“Putting it on the Table” reshared with the permission of Carolyn Trench- Sandiford


carolyn

Carolyn Trench-Sandiford

Covid19, a pandemic, is a potential disaster for Belize, and is beyond anything we have experienced before. Standard epidemiological models indicate that an uncontrolled epidemic could infect 60% of a country’s population, and it can have a mortality rate of 0.9%. For Belize, this means 245,093 persons could be infected (Estimated population of Belize as of 2019:408,487) and 2,205 persons can die. COVID19 does not discriminate gender, ethnicity, social standing, geographic location or age. This means ANYONE OF US can become infected and die.

COVID19 can be worse than Hurricane Hattie in many ways (which I will share some thoughts on in a subsequent posting), but primarily in terms of the potential death toll and occurrence and recovery period. In the case of the former, 400 persons or 0.3% of the population of Belize lost their lives as a result of Hurricane Hattie. They were primarily from Belize City and Stann Creek District. (Estimated population of Belize 1960:119,934).

In the case of the latter, COVID19 is not a few days, a one shot impact where the hurricane strikes one particular area and leaves, and thereafter a recovery period with local and global support. COVID19 is estimated to take its toll over a protracted period of 3 to 6 months over the whole country, and possibly another 6 months to ensure no re-occurrence. Furthermore, Belize will be competing with countries impacted also by COVID19, thus resources may become very scarce.

In addition, and more so than Hattie, COVID19 will force us to rethink governance and political systems, our economy, our socio-cultural values and practice and our relationship with our ourselves, our families and society, with the environment, and with the global community.

Fortunately, we are now positioned to learn from the experiences of other countries, and to be able to share ours with them as well. Similar to all countries currently affected by COVID19, we have started with one case with the likelihood of an increase in the number of cases in the days to come. Consequently, what can happen next will be up to EACH AND EVERYONE OF US.

So, I thought it important to use this platform to share a little bit more on the phases of the pandemic we are confronted with-COVID19 as I myself begin to learn about this novel virus. What phase we are in, what we can learn and adapt from others, and what our expectations should be, as we all work together, government and people, to navigate the way forward, and minimize the onslaught of a potential disaster.

(1) Testing and Tracing Phase-This is when there are a few cases of COVID19. Countries which have succeeded so far in limiting the epidemic (Singapore, Hong Kong and Taiwan) have done so by identifying and isolating the infected individuals and tracing the people they have come into contact with so they too can be either tested, monitored, and, if necessary, isolated.

THIS IS WHERE WE ARE. IT IS THE MOST CRITICAL PHASE AND THAT WHICH THE MINISTRY OF HEALTH IS ENGAGED IN NOW SINCE 1 COVID19 CASE WAS CONFIRMED MARCH 23rd, 2020.

In this phase, successful countries leveraged their public-health infrastructure and data analytics, affordable healthcare, and extensive educational outreach. This, along with inculcated discipline and socio-cultural practices contributed to their success. While Belize health care landscape may not be on par, we have other elements to leverage. I will share these in a subsequent post.

(2) Breakout Phase-This occurs when testing and tracing is lax. In Belizean colloquialism, this is the ‘WHEN SHIT HIT THE FAN” phase as what occurs is the spread of the virus to the community and the exponential growth of cases. Exponential growth means 1 person becomes 2, becomes 4, becomes 8, becomes 16, becomes 32, becomes 64, becomes 108, becomes 216, becomes 432, becomes 864, becomes 1,728, becomes 3,456, becomes 6,912, becomes 13,824…you get the picture.

China reported its first case January 11th, 2020, and since then, COVID19 has expanded to all parts of the globe, and now it is in Belize. As of today, 3 months and 14 days later, the global picture reports 436,379 infections and 19,638 deaths. That one case in Belize, and any other that may emerge, has the potential to expand to all parts of Belize and beyond.

The key to limiting the epidemic in this breakout phase is practice social distancing accompanied by some sort of shutdown in which all non-essential businesses are closed; events are canceled; public areas are cleared; and most people are ordered to remain in their homes. China implemented a stringent lockdown several weeks into the epidemic and not before.

THE GOVERNMENT OF BELIZE HAS INITIATED SOME OF THESE ACTIONS ALREADY, AND MANY INSTITUTIONS AND PERSONS HAVE STARTED TO COMPLY OR ARE IN THE PROCESS OF COMPLIANCE.

As a note, all of us have a duty and a responsibility to ensure that the “SHIT NO HIT THE FAN” in Belize. If a shutdown is successful, it will slow the rate of the spread, and the data has shown that if carried out early enough and effectively enough, our health care system will not be overwhelmed (or to use the correct term-the curve will be flattened as the picture depicts), for if it becomes overwhelmed, as in the case of Italy, then it could lead to thousands of deaths. In this scenario, the state will be forced to start making hard and painful decisions as to who will live and who will die, or in our Belizean colloquialism ‘the state wah be God’ and a criteria will be set based on age, gender and pre-existing conditions, or it can very well be ‘who knows who.’

Undoubtedly, a national lockdown will be extremely costly, but it will save lives. I will share some thoughts on this in a subsequent post.

This time in our journey of nationhood too shall pass. We will bounce back. How fast, will depend on the action each of us take.

Reference:
Jeffery Sachs in ‘Our best hope for fighting coronavirus’ in SDSN Global dated March 23rd, 2020
www.worldometers.info downloaded 03/25/2020
Statistics Institute of Belize, Abstract of Statistics 1991
www.sib.org.bz downloaded 03/25/2020

No photo description available.

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Heal Belize by treating violence like a disease by: Aria Lightfoot


Aria

Aria Lightfoot, M.P.A.

Violence, anger and abuse are cancerous. If you commit an act of violence against someone because you are angry or hurt, your act is transferred to the victim. The victim will be hurt or angry and will pass it on….In cases where the victim does not survive, the society, loved ones and family will catch it and  will pass it on and it will never stop until your family, community or country engage in methods to heal.

There is no coincidence certain individuals, families, communities and countries are always embroiled in conflict and violence even to the point of self destruction. A country is like a body, society the organs and families are like the bloodstream  and the  individual is like a cell. When that cancer cell is metastatic, it gets in the bloodstream and starts destroying the organs and eventually the body.

There is a study from  Scotland that concluded that crime needed to be treated in the same manner that a doctor would treat an epidemic. Glasgow Scotland was able to reduce murders by 60% by changing their approach. Violence like cancer spreads exponentially. (see BBC news story below: Why we need to treat violence like an epidemic) 

Many people may ask – why does it always seem that black communities worldwide have higher violent crime rates?  Well there is simply no getting over slavery. If your ancestors were in a society that devalued them, abused them and committed atrocious acts against them, they will pass it on to their children and and if at no point they recognized the need to heal or someone intervened and healed them,  the cancer  of violence and abuse is passed on …

My initial reaction last night was anger when I read about the three year old child who was brutally raped and  killed and his two siblings were hospitalized after experiencing similar acts of violence. The perpetrator of the vicious acts managed to pass his anger on to me to the point where I was calling for his death and I reflected upon that.

My friend inboxed me and told me the perpetrator’s mother has herself been subject to harsh violence and from all indications, he likely grew up in the same settings of abuse, rape and murder and no one saved him and so he spared no one.

