Remembering Julian Cho (April 6, 1962 – Dec. 1, 1998) by Jerry A. Enriquez


Jerry Enriquez

Jerry Enriquez

It was not the type of news that I was prepared to receive on December 1, 1998. But then, who can ever predict what will happen each day or any moment in life? The only permanence in life is its impermanence. We know not the day or the hour.

“Hilá numada” (My friend is dead) was all I could say when the Garifuna helper at my home wondered why tears were quietly streaming down my face as I reclined silently in my living room sofa with eyes closed trying to fathom the news of passing of my friend Julian Cho. She quietly handed me a glass of water and a handkerchief. After that hour of mournful reflection I emerged with a resolve to continue supporting friend’s work. It’s why I became a Board member of the Julian Cho Society and supported the struggle through the courts.

Julian’s life was cut short at 36 years old, during the prime of his leadership in the Toledo Maya Cultural Council (TMCC). His unanimous election as Chairman of that organization in December 1995 had turned the tide of the history of his people’s struggles.

For the first time in their history, the Mayas had found from among themselves, a highly educated, astute, and determined leader dedicated to social justice and human rights. His wasn’t the type of education that makes some academics live in their heads with apathy, egotistic detachment, fear and complacency. His formation fired him to a life of service. Hardly anyone realized the weight of his position. As a family man and with the full time high school teaching job that Julian had, the extra demands of voluntary work as Maya leader could stretch one beyond limits.  The land rights struggle was local but its context global, stemming from centuries of a deeply entrenched system.

In his own unassuming but shrewd manner, Julian pursued a mission that was rooted in his history. He was born in the Maya village of San Jose in the Toledo District on April 6, 1962. As the sixth child of his family he was determined to overcome the cycle of poverty through education. We first met at St. Peter Claver College, a Jesuit high school in Punta Gorda. He was in first form when I was in fourth.  (My other friend the late Andy Palacio, was in third form then.) Julian went on to further studies at SJC Junior College. As he contemplated the Jesuit priesthood, he pursued a Bachelor of Arts degree in Philosophy at St. Louis University, in the US. After a few years in the seminary, his path changed. He returned home, taught at St. John’s College, Sacred Heart College and Toledo Community College (TCC), and in 1992 became married to Magdalena Coc, Cristina’s eldest sister. They had two children. The height he reached was rare for any Maya of Toledo.

As a Maya leader, Julian had a remarkable ability to mobilize his people to voice their concerns over disregard for their rights to land. Callously and without consultations, the Government of Belize, in 1993, granted long term logging concessions to a foreign company Atlantic Industries, to exploit timber in lands near and around Maya villages.  There were great concerns that massive deforestation would threaten the resources that the Mayas traditionally depended on to sustain their way of life. While the people were (and are) consistently denied their rights to communal land rights and opportunities to benefit from the bountiful natural resources within their area, secret agreements were very often made to benefit foreign corporate interests. (Ironically, amidst these injustices, Maya archaeology, history and culture have become hallmarks in the promotion of Belize’s tourism industry.)

Julian was also able to mobilize alliances and draw international attention and support to challenge the government in court. Under international pressure, government’s agreement with the Malaysian logging company was finally terminated. One of Julian’s crowning achievements was the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding on November 25, 1998, with the Prime Minister of Belize to negotiate a solution to the Maya land rights struggle. One week later he met his untimely death.

Julian’s struggle for his people went far beyond the discriminatory ways in which successive UDP and PUP government administrations have treated the Mayas. It represents the historical global struggle of indigenous peoples against the injustices that are deeply rooted in Western capitalism – a system designed to fulfill a certain class dominance while exercising subjugation and dominion over indigenous and Afro descendant peoples.

At the core of this system are racism, greed and blatant disregard for the well-being of people and nature. Its legacies are deeply entrenched throughout the Americas, Africa and wherever there are people of color. The massacre of Native Americans for the expansion of North America, the centuries of brutal transatlantic trading of enslaved Africans, the invasion and banishment of the Garinagu from St. Vincent, the brutal oppression and genocide of indigenous peoples in Guatemala, the alienation, marginalization and mass poverty of indigenous peoples all over the Americas, are all manifestations of that system.

There are still “leaders” in Belize who bear the mental shackles of this system. Under their leadership, our independent state is not meant to produce a new system or to radically improve the current one. Rather, it was designed to reproduce the same structure that perpetuates these inequalities. That’s the hypocrisy of our democracy. Therein lies the essence of the struggle that Julian took on his shoulders on behalf of his people.

Through Julian’s friendship, I understood in a personal way what leaders experience when they seek to break the oppressive grip of a system that tramples the dignity and rights of people for the profit of a greedy and oppressive few. Quite often, he received death threats. While the circumstantial details of his passing remain interred in his bones, we know that leaders such as Garvey and Mandela were jailed, others such as Ghandi, Archbishop Romero, Martin Luther King, Che Guevarra and many others assassinated as they fought against exploitative and oppressive conditions and for the rights of their people.  Bob Marley echoed it best when he asked, “How long shall they kill our prophets, while we stand aside and look?”

My friendship with Julian intertwined in many ways – professionally, historically and socially. Only three days before his passing, he and I had one of our usual lighthearted but insightful conversation that makes one least suspect that life is not forever. He was advising one of my U.S. university students for a research assignment on the Maya land rights. In the early 1980s, we were both served as teachers at Toledo Community College. We were part of the SEARCH youth group around the same time. In 1993, when I served as a consultant for the US-based Center for Native Lands to map out the extent and boundaries of Garifuna and Maya land use in Belize, Julian provided key insights. From 1995 to the time of his passing, he had served as a lecturer of Maya History and Culture in the School for International Training program, in which I was serving as the Academic Director.

As one becomes more aware of life’s synchronicity there is a realization, as Paulo Coelho notes, that “important encounters are planned by the souls long before the bodies see each other.”  My in-depth understanding of Maya life and culture came through my own family roots. In 1907, my grandfather Andres P. Enriquez opened the school in the village of San Antonio and served as school Principal there for 28 of his 45-year teaching career. He was highly respected and revered among the Mayas. My grandmother whose first five children were stillborn due to inhospitable living conditions in that village, later became a renowned midwife and traditional healer. My father and his five siblings grew up in San Antonio and were well known in the Maya communities. Like other families of Garifuna teachers, they were also steeped in Maya cultural traditions. In the 1970s & early 80s, my father served as interpreter of Maya at the Supreme Court.  Our home in PG always welcomed visits by Maya villagers. When I was a boy, my parents shared our home for about eight years with a homeless elderly Maya man, Mr. Telesforo Paquiul, the son of one of the founders of San Antonio Village. Mr. Paquiul became our adopted grandfather; his evening stories from his hammock enhanced the rich diversity of my childhood experiences.

