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?


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?

We need tougher laws. But not for me by: Brent Toombs

Jasmine Lowe – murdered

Another young girl is dead.  The country is momentarily galvanized by outrage and grief.  Another vigil will be held.  People are calling for protest marches.  “Enough is enough!” we cry.  And ultimately what will change in Belize? 

Absolutely nothing.


I hope to God I am wrong.  I really hope I am underestimating the people of my nation.  I hope that one day soon we will look back at the tragic events of this week and remember Jasmine Lowe as not just another unsolved mystery, but as an angel sent to bring real change to our beleaguered country.  That her death was the tipping point when society finally moved to take real concrete action and accept the burden required for change.  That in the wake of this young girl’s murder, Belizeans finally decided they would become part of the process required to return our country the “tranquil haven” we love to sing about.


Unfortunately, recent history has shown that once the emotions subside we will not only return to our apathetic ways, but we will actively resist any attempt to improve the situation.


I remember attending a vigil and rally for the victims of “Jack”, five young girls who were sexually assaulted and murdered in a short period between 1998 and 1999.  The murders of those children remain unsolved.  But back on that day the most recent murder was still fresh in our minds and the emotions were raw.  When one of the speakers called for the “immediate ban on heavily tinted vehicles” the crowd roared back with its support for such a simple measure that would be one very small step towards making the streets safer for women and children.


Over a decade later, when government finally brought in legislation to limit the level of tint the majority of Belizeans balked.  The talk shows lit up with callers complaining that they should be allowed to tint their vehicles as dark as they please.  The opposition party openly ridiculed the government and dismissed this regulation as useless whimsy.  People, as they are prone to do in our country, simply thumbed their nose at yet another attempt to regulate anything in our society.


Now I am not suggesting Jasmine Lowe would be alive today if people complied with the law on vehicle tinting.  It’s not that simple.  But it is a perfect example of how we seem to resist every attempt to regulate society as soon as those regulations impede in the slightest on our own personal freedoms.


It’s absolutely useless to demand change and march in protest if we then turn around and fight the very authorities we call upon to change things.  We all want proper enforcement of laws and regulation, but we don’t want to actually comply ourselves.  How can any central authority be expected to effectively manage society if we resist every effort to impose regulations on us as individuals?


It’s time to face the fact that many of us are part of the problem.  It’s time to admit that everyone of us who disregards the simplest effort to bring order to chaos contributes to the wider problem of crime and violence.  Every time we expect to be exempted from the rules that govern our society, every time we resist additional regulations we undermine the entire system of law and order in Belize.


The police put up a checkpoint and we grumble about the 3-minute delay in our commute.  The law says we can’t serve alcohol to minors but we let the teenage girl drink in our bar or restaurant because the men buying her drinks are good (or well connected) customers.  The government says we must pay our taxes and duties yet we hide our transactions or use our connections to avoid contributing our fair share.  Most destructively of all, we turn a blind eye to those around us who operate outside of the law.


Every person in Belize seems to have a justification for why the rules are for everyone except themselves.  Political affiliation, economic status, family lineage, social network, race, gender, attitude, even level of attractiveness and physical prowess all seem to be legitimate exemptions to the laws and regulations that only ever apply to someone else.


You say you want to live in a safer society.  You want the government and law enforcement agencies to crack down on law-breakers.  You demand change.  But are you willing to play your part in that process?  Will you abide by increased regulation and enforcement efforts, or will you push back as soon as law and order becomes inconvenient for you?  Will you help pay the cost of public security or will you continue to work outside the system in order to benefit yourself?  Will you use your ballots to elect people of integrity to manage the affairs of our nation, or will you sell your vote to the candidate who offers you special favours?


A good friend of mine once described Belize as a “wonderful balance of order and anarchy”.  The problem now is the scale has tipped way too far in favour of anarchy.  It’s not just the gang-bangers, and drug dealers, and sexual predators who are destroying Belize.  We are all part of the problem whether we actively contribute to crime and disorder, passively resist attempts to improve the situation, or simply stick our heads in the sand.  Belize is broken. It’s seriously f*cked up.  There is nothing unpatriotic about saying that out loud.  The first step is always admitting you have a problem.


Yes, it’s a long and dotted line that connects the cyclist who rides against traffic, the bar owner or shopkeeper who does not abide by the condition of their liquor license, and the business person who cheats on their taxes, to the animal who would kill 13-year old Jasmine Lowe.  But how can we expect a society that cannot even adhere to the most basic tenants of order and governance, to protect our most vulnerable citizens?


