by Russel Vellos, Editorial in the Amandala

There is a social, financial, political and religious elite in Belize which has everything under lockdown. That is why the small fish are sometimes arrested, but the big fish don’t even get their names called. It is almost ridiculous to hear Opposition PUP spokesmen criticize the UDP government in connection with the recent planeloads of Chinese passing through the Philip Goldson International Airport. The same sort of nefarious activity goes on under the PUP, such as ephedrine containers, and the result is the same. Small fish are sometimes arrested, and the big fish don’t even get their names called.

A few years ago independent political activists like Patrick Rogers began to refer to the “PUDP,” which is an acronym combining the acronyms for the People’s United Party (PUP) and the United Democratic Party (UDP). The independent political activists coined this new acronym in order to express their conviction that there is little real difference between the two established political parties. But the “PUDP” concept does not go quite far enough to explain why the present system operates in a manner which is predictable when these major scandals occur.

It has to be that the intrigue/cooperation among the elite not only involves supposedly antagonistic politicians and political cronies cutting deals with each other on a routine basis, but that that intrigue/cooperation involves highly placed elements of the society which are not normally considered partisan politically. Such elements, we submit, include lawyers, bankers and accountants, police and army officers, church prelates, media moguls, and the cocktail party circuit. Belize is under lockdown by an established, entrenched elite which has been successful in doing what they do for more than three decades.

The most serious implications of that lockdown have to do with how the Belize justice system has been operating. Belize is a society bedeviled by inordinately high levels of crime and violence. This should not be the case, because there is a lot of wealth in Belize. A lot of crime has to do with Belizeans at the base of the socio-economic pyramid trying to get a piece of the action they see around them. One reason why the levels of crime and violence in Belize are inordinately high is that the elite of Belize decided twenty-five years ago that they would adopt a hard line with the pyramid base.

You do not see the Belize elite spending money on any infrastructure, such as sports or cultural facilities, which will translate into more opportunities for pyramid base talent. Because of the elite’s hard line, the pyramid base essentially gets pushed into one direction and one direction alone – crime and violence. The situation just keeps getting worse and worse. This is because the Belizean elite are self-righteous and they are obdurate. They consider themselves blessed by God, and therefore there is an element of fanaticism in this lockdown.

When Amandala moved to Partridge Street from Euphrates Avenue in late 1972, the situation in the old capital was not what it is now. Belize was still a self-governing British colony, and we Belizeans still settled our differences through the formal justice system. But juries and judges have been corrupted, and witnesses are intimidated or murdered. This appears to be of no serious consequence to the Belizean elite, because it is precisely this present system that guarantees them immunity from prosecution. This system was not meteoric, or an overnight phenomenon, where its appearance in all its elitist perfection was concerned. It took time to gestate. And it was not created in a vacuum.

The mantra of the Belizean system of 2010 is about being or getting tough on crime. But crime is not an abstract concept. Crime is intimately connected with human beings, who are responsible for committing same. In Belize, we can see that the criminals are mostly youth and children. This means that a deal of responsibility must be assigned to the generation who are their parents and guardians.

In Belize, our communities used to function as parents and guardians for those who were being neglected or abandoned. This was how we kept crime and violence down to reasonable levels, so to speak. British Honduras did not have a significant and isolated native elite. That began to change with the marijuana industry in the 1970’s, and a significant and isolated native elite became a reality in the cocaine era of the 1980’s: some Belizeans became very large. These large Belizeans “reached” the politicians, and hell began to break loose. Once the drug traffickers “reached” the politicians, Belize’s “New Deal” began. The elected politicians were so powerful under Belize’s constitution that they were like gods. Thus, a financial elite corrupted the political elite, who in turn suborned and/or intimidated the social and religious elite. Belize went under lockdown.