The friendship I shared with Julian emerged within these encounters and grew during early adulthood when we attended regular Jesuit vocation retreats as we both discerned whether the priesthood was our calling. He entered the seminary for a few years; I didn’t. My path weaved its own form but we maintained contact. While I was studying at Minnesota State University (1986-88) Julian and Lawrence Mangar (another Belizean Jesuit seminarian at the time) visited from their seminary base in Omaha, Nebraska. Our discussions at the Jesuit residence in Mankato, MN where they stayed during their visit, had sometimes left me tempted to return to that path.

Julian’s leadership was groomed by his Jesuit formation. His life demonstrated that once imbued with the Jesuit spiritual tradition, one becomes more critically aware of individual and social evils and of the need for discernment and responsible action. It is a spirituality that empowers people to become leaders in service towards building a just and humane world. Contrary to the pervading individualistic, materialistic culture of our society, the spirituality brings out a profound set of human values, attitudes and insights that empowers one “to give and not count the cost, to fight and not heed the wounds, to labor and not ask for reward” – for the greater good. The struggle continues through emergence of new leadership including his sister-in-law Cristina Coc, Pablo Mis, Greg Choc, and other emerging Maya leaders who were inspired by him.

Too often, as stated in the wisdom of indigenous Cree: “When the last tree is cut down, the last river is poisoned, the last fish is caught, then only will they discover that they cannot eat money.” We ought not to wait until then. A transformed consciousness and a paradigm shift is what we all desperately need for a better Belize.

Julian Cho’s service to his people is a stellar example of dedication to rid unjust systems and practices that are still deeply embedded in our nation’s institutions and among our leaders. The bigger struggle continues. For the sake of our children’s future, we must continue. Through our homes, our schools, our work, our churches, communities, and political party affiliations, we must work assiduously to transform this nation. Indeed we must. Yes we can.

Julian Cho Mayan Leader

Julian Cho
Mayan Leader

(Channel 5 News 6/22/1999 Channel 5 News Archives 22825 ) In December Belizeans were shocked to hear that a young and vocal activist for Maya rights had died suddenly at his home in the Toledo District. Although it appeared as if Julian Cho had fallen from the roof of his home by accident, his family, in particular his wife Maggie, believed he had been the victim of foul play. But this week the case of Julian Cho appears to have been finally laid to rest as a coroner’s inquest in Punta Gorda on Monday ruled his death an accident and that no one is criminally responsible. Cho’s body was found on December 1st, 1998. Reports at the time indicated that Cho had been drinking over the weekend and failed to report for work at Toledo Community College that Monday. Maggie Cho and his close friends, however, insisted he was not a heavy drinker and wanted the matter investigated further since they claimed he had received death threats from workers displaced by the suspension of the Malaysian Logging Concession, an operation Cho had opposed. Maggie Cho’s efforts led the Ministry of National Security to exhume the body and bring in an independent pathologist who performed a second autopsy in February. His findings concurred with those of Dr. Mario Estradabran who ruled the death an accident. Apparently Punta Gorda Magistrate Clive Lino, who presided over Monday’s inquest, also agreed with the medical authority and police findings.

 

Belize’s schools must nurture the foundation values for a healthy nation! by Jerry Enriquez


Jerry Enriquez

Jerry Enriquez

“The teacher talks about reality as if it were motionless, static, compartmentalized, and predictable…His task is to “fill” the students with the contents of his narration — contents which are detached from reality, disconnected from the totality that engendered them and could give them significance.” Paulo Freiri in Pedagogy of the Oppressed

With the increasing breakdown of Belizean families, there seem little other choice but for our population to depend more and more on schools to nurture such values as character strength, personal initiative and responsibility, care of body, mind, emotions and spirit, respect for others, creativity and civic pride that are vital for the well-being and future functions of our society.

Indeed the  aditional subjects are necessary but these are not enough. More and more it has become evident that our children are simply not being adequately prepared for the realities of Belize’s development. Hence it is critical for schools to forge beyond the ineffective, alienating and failing system of imparting learning as though the students are mere empty receptacles to be filled. When schools fail to nurture essential core values, the consequences to individuals, families, community and the future of a nation are retrogressive and even devastating for each generation.

Several aspects of Belize’s education system have shown a gross disconnect between what our children are taught and the values that are necessary for their well- being as well as for the future needs of society. Schools have tended to disconnect students from their inner strengths, from nature, their culture and that of others, and disembodied them to become mere receptacles for regurgitating information, devoid of critical thinking and balanced emotions for holistic development and effective participation. Even basic but very important foundations such as awareness about healthy diet and lifestyle, creating and maintaining harmonious relationships, spiritual development, and respect for people and nature are vastly missing. We see such lack of those foundations in such behavior as unhealthy eating habits, lack of exercise and care for the body, inability to resolve conflicts and increase in abuse and violence, and lack of parenting skills. Even many of the most “educated” can be disconnected, tend to live in their heads, lack the awareness about healthy living as well equanimity to peacefully resolve conflicts. They tend to be compliant to the status quo.

In a previous article, I discussed as one example, the persistent failure of high schools to enable their non-Hispanic students to be conversant or literate in Spanish despite the fact that mandatory Spanish classes are taught through each of four years. Such lack of preparation has stifled many students from effective participation in scholarship opportunities offered by our Latin American neighbors and region.

Belize’s education system at all levels – primary, secondary and tertiary – does not seem to be designed to develop and unleash vital human capacities. It is a system thus described by a frustrated elderly Belizean employer: “Dem gat lat a edication, but no learnment.” The practical application of character strength and core values is the “learnment” that he referred to as vastly absent.

Another glaring example is the naïve collusion of school Principals with merchants to establish schools as a captive market for soft drinks to our children. The strategy is that by conditioning their taste to these unhealthy drinks at an early age, a habit pattern will be formed. By the time these children grow older and become parents this habit would become so ingrained that they mindlessly pass it on to their children and future generations. Bingo for the company.

