Mon. Feb. 13, 2023
Struggling to get our economy back on its feet, after dangling on the edge of financial disaster only a couple years ago, and still rocking with the turbulent waves of global inflation sparked by international conflicts and wars involving the big world military and economic powers, little Belize is “valiant and bold”, indeed; some might say even daring, as we assert our right as an independent nation to express our opinion on matters of regional concern, even if such opinions do not mesh with those of the hemisphere’s undisputed number one power, the United States of America.
Belize’s relationship with the USA has always been a very warm and maybe even cozy one, on the surface at least. Although it is acknowledged that the US was strongly in favour of Belize becoming the 23rd district of Guatemala, or at least under Guat influence and control (as in the 1966 Webster’s Proposals), it was the same USA that finally gave its support for Belize’s independence which was achieved in 1981. After abstaining from voting from 1975 through 1979 on UN resolutions calling for Belize’s independence, the US changed its policy in 1980, under President Jimmy Carter, and voted in favour of Belize’s independence.
If anything, astute Belizean citizens must acknowledge that the USA is a strange country, certainly after witnessing the tumultuous happenings during, and still even after, the presidency of one Donald Trump. We Belizeans have to be thankful that neither he nor Reagan was their president in 1980 when the US policy change was made in favour of Belize.
The USA is as the US president does, as he leans and bends to the whims, wishes and pressure of its big military and financial power brokers. Some US presidents stand up to these invisible American forces and suffer the consequences, which may involve losing elections. Some don’t offer any resistance and are more than happy to follow the flow where the oligarchs want them to go.
Two matters are of particular concern where the US seems bull-headed and stubborn in the face of overwhelming international consensus, and those are its continued embargo against Cuba, and its almost “free for all” approach to the manufacture and sale of firearms.
Everyone acknowledges that the US is the greatest narcotic drug-consuming nation, so their declared war on drugs is understandable, as it is a scourge on the health and life of all nations affected by the trade. But it is the guns that kill more than the drugs; and while the drugs are illegal, the guns in the US are not; and while drug money needs to be laundered, not so the billions that American gun manufacturers rake in from the sale of guns and ammunition. The previous US president did not have a problem with the guns; he was their cheerleader, almost, openly supporting known violent hate groups. The current US president has tried to get stiff gun-control legislation passed, but his efforts, like that of others before him, have been thwarted by the effectiveness of so-called gun lobbyists who “influence” the voting of congressmen and senators. So, the US has stuck to its guns, and the crazy killings continue, while little Belize tries to help stop the drugs from passing through our borders on their way north.
On the question of the over half-a-century long US trade embargo against Cuba, the situation is more intriguing. The first black US president, Democrat Barack Obama, made a few moves to ease the embargo on Cuba, allowing remittances to flow, and easier travel between the countries. But, no surprises, under Republican President Trump, the full weight of the US embargo was returned upon Cuba, with even more harsh restrictions. Well, when the former running mate and vice-president under Obama, Democrat Joe Biden himself succeeded Trump as US president, surprisingly, a lot of the harsh measures Trump had instituted against Cuba have remained in place. What’s up with that? Well, no US president can do as he pleases, unless he garners enough members’ support in the Congress and the Senate, and it has been a hard political task due to the rabid anti-Castro masses of Cuban immigrants in Florida
Well, Cuba has been perhaps the longest and dearest friend of Belize, from after the Cuban revolution in 1959, giving its unwavering support during our 1960s and 1970s struggle for independence in the face of the Guatemalan claim to our territory. So, should our PM shy away from hosting our best friend in order not to displease a much bigger and mightier friend? There is a matter of national pride and respect here, and it appears that our PM John Briceño is up to the task.
Of course, little Belize still considers the USA our big friend and ally. It is a great country, with wonderful people, and a declared belief in democracy. It is just that sometimes the various arms of the US government, the CIA and the FBI, the DEA, and then the “military industrial complex”, “Big Pharma”, the giant oil companies, some self-seeking politicians and many lobbyists, etc., so many powerful moving parts are not always in concert with each other; and it is not being upstart or reckless when Belize as a nation takes up a position that is contrary to the stated opinion of a US president. While we would never venture to try and belittle or embarrass our hemisphere’s only superpower, respectful disagreement is certainly preferred to subservient and grovelling acquiescence to every position taken by the mighty USA.
When US president Biden failed to invite Nicaragua, Venezuela and Cuba to the OAS “Summit of the Americas” in Los Angeles, USA, in June 2022, Belize’s prime minister John Briceño was among a dozen regional leaders who spoke out strongly against this decision and admonished the US for its outdated and inhumane policies. Belizeans need to review that speech by our PM with pride; and the US president has not reacted with animosity against Belize. This particular excerpt is worth highlighting in PM Briceño’s address at the Summit of the Americas:
“The power of the Summit of the Americas is the space it provides for all the countries of the Americas to dialogue and to agree on joint actions. This summit belongs to all of the Americas. It is therefore inexcusable that all countries of the Americas are not here, and the power of the Summit is diminished by their absence. It is incomprehensible that we would isolate countries of the Americas which have provided strong leadership and contributed to the hemisphere on the critical issues of our times. Cuba has provided consistent unmatched cooperation in health to almost two-thirds of the countries in this hemisphere, including Belize. The illegal blockade against Cuba is an affront to humanity. In fact, it is un-American. The time has come, Mr. President, to lift the blockade and build back bonds of friendship with the people of Cuba. Similarly, Venezuela has done so much toward energy security for the Caribbean region, through its innovative financing programs. Venezuela’s absence is unforgivable.”
Cuban president Miguel Diaz-Canel visited Mexico on Saturday, and was warmly greeted by Mexican president Andrés Manuel López Obrador, who called Díaz-Canel a “distinguished and admired guest” and later awarded him the “Order of the Aztec Eagle,” Mexico’s highest honor for foreigners.
Yesterday, Sunday, the Cuban president visited Belize, and he was likewise warmly greeted by our PM John Briceño; and a special Joint Sitting of our House of Representatives and Senate was held in his honour.
There is no need for Belize to apologize for doing so to our friend, the mighty USA, because we are a nation, Belize, standing on lofty principles that will help to propel the US towards a better direction for all of us.