“Not seldom in the annals of the past – and how much more often in tragedies never recorded or long-forgotten – had brave, proud, easy-going states, and even entire races, been wiped out, so that only their name or even no mention of them remains.”
- pg. 227, THEIR FINEST HOUR, Winston S. Churchill, Houghton Mifflin Company, Boston, 1949.
In listening to the retired BDF officer, Major Lloyd Jones, on Tuesday night’s Adele Ramos Show, I was very, very impressed, but, at the same time, I also had to be slightly skeptical. Major Jones was saying things I have thought and believed for all of my adult life, and yet I had never heard anyone in active political or military authority speak thusly. Major Jones was discussing our national situation from a conventional military perspective, and he was speaking as a Belizean and as a nationalist.
When my generation was growing up in British Honduras in the 1960s, many of us were frustrated by Hon. George Price’s weak reactions to Guatemalan government threats and intimidations. At one point, in fact, Mr. Price had told a foreign reporter that if independence failed, he would give the northern half of the country to Mexico and the southern half to Guatemala. And when the Guatemalan Francisco Sagastume led a small invasion across British Honduras’ southern border with Guatemala in 1961, he only served a year and change in prison before being pardoned.
There was an ethnic flavor, a racist one even, to Guatemala’s threats and intimidations, so that we black youth in Belize felt that we were being “punked.” During the 1960s, we black youth did not know the difference between “Spanish” and Maya. Because we had been educated to be ignorant by schools run by European churches, we arbitrarily identified all Belizeans who were Latin in appearance with what we considered the dominant Guatemalan ethnicity. And, we wondered if “Spanish” Belizeans were as concerned about, and as hostile to, the Guatemalan claim as we black youth were.
In our majority consciousness as black youth in those times, we were supporters of Hon. Philip Goldson’s National Independence Party (NIP), because the issue which drove Mr. Goldson was the Guatemalan threat. At a certain point in the early or middle 1960s, Mr. Goldson began to call for the establishment of a Belizean army. At that time, we had a British army garrison in place at Ladyville, and we also had the British Honduras Volunteer Guard (BHVG). The BHVG marched well and had a fine band, but I do not believe we black youth took them seriously as soldiers. Mr. Goldson was calling for a professional, fighting Belizean army. He was ignored, and the NIP never came close to winning a general election. The NIP were, truly, “Her Majesty’s Loyal Opposition.”
A serious, successful move to overthrow Mr. Goldson as the Opposition Leader, began in early 1973, while Mr. Philip was in London studying law. The new Opposition party which was formed in September of 1973, the United Democratic Party (UDP), soon announced that they would be downplaying the Guatemalan claim and focusing on “economic issues.” This was saying, in effect, that Mr. Goldson had been wrong in his approach, and it turned out to mean that the UDP was a party which would fight communism, as a priority.
In ignorant Belize, only a few people knew that there was a bloody civil war raging in Guatemala at the time, that that republic was ruled by a brutal military dictatorship, that the masses of the people were downtrodden Maya and other indigenous peoples, and that all those nationalists in Guatemala who led the people’s fight against oppression and corruption were condemned as “communists.” This was what the Guatemalan government was telling the United States government, so that the Americans would continue sending arms and money to help the generals murder their own people.
The other interesting aspect of the situation in 1973 was that the new UDP quickly announced its support for Israel, which had been an ally of Guatemala’s from the time that Jewish state was founded in 1948, and which had been providing expert military training for the Guatemalan army in the civil war. It was a case, then, of warm friendship among Washington, Tel Aviv and Guatemala City. If the UDP was so cozy with Washington and Tel Aviv, how could it be hostile to Guatemala City?
When the UDP finally came to power in 1984, Mr. Goldson formed a part of their government, but he was already practically blind, and his Cabinet Ministry portfolio was a minor one. Mr. Goldson ended up breaking away from the UDP to form the National Alliance for Belizean Rights (NABR) in 1991, because he believed the UDP leadership was betraying Belize by supporting the Maritime Areas Act.
I believe that when Belizeans come to political and military office here, they are sat down by the Americans and the British and told what they can and cannot do. I believe Belize is being overrun by Guatemalans, both demographically and territorially, and I believe this is what Washington and London want. With respect to the Guatemalan issue, our political and military leaders behave in a colonial manner. I say this because they do what they are told to do by Washington and London, and they ignore the feelings and wishes of the Belizean people.
Belize has changed right before our very eyes. This happened, against the visceral will of the Belizean masses, because our people were ignorant of the realities around us and because we had been made timid by European religion. The previous sentence appears to be expressing contradicting thoughts. I mean to say that yes, we wanted to become an independent nation, but we didn’t want to fight for it.
I could not believe that Major Jones was saying the things he was saying on Tuesday night. I will seek an audience with him to find out some more. I thought he was magnificent in his presentation.Amandala