Given the high and increasing incidence of diabetes all over Belize, school administrations ought to be more aware and proactive to prevent such disgraceful alliance with the companies. It reflects that the school administration is either naive or least concerned about effects of high-sugar content drinks on the health of the students and the values they are passing on for the future well-being of our nation.

It is no wonder that Belize was featured in a Guinness Book of Records as the country that stands out as the world’s leading consumer of sugar with its per capita consumption of 62.6 kg (138 lbs.) per annum. Gulping each soft drink is like ingesting the equivalent of 8-12 teaspoons of sugar. Not to mention the other secret ingredients that companies promote to give “happiness”. Happy ignorance! Soft drinks are devoid of healthful nutrients. Too many students (like many adults) are hooked to the pleasure and daily desire for soft drinks with their (usually processed) meals. Many prefer soft drinks to healthy alternatives, including water. Consequently, Belize is increasingly becoming an abdominally obese and diabetic nation.

Numerous scientific studies, such as one conducted at the Harvard School of Public Health in 2010, have consistently shown strong evidence that drinking soda on a regular basis can lead to weight gain – especially in the stomach or abdominal area – and increase one’s risk for health conditions such as type 2 diabetes, obesity, heart disease, hypertension and stroke.

In a Nurse Health Study that followed over 90,000 women for over two decades, results show that women who consumed one or more servings of soft drink per day were twice as likely as those who consumed less than one serving per month to develop diabetes over the course of the study. Yale University researchers also found that people tend to eat more calories on days when they drink a lot of sugar-sweetened drinks, and that soda drinkers tend to grow heavier than people who don’t drink soft drinks. The evidence has led several countries to ban the sale of soft drinks in schools. In Belize, however, school leaders appear ignorant to these facts and expose our future generation to these risks.

The recent World Health Organization’s ranking of the top 10 leading causes of death shows that globally diabetes ranks as the 9th leading cause of death over the past decade. However, for Belize that report shows diabetes ranks as the 1st leading cause of death: – more than death by violence, which ranks as Belize’s 9th leading cause of death, prostate cancer deaths (rank 10th), or breast cancer (ranking 16th leading cause).

Based on all the evidence, the sale of soft drinks at schools in Belize is just another example of further naïve disconnect between the educational practices and the values that are critically needed for the future health of our nation. Can’t school administrators see that promoting healthy drinks such as coconut water, natural citrus juice, and local fruits could greatly enhance the health of the students, instill proper values and build new opportunities in the domestic economy? Wouldn’t the demand from schools for these healthy alternatives encourage increase production among small farmers?

Belize’s annual observance of World Diabetes Day and activities to promote public awareness has to go much deeper. The root of the problem also has to be addressed not only in an academic way, but through the very practices and values that schools impart. School administrators each have to be more strategic, more visionary and deliberate towards merging principles and practice for a better society. There should be no excuses to place the corporate interests over the well-being of our children. Belize depends on our schools not to be static and detached from reality, but rather dynamic and engaged to critically examine our current realities, to envision the future we wish to create, and to instill proper values and examples of healthy living and other vital foundations for the benefit of our nation’s future.

Lessons from the experiences of our Garifuna ancestors by Jerry A. Enriquez


 printed in Amandala, November 17, 2013 and reprinted with the permission of Jerry A. Enriquez

This piece offers a compelling story of the journey of the Garinagu people. In my opinion It also reflects a common history of the Creoles and Garinagu of Belize. The realities are that parents,  brothers, sisters and cousins were likely on different ships, all enslaved in Africa and taken across the Atlantic Ocean in an arduous voyage, however a shipwreck sets a different path for the Garinagus. Jeremy offers an uncensored view of the realities of slavery and oppression in the Caribbean.  AL

jeremye

The annual Garifuna Settlement Day celebration, which was founded in 1942 by visionary Garifuna leader Thomas Vincent Ramos, is the foremost event to remind Garinagu about their genesis, exodus, and survival against historical odds that were meant to exterminate their existence and identity as a people. The celebration also occurs in the Garifuna diaspora and on different dates at Garifuna communities in Honduras (April 12), Guatemala (Nov. 26) and Nicaragua. This year’s celebration theme is: – “Awanse wamá lidan aban lau lareini bungiu luma habayarahan áhari. (Let us progress in unity with God’s goodness and the protection of our ancestors.”

Arguably, without the pause for reflection that this day brings, the people’s collective memory of significant events in their experience would have long been destroyed by colonial forces. Hence the importance of all to be cognizant of the old West African proverb, “Until the lion and lioness learn to keep their history, the history of the hunting will always glorify the hunter.” One’s history must not only expand the awareness of the prevailing impact of past values and conditions on life today. Its lessons must be used to guide present and future realities. The experiences of our ancestors have a lot to teach us.

The popular history about the genesis of the Garinagu is that in 1635, two Spanish ships loaded with captured Africans (men and women) from the Bight of Benin in West Africa and destined for enslavement on plantations in the Caribbean, were wrecked by a storm off the island of Bequia in the Grenadines.  Most of these Africans survived the wreck and crossed over from Bequia to St Vincent where they found a home and intermingled among the Island Caribs who had helped in their rescue.

That history, however, is simplistic and distorts a much more complex reality. Ivan Van Sertima’s thesis argues the presence, in the Americas, of Africans from the Mali Empire during the 13th century. This was long before the encounter by “Chris-teef-us Come-bus us”. Be that as it may, the most significant series of events that has had the most profound impact on the character, history and contemporary Caribbean began with the flood of Europeans, starting with Columbus, who for over four centuries exploited every resource while cruelly subjugating enslaved Africans and indigenous people to fulfill their desire for material enrichment.

There were reports, such as in Nancie Gonzalez’s Sojourners of the Caribbean, of contact between island Caribs of Dominica and enslaved Africans occurring in the late 1500s and that such contact was also likely to have also occurred with St. Vincent Caribs several generations before the shipwreck.

Slavery was brutal. It included severe whippings by European masters, severing of body parts, hanging, or throwing slaves in boiling cauldrons of cane syrup. Many escaped. Over time there was a constant increase in the number pure-bred Africans who fled enslavement in Barbados and other islands to nearby St Vincent where the indigenous Caribs provided a sanctuary. The flow of ocean currents, wind, and short distance made it relatively easy for escapees to reach St. Vincent in small crafts. By the end of the 1700s the Black Carib (Garinagu) population on St. Vincent had grown considerably.

