Disenfranchisement in Belize-Suppressed Right to Vote in a Duplicitous Democracy by: Jessica Habet


Jessica Habet

Jessica Habet

Canadians who lived abroad for more than five years were once unable to vote in federal elections. A recent Supreme Court of Canada (“SCC”) decision explained why the law disenfranchising these Canadians was unconstitutional. This post is to add to the discussion regarding Belizeans abroad and their ability to vote in the upcoming referendum on whether we should take the Belize-Guatemala dispute to the International Court of Justice (“ICJ referendum”).

Belizeans who would like to vote in the ICJ referendum must reside in Belize for at least two months. This residency requirement disqualifies many in the diaspora who would like to participate in the referendum.

The right to vote is a core and fundamental feature of any democracy. The right of citizens to take part in the government of their country is so important, it is included in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

In deciding that the residency requirement was unconstitutional, Canada’s Chief Justice shared the story of Canada’s progressive enfranchisement. The right to vote was once restricted to property-owning men aged 21 or older. Women, racial minorities, individuals formerly described as having a “mental disease”, penitentiary inmates, Canadians abroad in service of Canada’s armed forces and public administration were all once excluded but now have the right to vote. Civic participation, he explained, is fundamentally important to the health of a free and democratic society.

“Residency” was the last restriction on the right to vote. The SCC analyzed the role of residence in Canada’s electoral system. The residency requirement emerged when citizens were generally unable to travel as easily and extensively as they do today and tended to spend their lives in one community. At that time, the right to vote was linked to the ownership of land, and only male property owners could vote. The requirement was designed, in part, to prevent “plural voting” where a person who owned property in several electoral divisions could cast a vote in each of them.

Cue globalization and feminism. Today, the right to vote is no longer limited to male property owners. And as the Chief Justice wrote, “…citizenship, not residency, defines our political community and underpins the right to vote.”

Historically, Belizeans who “go da farin” continue to support their families at home. They move for more economic opportunity and often contribute to the economy of Belize. This trend is not isolated to Belizeans. In fact, migrants from Latin America and the Caribbean sent records amount of money to their home countries in 2016, when remittance flows around the world decreased. The contribution of the Belizean diaspora to the Belizean economy is not to be dismissed.

The government via the Attorney General of Canada argued that it would be unfair to allow non-residents to vote – it would be unfair if those who are largely unaffected (non-residents) participated in decisions that would affect others (residents). But the SCC found that the evidence provided showed that such an impact would likely be negligible. When you seek to limit a fundamental human right, the basis for doing so must be reasonably justified, rational and no more than is necessary to accomplish the objective.

What evidence does the Government of Belize have before it to suggest that allowing the Belizean diaspora to vote would result in unfairness to resident voters in the upcoming referendum?

Civic participation is crucial to any democracy. GOB is asking its citizens to partake in direct democracy in the ICJ referendum while at the same time imposing arbitrary barriers upon its citizens living abroad. That is a duplicitous democracy.

Frank v Canada, 2019 SCC 1, available online at:  https://scc-csc.lexum.com/scc-csc/scc-
csc/en/item/17446/index.do 

http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2018/01/23/migrants-from-latin-america-and-the-caribbean-sent-a-record-amount-of-money-to-their-home-countries-in-2016/

 

Editor’s Note : 

Voting from abroad is now possible for Diaspora communities from 115 home countries. Of these, 28 come from home countries in Africa; 16 in the Americas; 20 in Asia; 41 in Western, Central and Eastern Europe; and 10 in the Pacific. Provisions for voting by Diaspora communities have been adopted by five additional countries, but rules and voting methods have not yet been decided. 

Countries use five different methods of voting for their Diaspora members today.
Voting in Person: Diaspora members from 79 countries can vote in person.
Voting by Post: Diaspora members from 47 countries can vote by postal ballot.
Voting by Proxy: Diaspora members from 16 countries can vote by proxy.
Voting by Fax: Diaspora members from 2 countries (Australia and New Zealand) can vote by fax. Voting by the Internet: Diaspora members from 2 countries (Estonia and the Netherlands) have been able to vote by the Internet so far. (Note: American Diaspora members of Democrats Abroad were also able to vote in the 2008 overseas primary election by Internet and 48% of the total DA primary votes were cast this way).

https://www.overseasvotefoundation.org/files/The_History_and_Politics_of_Diaspora_Voting.pdf

 

Voting No to the ICJ is the right thing to do. Written by: Aria Lightfoot


Got ethics ?

As a born Belizean and unable to meet the two months residency requirements like many in the diaspora, I will not be able to register to vote in time for the ICJ Referendum. Additionally, no accommodations will be made for the diaspora to vote in the countries they reside.  The people who are able to vote are Belizeans living in Belize, the diaspora members who have decided to ignore the two month residency laws, Guatemalans and CARICOM citizens currently residing in Belize.

The ICJ Referendum is the most important vote in the history of any Belizean citizen and one should not ignore that the votes of tens of thousands of  Belizeans worldwide, many of  whom do not have any other citizenship,  are being suppressed. Voter suppression is a political strategy used to discourage or prevent a group from voting hoping to influence the outcome of elections.   It is offensive and a human rights violation and should offend the conscience of all Belizeans and I know some people are rolling their eyes and don’t care about the diaspora’s involvement,  but even if you want to argue away the rights of the diaspora Belizeans,  have Belizeans at home truly examined what a YES to the ICJ vote means?

There are many issues with this referendum.  From a moral standpoint the sovereignty inheritance title argument is a stamp of approval for colonialism, genocide and displacement of millions of indigenous and African people.  Two former colonized nations are arguing about the sovereignty of their colonial masters and willing to go before a European Court to justify the behaviors of  European criminal and human rights violations. If you are a Maya, who recently had the courts recognize indigenous rights, how can you vote YES to this colonial undertaking?  The Maya and other indigenous races were murdered in the millions, their homes destroyed and then Europe under the auspices of the Church simply took the land and claimed sovereignty over it.  Belize and Guatemala disagree who inherited that right. The people of African descent, were forcibly brought to work the lands;  were kidnapped, enslaved, endured harsh abusive conditions and many times murdered.  A yes vote endorses colonial and European criminality and right to sovereignty.

Belize and Guatemala agreement to take the ICJ route is a failure of both countries  to evolve from their colonial beginnings. I recently participated in a DNA test and I believe my DNA painted a picture of being a Belizean. My results revealed African, European, Indigenous, Asian, Spanish, Arabian and Indonesian heritage.  My DNA results suggest migrating groups in the region, many came over as enslaved, displaced or invading groups.  Belize has not examined our history or charted a path to undo the oppressive and debilitating effects of colonialism which is still evident today.   Currently 14 Caribbean countries including Belize are suing the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, France and nine other European countries for repatriations due to the Atlantic Slave Trade. How does Belize justify going to the ICJ and argue title based on colonial sovereignty and then sue the colonial nations for displacement and colonialism?  There is no moral alignment in arguing title based on sovereignty and then suing Europe for their criminal acts of asserting sovereignty in the region.

For the people who are willing to dismiss the moral duplicity of Belize’s position and prefer to argue legality based on modern law then there are issues with the legality of this process.  Belize is a small nation and against all odds and with help of our colonial bully master, we were able to carve out a nation of Belize with agreed borders with Mexico and Guatemala. The borders were further enshrined in the Belize Constitution which defines Belize’s borders, defines who is a  citizen; defines fundamental rights and the Constitution IS the Supreme Law of Belize.  However with the swipe of the pen of one man, the borders of Belize and sovereignty  are being put up for question without the pre-approval of the people or the people’s representatives.  The Foreign Minister felt no obligation to take the matter beyond cabinet and cabinet saw no obligation to present the proposal to the House of Representatives for scrutiny.  They instead sent it to a then cabinet majority appointed  Senate for ratification.  Today we are being asked to  vote yes to a referendum that would empower a foreign court to amend our borders already enshrined in the Constitution ignoring the Constitution’s  formal procedures to amend.

