuals should find it difficult to differentiate between the executive and the legislature for the benefit of the people, because all the four Prime Ministers of Belize, in fact from the time of the First Minister in 1961, have made it their business to absorb the legislature inside the Cabinet, which is the executive arm of government. By appointing and maintaining Cabinets which are a majority of their quantum of area representatives in the House of Representatives, which is the legislature, Belizean political leaders ensure that what Cabinet decides behind closed doors has to be ratified by the House in open sittings. This is not the way the parliamentary system was designed to work. As it has been in Belize, only if non-Cabinet House members of the ruling party decided to vote along with the Opposition members of the House, could a secret Cabinet decision be derailed in the public House. Those dissident House members of the ruling party would then come in for a hard time from the political party which enabled their election to the House. They would be committing political suicide. So, they never vote against any of their party’s Cabinet resolutions.
It is the separation between, and the difference between, the executive/legislature, on the one hand, and the judiciary, on the other, which is more important in real time. The judiciary is supposed to protect those of us citizens who are not in executive/legislative power from those who are exercising such power. The few of us lay Belizeans who have dared to push hard against those in power have had reasons to believe that those in power find ways to influence the judiciary, but the majority of Belize’s citizens have hitherto had confidence in the ability and willingness of the judiciary to render justice which is independent of the executive/legislative power.
One cannot expect the Commissioner of Police to react to every complaint from politicians who are not in office, but the situation in Orange Walk Town is no ordinary situation. The Commissioner has not taken the bull by the horns. He has not even issued a statement. The Minister of National Security has not taken the bull by the horns. He has not even issued a statement. This situation was already extraordinary before last week Wednesday morning. The lack of a reaction from the Minister and the Commissioner since then may be even more so.
Drug trafficking in Belize is more lucrative than it has ever been. This means that the possession of political power is more lucrative here than it has ever been for those who are willing to play the game. It is difficult not to play the game. On the one hand, you are very well paid when you decide to play the game. On the other hand, if you refuse to play the game, the cartels have ways and means of getting your attention. Most people, therefore, choose to play the game. Nevertheless, the same people who are playing the game will frequently talk about Jesus, Mary, and Joseph. Belize is a land of lies and deceit and hypocrisy and treachery and danger.
Drugs are considered such serious business in countries like China and Singapore that they will execute you when they catch you trafficking. Just a few hundred miles away, Fidel Castro once executed one of his highest ranking generals for becoming involved in drug trafficking. In Belize, however, drug traffickers are a part of our social circuit. Belizeans have chosen to see only the goodies these people bring to the table. Belizeans have not been looking what they apparently consider a “gift horse,” in the mouth. It is drugs which have been destroying the moral fabric of Belizean society since independence. It is drugs which spawned the gangs. In the face of all this, the local clergy keep telling us that our problem here is gender.
My second son is a standard bearer for the present Opposition party. We are supporting him 100 per cent. If you say that this means we are supporting the Opposition party, we would have to resort to technicalities to dispute your assertion. For argument’s sake, then, let us agree with you.
Our history is that we have always reserved our rights as an independent newspaper. Political parties come and go where power is concerned. The nation-state of Belize remains. Our newspaper has served a critical function in this society for four and a half decades. With the support of the Belizean people, we can say things that other people are afraid of saying. There is proof for that pudding.
This nation-state is not all about electoral politics. Some people who are very bombastic when their party is in power, crawl very much under the radar when their party is out of office. Kremandala often has to fill a vacuum where independent expression is concerned. It may be today that a section of the judiciary has been compromised. If this is so, and if this even appears to be so, this requires urgent attention. These are dangerous times. Kremandala needs your support.
Power to the people.