These two groups of people – the Africans and the indigenous bronze-colored Caribs – came to share a culture of resistance that was necessitated by the realities of the times in which they were living.  The Garinagu were forced to defend their territory, their freedom and their existence from marauding Europeans greedy for expansion of their colonial possessions and determined to acquire these at any cost and by any means necessary.

As early as 1772, the Garinagu vowed that they would never submit or give up their lands and preferred to die first. After several failed attempts at cajolery and intimidation to remove them from their land, the British engaged full force. In 1796, the Garinagu fought fiercely but were no match for the superior military might of the British.

When they refused to surrender, they were hunted down, their houses and canoes were burned, and their crops and food were destroyed. Between July 1796 and February 1797, about 4,338 Garifuna (mostly women and children) were captured and transported to the barren rock island of Baliceaux. There, about 2,100 died from typhus or yellow fever, which was aggravated by malnutrition.

On March 11, 1797, the 2,238 Garifuna survivors embarked in a convoy of ships to be banished forever on the island of Roatan hundreds of miles away. (Those who remained in St. Vincent were strictly forbidden from any expression of their culture.) Over two hundred died on that perilous one month voyage. On April 12, 1797, 2,026 Garinagu (664 men and 1,362 women and children) were landed on Roatan and left to the mercy of the elements. These stalwart ancestors formed the root stock of the estimated 400,000 Garifuna people and their richly unique culture that we have today.

From their first settlement at Roatan these survivors spread to mainland Honduras where, gradually through baptism of their offspring to Roman Catholicism their family names such as Huayba, Palangure, Babiar, Sambula, Chatuye, among others, were changed, as the church required, to their Spanish compadre’s surnames such as Arzu, Castillo, Palacio, Cayetano, Enriquez, Ramos and others that they now have today.

garifuna1

On August 1802, five years after the war and their expulsion from St Vincent, a group of 150 Garifuna were imported to the settlement of Belize to cut mahogany for the British forestocracy. This importation was necessitated by the shortage of labor due to the escape of enslaved Africans from the settlement to nearby Petén and Mexico. Technically, the Garinagu were not allowed in Belize. They were considered dangerous and there was fear that they would foment slave rebellion.  Hence it was mandated that all Garinagu must remain completely outside the settlement, south of its Sibun River boundary.

The first Garifuna settlement was Dangriga. From there they spread further south through the vast expanse of uninhabited forest and coastline all the way to the Sarstoon River extracting mahogany. (Interestingly, both Afro-descendant groups whose labor enriched the empire remain marginalized.) ON November 19, 1823, there was the mass influx of Garinagu to Belize with others continuing to join family members over the years. They became well known for their resilience, self-reliance, courage, diverse productive skills, natural intelligence, strong work ethic and superb maritime skills.

Since their arrival, the Garinagu have continued to make outstanding contributions to the development of Belize though various fields most notably agriculture, education and culture. This remarkable story of Garifuna survival and progress while defending and maintaining their distinct ancestral culture and language through all odds speaks to the strong determination, resilience and unity of purpose of the ancestors.

Today the Garifuna people are faced with a new set of complex challenges that will define whether or not they have the determination, commitment, strength and visionary leadership that enabled the survival of their ancestors.

The subtle downplay of our African ancestry by some leaders, while highlighting mainly that of the indigenous Caribs, (historically done with apparent intention to distinguish a difference between former enslaved and free Afro-descendants) distorts and undervalues the equally rich contributions of our African legacy. Such denial stifles the critical need for concerted approaches by both Belizean Afro-descendant groups to confront common adversities that continue to marginalize both groups. Divisive political party loyalties over the greater interests of our people have polarized families and communities while compromising the call for unifying and transformative leadership so desperately needed among our people.  Issues of discrimination, historically exploitative socio-economic opportunities, poverty, lack of self-reliant productivity, alcoholism, poor dietary habits and diabetes, apathy, disengagement of the diaspora, competing cultural interests, all continue to affect our people. In a profound way, the threats that we face starts from conditions within our individual and collective consciousness and values.

Perhaps what is being increasingly lost is the deep spirituality that was central to Garifuna survival and progress, and the passing on of timeless values from the ancestors through each generation. In the days of our ancestors, the leaders served as healers, counselor, custodian of the people’s cultural values, and spiritual warriors to protect the people from danger. They realized that the desire for the greater good of their people is drawn from spiritual sustenance. The leaders had unwavering integrity to resist cajolery and bribery by the British against their people. They were shrewd, reflective and insightful, united, and looked out for each other and the greater good of all.  Through these timeless values, they realized (as in the spirit of Ubuntu) that the well-being of each is inextricably linked to that of the other. If these values become increasingly absent among our young men and women, our people’s future well-being will continue to be threatened.

To maintain the values that have preserved and strengthened a people amidst most challenging times, the long journey that we now have to take now is not across the perilous ocean. Neither can it be taken by looking up at the skies with eyes closed. That long journey must be taken deep within ourselves. Therein lies the goodness of God and the whispers of our ancestors that this year’s celebration theme requests and which we all need to follow.

HELP 50 Kids GO Back to School in 2013! UPDATE 8/24/2013


U   P   D  A  T  E :

THE BACK TO SCHOOL DRIVE IS NOW CLOSED!  WE EMBARKED UPON A VERY SUCCESSFUL DRIVE AND WANT TO THANK ALL THE GENEROUS CONTRIBUTORS WHO MADE THIS DRIVE A RESOUNDING SUCCESS!!!!!! 8/24/2013

 

The Belize Association of Central Florida and Twocanview are embarking on a Back-to-School Drive to benefit vulnerable and disadvantaged kids.

Back-to-School-8.31.11-300x199

Who will Benefit? 

The Department of Human Services Child Protection and Family Support in Belize specifically their OVC program. The bags will be distributed among children who are orphaned and vulnerable as a result of HIV AIDS

Goal

Our goal is to send 50 school bags with supplies back to Belize. Each donated backpack with supplies will bear the donor’s name.

 

What to to Donate?