It reminds me that we cannot turn a blind eye to violence and abuse  in our communities  and especially when children are involved. You simply cannot live in any society and think you will be unaffected. The disease of violence is in the bloodstream and it will continue to grow until we see an urgent need to heal. . You cannot escape it because you are one of the cells existing in the organs of society. Let’s change our approach to treating violence.
cancer

https://www.bbc.com/future/article/20180723-why-we-should-treat-violence-like-an-epidemic

Click to access Taking-Stock-of-Violence-in-Scotland_2019.pdf

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A Bastardized Democracy Will Never Lead to Nation Building by: Aria Lightfoot


Aria

Aria Lightfoot M.P.A

I recently listened to an interview where Godwin Hulse bragged to the media that Belize (assuming he meant Belize is part of the British Commonwealth) had more experience at writing laws than the United States and it was at that moment I realized that Godwin Hulse is clueless about Belize’s constitutional democracy, young existence and genuinely believes, though misguided, that the UK, Commonwealth and Belize systems are all equal.

A lot of people don’t know that the UK has no constitution. They have a document called the Magna Carta that has existed for centuries that acted somewhat like the first human rights declaration. After centuries of power struggles between the monarch, privileged classes (nobilities), churches and the poorer classes, the UK has evolved from a complicated intertwined system of turmoils, tradition, law making and landmark court rulings; however this concept of common wealth and common laws are nothing of the sorts.

During the entire period of slavery, slavery was forbidden inside the UK. In the colonies of the UK, however, there were no human rights, nor common wealth. The UK committed genocide against the indigenous people to steal their land and wealth; enslaved Africans, Arabs, Chinese and Indians, brought them into the Caribbean and Africa and then committed human engineering by shaming their cultures, appearances, traditions, religions and changed their native tongues to English. The UK extracted mass amounts of wealth while keeping the colonies in very under developed conditions that persists today. Today, Belize has rejected its indigenous and African History as an important education  tool to build our consciousness and nation.

The first US settlers rejected this UK wealth extraction model for themselves, threw some English tea in the water and fought them for Independence. They knew the Magna Carta existed and went on to write their own constitution with the spirit of the Magna Carta intact. They however committed the same crimes as their mother but their constitution, democracy and sense of their human rights remained intact and thru wars, civil rights movements, law making, constitutional landmark court rulings and a system that encourages its citizens to be vigilant and challenge injustices have made Americans fierce about their rights and the American constitution is designed for her citizens to keep seeking the ideals of justice and the perfect union.

The Caribbean and African colonies, whose purpose were only for wealth extraction were flooded with slaves from different regions of the world and then they were engineered to a system of white corporate supremacy, self hate, erasure of histories and mis-education to foster compliant citizens. The manufactured culture in the colonies had no Magna Carta to reference, were not as sophisticated because many people were brought in from different cultures to work only to extract the wealth on behalf of the UK. The engineering within the colonies was considered so brilliant to quell rebellions that Willie Lynch taught the slave owners in the southern states how to use a system of divide as an effective tool to curb slave rebellions. Centuries of engineering persists today, so much so that Godwin Hulse thinks that this concept of commonwealth is real and that Belize 38 years of law making is more sophisticated than the US 243 years of law making and is on par with the UK centuries of law making.

When the colonial model became an unmanageable task for the UK because of her over commitment to fighting in World War II, she decided to give most of her colonies Independence, not before she distributed carbon copy constitutions to capture some parts of the British legal and political system but failed to go far enough to help with development of colonies to first world status.  The evidence of wanton corruption and underdevelopment throughout many Caribbean and African nations that persist today is proof that the one true shared value of the Commonwealth is to keep wealth extraction in place for a few and thwart real development.

In the UK, Parliament is supreme. The UK attorneys and barristers study and practice law in the UK or commonwealth, but in the colonies it is the Constitution that is Supreme. Specifically in the case of Belize the attorneys study law in the UK, or other commonwealth countries such as Barbados, Guyana and Jamaica. The study of law in another nation presents a serious problem and may explain why Belize suffers from crippling destabilizing corruption.

The legal body of Belize has limited expertise in Belize’s law and constitution and our lawyer politicians are trained and indoctrinated into the UK’s philosophy of Parliamentary supremacy not realizing that Belize is a Constitutional democracy and so we find our leaders with a poor understanding of their own system and therefore remain in constant violation of Belize’s Constitution. All of Belize’s Prime Ministers were born and educated in a colony and even though we claim we are an independent nation we are proud to be an appendage to the UK but in constant need of aid.

I have pondered why these violations are so blatant and arrogant but I realize it is ignorance and colonial engineering that is destroying us. I also pondered why Belize loses so many international cases, but I realize now that when actions of those who think we are in a parliamentary supremacy is measured in a different environment where law is supreme, violations will keep haunting them because their ignorance keeps them in constant violations.

 

So what is the solution?

It is time to sever the umbilical cord and get to building the nation state of Belize.  We can start with a law school in Belize that is geared towards teaching Belize attorneys about a Belize legal system and a Belize Constitution.  All attorneys should be mandated to pass a Belize constitutional law class to practice in Belize.  We should be developing a curriculum about our history and shared values.

Ask yourself this important question: How can any leader develop their country when they do not know or study their own laws and history?

The solution means that Belize needs to do exactly what the US did –  reject what has been given to her and develop a Belize for Belizeans by Belizeans with Nation Building in mind.

20/20 should be about perfect vision!

 

 

More about the Magna Carta here: https://www.britannica.com/topic/Magna-Carta

 

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Hi Chiclero! written by: Howard A. Frankson


Reprinted with the permission of Howard A. Frankson 
Editor’s note: 
Howard Frankson provides a well  written historical journey of the Chicle industry in colonial British Honduras (Belize); he introduces us to the people, the cultures, the lifestyles and how artificial gum extinguished the trade and the ethnology.  He interconnects global warming, droughts and today’s refugee crisis at the US border and maybe  a deeper prognostication for Belize. 
Howard Frankson

Howard A. Frankson

My grandfather was not a fully-fledged Chiclero, but as a well-rounded farmer, hunter and bush ranger, he was immersed in their world and often represented them in their transactions with city folk and corporations. He would go with them to their camps in the forest, carrying ‘provision’ to maintain them through the season. In all this he was a quiet man, calm and unassuming, known to the world as “Boss Jim”. His wife, my grandmother, was the real power behind the scene, strong and assertive, she was the well-known matriarch “Miss Night”, and bore with combative composure, the weight of her large family on her small frame. At his farm in St. Paul’s Bank on the Belize Old River, or at his home on Cleghorn Street in downtown Belize City, where I lived as a child, while my father was completing his house in the suburbs, blocks of chicle stacked to the joists and attracted neighborhood kids by the dozen. The all-powerful company behind the industry is Wrigley, and their tasty products were called “Chiclets”. Chicle is the sap of the Sapodilla tree that was exported for the manufacture of chewing gum before the advent of artificial gum. Which supplanted tree sap gum and denied Belize a lucrative source of income. Processed in the forest, the sap was dehydrated by boiling, and formed into blocks of about forty pounds in weight. Appearing very much like the blocks of rock-salt that ranchers put out for their cattle, though more oblong or rectangular. Almost tasteless, we kids enjoyed slicing off chunks of chicle and chewing it for hours. My grandmother used to add sweetened condensed milk to the treat to make it more palatable. The sapodilla trees are long-lived giants of the forest, and to this day can be recognized by the patterns of crisscross scars carved into their trunks from repeated bleeding. The tree is a prime hardwood, which takes many years to mature, and so cultivating it was not an option. So the chicleros went into the forest, hunting out their locations and marking them for repeated visitation. Though the wood was of high value, their sap was worth much more, and the trees were never removed from the forest. The chiclero was a special breed of man who lived his life in the forest. Visiting towns and villages only as needed to refresh his stores, his ‘provision’, and collect his hard-earned pittance. As can be imagined, on such occasions groups chicleros gathered round tubs of rum to celebrate renewed acquaintance and exchange feats of daring, and exploits in the forest.

