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Marty Offline OP
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Unions, Activist Groups Form "Rod Of Correction" Movement; Will They Lash Barrow

In August of 2004, large public protests against the Musa Administration rolled out led by a cluster of social groups. That was 17 months into the administration's second term and it came after both the G7 fissure and the revelations that Government was using Social security money to pay Glenn Godfrey's private debts.

27 months into its second term, the Barrow Administration has not had to face anything close to those kind of internal and external shocks. But that doesn't mean there aren't plenty of hot issues out there, even if they aren't as seismic as G7 or Glenn Godfrey.

Many see it as a gathering storm, and today the BNTU called all the agitators for various causes together to try and harness their collective energy, and muster a united front against the Barrow Administration. 7News was at BNTU Headquarters in Belize City to see how it all came together:..

Jules Vasquez reporting
The social partners, actors and activists started arriving at BNTU headquarters just before 9:00 AM. They were all there, COLA, the Belize Pharmacists Association, the Association of Public Service Senior Managers, SATIIM, the Public Service Union, the Belize Energy Workers Union, the National Trade Union Congress of Belize, BGYEA and Mose Hyde in support of BGYEA, the Nurses Association, the Belize Evangelical Association and even DJ Keegan Lord - who organized last week's protest against Shy7ne and Dianne Haylock and of course the teachers union - who set up the meeting and sent out the call to its fellow activists in the first place.

They were all in by 9:45 - and the meeting continued for about two and a half hours. They filed out at around 12:15 - and assembled on the back stairs for a group photo and an interview by a single spokesperson, the president of the National Trade Union Congress:

Dylan Reneau, President - NTUCB
"Out of that meeting we resolved to form movement that we are calling the "Rod of Correction (ROC)" and one of our first decisions of that committee is that we are going to support the protest march of BGYEA."

Jules Vasquez
"What will happen now on Saturday now that you have this critical mass supporting you?"

Nigel Petillo, President - BGYEA
"Nothing changed. We plan to see how we could get people out from all walk of this nation now that the PSU, BNTU and different unions are onboard. They will be doing their mobilization as well, so we expect to see a huge turn out at Battlefield Saturday morning from 9am to 1pm."

Mike Rudon, Ch5
"Will there be a move to get the numbers together for example; if there is a demonstration this weekend and only you show up representing the NTUCB or Mr. Blades show up representing the PSU, yes you all are representing the unions but the numbers won't be there and nobody pays attention if you don't have the numbers."

Dylan Reneau, President - NTUCB
"I always have this concern about having numbers to make a point. If one person is out there, news worthy, you will cover that because its addressing an issue. But certainly the unions have to be more forthright, they have to start to mobilize and show the collective power that we have within our membership and so I agree with you. We have to show our faces out there on Saturday in mass."

But with less than two days to organize and mobilize, they may not be able to get out significant numbers for Saturday - so what comes after that?:

"What will be expect to see on Saturday and after that will be there like another national demonstration?"

Dylan Reneau, President - NTUCB
"Preliminary we are focused on Saturday's demonstration. We are expecting to have a significant amount of the population support this issue because it deals with land right and I know that there are so many Belizeans that do not have a piece of land for themselves and so we are pushing our collective might behind that issue."

But that is only one in a larger basket of issues:

Dylan Reneau, President - NTUCB
"Well I can summarize them in very simple words "land rights" - SATIIM, BGYEA - we have the health issue, pharmacy association, nurses association, we have the governance issue, COLA, the issue of Penner and all the other governance issues. The issue of democracy, having our system work for the benefit of the people and so those issues have brought us together and I want to re-emphasize workers issues as well because that is the focus of unions. All of those issues have brought us together under the "Rod of Correction" movement."

"The truth is that each of these organizations have been trying to address their issues with little to no success and so we recognize the power of numbers and the power of unity."