I am encouraged to see Belizeans come together in this moment of national grief.  I am comforted by the fact that despite the overwhelming amount of senseless crime and violence we are exposed to daily, something can still touch our collective soul.  By all means, please take to the streets to march in protest.  Hold vigils in remembrance.  Flood the talk shows with angry pleas for justice and improved security.


Then take a moment to look inward and ask yourself, will you work to improve our society or resist those efforts once they become inconvenient for you as an individual?

UN Guidelines On Handling Cases Involving Children

Justice for All Children

Emotions are running high as people grapple with Jasmine Lowe’s brutal murder and now they shift into high gear as it seems that justice will not be done. As a result, many citizens have decided to take matters into their own hands as they form groups, propose legislation and draw up petitions. This is bringing into question just how does one go about that as we try to respect Jasmine’s memory, her family and her community while still aggressively pursuing the perpetrator? Following is the UN Guidelines provided us by fellow blogger CayoBuay from FiWeBelize.

Thanks CayoBuay for sharing this with us:


Citizen Participation By: Hubert Pipersburgh



Hubert Pipersburgh

The importance of citizen participation in a democracy cannot be underscored.  Without the participation of its citizenry, the United States, arguably the best model in contemporary times for democracy would not have evolved to the status of world leadership today.  Citizen participation is as old as democracy itself, it is a concept that suggest everyone should be allowed to participate in the decision making process.  This concept sometimes referred to as primary democracy works well in relatively small political jurisdictions where all citizens can have a voice in decision making.

The 18th century political philosopher Jean Jacques Rousseau wrote the social contract in which one of his main theories was primary democracy.  Rousseau wanted to eliminate all barriers between the people and their government.  This would have left just the citizens and their government leaders.  The citizens would decide what they wanted, and the political leaders would act accordingly.  Additionally, the price of democracy is the ongoing pursuit of the common good by all the people.  Alexis De Tocqueville gravely warned that unless individual citizens were regularly involved in the action of governing themselves self-government would pass from the scene.  In short, citizen participation is the animating spirit and force in a society.

However, with the rise of the modern administrative state, citizens became increasingly isolated from the process that governed their lives.  As a result, this led to the reform movement in the United States.  Following the reform movement citizens began to play a more active role in the polity.  Citizen participation includes organized interest groups, citizen advisory committees on specific issues, letter-writing campaigns, picketing, nonviolent demonstrations, testifying before local and federal government, sit ins, and town-hall meeting. 

Consider the rungs of a ladder; political scientist Sherry Arnstein attempted to sort out the meaning of citizen participation according to an eight rungs ladder of citizen participation.  The bottom two rungs of the ladder, which represents non-participation, were called manipulation and therapy.  The middle three rungs indicate degrees of tokenism and were labeled informing, consultation, and placation.  The top three rungs and the ideal  model for citizen participation indicated degrees of citizen power including partnership, delegated power, and citizen control. 

  In the Caribbean, the late Maurice Bishop’s New Jewel Movement perhaps was the closest to genuine citizen participation as it relates to the Westminster model. The words of the late Maurice Bishop of Grenada, sound a hallowed and sincere tone, “democracy is not just voting for Twiddle Dee or Twiddle Dum every five years.”   Bishop believed that for democracy and progress to be successful institutions must be created, in the form of mass organizations all over the country, such as zonal and parish councils through which the proletariat workers and farmers, the women, the youths, and the students would have an opportunity not only to express their views, but to contribute to the making of policy.  The system of councils it must be noted, was an experimental system.  In the history of Grenada and the Caribbean there were no precedents.  It was certainly Bishop’s hoped that this system of councils at the local level, the parish level, and the village level would become institutionalized as organs of people’s power and eventually, grass-root democracy will form part of the normal expectations of all the people.  The underlying assumption being that citizen participation should be an ongoing engaging process and not just an election year gimmick.

The Arnstein typology is important because it shows that not all forms of participation entail real power sharing between citizens and elected officials.  It is also an excellent framework for understanding citizen participation.  A recent example in Belize of this limited conceptualization or non-participation in essence at the middle three rungs of Arnstein’s typology was the recent debate over the 9th Amendment. Citizens were educated and co-opted into accepting the rationale behind Mr. Barrow’s regime plan for action. Citizens were given the appearance or rituals of participation; however, they were denied any real influence over the course of events. Instead of genuine citizen participation it was public relations. Citizen became mere functionaries constantly fed a diet of carefully selected information.  