wrigleys

These men were not often large in stature, but wiry and strong, displaying scars of past misadventure in the forested interior of colonial British Honduras. They never dreamed, nor imagined the political intrigue that would one day transform their homeland into Belize from colonial British Honduras. And in the process, outgrow their wild and free nature. In the forest they would encounter jaguar, cayman, and snakes so large that they resembled the trunks of fallen trees in the undergrowth. They hunted tapir, known as mountain cow, deer, peccary, and wild birds beyond number. Beautiful creatures that today face extinction caused by excessive human intervention and increasing dislocation as their forest homes are cleared to make way for civilization. These men lived off the land and required little from the communities they avoided. A little sugar and salt, boots for their feet, working men’s clothes, a machete and scabbard. Shells for their shotguns, and rope to tie their bundles. They required a huge metal pot for concentrating their chicle, and wooden frames in which to mold it. All else they acquired from nature, and never took more than they needed. Strong men of honor, they lived by their wits and self-rule, and respected the law of the jungle, And woe be unto any man who would enter their forest and claim prizes for the sake of a trophy. The spoils of the forest were intended for man’s consumption, but only in as much as he needed.

The chiclero’s range was unlimited, he roamed wherever the sapodilla tree led him. Sleeping wherever night found him. Content in his role, a cog in a wheel he could never have recognized if it hit him. His produce traveled thousands of miles to satisfy the whims of a pampered metropolitan agglomeration. Which would eventually formulate its own rendition of the gum they chewed in distant contemplation of the little man who strove in fetid conditions, to make a life for his wife and his children. The chiclero was never anointed or remembered, but in his way, along with many other tradesmen around the world, built the foundation of an empire that spanned the globe. The British Empire was grounded in the sweat of small men who aspired only to fill the needs of each new day. To see their children grow and prosper, was all the incentive they needed to venture into the unforgiving jungle over and over, until the forest became so familiar, it represented home, and all they cared for. The chicleros were primarily descendants of the ancient Mayan Empire that occupied southern Mexico and northern Central America up to the year nine hundred AD when a great drought it is believed, subdued them. A people who mapped the stars and studied the solar system. Who created the long-count and three-hundred-and-sixty day calendars that foretold the passing of time with such impressive accuracy that they did not require a leap year to maintain their precision. The chiclero’s ancestry also included the descendants of African slaves who cohabited with the Maya in the seamless symmetry of life in the interior. In northern areas of the sub-continent, the assimilation has been so complete that not a visible trace remains of the Africans who once labored, side by side with the Maya, in service to European overlords.

chiclero

In the years before the introduction of artificial gum, chicle was a primary commodity, and one of Belize’s chief exports. Belize, British Honduras, was an insignificant colonial outpost of the British Empire. The only English-speaking enclave in Central America, for years administered by Jamaica. Which was the most advanced of all the empire’s territories in the New World. Jamaica, and the city of Port Royal in particular, foreshadowed the development of North America, and was the launch site for expeditions to the various outposts of empire. While Belize, with a population under a hundred thousand, and in square miles more than twice the size of Jamaica, was an empty land whose great attraction was the incomparable figured mahogany extracted from her forests. Along with the mahogany came other hardwoods like pine, redwood, and zericote. It is believed that the indigenous Indians, while indentured to the service of the invaders, used to chew the sap of the sapodilla, and their oppressors appropriated the habit for their own distraction. Thereby introducing chewing gum to a receptive market, eager for dalliance in puny occupation. The Wrigley Corporation was once a big player in the administration of Belize. Along with the Belize Estate & Produce Company, BEC, they dominated the colony. BEC played a dominant role in every aspect of the colony’s daily ritual. The company exported the colony’s output and imported its consumer necessities. It held vast swaths of its territory through appropriation or lease and determined the course of its economic diversity. British colonial rule gave Belize security, and British Common Law ensured stability. In comparison, its Spanish colonial, republican neighbors live constantly in the throes of destabilizing revolution, and prided themselves in punitive machismo. Strutting bantams in a disheveled farmyard, dominated by an insecure plutocracy, from which its indigenous peasantry fled at the first opportunity.

In the years before artificial gum, when chicle had great value, the chicleros lived in or near the forest, and their lives were simple, rustic and ordered. Their children earned little education and so usually followed in the career steps of their elders. Their wives were the daughters of other chicleros, and their ambition, and that of their children, seldom excluded life the forest. When they were not bleeding sap from the sapodilla trees, they cultivated small plots or ‘milpa’. The ‘milpa’ were of corn, the staple crop of the Maya in the region, and they kept a few chickens and ducks. They had several dogs which accompanied them when hunting or visiting the sapodilla trees for bleeding chicle. A proficient chiclero usually had about a dozen trees in his region and complemented his production by venturing farther afield on occasion. These occasional ventures lasted several weeks, even months, and required much forethought and preparation. The heavy boiling pots were strategically positioned in convenient locations throughout the forest. Though a chiclero may have kept a small milpa, he was not a milpero by definition. A milpero’s corn fields were more extensive, he was domesticated in comparison to the chiclero, and slept with at least a thatched roof over his head, though adventures into the jungle were not uncommon. The milpero’s kids had educational opportunities, and many migrated to the cities. With the introduction of artificial gum, the chiclero’s lifestyle was extinguished, and with increasing commercialization of farming, the milpero’s too would soon follow.

jungle

Across the border in Guatemala, the milpas of yesteryear are today being consumed by a severe drought brought about by global warming. And as a consequence of excessive deforestation, which reduces the evaporation necessary for cloud formation. A predictable cycle of declination in the most impoverished communities lacking the technology to adjust to the changing climatic dynamics that foretell devastation. As the milpas burn, the milperos and their families flee, largely north through Mexico to America. Where tradition holds that the wealthiest nation on earth will afford them succor. But that was before a new administration that considering them less than equal confined them to cages on the border. Even though they may have had relatives in the country willing to support them. These relatives were not informed of their plight, or of their arrival. Nor of where they were being kept like animals. Families were divided, with the children kept separately. Children as young as six months old, deprived of their mothers, and kept in cages in filthy conditions with poor sanitation. Deprived of a proper diet or health care facilities. A fat-cat republican congressman observed in all his opulent obesity, that they were lucky to be where they were, as where they had come from was even worse. Yet, a girl-child refugee apprehended at the border when asked why she fled said simply, “food doesn’t grow there anymore”. She had had no choice but to flee the burning milpas, only to be caught in a cage along with thousands of others. Desperate human beings denied their dignity and forced to grovel for scraps at the tables of the rich. All in a place that once beckoned them with false hope and promise: “give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free……” To whom did those words refer? And now, a picture of a father and his daughter drowned in the Rio Grande has gone viral for all to see the desperation that drives these people to flee the climatic conditions in Central America that those in Washington fail to accept as pertinent reality.