Jules Vasquez
"I notice the notable absence of one important social partner which is the Belize Chamber of Commerce and Industry. We say important because they control the business sector and other movements in the past, have relied upon them for that effect. Will there be any effort to reach out to them?"

Dylan Reneau, President - NTUCB
"That was agreed upon by the collective "Rod of Correction" movement that we have to reach out to more organizations to build our collective power, so certainly the Chamber will be approached."

Jules Vasquez
"Will there be any effort to speak with the government to try and force them to agree to specific outcomes that you all want from these galvanizing issues?"

"Or is this saying that you've passed that speaking point?"

Dylan Reneau, President - NTUCB
"At the end of the day we still have to speak to the government."

And so a new process of agitation begins - but with no clear reading on the current social ferment in the wider society - it's not clear where it will end:

Jules Vasquez
"Is this what we would call in basketball a heat check that you are going to see how hot you are by shooting maybe a long shot and see if it hits?"

Dylan Reneau, President - NTUCB
"Jules, we recognize that there is no magic bullet; there is no one event solution to our issues, so certainly it will be the start and that is it - it's a start."

Channel 7

Joined: Oct 1999
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Marty Offline OP
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How Many Supported "Plant Di Corn"?

< Last week Thursday, we showed you the formation of the Rod of Correction movement, a coalition of 11 pressure groups including the unions, civil society, and other social partners who have all been agitating on different social issues.

The ROC - as they call it - is a collective designed to concentrate their powers, so that they can lash government on a range of issues.

The first up on the agenda for the Rod of Correction was BGYEA's demonstration against the Government, which happened on Saturday at the Battlefield Park. As has widely been reported, President Nigel Petillo and his members want Government to grant them permission to use the 20 acres of road reserve in the Harmonville Housing project so that they can plant corn. The problem is that the Lands Department has designated this area as a buffer zone, and they've ordered that no form of development take place there.

Petillo and BGYEA pushed ahead with their plans, and Government responded by filing an injunction against them in Court. As a counter, BGYEA planned the "Plant Di Corn" rally, and the Rod of Correction's membership fell in behind him. It was the first time for the rod to be whipped out, and so we stopped by to get a heat check on saturday. Daniel Ortiz found out more:

Daniel Ortiz reporting
At around 9 a.m., half hour before the start of the demonstration was set to start, BGYEA helpers were still putting together the final touches.

BGYEA's event, 'Plant di Corn' was a rally for like-minded members of the public to show solidarity for their cause, but at the beginning, it looked more like a concert in the making.

Still if you looked closely, you could spot representation from the different pressure groups. Their membership and supporters blended their voices on behalf of BGYEA's cause.

Nigel Petillo - President, BGYEA
"The message is about development, as unified out here. Different issues are out here today represented by individuals and organizations to get their voices heard. Today is not just about a BGYEA issue, it's not just about planting corn, it's not just about the buffer, it's about getting the attention of our representatives - it's about sending that one unified message that we have you working for us and when you are not working for us then this is the result."

Wil Maheia - Belize Territorial Volunteers
"I am here as a member of the Belize Territorial Volunteers, but also I want it to be known that we the People's National Party is also represented here today, political party coming to support BGYEA because the PUDP system is not working for Belizeans."

Robert Bobby Lopez - Rally Attendant
"I am here as a private citizen, as a Belizean concerned about the future of our country. I am here because all the injustices have to stop, it's gone too far. But I am also here to stand in solidarity because for a long time the VIP were the only ones shouting out there, we call spoilers, we call very name we could, but I am glad to see that people are waking up now."

Paco Smith - Rally Attendant
"It's just time for BGYEA, Belizeans in general to let the government know who they work for. This selective enforcement, this kisses by favour type of foolishness has to stop. That's what has our country in the mess that we are in right now. That's why I am out here to voice my opinion to let the government that people are fed up and we need to take a stand."

George Guest - Rally Attendant
"I'm out here for the people and for plant the corn because it's about time somebody stand up for this country."