 Please donate:

1 Backpack plus:

8 compositions books

1 pack of pencils

1 pack of pens

1 ruler

1 pack of color pencils

1 pack of erasers

1 dictionary

1 thesaurus

approximately ( $25.00USD  per backpack with school supplies)

or donate $25.00 and supplies will be purchased on your behalf

Goal is for 50 backpacks with school supplies

How to donate:

Please email twocanview@gmail.com or email: belizeacf@yahoo.com to arrange a donation or send via PayPal @ arialightfoot@gmail.com

Call 813-486-8220 to arrange pick-up in Tampa/Wesley Chapel/St. Petersburg  Florida

Or mail a donation to:

Belize Association of Central Florida

c/o Aria Lightfoot

1334 Maximillian Drive

Wesley Chapel Florida

33543

Important Deadline

Please  donate by: August 24, 2013

Shipping expenses to Belize will be donated by the Belize Association of Central Florida.

Should the Belizean Diaspora participate in elections and elected office?


diaspora.final_.full_

 

The Belizean Diaspora contributes an estimated 200 million USD to families and organizations in Belize. Amendment 7 is a legislation which clarifies the rights of Belizeans who hold dual citizenship. This is a very important legislation for the future of Belize’s survival. Nuri Akbar delves deeper into this legislation and its implications for Belize. Please read, share and discuss. 
The resurrection of the 7th amendment and Belize survivability in the 21st

28 May 2013 — by Nuri Akbar

 

On June 19th 2009, the Prime Minister of Belize,  the Hon. Dean Barrow, while addressing the proposed 7th amendment to the Belize  constitution in the National Assembly uttered the following words:

“Because our laws recognize dual citizenship how  then will you turn around, recognizing dual citizenship, providing for dual  citizenship but impose a limitation on a dual citizen. It makes no sense at all  and if a little bit of history and background are necessary, we didn’t always  recognize dual citizenship. The recognition of dual citizenship came about as a  consequence of the advance in legislation that was promoted by national hero  Phillip Goldson. But we turn around and we leave intact in the constitution for  all these years this impairment on the rights of the Belizean who have acquired  a second nationality. I say therefore, Mr. Speaker, that it is utterly and  completely contradictory. I also say it is inconsistent, and let me tell you why  it is inconsistent, if you are a Belizean who has acquired second nationality  you are disqualified from sitting in the National Assembly, but the Governor  General, whose office is from a protocol point of view the highest office in the  land, there is no such disqualification. The Governor General can be a Belizean  who has acquired a second nationality. He is not barred from being Governor  General and that is the highest office in the land. “

Recently a prominent Diaspora Belizean, Mrs.  Muriel Laing-Arthurs, asked me to comment on the 7th amendment to the  constitution proposed in 2009 that would have given full citizenship rights to  Belizean-born natives who happen to possess dual nationality. Since I am not a  card carrying member of any political party, my trajectory on this issue is not  skewed by the inordinate local partisan rhetoric that has taken on a life of its  own in Belize, but rather influenced by the realities we are facing as a people  and nation and the fact that we have thus far failed to strategically maximize  our human capital among our Belizean brothers and sisters in the Diaspora.

 

Therefore, on this particular issue I am in  agreement with the Prime Minister and endorse the concept and spirit of the 7th  amendment. However the contradictions and hypocrisy in our actual  behavior/thinking surrounding the re-embracement of the Belizean Diaspora must  fundamentally change if this initiative is to be successful.

Belize national  hero, the Honorable Phillip Goldson, lost his physical eyesight in the later  years of his life, but arguably he possessed one of the most clairvoyant visions  we have ever produced in an indigenous leader. From the inception he saw the  critical role Belizeans in the Diaspora can and should play in the overall  national development of Belize, and understood that national allegiance and  patriotism were not limited by one’s geographical location. Hence, his efforts  over the many decades to engage, reconnect, claim and maximize the Belizean  human capital of the Diaspora toward Belize national development have been one  of the most remarkable progressive legacies of Phillip Goldson.

The issue of migration has been with the earliest  human creatures as they began the trek out of Africa and eventually crossed the  Bering Strait millennia ago into the Americas. These migrations were often times  prompted by the need of share survival and in search of water, food and shelter.  Other times by war, oppression, natural disasters and protection against the  unrepentant natural elements.

As empires rose and fell over the millennia,  human beings were captured and used as slaves to build these empires. In modern  times much of Europe as we have known it was obliterated by two world wars that  killed millions and displaced entire populations. During the revolutions that  engulfed the Central American isthmus in the 70’s and 80’s, hundreds of  thousands of people were displaced, forced to flee, and many became  refugees.

In Belize’s case large migration can be traced  back to the building of the Panama Canal and World War II. After the 1931 and  1961 hurricanes that devastated the country and killed many people, Belizeans,  via a designed policy, were granted refugee status and were allowed to migrate  into the United States. Over the ensuing decades this migration pattern  continued officially and unofficially, eventually creating a brain drain that  has had an adverse impact on the nation’s long term development. Today thousands  of these same Belizeans and their offspring have acquired various life-affirming  skills and experience that have benefitted the host countries.

This perennial movement /exodus of masses of  people has been a part of human nature as a result of curiosity, mobility,  circumstance, oppression and conflict. To this end, the life and times we are  now living in 2013 have therefore imposed upon us the necessity to reclaim this  reservoir of natural resource.

A brilliant Diaspora Belizean sociologist who is  an expert on migration, Dr. Jerome Straughan, raised the issue of the  transforming definition of the modern nation state and its increasing mobility  of people and how governments will have to implement policies that take these  new dynamics into account. Accepting the reality that half of Belize’s  population reside abroad, creating the bridge/mechanism to harness this human  capital toward the development of the mother nation is not only logical, but is  in keeping with the transforming definition of modern nation states and  globalization. Given Belize’s geographic location, population size and history,  isolationism has no place in the 21st century. There is no question that the  nation’s future direction, national development and very survivability hinge on  its ability to reclaim its Belizean Diaspora and incorporate the human capital  into a long term strategy for maximum benefit.

The vulnerability of small, developing and  peripheral economies like Belize’s is the burden of external debt. When a small  country becomes totally consumed by debt, her natural resources then become  collateral and held hostage to the creditor nations and institutions. Local  governments are pressured into compromising the national patrimony, which  includes putting the country’s vital industries, raw materials, and even the  scandalous selling of passports, on the chopping block in a desperate bid to  raise revenue. This global trend will not change anytime soon, but given the  continued contraction of the metropolitan economies, Belize’s natural resources  will remain a premium for exploitation.