border crossingdrought

In my early years in British Honduras, in the years of the chiclero and the milpero, Belize was a smaller place, warmer and more intimate. Everyone knew his neighbor, and every neighborhood was a community. Where children frolicked freely, and the adults gathered frequently to exchange pleasantries, favors and gossip. The complicity of independence was a distant ambition visited most frequently by politicians. in the interim, they argued for internal self-governance and the right to determine our own future. And even after independence, the simplicity of existence was interrupted only by the certainty of hurricanes, which hit the country frequently, and Belize City every thirty years without fail. After the ‘sixty-one hurricane, Hattie, the administrative capital was moved inland to Belmopan. While the commercial capital remained in Belize City with the seaport and harbor. While still in Belize City, my father was the most senior civil servant in government, and after he retired, and became Director of US Peace Corps, we acquired a large parcel of land in the country with the intention of propagating citrus. To assist in its early development, we hired neighboring residents and complimented their income by encouraging them to cultivate their milpas on our land not designated for citrus. These milperos proved industrious, strong men of great integrity, and it was easy to imagine their predecessors hunting for sapodilla trees in the forest and bleeding them of their gum. Gathering round a fire, just as we did on the farm, and spinning wild tales of misadventure.

making chicle

One tale in particular, is of a wily chiclero who had done exceedingly well and bought himself a bicycle which he took into the forest. He propped it up on what he took to be a fallen tree on the forest floor and went in search of sapodilla trees to bleed for their chicle. But the log on which he propped his bike turned out to be a snake, locally known as ‘wowla’. A boa constrictor of great length and girth, the largest snake in Central America, and one of the heaviest in the world. Constrictors are slow and not venomous, but their mere size makes them intimidating. Chicleros are used to encountering such creatures in the wild, but what good would a tale be if it did not provide drama and suspense? And death by slow constriction must be raw, painful and horrifying;  so the chiclero in the tale ran screaming from the forest, and lost his hard earned bicycle in a place where it served no purpose. The moral of the tale being that one should never take such modern devices into the primitive jungle. Such tales, repeated often, gain an air of truth in the retelling. But no one could realistically imagine a chiclero being scared in the forest. He was born into its dark places and knew every one of its creatures and their habits. Hi chiclero, your time has passed, but your glory days will remain in folklore, fact and fiction. Small men of great stature, who knew no fear and paid no tribute to lord or master. Bra Ananci, were he not a spider, could well have been a chiclero, riding Bra Tiger’s back into the jungle, where his feats, though implausible, are recounted as for historic remembrance.

braananci.jpg

Howard A. Frankson — Belize

Hey America! by: Howard Frankson


 

Howard Frankson

Re-shared with the permission of Howard Frankson. 

An urgent message regarding global warming and rising temperatures. 

 My grandfather was a gentle-man, whom everyone called “Boss Jim”, a successful farmer, rancher, and chiclero, who never spent his time procrastinating about the supernatural, or wondering about things beyond his control. Yet one night while he lay dreaming, something or someone came a-calling, and prompted him to start muttering in his sleep, saying “ghost? ghost?” and then shouting: “Oh hell, ghost!” Startled from his sleep he awoke my grandmother, who was a practical woman, brooked no-nonsense, and was called “Miss Night” for her jet-black tresses that flowed down her shoulders, reminding everyone of the phrase “Black-as-midnight”. She was no gentle-woman though and brooked no nonsense from her husband or any of her five surviving children. It was not uncommon for women in rural Belize, then known as British Honduras, to have many children, and lose one or two in or around childbirth. And a primary ambition of youth growing into adulthood in colonial British Honduras was the urge to migrate to the United States of America, then simply called “America”. America and Great Britain were, and still are, inseparable friends, and neither us or them, could have imagined a Donald Trump ever assuming the presidency of that northern country, with his policy of “America first”, which in effect translates as “America alone”; misrepresenting the words of the Statue-of-Liberty which say: “give me your tired, your poor, your hungry, yearning to be free.” Donald Trump cares not a whit for the fortunes of others. And even though no American bank will advance him credit, in his son’s own words: “they receive all they need from Eastern European sources”; namely Russia. Through Deutsche Bank. The assets of Russian oligarchs support his questionable endeavors and give them access to American markets, in which to launder their dirty money. “It is no wonder”, the press says, “that he never questions, or objects to, (Russian President) Vladimir Putin’s adventures on the global stage”.

Speaking recently, someone said pointedly that “Trump seems to suck all the oxygen from any room he enters into”, in which statement I agree wholeheartedly, and wish we could shift our deliberations to other subjects, which are crying out for attention. Such as “Global Warming”, which is not a new topic, but it generally does not receive the attention it deserves. In February, twenty-twelve, Valeria Espinoza posted a blog on Belize hosting a workshop for scientists from the region who were studying the effects of climate change on small island states. Though Belize is not considered a “Small Island State”, we do have many small islands that are affected equally with our mainland by global warming. The purpose of that workshop was for scientists to share their findings on the effects of the global phenomenon, and how it was impacting small economies like Belize’s. While Belize, in nineteen ninety-two, became a signatory to the United Nations convention on climate change, and as a party to that convention, the country reports on steps taken to implement necessary controls of greenhouse gas emissions. However, the country has stated that it does not want to follow in the unsustainable footsteps of the developed countries in their use of fossil fuels, and in the way they utilize their land resources. So, we are saying, “Hey America, yes, we want to aspire to your ultimate goals, but we’ll do it with a much greater understanding of what is required”. And, “it is generally accepted that the major industrialized nations like yourself, are the culprits of the phenomenon — this global phenomenon called climate change.” In fact, Belize is contributing less than one-thousandth of a percentage point to global emissions of greenhouse gases, and is in fact, absorbing more than we emit. “So we are one of the good guys in the convention; but unfortunately, we are one of those countries that are suffering the most from climate change. Being a low-lying state, we face problems of erosion and sea-level rise. Climate change is warming our seas, and affecting our coral reefs. It has caused pine bark infestation that is decimated our pine ridge forests. And it is producing outbreaks of dengue in the country, so in fact, we are facing the worst part of climate change, though we are not doing anything to contribute to it. So, we might say, the international community has a moral obligation to assist Belize in overcoming climate change.” The United Nations’ Framework Convention on Climate Change was entered into force on March twenty-first, nineteen ninety-four.

Here is a simple definition of global warming: And yes Mr, Trump, it is really happening. Over the past fifty years, the average global temperature has increased at the fastest rate in recorded history. And experts say the trend is accelerating: All but one of the hottest years in NASA’s a hundred and thirty-four-year record have occurred since the year two thousand. Climate change deniers, like Donald Trump and his scientific cronies, have argued that there was been a pause or a slowdown. in rising global temperatures, but several studies, including a twenty-fifteen paper published in the journal “Science”, have disproved this claim, and scientists say that unless we curb global warming emissions, average US temperatures could rise by up to ten degrees Fahrenheit over the next century. In the United States, the burning of fossil fuels to produce electricity is the largest single source of heat-trapping air-pollutants, producing about two billion tons of CO2 every year. Coal-burning power plants are by far the biggest polluters and the second-largest source of carbon pollution is the transportation sector, generating between one and two-thirds billion tons of CO2 emissions each year. Curbing dangerous climate change requires deep cuts in emissions, as well as applying alternatives to fossil fuel in industries worldwide. Hey, America, the good news is that thanks in part to new energy-efficient technology, and the use of cleaner fuels, we have started a turnaround in CO2 emissions in the United States, actually decreasing from twenty-0-five to twenty-fourteen. And scientists continue to develop new ways to modernize power plants, generate cleaner electricity, and burn less gasoline while we are driving. The challenge, to be sure, is to put these innovations to good use and have them adopted universally.