Delroy Herrera - Rally Attendant
"I am not sure what the situation is with the government why the government doesn't want BGYEA to plant the corn, but I am full support of BGYEA planting the corn and If I have to go out there and help them plant the corn, we and COLA and also my friends are going out there to pant the corn too as well."

Christina Coc - Maya Leaders Alliance
"For a number of years now we've been defending our right to our land and our right to our life in southern Belize and for a long time the government has said that the Maya people are trying to fight for special rights. We've long recognize that it's never been a fight of just the Maya people; it's been a fight for social justice for all Belizeans today, because the struggle at Harmonyville is very similar. They are fighting for their right to life. They are fighting for their land. They are fighting as Belizeans to have a piece of land to develop and to make a living off of and in southern Belize it's no different."

Guillermo Marroquin - Valley of Peace Farmers In Dispute w/ Green Tropics
"Today we brought 30 members, our wives and our kids - we have like 100-150 with the kids."

Mike Rudon, Ch5
"Why was it important for you and for the farmers of valley of piece to be out here today?"

Guillermo Marroquin
"We are just trying to make a point that we are here together along with BGYEA and everybody here. We are the voive of Belize and we need to be heard."

Geovannie Brackett - President, COLA
"The government of this day is sending out the wrong message. The government of this day is telling the Belizean people that Guatemalans have more rights than us, they can plant corn and they don't do anything about it, but when Belizeans want to plant we are being getting hammered from our own government officials. You ask me the question; who is the government representing, us or foreign interest?"

Dylan Reneau - President, NTUCB
"Earlier in the week you saw that we had form the "rod of correction" movement and BGYEA forms a part of that movement and so we are coming together to solidify our ability to challenge the government on various issues."

Luke Palacio - President, BNTU
"This is the beginning and yes the "rod of correction" is an organization that grew out of a meeting on Thursday at the Belize national Teacher's Union office and we believe that this showing is very much in order."

Marisol Melhado - Vice President, Pharmacy Association of Belize
"We also there when we formed the "rod of correction" and so we inherited all our issues and therefore we needed to be here to show solidarity."

This rally was the debut for the Rod of Correction movement and their chance to show Government that they mean business. Today, however, with 11 organizations with a collective membership above ten thousand, only a micro-fraction of that, about 275 showed up - a figure which is still a fraction of 1040 Harmonyville leas-holders. Still, the different leaders weren't the least bit concerned, as long as the message is heard.

Dylan Reneau - President, NTUCB
"We always tend to give credence or importance to numbers. The mere fact that an event like this was kicked off is testament to the people's will. I am pretty happy with the turn-out out here actually and certainly its planting that seed. I always reflect back to 2005 when you look how we started our movement, it started with about 15 people walking down protesting and at the end of the day when that protest grew it was thousands of people."

Christina Coc - Maya Leaders Alliance
"The Maya Leaders Alliance and the Toledo Alcalde Association are quite encouraged to see that civil society has taken on a more prominent role in defending justice, in bringing the government to its heels and being able to show them that you know what we are not just going to sit around and watch."

Wil Maheia - Belize Territorial Volunteers
"I would say that we should have more people out here, but it just goes to show you how effective their intimidation tactics are."

An important point of contention for rally participants was the injunction filed to block BGYEA from planting in the Harmonyville buffer zone.

Wil Maheia
"I believe it is ridiculous. If the government wanted to prevent anybody from planting corn they should take care of the buffer zone that matters the most in this country and that's the border line. People are planting corn at the border line every day and the government have not taken out injunction against those people."

Geovannie Brackett
"We have thousands upon thousands of buffer zones land, Belizean own land that is for Belize and we have illegal Guatemalans immigrants who are constantly illegally farming our land. Yet when we have a bunch of legitimate citizens about to farm some corn on some 50-60 acres of buffer zone land we come down on them like all hell is breaking loose."

Channel 7

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