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Castro’s Cuba and Price’s Belize #519391
11/30/16 12:47 AM
11/30/16 12:47 AM
Joined: Oct 1999
Posts: 79,924
oregon, spr
Marty Offline OP

Marty  Offline OP
The fifteen-year period between 1966 and Belize’s independence in 1981 is an interesting and important one in the history of The Jewel. At some point in this period, Fidel Castro’s Cuba became a factor in Belize’s struggle for independence, and (or but) the relationship between Cuba and Belize had negative implications for Premier George Price’s political coalition, a coalition which had supported him from the time he became Leader of the People’s United Party (PUP) in 1956.

To study 1966 to 1981, you would have to go back to a time when the PUP was an undefeated powerhouse in Belizean politics, and the struggling Opposition was led by the National Independence Party (NIP). It was not until 1973 that the now ruling United Democratic Party (UDP) was formed, as the result of an amalgamation of the NIP, the People’s Development Movement (PDM), and a new Liberal Party.

PUP personalities who are still available for scholars to consult on the period in question include Fred Hunter, Hector Silva, Assad Shoman, and Said Musa. Hunter was a PUP Cabinet Minister throughout the period, while Silva was a Cabinet Minister until 1974. Shoman and Musa became PUP Senators in 1974, and then PUP Cabinet Ministers in 1979.

Belizeans who would be able to give the UDP side include Dr. Manuel Esquivel, Dr. Colville Young, Net Vasquez, Harry Lawrence, Dr. Ted Aranda and Paul Rodriguez. Aranda and Rodriguez, who served two terms as Belize City Mayor between 1974 and 1980, both left the UDP in the early 1980s. Dr. Aranda led the UDP from 1979 to 1982.

After Belize became a self-governing British colony in January of 1964, with the apparent support of the United States, Belize was expected to move on to an early independence. The Guatemalan claim became a sticking point after NIP Leader Philip Goldson risked jail to expose what became known as the Thirteen Proposals to the Belizean people in 1966. The 1966 Anglo/Guatemalan talks in Washington were the first such talks to which the Opposition NIP had been invited. There was some optimism in the air, because the talks were being mediated by the New York City attorney, Bethuel Webster, representing the interests of the United States of America. The talks did not turn out well, however, because Goldson’s political instincts proved right: there was violent unrest in Belize City when he revealed what he remembered of the plans for Belize’s future.

When Bethuel Webster officially released his Seventeen Proposals in 1968, those proposals essentially confirmed what Goldson had exposed: the United States intended for independent Belize to be a sort of satellite state of Guatemala’s. Because of the domestic political opposition to the American proposals, Mr. Price had to seek a different route to independence after 1968.

Cuba was communist, an avowed enemy of the United States, and was being accused of exporting its revolutionary ideas to the region, including Guatemala, where succeeding right-wing military dictatorships were trying to crush an armed rebellion which had begun in 1960. That was when young Guatemalan army officers had condemned Guatemalan President Ydigoras Fuentes’ decision to allow the republic to be used as a training base for American-financed Cuban exiles preparing to attack Fidel Castro’s Cuba.

At some point Premier George Price cultivated friendship with Cuba through an informal relationship with the young, British-trained attorneys, Assad Shoman and Said Musa. Because of that informal relationship, which probably had begun as early as 1969, an element in Mr. Price’s political coalition began to turn away from him, accusing him of encouraging communism. This was a Roman Catholic, business element, which formed the Liberal Party in 1972 and, to repeat, became a part of the new UDP in 1973.

Cuba’s support for Belize’s independence was unconditional. Much more attention has been given to the support for our independence from Panama’s General Omar Torrijos, which marked the first instance in which a Central American nation had gone against Guatemala and its claim to Belize. Torrijos made that decision to support Belize around 1977 or so.

There is no question, however, that Cuba’s support for Belize’s independence was vital, in fact indispensable. We say this because independence eventually became a gamble for Mr. Price’s PUP, not only because of the Guatemalan claim but because the Belizean people were divided and afraid. The PUP leaders were able to take a chance on independence because they knew that Cuba “had Belize’s back,” as we would say.