According to the Belize Constitution the government needs ¾ majority of the House of Representatives to amend  These safeguards are put in place so that important and fundamental rights are not weakened by ambitious men with unchecked power.  These roadblocks are there so that elected officials who are answerable to the voting population must consider their actions before they trample on the rights of Belizeans.

Furthermore, a senate inquiry in 2017 into the Belize Immigration scandal revealed that Guatemalans could not renounce their citizenship and Belize could not grant citizenship without a formal renunciation. The Prime Minister of Belize in 2018 acknowledged that this presented a “catch 22” as many Guatemalans (approximately 30 thousand) were given citizenship paperwork without constitutional authority.  Belize Citizens Abroad sought out legal help, raised the issue with the Department of Immigration, Elections and Boundaries and the Office of the Prime Minister and was afforded a meeting with the Prime Minister.  The efforts did not stop the registering of Guatemalans to vote nor did it  stop the United Democratic Party from endorsing a born Guatemalan to run on their general election ticket.  The government of Belize has shamelessly and with extreme shortsightedness turned a blind eye to the Constitution of Belize and rule of law.  The very document that defines our identity as Belizeans.

So I present the following questions to my Belizean readers – How can you morally and with a conscience for right and wrong support this ICJ yes push?  How can you support it from a procedural and legal standpoint?

 

I remain NO until Belize gets it right!

 

 

The Prodigal Children of Belizean Soil by: Aria Lightfoot


prodigal son

The Parable of the Prodigal son in the Bible describes a father with two sons, one stays at home and takes care of his father while the younger son leaves home, squanders his fortunes and returns home destitute.  The older son wants the father to scorn him and accept him back ONLY as a servant but the father in his wisdom welcomes him back with celebration and feasting.  The father stated “but it was appropriate to celebrate and be glad, for this, your brother, was dead, and is alive again. He was lost and is found.”

The parable is a powerful short story highlighting the dynamics of human relationships and emotions that accompany separation, abandonment, forgiveness and reunification.  Lately I have been examining what is it about the diaspora that negatively strikes at the emotions of Belizeans at home.   The diaspora is fighting for the rights of inclusion and full recognition of citizenship at the reluctance of the leadership in Belize and many Belizeans at home; even though Belize faces a existential threat from Guatemala;  even though born Guatemalans have been nationalized without consent of the Belizean people or constitutional authority;  and even though Belize faces one of the most important votes in the history of Belize where born Guatemalans will get a say and born Belizeans will not.   What would subject Belizeans to such self destructive animosity against their own?

I look internally at my own experiences for answers. I moved to the United States at the age of 27 and on my own accord.  I left to pursue an education without scholarship or invite from family. When I left Belize, my son was six years old and I left him for two and half years in Belize as I pursued my education.  When I talk to my adult son today, he shares that he felt deserted even though I called him every week and visited home or he visited every vacation and even after we were reunited, he still feels that he was separated from seeing his father regularly because of living in the United States.

Talking to my son brought me to a deeper understanding of this animosity towards the prodigal children of Belize by Belizeans at home. As a people we don’t examine our deep feelings of hurt and abandonment, we instead lash out in anger and resentment like the older son’s reaction in the parable of the prodigal son.  Strong emotions of love and fulfillment can be uplifting, but emotions of pain and resentment can be debilitating and self-destructive.  The father in the story knew the younger son learned his lesson and understood that reunification would be the start of something new and positive and he understood the pain of the older son, but he also knew that you cannot heal when you hold on to resentment.

My mother was the only one of six  children that never moved out of Belize or married a non- Belizean.  She did consider moving but changed her mind and said that she did not want to raise her children in the United States. My grandparents, my mom’s parents, also moved to Canada as they grew older and I think that even though we kept close to my family in the era before social media when communications were letter writing and special occasion phone calls, we only knew tidbits of each other and when my mother died, the relationships were constrained.

If we dig deeper, we may uncover feelings of abandonment when families leave. If your parents left you behind, like an orphan,  you navigate without a compass to find an identity with no parent to help you develop or direct your path.  When all my mom’s family were living in the diaspora, there were no cousins to interact with daily;  there were no aunts to visit or interact with thru regular visits; communications were formal and infrequent and there were no deep relationship building.   Once my grandparents left there were no more generational stories; no more homemade recipes and cooking; and no more holiday gatherings for all family members. A loss is created for the families left behind, even if we do not consciously acknowledge it, there is a void that is created.

Families left behind get to know their families via pictures, gifts sent home, anecdotal stories,  and occasional visits. Many times, the families abroad treat their families at home as charity cases rather than deep bonded families.   Families abroad are seen enjoying the spoils of a more developed and progressive environment, TV quality Christmases and living conditions, access to school and medical care not afforded to families left behind and through no conscious undertaking, animosity and jealousies develop and these feelings manifest itself as resentment.

The Leader of the Opposition described the diaspora as “people who drive in nice a/c  cars and on good roads” further proof that the perception of Belizeans enjoying life while families are back home suffering or struggling to overcome.  What I imagine adds insult is when some Belizeans return home retired, after living a life in the lap of luxury, owning  assets they were able to attain with foreign income.  Many Belizeans at home face daily economic struggle and many are unable obtain savings, assets and wealth after living in Belize and enduring the struggles in their everyday lives.   One young lady lashed out on Facebook saying “unu nuh deh ya di tek lick”.

Some of these feeling may be legitimate, but I suspect most of these feelings may be misplaced and deeply embedded in perception rather than reality.  Many people in diaspora left Belize because upward mobility was not a reality; many remember a colonial Belize where they were excluded from tertiary level education or access without the right blood lines or connections. Many in the diaspora are not “living the dream” but are working several jobs to make ends meet and struggling for a place that is not receptive to foreign cultures. Some have no legal status and have no ability to return home without losing their investments. Some are escaping a life of poverty and pain,  Some are working hard hoping to create a better situation for their families at home; many are subjected to racism and exclusion; many long to return home but see no opportunities to return home.  Some are forced home thru deportations or extreme poverty.

It is not coincidental that Belizeans in the diaspora fiercely hold on to their Belizean heritage; many Belizeans in the diaspora long to live in Belize and long to become a contributing force, diaspora  Belizeans see  home based Belizeans as blessed and fortunate; Belizeans at home see the diaspora as fortunate and privileged and disconnected from the realities of Belize.

Obviously there are many existing emotions that need further examination,  but I must say that it is refreshing and reassuring to see a young Belizean politician, Hon. Kareem Musa elevate the dialogue by stating publicly on national TV –  “ I want all Belizeans to come home” .  Musa is currently lobbying the House of Representatives via a private bill to include the diaspora in the ICJ vote. Kareem received an unlikely endorsement from Shyne Barrow, another young politician,  who is standard bearer for the opposing party and the son of the current Prime Minister.  The young Barrow went a step further and stated that the diaspora should be fully included in all elections in Belize. Both young men are children of leaders and both have differentiated their approach from the status quo;  both seem to grasp the idea of inclusion, taking the pathway of the father in the prodigal son parable.

kareem musaShyne-Barrow00031

The United States allows their diaspora to vote; Ireland recently held a referendum vote where hundreds of their diaspora returned home to vote. Some African leaders are calling for their enslaved diaspora to visit Africa  and we are seeing transformational leaders call home their diaspora. Barbados Prime Minister, Mia Motley, recently called on their diaspora to come home and contribute;  Mexico is benefiting from their diaspora as mass  exodus of Mexicans return home with construction and specialized skills gained in the first world.  Mexico is going a step further and setting up special programs for their deportees to hone their skills so it can be used to  enhance the development of their nation.