Scientists agree that the Earth’s rising temperatures are fueling longer, more intensive, heat waves, droughts; heavier, unscheduled rainfall; and more destructive hurricanes. In twenty-fifteen for example, scientists said that an ongoing drought in California — the worst water shortage in that state in twelve hundred years — had been intensified by over twenty percent by global warming. They say that the odds of similar droughts occurring in the future had doubled over the past century. And in twenty-sixteen, the National Academies of Science, Engineering, and Medicine, announced that it is now possible to state confidently that certain weather events, like soaring heat waves, can be attributed directly to climate change. Ocean temperatures on the Earth are also getting warmer. This means that tropical storms, like those that frequent Belize, can accumulate more energy. So global warming could turn a category three storm into a more dangerous category four. In fact, scientists have found that the frequency of North Atlantic hurricanes has been increasing since the early eighties. As is the number of storms that reach categories four and five. In twenty-O-five, hurricane Katrina, the costliest hurricane in American history, hit New Orleans, and the second most expensive, Hurricane Sandy, hit the East Coast in twenty-twelve. The impact of global warming is being felt across the globe. Extreme heatwaves have caused tens of thousands of deaths around the world in recent years, and at our current pace, some experts say, will cause sea-levels to rise several meters over the coming fifty to a hundred years. Each year, scientists learn more about the consequences of global warming, and many agree that environmental, economic, and health concerns are likely to increase if current trends continue.

Melting glaciers, early snow melt, and severe drought will cause more dramatic water shortages and increase the risk of wildfires in Western America. Rising sea levels will lead to coastal flooding on the Eastern Seaboard, especially in Florida, Belize, and in other low-lying areas such as the Gulf-Of-Mexico, and some Caribbean Islands, including Bermuda and The Bahamas. Forests, farms, and agricultural projects will face troubling new challenges, heat waves, heavy downpours, and increased flooding: All catastrophic factors that will damage, destroy, or displace agricultural projects, fisheries, and industry. Destruction of habitats, such as coral reefs and Alpine meadows, could drive many plant and animal species to extinction. Allergies, asthma, and infectious disease outbreaks could become more frequent due to increased growth of pollen-producing plants, higher levels of air pollution, and the spread of contagions, and conditions favorable to pathogens and disease-carrying mosquitoes. In recent years, China has taken the lead in global warming pollution, by producing about twenty-eight percent of CO2 emissions. And Donald Trump’s United States comes in second. Despite only having just four percent of the Earth’s population, it produces an astonishing sixteen percent of all global emissions, as much as the European Union and India combined. The United States has taken tentative steps to reduce global warming. But in order to avoid the worst effects of climate change, it needs to do a lot more — together with other countries — to reduce its dependence on fossil fuels, and to start using cleaner energy alternatives.

In twenty-fifteen, the US Environmental Protection Agency pledged to reduce by nearly a third, CO2 emissions from power plants, by twenty-thirty through its ‘Clean Power Plan’ initiative. But under the Trump administration, the EPA proposed repealing this plan to curb climate change. And similarly, while under the Obama administration, the US Department Of Transportation, DOT, proposed CO2 pollution and fuel economy standards intended to cut emissions into the twenty-twenties, but under the Trump administration, the DOT is working to roll back those clean vehicle safeguards that protect the climate and our health. Fortunately, state and industry leaders recognize that clean transportation must remain a priority if we are to address climate change and protect public health. Regional efforts are helping to boost the electric car market, which saw a substantial increase in sales between twenty-sixteen and seventeen, and Wind Power employment grew by thirty-two percent, while solar-power jobs increased by twenty-five percent. Globally, at the United Nations Conference on Climate Change in Paris, a hundred and ninety-five countries, including the United States, at the time, agreed on pollution emission reduction provisions, with a goal of preventing the average global temperature from rising more than one-and-a-half degrees Celsius above the pre-industrial age average. As scientists believe we must remain below a two-degree increase to avoid catastrophic climate change impacts.

And while in twenty-seventeen, President Trump announced that his country was withdrawing from the Paris climate change agreement to eliminate “harmful and unnecessary policies, such as the Climate Action Plan”, the American people are forging ahead without him. Through initiatives like the US Climate Alliance and the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, America is still participating. And Climate Mayors, state, business, and local political leaders have pledged to honor and uphold the goals of the Paris Agreement. More than twenty-five cities in seventeen states, with populations totaling more than five million, have adopted resolutions that will enable them to produce a hundred percent of their electricity from renewable sources such as wind and solar power. Additionally, a new initiative from former New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg, who has registered in Alabama to run for the presidency in upcoming elections, gives the urban sector of this movement a boost. He is asking mayors from the most populous cities in the country to share their plans for making their buildings and transportation systems run more cleanly and efficiently. The twenty cities that show the greatest potential for curbing dangerous CO2 pollution that’s driving climate change will share in a technical assistance fund provided by his philanthropies and partners. Individual efforts at curbing climate change can be achieved by making conserving energy a part of the daily routine. When shopping for refrigerators, washers, and dryers in America, or throughout the English-speaking Caribbean, choosing products with the US government’s “Energy Star” label that meet a higher standard for energy efficiency than the minimum federal requirements, can make an appreciable difference if a sufficient number of residents undertake to look for cars with the highest gas mileage and lowest emissions.

Howard A. Frankson — Belize

 

 

How is Belize Governed? by Aria Lightfoot


Referees

Ask the average Belizean about football or basketball rules or refereeing, especially when their respective teams are playing,  and you will get the most knowledgeable analysis of where the referees went wrong, what the players did wrong and what the rules are.   Ask the average Belizean if they have ever read their Constitution and you get blank stares, outright nos and many admit they have never seen it or know where to find it.   A country with a very young population and no idea what rules apply to the country, the leaders or any idea how the governance is structured or what rights are afforded to them should concern everyone.

I designed a course on good governance and of the 50 students I have engaged so far, less than 10% read the constitution or knew where to find the constitution. A few years ago the media visited tertiary level students and asked who was the first prime minster of Belize and many students shockingly had no clue. This cluelessness should cause deep shame on us all.

Constitution of Belize

Belize right now is operating with serious constitutional violations and the people of Belize have been less than vocal about these violations. The Referendum on the ICJ highlighted one of the worst abuses of voter disenfranchisement, voter mis-education and constitutional violations regarding our borders.  Belizeans allowed a large injection of foreign money from the US and UK; actions that would cause protests, court challenges from watchdog groups,  court injunctions, congressional or parliamentary inquiry within the US and  UK,  sailed thru without much fanfare in Belize. A friend advised that shouting constitutional violations to a people who have no clue about their own constitution is a waste of time.

In fact, it made me think deeply about this issue. If you think about it, no prime minister that have lead Belize or vying for leadership of Belize was born in an Independent country. They are all products of colonial governance and training. They have no idea or true consciousness around equality, human rights, constitutional supremacy, rule of law and ethics and every time they open their mouths to explain or excuse  their abuses, it shows.

