“Nobody does something for nothing. No such thing as a free lunch. People come together in a coalition because they think it is to their personal advantage, and to the degree that their personal direction and aspiration merge with that of the others in the coalition, they will move forward.”
- The late Mayor of Detroit, Michigan, Coleman A. Young in The Quotations of Mayor Coleman A. Young, Wayne State University Press, 2005.
The conventional wisdom inside the Opposition People’s United Party (PUP) now appears to be that Francis Fonseca did a fabulous job as PUP Leader from November 2011 to March 2012, that former Albert and Lake Independence area representatives, Mark Espat and Cordel Hyde, are traitors, and that Johnny Briceño was a waste of time as PUP Leader from March 2008 to October 2011.
In one of our editorials last week, we proposed, until evidence is provided to the contrary, that the fact that in the March 7 general elections the PUP defeated the UDP by some 3,000 overall votes in the Out-Districts, is probably the result of the fact that Briceño was more comfortable working in the said Out-Districts.
If Johnny was a waste of time, then, it was not in the Out-Districts. If he was a waste of time in Belize City, where the UDP steamrollered the PUP by some 5,000 votes overall on March 7, the fact of the matter is that Briceño was not the one who forced out Mark and Cordel. The demotions of Espat and Hyde were the first, and presumably brilliant, moves of Francis Fonseca on assuming party leadership.
The March 7 elections earlier this month confirmed the fact that the PUP has a major problem in Belize City, and particularly on the Southside. This problem first became noticeable in the 1984 general elections, when the PUP lost 9 of 10 Belize City seats, including all 6 on the Southside. When the PUP regained power in 1989, they won just 2 of the 6 Southside seats – Lake I and Collet, along with two Northside seats – Fort George and Pickstock. When the PUP lost power in 1993, they again lost all 6 Southside seats, while winning 3 on Belize City’s Northside – Fort George, Pickstock, and Freetown.
Our thesis at this newspaper is that the PUP began to lose credibility on the Southside when their Deputy Premier, the late C. L. B. Rogers, began to fade politically in the late 1970’s. In retrospect, Rogers has never been replaced in the PUP Belize City hierarchy, but the statistics show that from 1998 to 2008, Mark Espat and Cordel Hyde defended Albert and Lake I for the PUP in three consecutive general elections. These two represented, then, PUP strength and continuity on the Southside, where the PUP won only two other seats between 1998 and 2012 – Port Loyola (Dolores Balderamos Garcia) and Collet (Remijio Montejo) in 1998.
In their propaganda blitz against Mark Espat and Cordel Hyde, the PUP propagandists have glossed over the fact that, in the first instance, their constituency committees were exceptionally loyal to Espat and Hyde, and in the second instance, since 2005 these two have taken positions which were not PUP mainstream and for which they were punished, both politically and financially, by Prime Minister/PUP Leader Said Musa. Our thesis is that the mainstream PUP agenda under Mr. Musa was unpopular on the Southside of Belize City, and Espat, Hyde and their constituency committees knew this.
Mr. Musa is a strong man, but he is a stubborn man. These two characteristics often go together in human beings. His decision to expel Mark Espat from Cabinet on December 28, 2004, was one which made absolutely no sense on the Southside. Cordel Hyde’s decision to resign Cabinet in solidarity with Espat should have sent a message to Mr. Musa, but it did not.
If Espat and Hyde are traitors to the mainstream PUP agenda, they are not traitors to the Southside reality. That is why their seats went UDP on March 7. That is why the PUP has itself in a Southside bind. The decline of C. L. B. Rogers began their Southside problems in the late 1970’s, and now the future will decide on Francis Fonseca’s brilliance in the Southside.
So that, of the three planks in the PUP’s post-March 7 propaganda platform we discussed in the opening paragraph, we can conclude with the following. Beginning with the last mentioned, we would say that Johnny Briceño did more than the PUP are giving him credit for, especially in the Out-Districts. With respect to Mark Espat and Cordel Hyde, the issues have ended up becoming personal between themselves and Mr. Musa. But, in the beginning, the September 2004 issues in the G-7 were about public finance policy. And where Francis Fonseca is concerned, we see him as a clone of Mr. Musa. Wherever Francis went, was where Said wanted him to go. So let it be written, so let it be done. Amandala