Since the mass exodus of Belizeans the world has changed dramatically, communication is easier and immediate, flights to Belize are affordable and frequent, the bridge has been built, and the gap is closing  and families are reuniting, .  The politicians who want to be future leaders of Belize ought be able to recognize the world is evolving  at lightning speed; if leaders are smart and strategic, they will see allies in the diaspora in a globalized environment where the diaspora can be a rich source of expertise, funding and manpower and especially with Belize’s sovereignty at risk.

The alternative is to be stuck in old colonial politics of exclusion, divide and conquer.  Kareem is a breath of fresh air because he is aligned to a new generation of politics.  I suspect the younger generation of Belizeans will have none of their parents’ politics.  The young Belizeans are far more adept to globalization and very connected; they have access to information unlike any other time in our history and I suspect that both Kareem and Shyne are thinking progressively and strategizing for a future Belize leadership challenge and I would endorse both!

unite-or-die.jpg

 

 

 

THE REFERENDUM – LET ALL THE BELIZEANS VOTE by: Eamon Courtenay SC


Article first appeared in the Amandala August 3, 2018 and reprinted with the permission of Eamon Courtenay SC. 

THE REFERENDUM – LET ALL THE BELIZEANS VOTE

Eamon-H-Courtenay

Eamon Courtenay SC

 

The Government has set 10 April 2019 as the date on which Belizeans, in referendum, will decide whether to submit the claim by Guatemala to Belizean territory to the International Court of Justice (ICJ). According to the media, the much heralded education campaign that must precede the referendum was “launched” at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs on 5th July 2018. The Government of the United States of America donated US$250,000 to the education campaign through the United Nations Development Fund. We now wait to see the details of the education campaign.

On 1st July, the long-delayed re-registration exercise started. By this process all Belizeans eighteen years and older, will be eligible to register in the constituency where they have resided for at least two months. The primary purpose of this exercise is to cleanse the voters list. It is designed to ensure that only those Belizeans who actually reside in a constituency or municipality vote to elect members of the House of Representatives, and mayors and councilors in municipalities. Re-registration should also give an accurate representation of where voters are living. The result will inform any re-districting that needs to take place so that each constituency “shall have as nearly as may be an equal number of persons eligible to vote”. That is what the Constitution requires, and that is what should be done.

There is the very serious issue regarding the Guatemalans who currently purport to hold Belizean nationality, who are apparently being allowed to participate in the reregistration exercise. They should not be registered, but I do not intend to discuss that issue now. Suffice it to say that a new register of electors populated with unqualified persons is likely to vitiate referenda and elections that are based on such an impaired register.

Once the re-registration is completed, the new register of electors will be promulgated. It will be used for the referendum to decide whether to submit the claim by Guatemala to the ICJ. According to the Referendum Act, only persons who are eligible to vote in general elections will be entitled to vote in the ICJ referendum. Importantly, this will include non-Belizean Commonwealth citizens who are on the new register. However, Belizeans who do not reside in Belize are not eligible to register, or re-register because they will not be able to prove residence in any constituency for two months.

So, Guatemalans who have not formally renounced their Guatemalan nationality, but who have obtained Belizean nationality, and Commonwealth citizens on the register will all be allowed to vote in the referendum. But Belizeans living abroad (even with a valid Belizean passport) will not be able to vote in the referendum because they do not qualify for registration. This is fundamentally wrong. It is unfair.

I believe that all Belizeans eighteen years and older, wherever resident, should be allowed to vote in the ICJ referendum. The question whether or not to submit the Guatemalan Claim to the ICJ is the single most important decision we face, collectively, since the decision to go to independence in 1981. Regardless of the ultimate decision taken in this historic referendum, all Belizeans will have to live with the result. So all Belizean adults should have a say by their vote.

Belizeans living in the United States of America should be allowed to file their requests for registration at the Embassy in Washington DC, the Mission in New York or consulates around the United States. Similarly, the High Commission in London, and all other Belizean embassies should receive applications for registration from Belizeans living abroad. Additionally, there should be a website that enables Belizeans living abroad to file electronic applications for registration. Every effort should be made to encourage and facilitate registration by Belizeans in the diaspora so that they can participate in this momentous decision. Unless this is done the upcoming road-show by two Ambassadors will be rather insulting.

As to voting, Belizeans abroad should be permitted to vote electronically or by attendance at embassies and consulates. Belize has the capacity to enable transparent, secret and verifiable electronic voting. I feel confident that there are patriotic Belizeans who would volunteer their expertise and resources to make this happen, if required. But the fact is, it is the sacred duty of the Government to make this a reality.

Details of the education campaign have not yet been made public. Those designing it should include a component that caters to Belizeans abroad, to inform and educate them on all aspects of the issue before the referendum. Perhaps the US$250,000 donated by the USA can be used to put in place the arrangements necessary to achieve this objective and to support a far reaching and multi-faceted education campaign for ALL Belizeans.

To be clear, I am not proposing that Belizeans living abroad should be allowed to register to vote in general or municipal elections. That is a wholly different issue that requires different considerations. Those Belizeans who reside abroad should not appear as electors on the new register of electors.

I do strongly propose however, that the Referendum Act and the Representation of People Act should be amended to create a Register for Referenda, which will exist alongside the Register of Electors used for general and municipal elections. The former register would be used for the ICJ Referendum and would include all Belizeans regardless of where they are resident and would be used in national referenda such as the ICJ referendum.

Time is not our enemy. If arrangements required for a truly Belizean referendum to be held, cannot be put in place expeditiously, then referendum day – 10 April 2019 – should be vacated. There is no magic to that date. It is more important to get this right.

The ICJ referendum is a national issue, not a political issue. It is an existential issue that will define our existence as a nation state, and affect our relations with our neighbor Guatemala. All Belizeans should have a say in that singular decision

Belize mired in a tangled web of citizenship definition: By: Hubert Pipersburgh


constitution 1

 

constitution 2

 

Hubert

Hubert Pipersburgh

As re-registration continues unabated. The issue of Guatemalans’ citizenship or a lack thereof remains front and center. The constitution of Belize has four categories of citizenship. Section 23( born before 1981), section 24( born after 1981), section 25( by descent or born abroad), section 26( by naturalization).
Chief among the reasons these designations are important are for several reasons. For one thing, it helps to understand how citizenship is defined under Belize’s constitution. For another, it gives a clarification of who can be granted or are entitled to citizenship.
Moreover, it also helps to underscore what categories falls under the ministerial discretion. For instance, section 23 and 24 are entitled. Section 25 and 26 are granted per the constitution. The minister has no authority or discretion on section 24 and 26 citizens. Only on section 23 and 25 citizens.  In addition, Section 29 (3) of Belize’s constitution carries two distinct conditions. First, If you show allegiance and second, if you are citizen of a country that doesn’t recognizes Belize. Thus, you are not qualified to naturalize If you are citizen of Guatemala or if you show allegiance.
Again, according to section 29(3) the minister have discretion in section 25 and 23 citizenship not 24 and 26 citizenship which is what Guatemalans are designated.
It’s a widely held belief by many that section 29 (3) only applies to persons claiming citizenship via section 26 ( naturalized) or section 25( by descent). It also applies to persons who are entitled to citizenship and persons who are granted citizenship.
No one shall be entitled to be a citizen of Belize who is a citizen of country who does not recognize our sovereignty such as Guatemala.
Using the constitution, no one can claim citizenship on this part (part 3 of the constitution ) if you are citizen of a country who does not recognizes Belize.
Notice I’m not saying granted I am saying entitled such as myself a section 23 Belizean. So the one individual the constitution disqualifies is that a born Belizean be a citizen of a country that does not recognizes Belize.
Consider the children of Guatemalans born in Belize: Section 144 of the Guatemalan constitution automatically designate them as Guatemalans at birth. Section 29 (3) of Belize constitution stipulates you cannot claim section 24 citizenship if you are a citizen of Guatemala. In short, since ministerial discretion does not apply to section 24 citizens, they are disqualified even though they are born in Belize. They are not Belizeans using that constitutional definition.
True, Guatemalans can renounce. However, Guatemalan officials has either sent mixed signals or have offered no definitive clarification to Belizean officials regarding renouncement of their citizenship.
Additionally, Guatemalans can renounce, but run afoul of section 19 of the Nationality Act, invalid renouncement. So since Guatemala do not recognized their renouncement it’s invalid and according to section 19, which makes rescind or revoke a mute point because they were never Belizeans.
Unlike 21-1-c of the Nationality Act that states frauds were Belizean until the declaration they are not legally a citizen.
My sincerest hope is that this issue is not ignored because it is a legitimate public policy issue. Going forward, somethings need to be done, not precipitously and it must not disrupt the life of these people. This is an issue that should be put to a referendum.
I in no way want to disrespect or disrupt anyone. However, we are a constitutional democracy and the Supreme Law of the land is the constitution.