It should be noted that Richard Nixon and Henry Kissinger took power in the United States in January of 1969, and these were right wing ideologues in the mould of Ronald Reagan and now Donald Trump. Although Nixon resigned from the presidency under threat of impeachment in 1973, Kissinger, who disliked Fidel Castro with a passion, remained Secretary of State during the presidency of Gerald Ford, which ended in 1976.

The Jimmy Carter presidency between 1976 and 1980 changed American foreign policy in the region enough so that the United States decided in late 1980 not to oppose Belize’s independence.

When Carter was succeeded by Reagan in early 1981, however, the pressure on Belize to cede land to Guatemala resumed and increased. Belize’s 1981 independence was a risky one, and the support of Fidel Castro’s Cuba was vital.

By 1983, with Ronald Reagan riding roughshod over the region, invading Grenada and financing the contras to fight against the Sandinista government in Nicaragua, Assad Shoman and Said Musa, Fidel’s leading allies in the Price Cabinet, were defeated by the PUP right wing in a power struggle.

The people around Donald Trump have already begun to talk aggressively and threateningly against this new Cuba without Fidel. A new paradigm is about to unfold in our region, and it is safe to say that whatever weakens Cuba, weakens Belize.

The Cubans have been Belize’s best friends throughout our struggle against colonialism, imperialism, and racism. But there are several prominent neoliberal capitalists in the present Belize Cabinet, and it is there that the rub will be. The neoliberal capitalists in Guatemala are not our friends. They claim our land and sea. No matter how communist they are, the Cubans have always supported Belize’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.

Power to the people.


Re: Castro’s Cuba and Price’s Belize [Re: Marty] #519565
12/07/16 12:42 AM
12/07/16 12:42 AM
Joined: Oct 1999
Posts: 79,924
oregon, spr
Marty Offline OP

Marty  Offline OP
On the road with Fidel

I am in Santiago de Cuba, the Crib of the Revolution, as it is known, named The Heroic City years after the Revolution. It is from a balcony on a central plaza here that Fidel first addressed the Cuban people on V-day, January 1st 1959.

Fidel’s ashes arrived here yesterday, after beginning its journey on Wednesday from Havana. The cortege followed the route, in reverse, of the March of Victory undertaken in 1959 by Fidel and the guerrilla forces from Santiago to Havana. The small caravan, with Fidel’s ashes in an urn carried in a trailer behind an army jeep, passed through all the towns and villages the caravan had traversed in that historic journey, so that most Cubans had the chance to bid their last respects to the physical remains of their leader. It passed the night next to the remains of Che Guevara at the monument in Santa Clara, the following night in Camaguey and the next in Bayamo, Granma, before moving on to Santiago on Saturday.

It was amazing to watch how Cubans of all ages, colours, creeds and occupations lined the roads, villages and towns, most quiet, crying, waving Cuban flags or the flag of the 26th of July Movement, many shouting slogans as the ashes passed by, the most popular being one that had sprouted the day after his death, which I saw by chance as I watched television. A young woman was being interviewed in downtown Havana, and she was told that some Cuban-Americans were jubilantly celebrating in Miami, and she said: “Well tell them not to rush to celebrate. Fidel is physically gone, but his ideas, his example, his teachings and especially his formation of young Cubans is alive, and we are all here committed to live up to his ideals and continue his work. The Cuban people are Fidel, Yo soy Fidel.”

The phrase spread like wildfire, and at the mass rally on Tuesday night the crowd of close to a million people repeatedly chanted that slogan.

Here in Santiago is where the Moncada Barracks is, which Fidel and about a hundred men and women stormed on 26 July 1953. They were militarily defeated by superior forces of the dictator Batista, and most of the youths were brutally murdered after being captured, but the assault sowed the seeds of the Revolution, and is celebrated more than the victory itself on 1 January 1959. It is here that Fidel was put on trial, turning the tables on his accusers in his immortal statement, History Will Absolve Me.

From here I can see the Sierra Maestra mountains, where the guerrilla war was developed, where first a few and then hundreds of mountain people followed by youths from all over Cuba joined the guerrillas and swept the people into power. Here the young girl Vilma Espín was born, she who supported the attack on the Moncada, which is now a school, fought in the Sierra, and went on to form the powerful Federation of Cuban Women and gave impetus to the program of “Circulos” for young children and many other programmes for the education of youth. Here is the birthplace of many of the heroes of the revolution, including Fran País, who was murdered before the victory; many places in Cuba are named after him, including the major hospital in Havana where many Belizean doctors did their training.