In Belize there have been many noble causes taken  up by various local and foreign finance advocacy groups and organizations  relating to the physical environment, wildlife, social and cultural issues, but  not a single organization dedicated to reconnecting and reclaiming the Belizean  human capital from abroad. Over the years, Belize’s leading newspaper, the  Amandala, has editorially supported the Hon. Phillip Goldson’a vision of  proactively engaging the Belizean Diaspora and encouraging the cross-pollination  of Belizeans at home and abroad, but this vision is yet to reverberate across  all sectors of the society.

The most valuable natural resource our nation  will ever produce is our people. Hence, any attempt at reclaiming this natural  resource should be paramount on any platform for national reconstruction and  development. It is now estimated that the number of Belizeans (first and second  generation) residing abroad in North America, Europe and elsewhere is equal to  half the three hundred thousand plus residents in the entire nation of  Belize.

The arguments presented in 2009 for abolishing  the discriminatory and apartheid era law dividing our people, and for providing  the legal instrument allowing Belizeans who hold dual nationality access to full  citizenship rights, participation and inclusion in elected public office, were  and are a visionary, progressive policy option.

There is no excuse for not initiating and  quantifying the various experiences in creating a skill bank of Belizean  citizens abroad toward national inclusion. This should be relatively easy since  globally the platforms already exist using tools such as Linkedln, Facebook,  etc., where thousands of Belizeans are actively interacting and networking with  each other. TheFortune 500 corporations and many countries  already use these various platforms for global recruitment of talents, skills  and experience. Since the rapid growth of the Internet, the competition for  human creativity, talent and experience has indeed gone global.

The continued dragging of the feet and denial of  thousands of Diaspora Belizean-born citizens from total participation in the  development of their homeland is now viewed as conspiratorial, and even racist,  by many. If a Belizean-born citizen is disqualified from full “citizenship  rights” and his or her allegiance is questioned on the basis that they hold dual  nationality, this is not only myopic but hypocritical, primitive thinking. The  intense passion and interest which many Diaspora Belizeans have demonstrated  regarding the ongoing Guatemalan claim and the proposed ICJ option is a clear  reflection of the love and fraternal relationship they hold toward Belize. If  the nation of Belize were to be militarily invaded/attacked, there is no  question a vast segment of the able-bodied Belizeans with military and actual  combat experience living abroad would volunteer to fight for their homeland.

 

What greater betrayal and damage has been done to  the nation state of Belize over the past quarter century than by those who swear  to defend and uphold the national patrimony and sovereignty of the state but  hold more allegiance to a political entity effectively subordinating the state?  Indeed, the actions, behavior and policies that have seen most of the nation’s  arable land sold to foreign interests, vital industries usurped, selling of  Belizean citizenship (passports), oil drilling concessions with ties to cronies  and family members, and outright pillaging of the national treasury for personal  gain – who is the real enemy of the Belizean state?

As I sat with one of Belize’s sages and  historians recently, Imam Ismael Shabazz, and asked for his insight on the 7th  amendment, Shabazz in his wisdom reminded me that the real substance of the 7th  amendment should not only include the right to hold public office, but indeed “voting rights” of Belizean citizens in the Diaspora. This idea is not new.  However, it has been resisted by the political elite, including many of the  so-called progressive thinkers among us. The arguments made were that Belizeans  living abroad would not be familiar with the issues on the ground and therefore  they were uninformed and out of touch. This argument was made in the early  1970’s and perhaps had some validity forty years ago. However, the world has  drastically changed over the past quarter century and the speed, access and  advancement of technology and cyberspace have essentially obliterated this  argument. Belizeans regularly interact with each other via social media,  participate in call-in radio/TV talk shows, and have access to the various media  outlets online.

Over 100 nations, large and small, allow their  Diaspora the right to vote in local elections. These include Mexico, El  Salvador, Venezuela, Britain, Germany, Spain, Denmark, Norway, Switzerland,  United States, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, the Philippines, and France.  Given the share size of the Belizean population living abroad and the  decades-old impact of remittances to families back home, the vast majority of  Diaspora Belizeans have maintained a solid relationship with their homeland.  According to the World Bank remittance report, the remittances to Central  America, which included Belize, in 2007 had reach a colossal US$ 12.1 billion.  The report also stated that in some of these countries the remittances are equal  to some 10% of the entire GDP. In the case of Belize, the report shows, for  example, that Belizeans in the Diaspora in 2004/05 had made remittances  estimated to be over US$ 160 million.

Whether the current administration (or future  ones) will move swiftly and strategically to reclaim its citizens living abroad  as an integral component of its national developmental platform, remains to be  seen. But whether the political elite act or not, the Belizean people, along  with progressive grassroots movements should take the lead. Belizeans abroad  have been actively engaged in supporting grassroots organizations like the  Belize Territorial Volunteers and BGYEA, among many other charitable efforts on  the ground. This kind of fraternal collaboration and operational unity must be  supported and encouraged between Belizeans at home and aboard for the sake of  our self-preservation and survival.

It is my opinion that much of the resistance to  the 7th amendment was essentially the result of the way in which it was crafted  and presented. The original (amendment) was presented to the Belizean public in  2009, and tragically, in keeping with the typical ad hoc/ top down fashion in  which policies are formulated in Belize, provided the ideal climate for  speculation and misinformation. No real engagement with the community, from the  inception of the idea stage to formulation and proper public education so the  people could understand the purpose and benefit of the proposed change, was  carried out.

Secondly, at no stage of this proposed 7th  amendment fiasco was the constituency most affected, the (Diaspora Belizeans)  themselves, invited to participate in the process. They were essentially left  out of the actual discussion. Not only would it have made perfect sense to have  included the Belizean Diaspora in the formulation of the policy proposal, but  most importantly in the public and educational dialogue with their brothers and  sisters in Belize.

As a consequence of the flawed approach,  propaganda and partisan rhetoric took over and subsequently the merits and  demerits of the actual amendment became completely lost in the process. The  vitriol that ensued was reflective of the deep-seated residual effect of  colonialism that still permeates our worldview. Talking points filtered via  partisan bickering became the norm, instead of dialogue and constructive debate.  So yet again, because of the choke hold of petty party politics on our  perceptual apparatus, a shameful law that discriminates against thousands of  Belizeans and relegates them to second class citizenship status in the place of  their birth, remains intact and activated to this day.