see:
The Belize Nationality Act states in Chapter V Sec 19:
In any case where any person purports to renounce citizenship of any country for the purpose of acquiring, retaining or resuming, under any provision of this Act, the status of a citizen of Belize, and it is found at any time that the renunciation was not in accordance with or not effective under the law in force in that behalf in such other country, that person shall be deemed never to have acquired, retained or resumed, under that provision, that status of a citizen of Belize; and if the Minister makes a declaration to that effect in any such case, the declaration shall be final.

The Definition of Insanity by : Joseph Monsanto Joseph discusses the growing scandal of Guatemalans unconstitutionally granted Belizean Citizenship


Joseph Monsanto

Joseph Monsanto

I recently read an editorial on the Reporter’s website from last week’s paper. And honestly, while it makes some valid points about the need to resolve the situation with Guatemalans, who have Belizean citizenship illegally; I disagree with the position that the Opposition and the Government must accommodate them to be able to become Belizeans and keep their Guatemalan citizenship. The gist of the editorial is to find a fair and equitable solution for the Guatemalans, and Belizeans, so that the Guatemalans who wish to become Belizeans do not contravene Section 26 of the Constitution, can be Belizeans, despite not renouncing their citizenship from Guatemala.
There are several problems with this position, and while it is a sentiment I share that it must be fair, there are obstacles in the way of this happening. Namely, the position of the Guatemalan government, stating that every Guatemalan will always be a Guatemalan national, and that they will not do anything to render their citizens stateless. A very similar problem exists with the Guatemalan claim, in which despite recognising Belize as an independent nation, Guatemala’s congress cannot or will not repeal their claim to our territory, and their courts have made such constitutional amendments in the past notoriously difficult.
Let’s start with why is it that the debate is so prominent. As all of you know, the visa and immigration scandal that erupted in 2013, which many of us know as Pennergate, exposed the corrupt dealings of various government ministers in the Dean Barrow Administration, and exposed the practice of granting Guatemalan nationals Belizean citizenship, and this was done to pad voter rolls in general elections. Let’s be honest, this happened during the Musa Administration as well, but it was especially pronounced during this period, and we are dealing with the consequences of that today. The Senate Select Special Committee has exposed quite a bit of illegal activities taking place under Elvin Penner’s watch as Minister of State for Immigration. Among those is granting Guatemalan nationals, who did not renounce their nationality to Guatemala, Belizean citizenship. Dianne Locke, the Immigration Director, testified in 2017 that before changes were made by the Immigration Department in the wake of the scandal, there were no efforts to verify that those Guatemalans who became Belizeans took any steps to formally renounce their citizenship in Guatemala. And even after those changes, she testified that absent any notification that the Guatemalans would reject the paperwork from the immigration committee, that the Guatemalans would not respond to anything that the department would send to the Guatemalan Foreign Ministry, regarding renunciation of Guatemalan citizenship. This was further complicated by the response to the Government’s inquiry to the issue before us. Guatemala believes once someone is Guatemalan, they are forever Guatemalan, and that even if it was to facilitate Belize’s process of nationality, they cannot render a citizen stateless. If one views Guatemala’s reply through their history, then such a stance, especially in context of what is happening in Myanmar(Burma) with the Rohingya makes sense. But if you look at their official policy position regarding Belize, and their ongoing claim, then you would be of the belief that such a policy is used to infiltrate Belize, to influence their politics, and their policy, so they can be friendly to Guatemala. Such a goal was the reason why the prohibition on Guatemalans becoming Belizeans exists, outside of the exceptions of being married to a Belizean or being born in Belize.
Let’s come to the crux of my disagreement with the editorial. The Government has not displayed any willingness to work with the Opposition, or civil society on this issue, or for instance, the 9th Amendment. The Barrow administration in 2011, pushed a constitutionally dubious amendment, that would have stripped the right of judicial review from the courts on constitutional amendments, as well as other provisions that would have allowed the government to control Belize Telemedia Limited. The provision that would have stripped judicial review was declared unconstitutional some time later. The Government has also been unilaterally signing agreements with the Guatemalan government regarding the change to the referendum law, and de-linking the referenda for Belize and Guatemala, without consulting the Opposition. Since 2015 GOB and the Opposition have not seen eye to eye on the matter of the Guatemalan dispute, with the Government consistently saying that the People’s United Party is playing politics. The facts however speak to the politicisation of the dispute being the handiwork of the governing United Democratic Party, and therefore the bungling of the referendum result, as well as Belizean discontent surrounding the Sarstoon river and isle is squarely on their hands. I do not have the confidence that the Government believes that it is in the best interest of Belizeans and Guatemalans who have Belizean citizenship, through the schemes of ministers during Pennergate, or otherwise trying to become Belizeans legally, to resolve this, by working with the Opposition. Their history on the 9th Amendment, and the history of the Government working unilaterally on what was traditionally a national issue is the guide here. I believe that the Government will rush through an amendment that will nullify section 26 (3), and allow Guatemalans to keep their citizenship, as they become Belizeans. Appeasement is the order within the Government, especially if you consider the representation Belize has on the dispute with Guatemala. The Opposition, while they believe that any one who is a Belizean must be able to vote on this issue, would be remiss not to challenge this glaring problem, especially given the controversy this caused from 2013. However, given the statements from the Leader of the Opposition, do not hope for a productive solution for this issue.
Given the complexity of this issue, I have a few solutions to this issue, should they be taken seriously. Guatemalans should be allowed to become Belizeans, should the paperwork that acknowledge the renunciation from Guatemala City is given to Belizean authorities. This is the easiest and clean solution for those Guatemalans who legally go through the process of becoming Belizeans. But given Guatemala’s Congress, their courts and their government, this is unlikely to happen. Another solution is to clean up the voter registration list and scrutinise it for Guatemalans who have gained citizenship during Pennergate. While this seems to be what the Government is doing, I am not going to hold my breath, because there has yet to be a case tested in court over a Guatemalan gaining citizenship during that time. And the fact that they announced the date for the referendum, and the voter re-registration exercise, suggests to me that they have not taken this issue very seriously at all. We must also look at the possibility of disenfranchising those Guatemalans who have gained citizenship through Pennergate. While it is a potentially unconstitutional move and very controversial, there is a valid national security reason for it. Given the fact that the Government has facilitated this activity, albeit through the illegal activities of some government Ministers, one could make the case that such a move to disenfranchise this group of Guatemalan-Belizeans is a necessity. But the editor is right. It is a complex issue that requires an elegant solution to this problem. However, given the past 10 years, and recent history, I do not believe that the Government is one for elegant solutions, unless it is expedient and benefits them.