Santiago holds such a special place in Cuba that there is a well-known saying, “Santiago es Santiago”, meaning there is no place like it. Cuba is a long island, going from east to west, and Santiago is the at the eastern end, near to Haiti and Jamaica, and many of its people are descendants from those countries. Santiagueros proudly proclaim that it is the most Caribbean City in Cuba, with Black people and Black culture being most prominent here.

It is from here that we got Professor Eduardo Rivero to come to Belize for the tenth anniversary of our independence and form the Belize Dance Company, brilliantly led for years by Althea Sealey. Coming from Havana, one is immediately struck by the extreme cleanliness of the place, its streets and parks and private spaces, compared to the capital and most other places. George Price would have a hard time finding paper and rubbish here to pick up off the streets. People here are proud of their heroic city.

Not far away from here is the Cathedral of the “Virgen del Cobre”, the patron saint of Cuba, to which people from all Cuba and the world make their pilgrimages. I visited the Colegio de Belen, the Jesuit school where Fidel went to college and learnt many of the values he strengthened and pursued.

Juan Almeida was a Black man who was always a close confidant of Fidel. After Che, he was among the first, along with Raúl, to be made a Comandante by Fidel. A huge representation of Almeida, similar to the famous one of Che in the Plaza de la Revolución in Havana, graces a building in the Plaza in Santiago facing the huge statue of Antonio Maceo, a Black independence fighter known as The Bronze Titan. It was to Almeida, then Vice President, that I presented credentials when I was honoured to represent Belize here as ambassador.

He was a very cultured man, known as much for his poems and songs as for his revolutionary fervour. A few years after the Revolution, Fidel sent Almeida here to work as the First Secretary of the Communist Party, and things quickly began to improve. I was told by a Santiaguero here that one day he visited the factory of the Hatuey brewery, a popular beer in Cuba at that time, and the manager there told him it was about to close, because Fidel had said it should be transferred to the province of Holguin. Almeida’s reaction was immediate: “Pues dile a Fidel que no”. The factory stayed in Santiago, and is still here.

Last night the people of Santiago had their last chance to bid farewell to their beloved leader. Over a quarter of a million people went and created their own chants promising Fidel to remain true to his ideas, as well as assuring Raúl that they supported his continuation of Fidel’s work. There were some Heads of State and government present, but this time only Cubans spoke: leaders of the trade union congress, the farmers, the Federation of Women, the federation of combatants (in Cuba and Africa), the university students and the young Communists.

Raúl was the last speaker, and spoke of Fidel’s ideals and his work to unite the Cuban people, as well as his record of putting his internationalist ideals into practice around the world, in Algeria, Vietnam, Africa and the Caribbean and Latin America. Then he made an announcement that left the people in stunned silence and obvious disagreement. After reminding the people that Fidel, a very modest man, was always against any expression of the cult of personality, he made it known that Fidel had made an explicit wish before he died: that no statue or monument of any kind be put up in any plaza, park, or public place, nor should any street be named after him, ever. Raúl explained that his wishes must be respected, and that he would be introducing the draft law to the National Assembly of People’s Power to ensure the fulfilment of that wish.

After the event, I heard many people express their disappointment at this, but they also said that they understood, and that what was important was to keep his spirit and his ideas alive, to live their lives so that Fidel lived on in them, to be true to his definition of what it means to be a revolutionary, to fight imperialism and to struggle unflinchingly to maintain Cuba united, truly independent and sovereign.

It has been strange being here these past two days, a city I have always enjoyed for its constant live vibrant music everywhere, its friendly people, its drunken camaraderie. Now there has been an eerie silence, people avoiding your eyes, not a drink in sight. The people are in mourning.

As I was leaving the Plaza last night I got a call from my good friend Ludwig Palacio from PG. He was with a few Belizeans commemorating Fidel and wanted me to say a few words to them. I couldn’t say much. I was overwhelmed by the thought that there are people in Belize, like the world over, who recognize the greatness of the man, and who celebrate his vision and his work, and who hopefully will continue his indispensable work for the good of mankind.

Fidel always said that what assured the victory of the Revolution was the UNITY of the people, a unity he fought always to achieve above all else. There is a feeling in the air that with his death, the people sense even more the need for unity, and that the unity of the people will be consolidated and strengthened, thus perpetuating one of his greatest legacies.