Typical of the way policy is formulated in Belize in an ad hoc, stop-gap manner no serious attempt was made to really educate and inform the public about the importance and longterm implication of such a policy to our national interest.  In a country, where elected representatives speak and vote for their constituents with sometimes disastrous results this approach to policy implementation is democracy without the genuine participation of the people.  Instead the debate was watered down to petty bickering and rabid partisan politics.  In short, an otherwise important public policy initiative that should have transcended party politics turned into a circus of charges and counter charges. They effectively squandered the chance to transcend the issue past the stale partisan debate and rhetoric.  Mr. Barrow’s regime produced and promoted information that was favorable to their ambitions and programs. Information or opinions that favored the amendment survived, whereas, those that were contrary were systematically rejected.     

Historically, that has been the behavior of our elected leadership with every important public policy issue that has national security implications. Heads of Agreement Maritime Areas Act, and the 7th amendment debate comes to mind.  Our leaders seem unable to really engage the people honestly. They much prefer to divide them along party lines thereby diluting the genuine participation of the polity.  Something is clearly wrong with the way our society engages its citizens.  For one thing, it has lead to too many shortsighted policies.  For another,  assumptions and deficiencies continue without serious challenges.  In most cases, policy is formulated at the bottom two rungs of Arnstein’s ladder.  As a result, many of those individuals dedicated to the highest level of public service have become cynical.  It is a grave situation when a people resign their citizenship that citizen sinks further into apathy and anonymity.

These openly corrupt elected officials are the true enemy of long-term economic growth and sustainable development in any society.  Corruption, being what it is, there is simply no UDP or PUP way to handle corruption. It must be done in a bi-partisan manner. Conversely, unbridled capitalism, with low wages, long hours, and exploited workers, excites social resentment, revives class warfare while infusing extremist with new life.  Therefore, to move along constructive lines, capitalism must subordinate short-term plans and profits to such long-term social necessities as investment in education, public safety, the extension of healthcare, infrastructure development, rehabilitation, and redemption of our urban centers. 

Of course, I am jousting with windmills here, capitalist simply are not likely to do this by themselves.  Long-term perspectives demand public leadership and affirmative government.  This type of citizen participation utilizing primary democracy for the ills of the society is very significant.  These major political parties have become overly insensitive and remote while paying no attention to the will of people.  They have to take notice that we cannot so readily be treated with contempt or taken for granted as their natural accomplices.  Perhaps of greater importance is that citizen participation in decision making is the body of democracy itself. These political parties must learn that no government will again be able with impunity run Belize as if by fiat accompli or as a benign dictatorship with the blessings of the people.  Short of out and out repression the politics of participation is hard to turn off.  With increased self-definition as citizens future Belizean government will inevitably discover that the democratic process cannot afford to be static.  More rigorous citizen participation will become the avenue for community self-expression as men and women demand a voice in affairs.  If the process is thwarted, sooner or later there will be growing dissension from the electorate.      

Thus, citizen participation, is more than just a categorical term for citizen power. It is the redistribution of power that enables the have-not citizens, presently excluded from the political and economic processes, to be deliberately included in the future.  It is the strategy by which the have-nots join in determining how information is shared, goals and policies are set, tax resources are allocated, programs are operated, and benefits like contracts and patronage are parceled out.  In short, it is the means by which they can induce significant societal reform that enables them to share in the benefits of the affluent society (i.e. a more equitable distribution of the economic pie).

Response to Daily Dingleberry 02-18-12

Lisa Shoman insists that the Schakron bid is not over yet. Here is the document she has shared with us at Twocanview:

The Claimants claim against the Defendants, NOREEN FAIRWEATHER of Belize City, Belize, Returning Officer for Lake Independence electoral division AND The ATTORNEY GENERAL OF BELIZE of East Block, Independence Hill, Belmopan City, Belize, pursuant to Rule 56 of the Supreme Court (Civil Procedure) Rules the following:

1. A Declaration that section 8 (2) of the Electoral Rules, Third Schedule of the Representation of the People Act, Chapter 9 of the Laws of Belize which provides that:

8.-(1) It shall be lawful for any person whose name appears on the register of electors for any division to object to the nomination paper of any candidate and the returning officer shall decide on the validity of every objection made.