Many of  our leaders, legal community and watchdog groups  were predominantly  shaped in a society of privilege, wealth and class. They are gate keepers who protect the status quo.   Our constitutional rights are a negotiating tool for them.  Our leaders exerted a great deal of effort to achieve Independence but had no plans for  post independent Belize; no vision went into building the nation state of Belize once Independence was achieved. Our country became independent of the colonial masters and then elected leaders worst than the colonial masters.

We should not be surprised when Prime Minister Dean Barrow threatened to cut off the head of corruption with his double edge sharpened machete but did not form any steering committee to actually tackle corruption. It should not be surprising that leadership is void of solutions for an independent democratic society. It is should not be surprising that the nation state of Belize is heavily indebted, poorly managed and infected with corruption and failing institutions.  For Belizeans “da just wah lee breeze”!

I challenge the media and voting population to ask every politician about their knowledge of the Belize Constitution and I would wager that more than 50% of politicians are themselves clueless about the rules that govern Belize and simply taking orders from the most dominant politicians.

This lack of knowledge about our governance also highlights a failure within our educational systems to teach our children about their rights and how the rules are structured. It is not surprising that a people so ignorant of their own rules are subjected to daily abuses, rising poverty and disillusionment about the system. It should not be surprising that Guatemalans are protesting on Belize soil while Belizeans have remained relatively quiet. It is not surprising that Guatemalans are illegally becoming Belizeans and running for national office. It is not surprising that the Cabinet is acting ultra vires of their constitutional powers by signing off on these abuses; and it is not surprising that all these abuses are met with inaction and tribalism. We should not be surprised that mostly foreigners are running all the money making industries and turning Belizeans into a service class.

Carl Sagan said “The gears of poverty, ignorance, hopelessness and low self esteem interact to create a kind of perpetual failure machine that grinds down dreams from generation to generation. We all bear the cost of keeping it running, illiteracy is its linchpin”. Belizeans are illiterate about their constitution, their rights and their responsibilities. If we truly want a corrupt free nation where leaders work for the betterment of society and work to build the nation we must attack this illiteracy with an urgency as if we truly want to save the nation state of Belize for many generations.

The constitution can be found here:  https://www.oas.org/juridico/mla/en/blz/en_blz-int-text-const.pdf

democracy2

What democracy is NOT

The Dulling , Demise and Funeral of Barrow’s Machete by: Aria Lightfoot


In 2004, the young passionate Dean Barrow railed against undiluted corruption from the then PUP government.  He promised a special machete sharpened on both sides to chop away corruption from the head.  The imagery was action packed and powerful.  I saw a future PM chopping feverishly away at the uncontrollable weeds of corruption growing as he desperately tries to fight it before it stagnates and chokes the country of Belize.

machete

 

Fast Forward to 2019 and after three unprecedented terms, the now UDP government led by the then passionate Dean Barrow, seems to have thrown in his machete, killed it and surrendered to the power of the weeds.

machete 2machete 3

 

I write this because I am disappointed in where we are a people. After 38 years of Independence, not one new city has been built, barely any new university programs, poor medical system and on and on.  In fact, politicians are proud to hand a poor citizen, living in destitute conditions, a low-quality plywood house and without shame, blast it publicly, after all  that is the very  least some of them are willing to do.

machete 4

The life of the average Belizean has not seen substantial gains even with billions of investments pouring through the country via Real Estate, Banking,  Tourism, Money Laundering and a thriving drug trade. The ultimate victims will the youths and future generations who will have to bear the consequences of unchecked and wanton corruption.  The most visible victims are mostly black males fighting for dollars without sense and engaging in a tragic self-annihilation.

machete 5

The Politicians,  Legal community and Public Servants have become co-conspirators and experts of transferring public assets into private hands. They are providing substandard services;  creaming off the top while they shamelessly fill their pockets during the growing despair.  The once revered public service career has  shifted from government with ethics, vision and purpose  to one of of  self-enrichment.

machete 6

The Prime Minister of Belize  and the UDP members are in full group think mode [i]. Recently one UDP ex-politician and radio commentator commented on his Facebook page that he is okay with corruption because he is seeing progress in the country.  He  and many others spend their social media time in “who is more corrupted” comparison fights.  It is an  indictment of how far they have fallen off the rails.  The scandals are growing, the public lands and monies are being fleeced, but I must say that the Joshua Perdomo saga is one for the books.  One can only look on with awe as this young man from a prominent family has created such a political storm. The entire saga has exposed the UDP for a serious lack of consciousness, ethics, legal and moral obligations of their duties as leaders and custodians of the people’s resources and their inadequate response to the public outcry.

Why is Joshua Perdomo such a sore point? The attempt to write off happened at the start of the school year when many families were/are struggling with school fees for their own children.  Some children were barred from attending school because of overdue school fees.  Many public officers are currently working off their bonds and commitments.  Additionally, the Belize population is grappling with poorly investigated cases and lack of justice in the system.  Joshua Perdomo was given a bond to study a field that is desperately needed in Belize.  UDP has failed miserably to make the connection and instead have given tone deaf, win at all costs media interviews that reeks of arrogance. Maybe some re-reading of Animal Farm is needed.

Once again, a gaping hole is exposed, and one must seriously ask – What is the function of politicians in our governance? The IMF has issued a serious warning to Belize.  Belize, you are borrowing too much money, you are servicing debt at 100%.  Corruption is undermining your institutions and you need to be at 60% debt servicing.  It is a serious picture of things to come.  How can the government of Belize reduce its obligations by 40%?  If you are an employee or a taxpayer that is a very serious question you will be facing soon.

The PM engaged in an epic and philosophical battle with Lord Ashcroft,  lost the war  and in the end the taxpayers are  holding the multi-million dollar  bill.  During the war, a significant amount of money were paid for legal fees to private attorneys, even though the Government has an entire ministry of attorneys dedicated to government business and there is a judgment that looms …

Does the Government of Belize have a valuation department and a collection agency?  Who is tasked with ensuring that the people’s money and the people’s resources are protected from this abuse?   Who is the oversight committee that protects the resources of the people from malfeasance of the  public officer?

In the span of two weeks, Belizeans witnessed the selling off the people’s assets for pennies on the dollar.  Lots in Belmopan worth upwards of fifty thousand dollars sold off for a measly one thousand dollars and without the electorate’s knowledge or permission.

The City Council is also involved in the selloff of a Belmopan iconic spot. The secret sale happened while housing the Public Service Union. We have sunk so low that the politicians no longer fear who is arguably the most power union.  Adding to the sting was the secret sale was done  by  Belmopanese to a non- Belmopanese and a questionable Belizean.  The new owner through the services of a non-Belmopan attorney has issued a threat of eviction.  Belmopan people are territorial…. I am not even sure that UDP in group thinking mode phantoms the political capital at this Judas act.

The final nail in the machete’s coffin can be attributed to the Prime Minister’s response to the Joshua Perdomo write off.  There are many things wrong with his letter, but I will highlight two points.  The Prime minister said “having remained dumb” intended as a double entendre with  the intention to insult the leader of the Opposition is a highly offensive politically incorrect term  and especially since his wife is an advocate in the special needs space.   More importantly, the PM argues that the bond is noncollectable, and that Joshua Perdomo is beyond the reach of the law.  Joshua Perdomo has a co-signer who lives in Belize which makes the bond collectible and within the reach of the law.  Additionally, neither the PM, nor the AG, nor any member of the party have told the  Belizean people what methods were attempted to collect the bond.  Was he written letters?  Was a lawsuit filed?   After the long diatribe of deflecting responsibility and turning it finally to Joshua Perdomo’s conscience, he came off as tone deaf and angry.