We Got Net (W.G.N.) written by: Jose Sanchez


 A thoughtful, historical and analytical piece examining Belize’s cultural evolution and media.  Aria Lightfoot

Jose Sanchez 

We Got Net (W.G.N.) by: Jose Sanchez 
Reprinted with the permission of Jose Sanchez 
A young man from British Honduras, Ludwig Lightburn walked into Madison Square Garden and stood up to a goliath in the boxing world, the number 2 lightweight contender Ralph Dupas. While the Garden felt each solid blow, and the fight was one of the first televised, they could only be heard by a few radios in the Central American nation. Neighbors gathered around and listened as Lightburn punched his way to victory. It was 1955, almost 3 decades later video would kill the radio stars and television would reach British Honduras.
 Just like your fathers the Baymen, valiant and bold, Arthur and Marie Hoare had no idea that their business idea would change the landscape forever. They weren’t looking for timber, but the rooftop antennas connected to the tube would not only bring entertainment, but their Channel 9 would provide a compass for thousands to follow and would change lives and culture for Belizeans to this day. The television signal stretched all the way to Wrigley field, all the way to that box where Harry Carey sang “take me out to the ball game…” for the Cubs. Initially, Chicago’s WGN would be the only station we would be able to see and not only did we watch them lose because of the curse of the goat, we would love these losers as if we were residents of Chicago too. You could always know when the cubs were playing, you would hear people sing the song of camaraderie; you would hear the groans of a loss. The Cub games which were family events, no national events for Belize, would be the penultimate reason much like a blacksmith’s steel, which would heat, knock and forge a bond like no other seen before. Yes, there were other staples on WGN, in the mornings, kids could watch the lovable Bozo the Clown, who actually has a striking resemblance to Stephen King’s IT; “’they float, Georgie, and when you’re down here with me, you’ll float, too!”
 And like Georgie, we floated with the CUBS, not Da Bears. We did not need a Cambridge Analytica to decipher our society. We recently gained independence and would not replace British subjugation with Guatemala’s. Our goal was to remain sovereign and our window to the world was WGN, so shaping our opinions had an easy delivery system that was as direct as an injection to the bloodstream. Some smart people realized the power of the tube and antenna and invited a Cubby to Belize. Not just any cubby, but the Sarge, outfielder Gary Matthews. “I had never heard of that place, what is it called? Belize?” Cub manager Jim Frey said on February 28, 1985, when Matthews was scheduled to fly to Belize. While we consumed a diet of dollar chicken and Polar Pak Orange Juice with our cubbies, they had no clue they were the biggest phenomenon in Belize since Dutch cheese.
“They’ve got me scheduled to go out on something called Taca Airlines. I have a policy of never going on an airlines that I can’t spell,” Matthews said. “All I know is that I started to worry when they asked me to wear a bullet-proof vest in the parade. Don’t start the season without me. If I’m not back by April, you guys come and get me…When (general manager) Dallas (Green) was talking to me about this idea the other day and asked me about Belize, I thought he was talking about another player he wanted to trade for. I said to Dallas: “I don`t believe I know this guy. What position does he play?”
The Sarge would be traded, but in 1987, and Matthews’ junior would follow in his father’s footsteps and play for the Cubs from 200-2001. But by that time the antenna signal would be replaced by cable television, dial up internet would be a thing, and the movie Colors would usher in a definitive sign that Belize had gained influence from the US. I could give you 13 reasons why but just accept that the gang culture was exported to Belize as the movie, which was scripted for Chicago but shot in Los Angeles, highlighted the Crip and Blood gangs as they took root in Belize. We had more television than Americans, and only for a fraction of the price. But regulation could have occurred from the 80s or the 90s. The excuse everyone had bought into was “the market is too small” and the cost/benefit would be negligible. There was no big stick, no need for dollar diplomacy, America had not only replaced England, it colonized the minds and shaped opinions of Belizeans by simply letting Americana’s rivers flood the homes of Belizeans. That was when I realized how truly important it is to get different source materials before making judgments.
Today we can tell a lot of the opinion by which free stations we watch. If your neighbor watches Fox News regularly, you can assume they are either Republican or a Trumpster who wants to make America great again. It isn’t a coincidence that Chicago is a major hub for the diaspora.But there just isn’t enough hours in the day, you could watch whatever you wanted. The internet would change communications forever. At first the government attempted to block any voice related apps and websites to keep a revenue stream for the telecommunications company. The internet has provided more options. Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Firestick, Apple TV, Youtube and others that are competing with Network Televisions’ NBC, ABC, and CBS. The people of the world have become the pirates of the Caribbean. You can find phone apps and websites (coolkecktv, putlocker, couchtuner) that provide the same premium content made for those platforms but for free. Stranger Things have happened but the cable companies in Belize are entering the upside down while forging ahead with rates moving up from $45 to $60 monthly cable fees but with less channels. And though it will be many channels, people are already complaining that they don’t watch many of the channels because the content may not be to taste. I had to unfollow and Ghost some FB friends who did not have the Power to refrain from posting spoilers. But eventually I too made the call and bent the knee when someone in India posted GOT episodes before the HBO world premiere.
But when it comes the sports, there isn’t just baseball, there’s basketball and football and just about any sport you desire. And there are many teams. Belizeans have now laid claim to America’s basketball teams across the North American continent just as they once did with the cubs. It is all about Lebron James, right now and if he loses, there are more players and teams to choose from, right bro? Having options leads to developing taste. Belize’s primary goal, to remain sovereign did not consider the identity of the Belizean, which is why it was so easy for America to replace England. The country claims American athletes in the diaspora, though they wave the US flag. They can’t represent us at the National level in politics and they can’t vote in our ICJ referendum. But then again, that is why the internet has brought us options of enjoyment and knowledge. We need distraction from the politics, from the corruption, from the daily shit that has repeated itself in some form of the Matrix many times before. How many years have gone by since Sir Colville Young wrote about “Jonas Parker, the silver tongue talker”, the politician who wondered about how people could live in poverty in his division. It doesn’t matter which party won, don’t we always hear about the pot holed streets, and that Orange Street in Belize had a flood after a rain and whomever is in power is to blame? We are all in the sunken place with Kanye West. Get out!
That’s why Netflix exists, that’s why data is more important to Belizeans than a phone bill or a cable bill. You watch your content at the time you want on a daily basis or on the weekend in bulk if its binge worthy. We want internet and the power to decide who we will call, if and when we want to see them while we talk or send a voice message or type and decide which app we want to use. Will it be in an Instagram story? Snapchat story? FB message? Whatsapp? Heck you can put on virtual deer ears and nose to match your mannerisms in a video chat. The local television is divided into 3 categories: 1 news; 2 talk shows; and 3 entertainment. You can hear talk shows on the radio or watch them on TV live or on repeat, you can see the news live on FB or Youtube. The entertainment section is broken down into sports, karaoke, and limited programs which are seasonal typically by 10 episodes. Tastes are changing. Everyone is online, which is why the news industry has shifted online; newspapers have a webpage, FB page and are looking for opportunities to adapt. The internet has killed many printed newspapers around the world. Why read paper, when you can either watch online, or read online? Interactive stories such as the New York Times Snowfall, show how storytelling and technology can merge. Narrative writing and social marketing (not to be confused with social media marketing) have changed how content is absorbed. You can get an education online on YouTube. You can take courses, learn, and there is a feast of information suitable for every palate and at any time. In the age of Youtubers, you can speak to and communicate with a live expert on their channel. Classes can now be taken online.
Rain Drops? Drop top? Fishermen can check an app for the weather. The weather service is only bad and boujie during hurricane season. We can check an app or go online to see if weather conditions permit to go fishing at sea or to plant crops. You can use the internet and data from social media sites like Instagram and Facebook to target a specific age, sex, or region of a country. We are in an age where there is excess as well as excellent delivery systems to the brain.
Companies use influencers and experts to shape opinion prior to the release of a product in order to generate a buzz and content from trusted sources. Check out Sony Kando or Kando 2.0, as an example. However, during the last General Elections I met university students who were hired as influences and opinion shapers for youth of voting age. They did this mostly online, they met in WhatsApp group to receive their talking points and these popular people, some of whom were more noticed for their selfies and duck faces suddenly became political. They got paid and that’s an excellent illustration of technology’s use. I received a notice from Facebook that someone on my friend’s list completed the survey that would eventually send millions of data including mine to Cambridge Analytica and the data would be used to determine weaknesses or biases that would help to steer an opinion. If you liked an article about better border control, then you would have received more content on your news feed about Mexicans taking American jobs, or America needs walls. Strange that for the past few years, no one has used the power to help shape an argument of whether or not we should go to the ICJ? My bad, Guatemala did it, I saw their videos and their posts from every level. Data is not all about memes, shade and selfies, but is it Laurel or Yanny bro?
The beauty of the dilemma is that while Belizeans are being shaped, they are now in the driver’s seat to decide which content they will consume and what platform they will receive it. The Belizean identity is always in flux and how it will continue to shape is anyone’s guess. The phone companies as well as internet only companies are selling data and in some cases data with Netflix to the public. The future for cable providers can simply be in selling data or by providing original content that is not available on streaming services. To survive, they will need to hire content creators to be leaders, not followers. Everyone’s doing karaoke, radio and TV but only one can lead in that. It is possible that cable companies will be cannibalized in order for that industry to survive.
In the past, the play book meant, supporting Bowen as a Belizean entity when Caribbean and beers threatened the niche market. When Telemedia became nationalized, it too became the battle cry, “support Belizean businesses.” It worked for a while. When Albert Street started seeing loss to Chetumal and Melchor, “support Belizean businesses” once again became the anthem. The truth is there are many people employed and many families supported by jobs in this industry that did not pay content providers. Data alone wipes out the need for the two cell phone companies and all cable companies. Perhaps that is why they are all selling internet now, and of course that is why the Government is taxing it, just as fuel is being taxed. Eventually residents at our border towns will buy data from Mexico or Guatemala just as they do now with fuel. If there is a limit to salaries in this economy of the working poor, more taxes simply means people will learn to do without. The cable industry needs to create content and become competitive.
So looking back at the lesson learned from using the Cubs to unify our people, why hasn’t any budding politrician invited him to Belize yet? Does the cost of an international call or text matter to you? Does it matter if you missed the news at 6:30 pm? Does it matter that something happened Friday night and you have to wait for Monday morning talk show for an update? No. Why? W.G.N. We Gah Net.

