REPORT #569 November 2002

Produced by the Belize Development Trust

Latin America is studded with authoritarian political systems based on population representation by control of the major political party coming from a city metropolitan area base.

Is Belize any different? Not really! Of the 29 electoral seats in the nation of Belize, 13 of them, or nearly half, originate in one district, the Belize District. Since this is nearly half the available electoral seats of the nation, obviously this district dominates the political party process. Of these 13 electoral seats, (10) 10 of them come from the old colonial capital of the port Belize City. In other words, the one port town originates the political party system and controls one third of the electoral seats for the whole nation of Belize. This port town is about 60,000 people of a nation of 250,000 population. But suburbs extending outward increase the number of electoral seats even more, by 1 or 2.

It is a no-brainer to figure out, that the port town of Belize City, the old colonial capital controls the nation of Belize. With a limited government revenue that shows not much change in overall amounts, the source of wealth and money is primarily from operating the government.

With the seat of political power residing in these 10 to 13 Belize District electoral seats and the fact that this small town of 60,000 is very close knit; it would come as no surprise to know that all the political candidates in this town went to school together, played sports together, courted each other's son's and daughters and intermarried. The political party process controlling apparatus in Belize is thus very incestuous. All government services are in this one town, but in short change elsewhere throughout the nation, which is treated by these 10 elected representatives like a rural plantation to be governed and ruled. Government advertising payments goes to political party rags from this town and not to rural newspapers, and the advertising dollar is king in Belize for being able to afford to publish your political views. The import merchant crowd of this town have the dollars to support party politics, while the rural 16 electoral candidates have to rely on word of mouth, rather than on media ads and news items.

Like most of Latin America, this one small town of 60,000 controls the political party process through access to a larger number of electoral seats and as a source of campaign finance contributions from a local concentration of import merchants and businesses.

But is Belize forming a political OLIGARCHY, like as seen in other countries; such as Guatemala, Colombia, Ecuador and Peru? It would seem so! But you judge for yourself? The Peoples United Party seems to be the machine for control of Belize the nation. This party is controlled for the most part by these 10 electoral seats and the seduction of another half dozen elected representatives from rural districts, through various sorts of bribes as the allegations oligarchy conspiracy theories go.

The current Peoples United Party leader is Said Musa and by this position is also the Prime Minister of Belize. He also controls the keys to the treasury in this authoritarian system. His budget, or finance minister is a very good friend from the same town, holding one of these 10 electoral seats in the port town, Ralph Fonseca. In a small town of 60,000 people, they are buddies. Grew up together and know each other's character, foibles and skeletons. Out of 60,000 population, probably as far as local investment, business and politics go, there is only around 15,000 people of any meaning. Of these, half are wives, which leaves 7000 males to dominate the industry and politics of this small town in Belize. Of this 7000 viable people having interests in the business and political process of using government largess, probably only 1000 have any meaning, as to being major town players. Now 1000 of intellectuals, business people and the political lawyer types is a small pool, from which to draw the ruling class of a nation, by using a political party as the instrument for self enrichment and power.

Lets explore the family OLIGARCHY allegations, that writers off-listserve have sent me; as to the relationships of the small pool of rulers controlling the nation of Belize and it's financial capacity. With the instrument of the Peoples United Party as the apparatus of control and the 10 electoral seats of this port town as the mechanism of control of the wider party and the key positions of party leader and finance ministries controlled by these townies, how does this set up for a family oligarchy?

Well we have the Peoples United Party leader, Said Musa who is also Prime Minister, from this port town. In the quaint Caribbean customs of Belizean port town males, he keeps a mistress allegedly one Leni Jo Usher and they are supposed to have several children together. I don't really personally know any of these people, because I come from a barrier reef island village called Caye Caulker and we only visit this mainland port town, once ever several years when you are forced to comply with some government licensing or permit requirement or other. Otherwise villagers from my island avoid this port town like the plague. So, I only know what I am told by mainlanders third hand and you have to explore and investigate these allegations and relationships yourself.

Now, Leni Jo Usher is the sister to Elizabeth Zabaneh, who is, or was the Speaker of the House. I'm not sure how one becomes the Speaker of the House or legislature?