I argue that Joshua Perdomo has more than a moral obligation; Joshua Perdomo has a legal obligation to pay the bond; but even more important, the Prime Minister and in his capacity as Minister of Finance,  has a legal, moral and fiduciary duty to attend to the affairs of the people’s money .  My measuring stick is simple –  Would you PM allow your personal businesses to be managed similarly as how  government’s money and resources are  being handled?

 

[i] Groupthink requires individuals to avoid raising controversial issues or alternative solutions, and there is loss of individual creativity, uniqueness and independent thinking. The dysfunctional group dynamics of the “ingroup” produces an “illusion of invulnerability” (an inflated certainty that the right decision has been made). Thus the “ingroup” significantly overrates its own abilities in decision-making and significantly underrates the abilities of its opponents (the “outgroup“). Furthermore, groupthink can produce dehumanizing actions against the “outgroup”) – Wikipedia

 

Hardcore Politics: The Dying Breed of Belizean Politicians by Debbie Curling 3/28/2019


debbie curling

Debbie Curling

As I watched the budget debate in the House this week, I was struck by the behavior of some of our mostly male-dominated, elected leaders, ironically being corralled by a lone female House Speaker trying to keep their behavior in check.  On the UDP side, some of these hardcore politicians appeared polished while others not so much, which made me wonder why a leader would choose to have some of the latter on his ticket as representatives of his government?

The less polished ones came across as thugs hurling abuse at the other side, went off topic and made no sense while acting as attack dogs for the party (I assume).  They ranted about corruption and continued their projections, ad infinitum, at the other side, while deflecting blame and defending themselves in a rather twisted manner.  Witnessing this spectacle playing out on television, I found myself vacillating between disbelief, anger, shame, concern, and incredulity.  To be fair, I have also seen similar behavior from some on the PUP side in the past so they are not off the hook in my criticism of politicians behaving badly; the behavior is all too familiar!

I listened as one politician castigated Kareem Musa for daring to think differently from his father.  Must we not as individuals evolve and change our opinions, our behavior and belief systems as we learn and grow?  Heaven forbid I should still hold the same views of my parent’s generation.  I would still have the mindset of a strict, austere Victorian era-mentality, living in a world that has left me so far behind in these our modern-day sensibilities; a society that has moved so far away from how our parents grew up, raised us, taught us, and guided us within the boundaries of their knowledge and society at the time.

This is not to say we must change our core principles and behavior, but one must adapt to changes in our society; one must evolve or get left behind.  I posit a few simple questions to prove my point: do you type on an old-fashioned typewriter like your parents did, or do you use a computer that is much more efficient?  Did our parents (or their parents) have any clue about climate change and its devastating effects on the environment?  How many people’s lives have changed due to scientific discoveries within the last 100 years?  Truthfully, I know that I eat healthier foods and exercise more than my parents ever did so to accuse Kareem of disloyalty to his father for daring to think differently is an absurdity mired in ignorance.  I remain impressed that Kareem sat there in quiet dignity waiting for his moment to do the people’s business, but that’s another topic for another time!

Old-guard politicians need to stop making fools of themselves in the public arena by sinking to this level of stupidity because this hardcore, hard-hitting mentality no longer resonates with this generation.  We are tired of it, but many politicians remain stuck in a generational mindset that is no longer effective, so drunk on their power monopoly that they underestimate the will of the people.  To paraphrase Michelle Obama, you don’t have to go low; you can go high!  And when you are in our House debating issues that affect our lives, go high and stick to the topic.  This is not your moment to unleash your rage, or score brownie points, or grandstand.  You are there to do OUR business, which brings me to the point of my writing.

If we are to move forward as a nation in a dynamic, global arena that is rapidly changing and evolving, we as a nation cannot remain stagnant, sitting in this cesspool of bad behavior by politicians in which paying for votes get you elected and make you feel emboldened.  Belizeans, your vote is your most precious right; it puts the power back into your hands; it gives you power over politicians who are, or might be, abusing you; the privilege is yours to put them in or take them out. On voting day, show up!  It is your opportunity to choose your elected officials and to keep them accountable not just for their behavior, but also their use of the public purse.

If you are lucky enough to live in a country where you have the right to vote, let your vote be counted.  This is not about rabid loyalty to party and individuals; this is about your country; it is about YOU and YOUR vote to effect change.  It’s about the lives of you and your children not just for one day, but for the future.  Use your vote purposefully; don’t sell it!  We as a people need to up our game by cultivating global leaders who can represent us at home and abroad, manage our interests and finances, and behave effectively and dignified anywhere in the world as soon as they step off the plane.

Belizeans, we need to get excited about a new generation of progressive, assertive thinkers entering the political leadership in Belize, and this MUST include the voices of women.  I am heartened to hear some, but we need more, inspiring women rallying to the cause of progressive agendas: gender equality and violence against women and more; there is so much more we need to do.  This week I read a post about a Mayan woman giving birth in the jungles of Punta Gorda, men carrying her in a make-shift hammock to get her to safety, simply because this and previous governments have neglected to give them a 5-mile road in and out of their remote village.  Yet we are spending millions on a referendum.

THIS should anger all of us and not just women!  It is shameful and heartbreaking, but only when women take control will things change for us.  How much does it really cost to send some dump trucks full of sand and gravel to give these people a road?  Men should not be making decisions (or not) that impact us; it is our responsibility to demand to be heard.  Do you notice in Belize how men behave at a party?  As soon as they arrive, they leave the women sitting in isolation and go huddle together at the bar, hanging out with their bros, talking man talk.  I hazard a guess they are not discussing how to solve the world’s problems.  But what does that tell us about our society?  To be clear, I’m not trying to disrupt their bromance, but my point is…women need to come together just like men, stop tearing each other down, and get to work TOGETHER.  Let us be the change we want to see and stop admiring these problems from afar.  A woman alone has power, but together we have impact; there is power in the pack!

This is a time of transition in Belize and change will only come about if all of us put aside party politics and stand up for what is right and what we truly believe in.    To the smart women who are competing for space in this male-dominated, hardcore political game, I say be assertive, stand your ground, demand a seat at the table.  If they don’t allow you a seat, create your own table!  Change might not happen overnight, but if we keep pounding away at it, eventually it will happen.  We should not be our parent’s generation blindly following along with party politics.  Our country’s future depends on all of us being free-thinking individuals armed with our right to vote.

A new generation of progressive thinkers will change Belize and it MUST also include the diaspora.  Despite what these hardcore politicians tell you, the diaspora is not the enemy or a threat as some would like you to believe.  The diaspora might not be physically there, politicians might make it difficult for us to come home to vote, but this current government has disenfranchised many of you at home from voting too so we feel your pain.  Nothing will stop us from fighting for our families, for Belize and for the future of our country.  NOTHING and NOONE! Some politicians might want to count us out and marginalize us, but we are not going anywhere.  Our voices will be heard.  It takes courage, commitment and the will of The People to effect change.  We are with you!

Let us move forward together, but first we must hit the reset button and vote NO to the ICJ on April 10th.