European Deception – Argument for reparations in pictures by: Aria Lightfoot


Some of the biggest European lies that persist today:

  1. You are natives/inferior and need protection if you are not white-
  2. Natives/indigenous people were/are primitive
  3. Natives need to be saved by Jesus Christ
  4. Brown, Yellow and Black people are minorities
  5. Non-whites are genetically predisposed to certain characteristics and behaviors
  6. History Books of the world.
  7. The world was disconnected tribes of people living in isolation until Europe connected it.

Europeans systematically  destroyed  worldwide cultures, identities and reprogrammed cultures to stay in a  present condition of fear, victim hood and despair where people cannot see the atrocities committed and celebrated in today’s labels such as “First World”, “G20”, “Advanced”, “Superior” ” Weapons of Mass Power” .

England used a celebratory Chinese invention,  gun power,  to conquer and dominate the world.  European crimes and atrocities against humanity/nations and cultures  are beyond anything one can phantom.

Pictures below are taken from the world’s “ancient architectures” . As you can see, cultures of “ancient” civilization were far from primitive. They were superior in architecture, and also in music, writing and scientific discovery.  The Maya Calendar, Math and Astronomy, even though it predated the “discovery of the world being round” and discovery of planets and solar system, is accurate as today’s calendars and discoveries.

I theorize Europeans “discovered”  the “New” World during invasions of Africa where they gathered stories of great wealthy civilizations in other parts of the world. Europeans may have forced  “primitive” seamen and trading partners who traded with Africa,India, Asia Central/South America to show them a sea route where the wealth originated.  In Europe’s insatiable greed to continue their path of expansionism, they offered commissions to many people to find the sea route to wealth; with Christopher Columbus being the first European to make the “discovery” . Once colonization occurred, “primitive” cultures’ knowledge, wealth and history were abnegated and everything we know from there became rewritten European lies to hide merciless bloodshed,  terrorism, genocide, theft, and rape….that make Europe and by extension, the USA wealthy today.

When Africa and the “New” world  were invaded by Europeans,  books were burned, ideas stolen, wealth stolen,  women raped, cultures destroyed  and coincidentally Europe went thru a renaissance period of discovery.  A sudden burst of new ideas, culture, art and buildings.

I find it hard to  believe that Columbus and Europeans were welcomed with open arms by tribes without a familiar face on board invading ships. I find it hard to believe the designs and buildings were so similar for disconnected cultures;  I find it hard to believe Christoper Columbus just happen upon the “New” world by accident; I find it hard to believe Spain would pay for an expensive trip without proof of the new world; I find it hard to believe Europe just miraculously went thru an enlightenment period;  I find European history books  hard to believe when the pictures tell a different story of a connected world.

Pictures below are of ancient architectures in: Africa; Middle East; India;  Australia;  South America;  Central America; Asia

Let who have eyes see….Are you willing to challenge indoctrination?

 

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ancient 2ancient-4.jpgancient-3.jpgancient 4ancient 5ancient 6ancient 8ancient 10Ancient 9ancient 10ancient 11ancient 12ancient 13ancient 14ancient 15ancient 16ancient 17ancient 18ancient-19.jpgancient 20ancient 21ancient 22ancient 23ancient 26ancient-27.jpgancient 28ancient 29

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Ancient Europeans ancient 30

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A Tale Of Two Cities – Belize City and Belmopan Municipal Election 2018 -analysis by Aria Lightfoot


Aria

 “…the only thing we saw from the previous council are the good streets that we are killed on…” Micah Goodin, newly elected Belize City Councilor

 

Elections are over in Belize and the results were shocking with aftershocks yet to follow.  While I believed that United Democratic Party would lose ground in the municipal election, I did not anticipate such an astonishing defeat in the old capital. Only one person, Verlene Pitts, correctly predicted the city loss.  I personally thought the city would yield a split council.   The United Democratic Party was unable to retain a single city council seat in a political powerhouse and in what appeared to be a hard-working council. The seemingly improbably defeat exposed severe weaknesses in several UDP strong hold Belize City constituencies, making the silent voter who sat out the municipal elections an untapped power punch; 49% of city residents did not vote.  More people sat out elections in the city than determined the margin of winners.

So, what happened?

While the Prime Minister highlighted some obvious weaknesses, his analysis did not go deep enough because he probably did not want to publicly criticize the missteps and failures of the UDP and obviously he did not want to build on the People’s United Party momentum; PUP finally broke the political barriers that kept them in exile from any significant political leadership for more than ten years;  and to the political observer, PUP won Belize city without much fanfare, fireworks and candidate name recognition.

The UDP blamed voter fatigue, outspending, not enough men on the ground challenging key positions etc., but the party will need to take an insightful analysis as how they are perceived by the voters.