Now she in turn is the sister-in-law to Eugene Zabaneh. Who in turn just survived a scandal of which ten vehicles were alleged illegal entries into Belize for not paying customs duties. The court case of course died in the Peoples United Party authoritarian governing system. You control the party, you control the government, you control the government departments of police, prosecutors and you control the salaries of government hired judges. Draw your own conclusions here? Now Melita Zabaneh and the Zabenehs interestingly enough have their power base in the Stann Creek District outside of the port town. Are heavy investors in offshore island resorts, banana plantations and otherwise industrious hard workers and investors in Belize. Melita Zabaneh is the sister-in-law to Elizabeth Zabaneh that is, or was the Speaker of the Legislature (House). She in turn is married to Feinstein, of the port town Belize City tourism village fame, in which government property was transferred to his control for development and handling of cruise ships.

The Zabaneh and Feinstein relationship are good friends with Ralph Fonseca another of those elected townie representative electoral seats, who is budget advisor, sometime Minister of Finance under his buddy in turn Said Musa the party leader/Prime Minister. There have been the odd financial scandal revolving around accusations of embezzlement from Social Security funds and many kinds of allegations and rumors of self enrichment involving this individual.

The Prime Minister Said Musa in turn has a brother, Billy Musa who I am told owns Brodies Department Store in the same town. One of the 10 townie electoral seats was won by Jorge Espat. Jorgie has quit, ostensibly in disgust. Leaving this townie electoral seat to be filled by another PUP member. Guess who is going to be the candidate for the seat vacanted by Jorge Espat? Why Francis Fonseca, who is I believe some sort of cousin of Ralph Fonseca, the owner of another electoral seat of the 10 electoral seats in this town that controls the nation. Now the Mayor of this town, the port of Belize City is David Fonseca who is the brother I am told of Ralph Fonseca who is the Peoples United Party right hand of the PUP party leader and Prime Minister, Said Musa.

I think I met a Zabaneh one time in Dangriga. Very nice fellow and very helpful to me at the time. My daughter was living in that town then, and I was visiting. I've never met a Musa family member in politics that I remember. But did know some 35 years ago, a Musa that had an advertising agency in the then much smaller port town. Otherwise I know none of these characters in this OLIGARCHY CONSPIRACY THEORY. Far as I know, I've never met a Fonseca family member either. This is all third hand information and allegations. I just throw it out there as an interesting tidbit, of the Conspiracy Theory that was presented to me from the mainland as an allegation that Belize is forming it's own Family Political Oligarchy Dynasty.

What do you think? Is there anything to it?

You seem to have taken my challenge of "straining" yourself seriously. I find your "tidbit" very interesting. However, because of the nature of what you are talking about, I doubt if anyone will help you to strengthen your case either on this list or in the country.

Throw in a Marxist analysis of the state, how the ruling class uses the state as an instrument for exploitation and power and you have a case. (Using marxist analysis does not imply subscribing to communism - for Susan, Rosy and others like them..)

Unfortunately, the analysis of the state of Belize is absent everywhere. You can't find it in the local media, NGO's or the national university. But this I believe (like you) is what is urgent.

The media can't provide a decent analysis of the "state" because it depends on advertising money from the ruling class. The NGO's depends of favourable nods from the ruling class either for project support or a little political space. The national university is more interested in teaching distant concepts with little relevance to nation building. (Could there be a reason for this?) No professor has produced a critical analysis of the state so the students believe everything is alright.

Belizeans (the electorate) don't question much either. Only the opposition makes a little noise here and there but they themselves don't want to turn over the apple cart and reveal what's underneath. Belizeans don't want to deny themselves the favours, the 20 dalla or the scholarships. The local areas want a little water system so why should they jeopardize that by asking questions. After all, Ralphie is holding the purse so make sure you call him "Mr. Minister."

Afraid of the consequences Belizeans suffer in silence. It is time we take this state apart and see for ourselves what is really going on.

Good one Ray.


Back to Main Belize Development Trust Page

Maintained by Ray Auxillou, Silvia Pinzon, MLS, and Marty Casado. Please email with suggestions or additions for this Electronic Library of Belize.