Dangers to ICJ by: Dr. Theodore Aranda


 

Theodore-Aranda

Dr. Theodore Aranda

March 6, 2019

First and foremost, before Belize takes the very serious step of going into this dangerously risky ICJ/Guatemala/Belize case, Belize needed to have undertaken some very in-depth studies, analyses, research and investigations into all the possible flaws, weaknesses and vulnerabilities Guatemala could exploit and use to justify its claim to Belize.    It is a must for Belize to definitively survey, locate and demarcate its borders and territory.    Belize must secure and fortify its intelligence and defense to repel aggression.   Belize should also have undertaken similar investigations into the 1859 and all other Treaties, discussion, agreements and/or understandings with the other nations concerned in the case.

Powerful and geo-political nations, such as the US, Britain, Spain (that was the colonizer Nation of all Central America in the early 1800’s), NATO Members, Africa, India, Mexico, Canada, SICA, OAS, UN and CARICOM all make public and international statements to put themselves in favourable international light while for other reasons and confidential objectives of their own they support and even financed quite different positions.

In January, 1962, Francisco Sagastume Ortiz and some armed supporters – – Guatemalan Flag and Constitution in hand – – crossed into southern Belize.  The British were still around and repelled the intrusion, captured and imprisoned Sagastume and Gustavo Rosado.   But by December of the same year, Britain, under international pressure released them.   The question is what international influence(s) forced Britain to release invaders into a colony that by customary international standards it was obliged to protect.

For some years now the Adjacency Zone Issue has presented challenges to Belize, Guatemala and International Peace-making bodies.   Guatemala has not only defied the solutions attempted, but it has further advanced into additional violations at the Sarstoon, providing for itself a position of swapping Belize’s western border for southern Sarstoon.   We have had the 17 and 13 Proposals and the Heads of Agreement – all supposedly proposed as solution to the Guatemalan Claim.  But under close inspection, they were all paths to cede Belize to Guatemala.

Now, Belize is faced with and is contemplating going to the ICJ with Guatemala. Guatemala – – Constitution in hand, its Military behind and deadlier in purpose – – is coming at Belize, with an unreliable and unpredictable ICJ to adjudicate.  The Government Leaders of Belize, without the British to the rescue, are frustrated and confused about what to do, but yet are resolute and ready to lead the Nation into accepting to plunge into this extremely dangerous half-baked ICJ fiasco.   It is a gross misjudgment and irresponsible analysis of the facts, be they direct or indirect legal or circumstantial.

What vulnerabilities and flaws in the Adjacency Zone Discussions have not only hindered progress in those negotiations but have only more enabled Guatemala to advance into the Sarstoon?  One defiant and provocative incursion into Belize by Guatemalan officials may be considered a mere provocation.  But more progressively bolder challenges demonstrate Guatemala’s greater confidence in the validity and the rightness of its claim.

The defense and security of Belize is intended to be uncompromising, inviolable, protected by domestic and foreign policies, competent and efficient intelligence backed by experience for delicate judgement to inform of and ward off incursions, legislative and legal practices to defend against abuse of power by national leaders.   This held for Belize when it was a colony.  It still holds for Belize now as an Independent Nation, which should unite as an Independent People with the resolve to secure our national future and welfare.  Belize needs to declare emphatically and to aggressively internationalize that it is Belize’s basic and indisputable right and duty to maintain, nurture and cherish all its fundamentals and characteristics, its Sovereignty, Territory and Security.   Belize gives no foreign entity any authority, jurisdiction or power to interfere with, alter or modify any of its fundamentals in any way whatsoever.

Belize went into Independence with some unresolved British flaws and vulnerabilities which now threatens Belize’s very existence, national security, sovereignty, boundaries and territory.   It sounds so very easy that Guatemala will not recognize our flaws to take to ICJ.  Just the frightening opposite is the most probable.

Way forward

  1. Every single one eligible to vote to:

Register to vote

To save Yourself, Family and Belize

  1.        How to vote:

No to ICJ

To save Yourself, Family and Belize from Guatemala

  1. Negotiate to strengthen the borders of Belize

So we are no more a Colonial Football

  1. What next:

Work along with Competent Leaders

To develop Belize, You & Family

DELAY THE VOTE by: Nuri Muhammad


nuri

Nuri Muhammad

How naive were we to believe that government would ever provide resources for a balanced educational campaign going up to the Referendum, despite their promise in 2013. What made us think that, after signing the Special Agreement with Guatemala, in 2008, to take the matter to the ICJ, that government would ever consider allowing counter arguments equal space to show why there are problems with the Special Agreement. Wouldn’t this be counter-productive on their part?

The Government of Belize believes it is fulfilling its responsibility, by international standards, to provide its citizens with valuable factual information before the Referendum. So while they have launched a “be informed” campaign with only one side presented, in their view, it can still be justified that Belizeans were given all the “fact” they needed to make an informed decision. And of course, the only informed decision is, a “yes to the ICJ”

But there are loud voices of dissent that are present but are under resourced and depend on outlets like Facebook, newspaper articles, morning talk shows, and community forums to voice their dissenting views. Nowhere will you see sophisticated TV commercials on the no vote. Nor will you find massive posters throughout the country saying ‘no’; not even one of the icon of the nos, Mr. Goldson, saying: “The time to save your country is before you lose it” Not a banner, a poster or a placard. And you won’t find schools being told to direct their student assemblies where the ‘nos’ are the main presenters nor are the ‘nos’ invited to all presentations made by the Referendum unit.

Clearly the playing field is uneven and the promises of 2013 that Belizeans would be given access to all sides of the argument so that they could make an informed decision on the Referendum, has been set aside for blatant one-sided propaganda.

But it’s not only the ‘nos’ that are not given space to express themselves but also those who are crying out for more time to get a better understanding of what they are being asked to vote for. This is a loud voice that is brushed off casually as, “it’s your fault that you didn’t read all the information that has been out there”. By doing this the government is attempting to absolve itself of the responsibility to ensure that people have a good grasp of what they are going to vote on and what the implications are. No doubt some will say, what good will delaying the vote be, six months, six years, it will be the same. But this dismissive response is part of the problem.

Delaying the vote to a reasonable date is not a futile exercise, especially if attention is given to specific issues to be addressed during the interim of a year or two. This is one of the most historic vote in the history of the country likened to historic decision of 1798 and I can see the correlation on a purely existential level. We should not be plagued by immediacy and think delaying the Referendum is somehow sacrilegious, we are a sovereign nation and have the right to say: we have some in-house business that we have to deal with before we decide to proceed to a Referendum. This would demonstrate the principle of self-determination and that we could exercise our right as a member of the United Nations to take as much time as is necessary to get it right.

Here are some things we can work on in the interim:

• taking the Special Agreement to the House

• correcting the issues at Vital Statistics

• passing legislation to allow Belizeans abroad to vote in the referendum

• Correct constitutional issues regarding Belizean-Guatemalan right to vote

• Political parties must publically stand down immediately and withdraw from promoting a party vote to promoting a conscience vote.

• Expanded the education program to be equally accessibly to both sides of the argument; dissent must be respected and given ventilation

This vail of secrecy and mistrust must be lifted to let the fresh air of trust and confidence and clarity back into the conversation to give our people a breathing space to exhale the negative elements that has clouded the atmosphere surrounding this debate.

 

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Disenfranchised Belizeans living abroad