Assumption and presupposition regarding Belize future by: Nuri Akbar


future

The final major attempt at settling Guatemala’s unfounded claim to Belize came in the form of a document called the “Heads of Agreement” in 1981. This culminated in nation wide paralyzing strikes and  national convulsion.  From time immemorial a claim/threat  by a militaristic and aggressive garrison state  upon the territorial  integrity of another nation, regardless of how small or large, would naturally serve as a  unifying force among the people  of   the target threat.  However, this was not the synergy that reverberated  across the nation of Belize leading up to its independence on September 21st  1981, and it has not currently manifested itself as we are confronted in  the latest ICJ plot.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                             The British colonial rulers not only divided the people of Belize geographically, but  racially, culturally, religiously and politically.  This model of course, was perfected by the British and they carried out this strategy for more than five hundred years across the globe  as they wage war, rape, pillage, enslaved and committed genocide upon  the   darker    people of the earth. Belize was no exception to this rule.

The current  ICJ scheme has been packaged and  marketed as a “legal issue” for mass consumption.  Yet at the  foundation  of  this land claim is  geopolitics and natural resource that has become more urgent for trans national  corporations (TNC’s) who are the extended tentacles of  an  unbridled,  consuming, neoliberal  economic  system that has become globally  unsustainable.   As Belizeans we make  the assumption that the men and women who are selected to represent  us in political office are informed and knowledgeable  of  certain vital issues that ares critical  to our nation   very survival. But this is an assumption we make at our own peril. We are arguing that  historically in Belize from the inception of our  nationalist movements, these independence movements evolve as dependent nationalism.  While the term    may appear contradictory, it is a reflection of  the extent and degree political developments in peripheral countries like Belize are constrained by economic and political forces of the center.  Thus as a consequence our local political directorate’s indoctrination and orientation is to look  outward for assistance  in their struggle with the metropole without first and foremost  build internally those resource necessary to confront the center.  Hence, despite a century old claim upon the country of Belize by a proven genocidal aggressor, various local regimes initiated  zero sustained process of educating the people about the issues and forces  that confront them and the near and present dangers.  The circumference  of our thinking has permeated around the idea that salvation will come from outside rather than from the development of political bases from within the nation state.

This dependent and decrepit  view of our  existence has essentially shaped our entire national development and  foreign relations, or lack thereof.   Various prominent political representatives regurgitated the age old claim that in order for the nation to achieve development it has to attract  capital from abroad,  coupled with the  never ending barrowing which lead to a permanent  state of  servitude/slavery to the lending  institutions.  The inability  to  recognized the human capital and potential from among the very people they lead and the extended natural resource the country possessed as a foundation for national  development, has perpetuated  a state of  perennial  poverty and underdevelopment.  This type of paradigm shift will not come out of the two main political entities in Belize that has become inseparable from the crippled system of governance.  In many respect they have a vested interest in maintaining things as they are, and thus cannot be expected to become true and authentic agents for political, social and economic transformation.  This will have to be the outgrowth of a people’s centered mass movement  cemented in a clairvoyant vision of  allegiance to the nation state.

The debt  burden of our country has been shifted to future generations of Belizean, and our unjust land distribution system remain  unchanged since the days of British colonialism.  The type of radical  transformation that is required to begin a process of  changing  the top down model  of  governance must be rooted in the communities and principalities of the people.   As mentioned earlier our people were never empowered  with the knowledge of self  and  benefitted from  popular education that  ties them to the land and agriculture, which is the engine of civilization.  While all our people to one degree or another have been deeply affected   by  colonial education, black Belizeans  are currently living out the most graphic effects  via  fratricide and gentrification.  We remain essentially a fragmented people with each group nibbling around the edges  but lacking  the ability to create a national movement with clear goals and objectives.  These  challenges are not unique to Belize but are common place everywhere the British had meddled.

When war and revolution was engulfing  the isthmus, Belize used to pride itself as the only haven of peace and tranquility. We knew little or nothing as to why our brothers and sisters were waging  violent struggles in their respective countries.  Yet  these revolutions were born out of decades of exploitation, injustice, corrupted regimes, brutality  and genocides.  Those of you who believe that Belize is fine as it is and there is no need for a fundamental  structural  shift,  should take heed of the warning signs.  Those who make peaceful revolution impossible shall make violent revolution inevitable.

map4-5-guatemala-belize

Big Up Our First Lady!!!!!! Sneak Preview of Upcoming Issue 10-02-12


First Lady of Belize, Mrs. Kim Simplis Barrow

The First Lady of Belize will be featured in the upcoming October issue of Ms. Magazine! She is being hailed as “The Michelle Obama of Belize”.  If you enlarge the picture below, you can actually read the article 🙂 Twocanview is so proud of our First Lady and extend our heartfelt congratulations!

CLICK:

https://twitter.com/karendesuyo/status/247419253039456256/photo/1/large

What Could Happen To Belize As We Become Official Malpagos According to FiWeBelize


ImageMonths before the just now released declaration of non-payment of the super bond, fellow blogger Cayo Buay wrote an article outlining what could happen based on what has already happened in Greece. It’s a quick read. What do you think?

http://fiwebelize.com/2012/02/21/what-happens-when-a-country-defaults-on-their-foreign-debt-or-gets-a-bailout-to-avoid-foreclosure/

Another Fallen Angel: Susana Romero 07-22-12


Fallen Angels

Unfortunately, our children continue to be victimized despite continued public outrage and increased police scrutiny and presence. The following was written by Basilio Mes and posted on the Belize Missing Child Emergency Response page. It provides a clear idea of what happened in Susana’s case. Please read and let our voices be heard. Susana needs us to stand up for her and all other victims.

It has been eleven (11) days since Susana Romero of Bella Vista went missing, six (6) days since her body was found about 100 feet away from the Southern Highway and eight (8) days since police have arrested a white man from independence she was last seen with, entering his red pickup truck. So far, police have not charge this man in connection with the murder of Susana Romero. To me there are enough evidences in connection to charge this man with murder.