Here are my observations as an arm chair analyst/ Facebook commentator I was coined by OJ and other members of the UDP. There were many factors that made this loss predictive for those willing to take an unbiased look….

armchair_analyst_logo_400x400

The United Democratic Party Belize City campaign team disregarded an important aspect in every successful campaign- the personal people aspect. The UDP known supporters and campaigners were publicly abusive and dismissive; in fact, the negative perceptions may not be from the candidates themselves, just their entourage of friends and cronies feasting at the trough of the tax payer.  The chosen few members operate like a popular teenage cliché, showcasing their access and money; sometimes taking grand trips around the world and plastering it all over social media thinking that social media likes equal political popularity. Some of the supporters were online bullies and while they were dominant in many online conversations; many spent an enormous amount of time defending, accusing and pointing fingers, but spent little time listening, reading, analyzing, or being sympathetic to the concerns raised.

There were hundreds of conversations happening daily in groups with as many as 100K followers. These UDP operatives used social media to brag within a small political microscope and appeared to voters that their lifestyles were tax payer sponsored.  The perception created a very negative perception.  Social Media has evolved into a very important and powerful device in politics. Social media is big in Belize City. Most city residents have access to social media, regardless of their economic conditions.  Social media is a transformative and compelling tool because the communication is extensive, the messaging is instant, the audience is substantial, and the message can be recycled in many ways and can always be presented as current. According to Cornell University’s Steven Strogatz, social media sites can make it more difficult for us to distinguish between the meaningful relationships we foster in the real world, and the numerous casual relationships formed through social media. Someone who misunderstands this, can magnify the perception of their political party either positively or negatively. The misconceptions can also mislead one into thinking that their message is resonating.  Arguably the perception of the Belize city political elites left much to be desired.

Social media also affords the unique ability to organize, energize and connect. Discussions are real time, constant and telling of the perceptions of the average person.  The UDP operatives misused social media and media in this campaign.  On many issues they dominated the dialogue but were tone deaf to the beat of the city. The “optics” were horrible in a city overwhelmed with poverty and crime.

Many UDP supporters will attest that their support of the United Democratic Party begins and ends with the Hon. Dean Barrow and his loud powerful stance against corruption where he promised to address it whenever and wherever it appeared. When PUP demitted office, not even money could buy the support of voters because the corruption and disregard for the common man left an anger in the society that played out for over ten years.  Now in 2018, UDP Belize City find themselves pretty much in the same scenario. The people of Belize are over corruption, excuses for corruption, “lack of proof” of corruption and failure to tackle systematic failures that allow corruption to thrive. One UDP confided that she did not vote because she refuses to vote anymore for the lesser of two evils. The Boots Martinez controversy and Montero controversy weighed heavily on citizens who are truly fed up with corruption.  PUP, at their own peril, defended the decision of the new city council’s appointment of Joe Coye to head of the transition team.

The failure of the United Democratic Party to effectively address the vicious crime rate in Belize City, failure to acknowledge and sympathize with parents of dead babies was callous. I can’t imagine who advised the government to take a silent approach on this issue.  The head in the sand approach no longer works in a social media era. In times of despair and hopelessness, people look to leadership for support.  The only person publicly offering condolences was the leader of the opposition. The Prime Minister and every UDP Minister who represented these divisions silence was deafening. If anyone saw the video of one young man with his daughter who expressed outrage over the death of the 17month baby, would have clued anyone into the anger brewing in the city. The man in the video was visibly enraged, his anger was powerful, raw and scary.

The removal of Police Officer Chester from the City for Vidal was a poor decision. Chester along with Nuri Muhammad and Diane Finnegan had brokered a fragile peace among gang members in Belize City and with the removal of Chester, Vidal ushered in a brute force police dominance. Vidal was less sympathetic to gang members and the videos of police brutality flooded social media.  I also believe that the murder of popular barber Fareed Ahmed for which a police officer was arrested, and the deteriorated relationship with police and the citizenry added to the perception that there was no love for the affected citizens by the political elites.   The PUP also used effective propaganda videos showing powerful ministers giving interviews that the crime rate only affected a certain area; suggesting that the crime rate was not a big issue for them.

The UDP Belize City political commercials were silly, playful, corruption deflection, finger pointing and completely aloof and insensitive to the daily struggles of the citizens especially amid a crime spree and a murder rate that was as high as one murder every 42 hours. The UDP wanted the citizenry to examine the levels of corruption against a PUP government that has not been in power for over ten years. The argument was old, and it created an impression that UDP was now okay with corruption if it wasn’t as bad as PUP’s corruption.

UDP had a popular outgoing mayor with a constituency bigger than any other elected official in the country of Belize, Yet Mayor Bradley was practically invisible during the campaigning process. The people of Belize, regardless of political persuasion loved Mayor Bradley, he created a business like, corruption free environment; but he was treated at arms -length.  Bradley is a good candidate for leadership in the party, not necessarily party leader yet, but instead of a political snob, why not bring him to the forefront, offer him a secure division such as Dean Barrow’s division or even Boots or Elrington…begin grooming him for future leadership. Mayor Bradley should have been effectively utilized to see if he could be effective nationally as he is for the municipal elections. When UDP treats UDP with disdain, it creates even less public trust and love for the party.  The perception is “if they will treat their own in that manner, what will they do to us”.

UDP also has a very poor relationship with their supporters and allow rabid party supporters to further undermine the rapport.   It appears UDP opts for a transactional pay to play relationships and have not forged deep committed relationships like the party of the past. The George Price generation of die- hard support and loyalty voters are diminishing, which makes the swing vote population more powerful than ever.  The youths are less impressed with status quo.  Politicians today are under complete scrutiny and people are beginning to understand their power.  Political apathy and distrust grows and as such, enough was not done to convince the voter that they were the only choice; evident in the numbers that voted against the UDP and those who sat out the elections; numbers that could easily flip outcome for either party in the general elections.

Another problem, much like the pre-2008 PUP, too many family members are intertwined in the middle of party business making unbiased analysis near impossible.  The family members visibility in powerful positions adds to the perception of a few beneficiaries within the party. The image of political elitism need to be addressed.

The UDP will need to go back to the drawing board and address these deficiencies before going into a national election. UDP is also headed for a leadership change and the party will need to start making effective, succinct and expeditious changes to prepare for 2020.  Belize City will be far more important for a national election win.

What was PUP’s formula for success in the City?

The People’s United Party formula was easy.  They spent less time show timing and more time grass root campaigning. PUP members were engaged online but from the perspective of activists. They engaged the online community, promoted the issues of concern and push propaganda in effective ways.  They were able to deflect the corruption charges with fresh new blood in the party. PUP recruited the salt of the earth Belize City candidates who were already activist, community organizers, health care providers and candidates from the south side Belize.  The PUP candidates were people who overcame their own obstacles of poverty and rose to leadership. The PUP candidates were credible to the citizenry.

Another effective tool by the PUP was to turn the attention from the true responsibilities of the city council, which involves maintaining the city to a national conversation around crime and corruption.  The outgoing UDP city council did an excellent job maintaining the city and PUP had nothing to compare to it. When PUP changed the conversation, UDP did not effectively redirect the conversation to the responsibilities of the city, choosing instead to wage a finger pointing corruption war which only reflected on UDP as the party in power.

The Opposition Leader Johnny Briceno also brought forth instances of corruption by Belize City Minister Boots Martinez; all indications of the last general elections, Boots and Elrignton were weak candidates winning their divisions by small margins. The powerhouse Ashcroft owned entity of Channel 5 helped PUP make the argument credible. Channel 5 focused on crime and   hammered on Elrington making multiple faux pas remarks around growing concerns of Guatemala; and taking an aloof approach to crime and policing for which he is in charge.  The reporting on Boots accusation of corruption made a very strong case of UDP’s disregard for supporters.  Boots accusation was powerful because his accuser indicated an uncompassionate Boots, who uses his assistant to gain access to his bank account without any reward. The assistant publicly admitting to laundering money through his bank account with 100% of the proceeds going to Boots.  The corruption charges added to the credence to a perception that UDP uses supporters for their own selfish intentions.  This narrative was used by many PUP operatives.  “Only a few benefits under the UDP”.

