From then, until now …
Between 1998 and 2004, Belize had a fiesta and the PUP won two general elections. Belize borrowed and spent a lot of money during that period, and, as a result, Belize now owes a lot of money. Because the electorate could not really see that the money had been spent constructively, Belizeans began to vote against the PUP in 2006, a trend which has continued up to the present.
In that 1998-2004 period of plenty, this newspaper was essentially a supporter of the PUP, and we would like to explain how this happened. There is no part of the world, except in Belize, where you can find that the leading newspaper began from nothing, so to speak. Newspaper infrastructure is expensive. Newspapers require major capital investment, so Amandala, which began publication in 1969, is an anomaly.
In the specific environment of 1969, this was a black-conscious newspaper which had socialist friends, namely, Assad Shoman and Said Musa. These two socialists joined the ruling PUP in the early 1970s, and in 1973 the UBAD organization which had established Amandala, split in two. Half the UBAD leadership joined the new UDP, while the other half, which included Amandala, remained independent.
Said Musa decided in 1977 to become a business partner of Amandala’s, and that proved to be a wise political decision. At critical moments in his political career - 1979, 1989, 1998, and 2003, Mr. Musa was supported by this newspaper.
Belize is a small place, and sometimes things got personal. In 1981, Amandala had a quarrel with the ruling PUP, which included Mr. Musa in its Cabinet, and the newspaper ended up being a significant part of the UDP push which installed Manuel Esquivel as Prime Minister in December of 1984. By 1987/1988, however, the relationship between Mr. Esquivel and this newspaper had become hostile, and that hostility flared up again in the 1993 general election campaign.
It was because of the seriousness of that hostility that this newspaper “was essentially a supporter of the PUP” between 1994 and 2004. Amandala was not really cognizant of the fact that the previously socialist Said Musa had become a confirmed neoliberal. We’re not making excuses for anything. In fact, while we think our rivalry with Dean Barrow/Michael Finnegan, dating back to 1973, 74, was in the natural order of things, for the life of us we can’t figure out for sure how this hostility between ourselves and Mr. Esquivel became so serious. We can see ideological differences between Mr. Esquivel and ourselves, but how did it become personal? We are making allowance for the possibility that the fault was ours.
Today, Rt. Hon. Manuel Esquivel is a political relic, but Mr. Musa remains very much on the scene. We have to assume that he was a part of the decision making in the PUP leadership which led to this week’s exclusion of Mark Espat and Cordel Hyde from the national executive of the PUP. On our part, we had been friends with Mr. Musa for so long we could never see ourselves getting into a personal dispute with him. Our differences today are philosophical. At this newspaper, we never considered ourselves socialist back then, and we definitely do not consider ourselves neoliberal today.
It appears, on the face of it, that the PUP intends a return of their halcyon days of 1998 to 2004. For this to take place, the PUP would have to convince the Belizean electorate that that electorate has been making a mistake since 2006. The PUP needs to convince the electorate that the fault lies with Mark and Cordel. The tactic of accusing them of being “Kremandala,” does not work on the ground. It may work inside the PUP, but outside here, just what exactly is so toxic about Kremandala, why is it so evil? Again, how could Kremandala have survived and grown if it has not been supported by the people? Remember, we started from nothing.
Power to the people.