(2) If the returning officer disallows the objection his decision shall be final, but if he allows the same his decision shall be subject to reversal on petition questioning the election or return;

only permits the Returning Officer to entertain objections as regards the nomination paper of a candidate—that is, a determination as to whether there is compliance or non-compliance as to the nomination paper as enumerated in s. 3 of Electoral Rules, Third Schedule of the Representation of the People Act, Chapter 9 of the Laws of Belize ;

2. A declaration that Rule 8 of Electoral Rules, Third Schedule of the Representation of the People Act, Chapter 9 of the Laws of Belize does not give the Returning Officer does not confer on the Returning Officer any jurisdiction to make any decision as to whether a candidate is qualified to be elected to the House of Representatives to under s. 58 of the Belize Constitution;

3. A declaration that any attempts by the Returning Officer to make a decision as to the eligibility of the First Claimant to run for elected office in the House of Representatives is a usurpation of judicial function by a member of the executive and would unconstitutional as contrary to sections 1, 2, 3, 6, and Part VII of the Belize Constitution;

This will still be heard by the Court

Is it a calling or just in it for the money by: Hubert Pipersberg

Is it a calling or just in it for the money

This underscores the point that we have been discussing on social media for awhile now. The
system is in need of serious structural reforms. Insanity is define as doing the same thing over
and over and expects to get different results. Public service is a choice that one makes and it
comes with certain sacrifices. It’s a given that one’s compensation will not reflect that of the
private sector, The public sector and the so called third sector(non-profit) will never be able
to compete compensation wise with the private sector. The reason is that in public service the
compensation is under-written by taxpayers the government gets its money from tax collection
unlike a business that operates for profit. One enters public service with the assumption that you
are serving the public good. You are doing so strictly for altruistic reasons. It is suppose to be
a calling to service higher than yourself. What better way to make a meaningful contribution to
society via public service? The goal becomes blurred when we expect more out of public service
than what the stated results can give. Having said that, how do we determine compensation?
Aligning it with the cost of living would be a start. Offer civil service protection with built in due
process to protect from arbitrary dismissal. In addition, appointed positions such as the CEO
of a ministry who essentially serve at the whim of the minister is still a bureaucrat working in
public service as such they cannot be expected to receive CEO type private sector compensation.
Granted they signed a contract. However, their compensation should commensurate with
scholarship and experience. They should also be evaluated based strictly on performance. Since
they are in fact public servants, they should be compensated enough to do their job for the
public good without compromise or any under-hand dealings. They should be able to serve with
integrity. This is where ethics in government plays a significant role. Bear in mind morality
cannot be legislated. In short, they must still be held accountable to the public trust. I can think
of interventions such as the integrity commission as a start.

As for these powerful elected government ministers with mandates to intimidate bureaucrats,
they operate under a different banner the spoils system. Suffice to say again it boils down to
sacrifice for the public good. I believe that they should be compensated. I am not prepared to
suggest a number. However, it should be aligned with the cost of living. This is an example of
where the Westminster model exposes its short comings. An ongoing discourse or framework
is what is needed to determine the most effective reform to our system of governance and
jurisprudence. What is the most effective model if so how will it be implemented? I am not
prepared to suggest one only because I believe that input will be required from all the stake
holders (the people). I will say this; the stated goal should be for proportional representation. In
addition, I have argued consistently, in this space, that I believe that it should in fact begin with
s sober look at our carbon copy constitution; a constitutional conference/convention would be
my preference. Since the constitution is the highest law of the land we should fashion one that
mirrors our struggle as a people.

Voting Behavior – By: Hubert Pipersburgh

Honest Assessment Needed

While relying on empirical data to predict election outcomes has proven to be sound, even with
the utilization of regression analysis and the null hypothesis, the accuracy of such polling data is
reasonably inaccurate because of intangibles that cannot be quantified. In addition, it is useful
to analyze Belize’s voting patterns within the context of post independence voting behavior. It
gives us a more nuanced understanding of voting in Belize as it relates to election outcomes.
This understanding of voting patterns which contributes to the overall electoral process in Belize
is what is lacking most. It can be argued that a more inter-disciplinary approach is needed to
gain better comprehension of Belizeans’ choices in the voting booth. By that I mean sociological,
anthropological, psychological, and economical factors. They are all important in an honest
assessment and they are not mutually exclusive. Since independence, elections in Belize has
mirrored a certain pattern–of the 5 elections held there have been three landslides . The UDP
have won two and the PUP one. A closer examination of those elections showed a positive
correlation between successfully outlining the issues and the outcome of the election. Perhaps,
what needs to be examined is Belizeans’ behaviors and attitudes while casting their ballots. What
are they influenced by? What drives them to make the choices they do?

