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Belize City
Wednesday, December 11, 2019
Home Editorial Running afoul of USA or UK means pain

Running afoul of USA or UK means pain

Belize is an independent country, which means that we have a flag, an anthem, borders, and a vote at the United Nations (UN). These are common but unequal features of independent countries. The flags of the world are of different designs and colors, and they are all flown at the same height on the flagpoles at the United Nations headquarters in New York City. The anthems of the world have different words and tunes, and they are treated with the same solemnity by all. The inequality lies in the strength of the economies within different borders, and the weight of our votes at the United Nations.

Some nations have great economies, worth much more than ours, and a few, select nations have votes that can put the brake on any decision made at the elite United Nations Security Council. These nation’s votes are described as having veto power, and that veto power resides with five nations: the United States of America (USA), the United Kingdom (UK), China, France, and Russia. These five nations are considered superpowers militarily. India is also a world superpower, but it has not yet been given veto power by the UN.

Two of these countries that possess veto power, the USA and the UK, have had long relationships with us. There are those who believe that these two superpowers could do much better than they have done for Belize, that they are not always fair with or kind to us.

Most Belizeans value our country’s relationship with the UK and with the USA. The UK was our former colonial master, and we inherited our governance system, our justice system, and many other institutions from them. Thousands of Belizeans have made the USA their home, and there are always many Belizeans who would gladly exchange our citizenship for theirs.

Belize has stable relationships with the USA and UK, except when they perceive/believe that we are not properly respectful, appreciative. We have crossed them sometimes, and on most of those occasions we have felt pain. Sometimes an independent country makes political and economic decisions that don’t please all their friends. As the song says,” What is a man, what has he got? If not himself, then he has not.”

Politically, Belize, as British Honduras, fought at the side of the UK and the USA in the two world wars (1914-18 and 1939-45) in the 20th century. Soldiers from Belize and many countries in the Caribbean joined in the fight alongside King George V to save the world in the 1914-1918 war, and we were there for Winston Churchill during World War II.

The independent Belize has not always supported the political decisions of the USA. The Americans broke diplomatic relations with Cuba in 1961, and the majority of Belizeans have never been supportive of what they did. The British never blessed the American position on Cuba either, but would not do anything to ruffle the feathers of their number one ally.

Little Belize had to be coy about its love and admiration for the Cuban Revolution until a president emerged in the USA whose love for humanity extended beyond the USA’s borders. Jimmy Carter, US president between 1977 and 1981, relaxed as much of the embargo that had been placed on Cuba as he could. Carter couldn’t do much, but he opened the door for Belize to express its position.

Belize doesn’t support the USA’s position on Israel, and they probably would make us feel some pain for that, if there weren’t so many countries in the world, including the UK, that are against the US position.

Economically, Belize’s exports are too small to be of much concern to our great friends, the USA and the UK, who together buy over 60% of the goods we produce. For many years the British bought our sugar and bananas at preferential prices, and the USA has been an eager market for our marine products, and they buy a lot of our citrus products too.

Domestically, Belize has taken it on the chin from our two big allies, unfairly at times and at times for some big slipups. A big misstep for Belize has been the handling of BTL. It is hard to understand why a Belize government (PUP) allowed a British citizen who carries a Belize passport, to gain control of the essential utility, telecommunications. How could they not know that we couldn’t control such a powerful person, and that the British would insist on very special treatment for him?

When the businessman refused to cooperate with the government, and the government put pressure on him, the businessman leaned on his British citizenship. The Belize government then acquired his business and sold it to an American businessman. This was a safe move because of the British/American connection. All the details of what transpired in that transaction have still not been revealed, but when the dust settled the American businessman didn’t fulfill his part of the deal, and the company was returned to the British businessman, with considerable perks. Lord Ashcroft had the Belize government over a barrel, and he took advantage of the Belizean people.

A subsequent government (UDP) had no choice but to move aggressively and acquire the company from the businessman, but that government’s handling of the matter wasn’t surgical, and this would lead to more pain than we could handle.

Nationalization of businesses causes distrust in the capitalist world and that leads to a certain amount of panic in the marketplace, but Belize didn’t have much choice: we had to do it. One government (PUP) had foolishly given over control, and the people needed the new government to take it back. Belize hasn’t been independent all that long, but we aren’t naïve; we knew we would be made to feel pain. We didn’t need the party that nationalized BTL to be egotistical, political, vindictive, and careless with the delicate optics of the situation.

A political party that has stomach convulsions at the thought of their management of the country’s finances being scrutinized, had to be humble, and as transparent as clean, clear glass on this one. It wasn’t, and that cost us dearly.

The Americans don’t think Belize has done enough to comply with their demands that we discourage the flow of cocaine through our country. It is not a very fair situation for Belize, and the Americans didn’t need to inflict any pain on us for our failure. Our pain is registered in the terrible murders that have ruined our country.

The carnage in our country is/was not enough satisfaction for them. Mayan King, a banana and citrus company that had hundreds of employees, went under after the US invoked their King Pin Act, which suffocates any business they have fingered.

The US says Belize is not doing enough to stop human trafficking. It may be that the Americans’ real concern with human trafficking is that the persons being trafficked could end up in their country illegally. At various times they have pressured Belize for not making sufficient efforts to contain human trafficking, and in 2018 they disallowed certain types of work visas to seasonal workers from our country.

One of the biggest stories in Belize right now is the Sanctuary Bay scam that has left American investors out of pocket many millions of dollars. The mastermind of that scheme is reportedly an American who had notoriety before he set up operations in Belize, but that doesn’t clear us with the Americans because they believe we were careless in the handling of the matter.

On July 6th the Belize Press Office announced that the Prime Minister was going out of the country, on personal leave. There was no mention of where he had gone, but if you were to poll Belizeans, many would say that he was off to the USA, and that his business might be more than personal, that it might involve Sanctuary Bay, and more pain for Belize.

On July 10th the returned Prime Minister called a press conference to address the Sanctuary Bay fiasco. Our only comment at this time is that at that meeting with the press the captain of our ship claimed total ignorance of the shady business dealings at Sanctuary Bay. We don’t question the innocence of the saintly Prime Minister. We are not so convinced of the virtue of the Barrow and Williams law firm.

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