PUP made inroads during the midterm elections and have ignited their base into action. PUP however already made a serious misstep with the controversial pick of Coye. The pick created controversy and in old political style, PUP defended the decision.  This misstep is indicative of why the silent vote remains powerful as they sit and wait to see which party will rise to the expectations of the electorate.

As I am not as familiar with the North and South politics, I will give a tale of two cities, Belmopan and Belize City.

Contrasting Belmopan UDP win/PUP loss vs Belize City  PUP win/UDP loss- Khalid is a well-liked mayor.  He is humble, respectful, accessible and he works. John and Khalid have a good working relationship and John works his division and he adapts quickly and responds effectively to criticism. John and Khalid keep a relatively low social media presence, John only to address and promote Belmopan events or to address controversies. At one point, John had the same rabid supporters around him, but I think the public discontent was heard and that problem was seemingly addressed. The offenders have taken on a less social media presence.  John can be described as passionate and zealous about his politics, seemed to have matured over the years and have worked the division thru losses and wins. He is impressive and politically astute, because he understands the political constituency and respond efficiently and competently to the electorate. John told me he would bring home all his candidates and he was right. I thought Anna departure would hurt the party initially, but that was quickly squashed which did not allow the negative to spill out into the political arena for too long.

PUP did not present a good Belmopan team. PUP brought the same message to Belmopan that was effective in Belize City, but the cities are not plagued with the same problems. PUP failed to use the same formula that was effective in the city. The PUP aspirants were relatively newcomers to the Belmopan community except for JB Wade and Brian Mira. The successful Belmopan City Council, much like the Belize City council winning team, have salt of the earth credible residents Similarly, they spent a lot of time grass root campaigning and limited their social media to campaign messaging and working messages. You did not see one Belmopan political aspirant using social media to brag about their access or success.  Most of the messages were conservative and thankful.  I also believe that Mayor Belisle has softened up John’s image quite a bit. The popular and humble mayor is well spoken, hard worker and well liked and have forged a working partnership with John; that working relationship is beneficial to the Belmopan residents.  Things can be done when the city council and the area representatives are from the same party.  The Belmopan team through trial and error understands that relationship building is a key component for continued political success.

While there is still discontent in Belmopan as with any community, the discontent is nowhere close to Belize City.  As a city, Belmopan is thriving. There is less crime; the poor are not in destitute and drug infested conditions. Belmopan residents are also able to transition out of poverty, more diversity, more access to NGOs, Embassy contributions, scholarships, good schools, living spaces and a very dynamic community vested in their own future. The Belmopan voter is far less dependent on government to handouts. Hence Belize City messaging is meaningless in Belmopan.

What’s Next?

While the United Democratic did lose the biggest constituency, there were significant wins in Central and Southern Belize and while PUP did lose the Central and Southern Belize, they made significant wins in the North, Belize City and made significant impact in San Pedro.  PUP and UDP will see leadership challenges and how that plays out will have a significant impact on the national elections.

Both parties will need to realistically examine their present state and work thru their successes and failures; Parties will need to take a serve the people approach and tone down their rabid supporters who see politics as a blood sport winner takes all game.  Politics have greatly evolved in Belize and each election brings in new voters with different expectations. People want a stake in their future and the messaging will be very important going forward.  Leadership will also play an important role in how people perceive political parties.  Political parties must begin the arduous process of dropping dead weight and attracting the young and vibrant talent to their pool. The question of corruption can no longer be deflected. The people of Belize want opportunity, access, security and corruption free government.  The municipal election reminded both political parties who are really in charge. Democracy was vibrant, the people spoke or remained silent.  Political parties must be mindful that a much bigger election is upon us and that election will awaken a silent powerful vote.  Who will hear and respond?

No Justice No Peace by: Aria Lightfoot


Aria

Aria Lightfoot

I have not written about Belize for almost a year because it was getting frustrating to see the problems and being helpless in bridging solutions. It is disheartening to know that our little Belize has no value for human life.

Murder or attempted murder is now a daily pastime in Belize. I joined a Belize WhatsApp news group and it is scary to think that people are being gunned down or stabbed daily.  Murder is so rampant that the media and police can no longer dedicate more than a few days and only to the most sensational ones. Life is meaningless that there is no pause, reflection or anger except for the meaningless condolences messages that do not translate into effective advocacy or motivate any action, not even from the victims’ families.

I feel like Belizeans are a bunch of sheep waiting and expecting to be slaughtered.  Belizeans have no concept of justice, accountability, right nor wrong. We are shallow, consumer driven with no moral compass.  God in Belize is used for present-day judgment, social tea parties, inaction and after life reward.  Belizeans seems to have lost their instinct for self-preservation, community and generational survival.

Belize has seen over 4000 citizens brutally murdered with absolutely no closure, no prosecutions and no active investigations. A surplus of psychopathic killers is getting a thrill terrorizing and murdering the citizenry.  The cancer is spreading so fast that people now feel that the police are carrying out targeted murders.  Many of the officers who are there to serve and protect are power drunk making crucial decision over citizens’ lives, death and freedom with no regard for due process or justice.

We see a system that does not adjust to offset loophole laws that make criminals walk; we see attorneys making a mockery of the criminal legal system; criminals walk away from egregious acts based on trifling technicalities; we have a DPP with job security, in place now for over a decade; and piss poor job performance of 3-5% conviction rate.  We see no solutions from the guardians of our laws because -let’s face it – we have no value for life or love of our fellow Belizeans.   We are a cold, callous, soulless people in love with brand name everything,  we love partying, we hate rules therefore actively participating in our own genocide.

Do you recall the video of the emaciated polar bear? The gut wrenching viral picture of a helpless bear on the brink of death and no solutions to solve the immediate issues of Global Warming destroying his environment?  That picture is reminiscent of Justice in Belize. We see it dying, we know what is killing justice, but we are helpless with no will to solve it.

bear-3.jpg

 

it is hard to remain focus on anyone murder because the numbers are astronomical.  We are three days into the New year and there has already been three murders. We are in a state of paralysis.  Recently Caleb shared a list with me of 33 gay men who have been murdered in Belize.  The method of murder ranges from strangulation, multiple stab wounds, shooting and physically beaten to death. The list is reflective of the savagery that has befallen our society.  Even sadder and likely because of the overwhelming murder rate, people dismiss victims of murders due to their sexual orientation, domestic relationship and gang affiliated murders. Belizeans have convinced themselves that once they stay away from the categories listed above, they will remain safe.  Sadly, we seem clueless of the high incidence of murder by hire, robbery; burglary, being an unfortunate witness, drunk driving (yes, they are murderers too).

Today I listened to the father of Fareed Ahmad express anger by calling the accused “souwa” and some people were offended by his use of words to describe the accused murderer of his son;  rather than being offended by the murder itself; rather than being offended by the perception of police involvement, rather than being offended that a young productive young man is dead; rather than being offended that the victim leaves behind young children; rather than being offended by innocent death; rather than offended that the name of the victim is being tarnished to protect the guilty.

Belizeans get offended over blue Santa Claus, beauty queen contests, Facebook posts and political tomfoolery …but no demand for Justice and no expectation of Justice. Until we purse Justice and value the life of every citizen there will be absolutely No peace.  Every single Belizean life matter and every Belizean life is at stake.

Guatemala waits for us to  complete our self-destruction….