Driven By Perception

In the ‘84 cycle UDP brandished the issue of PUP being out of touch and corrupt. In the ‘98
cycle PUP’s use of the Killa Vat and the retrenchment of government workers leading up to
Christmas of ’95 resulted in UDP’s devastating loss. In the ’08 cycle the UDP highlighted PUP
corruption and largess with the Venezuelan moines and the universal hospital fiasco, along with
Mr. Musa and Mr. Fonseca as the centerpieces of that argument.
Those three cycles stand out because it shows voting in Belize is often driven by Belizeans’
perception or lack thereof as it relates to their choice of party. Often times they cast a protest
vote which leads to these landslides. In the ‘89 cycle the PUP used the Coca Cola land deal to
recapture momentum by dubbing UDP as greedy sell outs. The ’93 cycle (which UDP won by
a very close margin) is an anomaly only because PUP’s top brass mis- calculated the resolve of
the electorate. The people were still not convinced that the PUP had the answers to their issues.
Also, they were not prepared to trust any party with more than one term in power.
Of particular interest is the ‘98 and ‘03 cycle. This was the only time since independence that
either party could argue definitively that they were the true majority party. I reference this
to argue that Belizeans’ decisions in the voting booth are driven by very basic and primitive
concerns. Their choices are based on their perceived notion that the spoils system determines
their choice. Maslow’s hierarchy of needs may be helpful to explain this attitude. At the
very base of that pyramid is the need for security, survival, and physical needs. Hence,
physiological needs take precedence and dominate behavior. Rational choice theory and some
variation of standpoint theory might also explain Belizeans’ voting behavior because those are
based primarily on self-interested individuals who in this case exercised their franchise against
their own economic interest. In other words, their decision is based purely on what they can get
and not what is necessarily best for the whole. It also reflects a growing feeling that voting does
not make a difference.

The Two Party Spoil System

The spoils system recently defended by Mr.Barrow is one of the major influences in the way
Belizeans’ vote. Mr. Barrow has set out to ensure that the spoils system plays a central role in
his quest to convince Belizeans that the UDP is now the true majority party and should be given
a second term. All his major public policy initiatives and promises since the election points to
that fact. In short, Mr. Barrow knows that Belizeans respond to the beat of the spoils system
when faced with conflicting imperatives. Another possible explanation is that elite opinion
usually drives mass opinion. Thus, when presented with conduct unbecoming of a particular
party, Belizeans bypass the working through the process of resolution and summarily arrive to
public judgement. The underlying assumption being that public judgement is far more permanent
than public opinion and its implications more longterm.
This has led to the watershed electoral cycles that I have discussed so far. Political parties in
Belize are often times undone by their own actions such as corruption, nepotism, cronyism,
and disastrous machine politics. Image matters more than substance. For many Belizeans, the
major parties are superficial and unresponsive to their major concerns. The elitist character of
these parties obstruct a broader view of what democracy really is and the role that citizens must
play to make it meaningful. Thus, for the disenfranchised and marginalized masses, electoral
democracy becomes an empty charade unless accompanied by structural reforms to our system
of governance and jurisprudence. Worse still, the party apparatus is indistinguishable from the
government itself.

Myopic Tendencies
Historical irrefutable evidence shows that both political parties in the context of the Westminster
model that was grafted upon Belizeans take advantage of the spoil system. This pattern of
behavior perfected over the past thirty years have created and solidified a culture of voting
that perpetuate myopic tendencies and self-degradation. Both parties points out the flaws and
weaknesses of the system when they are in opposition, but quickly develops a kind of selective
amnesia towards said flaws when handed the reins of power. A classic case in point; the mass
registration of immigrants that we are now presently witnessing just before the announcement of
a major election. To this end, it illuminates the fact that our entire political structure in Belize
undoubtedly is the problem and in need of serious reforms if Belize is to ever make that great
leap forward.
The Belizean electorate isn’t sophisticated and/or informed or aware enough to absorb and
discern the complexities of the politics involved and therefore are easily swayed to support
the parties who appear to address their physiological concerns most effectively leading up to
elections rather than the party who proves to be most effective and qualified. This is evident in
their voting patterns since the country’s independence where they continue to rotate one corrupt
regime after another. They appear completely inept in how to create and maintain a successful
government. This naiveté has been the key factor in them obviously electing corrupt individuals
devoid of any moral compass ever since. Politics vs. government….government is what runs a
country and politics is what runs the government. Surely government administration should take
precedence over politicking.