On the night when Susana went missing, several people in Bella Vista saw this white man driving around the village drinking. One of his stop was at a Bar called “MI AMOR” who tried to seduce the female owner of the bar to go with him that night. She refused. He left behind a Carib Beer Pint at the bar. Second he went to La Mafia Bar where he finally found his victim; Susana Romero. There he left two more Carib Beer Pints at the establishment. Two people at the bar saw when Susana entered the truck with him and drove off. Another witness from a nearby store who is a watchman saw the same as the people at the bar.

What happened thereafter is just everyone’s guess. But what is known is that, Susana’s body was found 5 days later. Her body was already decomposing and to make it more insulting was that the forensic pathologist, Mario Estradabran couldn’t make it on that day to the area. He came 24 hours later. He concluded that because the body was so decomposed he cannot tell what caused her death. Was that because this man doesn’t know what he is doing or was he paid to do so? She was found half nude. She only had her bra and blouse on and were both rolled up. Her breasts were exposed and her lower body was nude, (meaning to say, she had no panty or her pants on). At the crime scene, police found a Carib Beer pint similar to the beer he was seen drinking that night. There were also visible tire at the scene. Police managed to lift up the tire tracks and according to my understanding, it matched one of the front tire of truck that the white man was driving. I also understood that police found some jewelry that she was wearing in his truck.

Isn’t this sufficient evidence to charge him for the murder of this young woman? I also understood that some wealthy people in the area are after the police not to charge him and to release him as this was just another ALIEN. Well let me tell them, it is because these ALIENS that they are wealthy now. They are ones who take advantage of them and underpay them. Shame on them, they should be asking for justice for this young woman.

We the citizens of Independence, Bella Vista and surrounding villages are asking the police to do the right thing. Charge this white man for murder. Do the proper investigation and build up a strong case. We want justice, we want to live in a community where our kids can walk free, can go to school without fear. WE WANT JUSTICE FOR SUSANA ROMERO.

Vengeance, Not Justice by: Brent Toombs


I decided to wait a few days to write this for very selfish reasons.  I wanted to bask in the moment of feeling that maybe Belize has made one small step on the long journey toward social redemption.  I wanted to enjoy the feeling of pride that my country is finally fighting back, standing strong, and demanding justice.  I wanted to relish this moment that for once the good guys are winning and a bad guy is going down.

Wednesday, June 20th 2012, is one of those days that we will always remember exactly where we were when we heard that Bert Vasquez had been charged for the murder of Jasmine Lowe.  Probably no group of people will have stronger memories of that day than the thousand or so people who gathered at the foot of the police station in San Ignacio to voice their demand that justice be served.  It was a remarkable day.

Problem is, few were actually demanding justice.  What that crowd, as well as many Belizeans throughout the country were – and are – calling for is vengeance.

Vengeance, not justice.

When you live in a society where more than 90% of all violent crimes go unpunished, it’s no wonder people get frustrated to the point that they want to take over the roles of judge, jury, and executioner.  The system is broken and people are tired of sitting back while no one seems interested in fixing it.  But if you are one of those people who would have been satisfied to see Bert Vasquez simply executed on the spot, without trial – or worse killed at the hands of vigilantes – ask yourself is THAT really the type of society you are so passionate about fighting for?  Is your idea of a functioning democracy one where emotional mobs arbitrarily determine the guilt, innocence, and punishment of people?

I am not suggesting Bert Vasquez is innocent.  From what I know of this man, he has clearly demonstrated that he is a menace to society.  Sending him to prison will be a good thing for Belize.  But did he kill Jasmine?  We will likely never really know for certain.  The police have decided to charge him and the public is eager to believe he is the murderer.  Case closed, as far as the court of public opinion is concerned.

If he walks, it will be because the police bungled the investigation or his family afforded him a crafty attorney.  If he gets convicted it will be because society demanded he be found guilty at any cost.  Let’s face it, we WANT him convicted because we will all sleep a bit better believing that at least one monster is finally off the streets.

Or will we?

Once the emotion subsides will we question how we came to the conclusion that Vasquez is responsible for a murder?  No witnesses.  No DNA.  No cause of death.  Just a ring.  A ring that the police seemed to be very eager to let the media know about.  A ring that the mother of Jasmine Lowe seemed very deliberate – yet somehow awkward – about describing to reporters.  Am I the only one who felt like she might be reading someone else’s script?

Again, I am not suggesting this guy is innocent.  But I am not comfortable with how quickly we all were to assume his guilt and demand vengeance for his crime.

Vengeance, not justice.

For good reason the Belizean public is usually very skeptical of the police.  That is, apparently, until they tell us what we are desperate to hear.  In the days before Vasquez was apprehended, the police were considered inept.  We fully expected yet another unsolved mystery.  But suddenly no one dares question the police or their investigative abilities.  They got him!  Woo-hoo!  Now let’s kill him!

One of the moments from June 20th that will stay with me forever is seeing a former “person of interest” in the Jasmine Lowe investigation address the crowd.  This taxi driver had previously been detained for questioning.  During the time he was in custody the rumour mill was running at full speed.  People claimed he was found with a stone from Jasmine’s ring in his taxi.  Apparently he had scratches on his face, assumingly from when Jasmine tried to fight this man for her life.  He drove a white taxi, similar to the one seen in the grainy security video that seemed to be the only lead police had.

When he was released there was outrage.  Some people believed the cops had let Jasmine’s killer walk out of the police station.  The cops were criticized while the taxi driver was shunned.  His business suffered as people believed him to be a murderer.  But just a few days later, there he was addressing the throng of people gathered outside the police station, demanding vigilante justice for this angry mob that just a few days earlier would have eagerly ripped him apart limb by limb!

I hope Bert Vasquez is responsible for the death of Jasmine Lowe.  Truth be told, I want him to be guilty.  As a nation we need him to be Jasmine’s killer.  But I hope he either confesses or is convicted based on irrefutable evidence at trial so there can be no doubt about who took the life of that poor little girl.  I, just as much as any Belizean, want to feel the satisfaction that will come when we finally see a predator pay for his crime.  But most of all I want to see a civilized society at work.

I want justice, not vengeance.

We all deserve a moment to vent.  It can be healthy as long as we don’t get carried away.  But for the long-term health of our nation, let’s harness this momentum and energy and put it towards building a society that is truly fair, just, and civilized.  Deep down, I think that’s what we all really want for Belize.

After all, there is enough blood in our streets.  Do we really need any more blood on our hands?