This morning Fidel’s ashes were placed in the cemetery in Santiago near to the mausoleum of José Martí, his guide and mentor.

Assad Shoman, Santiago de Cuba, 4 December, 2016 for Amandala.


Fidel and African Americans

When the Cuban Revolution triumphed in 1959, blatant, legal racism was still very much alive in the US of A. Martin Luther King was well known, loved by black people and persecuted by the FBI. The civil rights movement was just getting strong, and still had a long way to go. When black people in the US learnt of how Cuba had been equally racist before the Revolution and that Fidel had changed all that, they naturally felt an attraction for him.

As Bill Fletcher Jr. put it, “For many of us in Black America, Castro represented the audacity that we have desired and sought in the face of imperial and racial arrogance. When it came to matching words with deeds on the topic of racial equality, the most stalwart leader of the Western hemisphere, over the course of the 20th century, was Fidel Castro”.

This admiration for Fidel was evident during his legendary stay at the Theresa Hotel in Harlem in 1960, where he was jubilantly hailed by hundreds of Harlemites on the streets outside. Several civil rights leaders visited him there, among them, famously, Malcolm X, with whom Fidel exchanged views for some time, and both men clearly appreciated each other’s ideas.

As Steven Cohen has written, “This notion that Third World revolutionaries and American civil rights activists were allies in the same essential conflict—that racism and global capitalism were part and parcel of a single oppressive system, presided over by the United States—was a source of tremendous fear in Washington. And the last thing anyone needed was for radical blacks to start getting ideas directly from the Cuban guerrillas”.

The fear was real. In 1961, after the CIA’s failed attempt to invade Cuba by CIA mercenaries, Martin Luther King, Jr. denounced the invasion as “a disservice to the whole of humanity” and called on the United States to “join the revolution” against “colonialism, reactionary dictatorship, and systems of exploitation” the world over.

And when the US cut Cuba’s sugar quota and some of that was allocated to apartheid South Africa, the American Negro Leadership Council on Africa, whose executive board included Martin Luther King, brought its objections directly to the Secretary of State. Dorothy Day, Bayard Rustin, and famous novelist James Baldwin were among those to violate the United States’ ban on food and drug shipments to Cuba. They have been followed for years by the Rev. Lucius Walker and other US missionaries, who as Pastors for Peace have defied the US blockade every year and taken convoys of buses to Cuba with medicines and educational materials.

Many prominent African Americans have praised Castro’s thought and work, and especially his struggle against racism everywhere, among them Harry Belafonte, who once said, “If you believe in freedom, if you believe in justice, if you believe in democracy, you have no choice but to support Fidel Castro!” A man who fought consistently for the release of the five Cubans unjustly imprisoned in the US for close on 15 years for fighting terrorism, while the self-confessed terrorists were feted in Miami by US officials, was Danny Glover, famous actor in the Lethal Weapon series and in The Color Purple.

The Black American writer of The Color Purple, Pulitzer Prize-winner Alice Walker, has said: “My admiration for Fidel Castro is well known. Whether one likes or dislikes what Fidel represents – and I like what he represents – he seems to me a truly extraordinary human being. Filled with love for the suffering beings of the world, and with a willingness to fight alongside them for their liberation . . . he has a fierce moral compass that makes him stand up and speak out while others are silent.”

After we thought the civil rights movement had won the battle and that it was now safe for Blacks to walk the streets of Amerikka, the 21st century has shown that racism is alive and well in the USA. More black people are in prison than ever before, more black youth are killed with impunity by the police. This gave rise, among other things, to Black Lives Matter, a movement formed after a jury acquitted George Zimmerman for the 2012 shooting death of Trayvon Martin, and it has since become a movement denouncing police killings of Black people.

Leaders of the movement have declared after Fidel’s passing: “We are feeling many things as we awaken to a world without Fidel Castro. There is an overwhelming sense of loss, complicated by fear and anxiety . . . As Fidel ascends to the realm of the ancestors, we summon his guidance, strength, and power as we recommit ourselves to the struggle for universal freedom. Fidel Vive!”

As with everything one writes about Fidel, on any subject, one can only skim the surface, and hope that readers will seek out more information elsewhere. I cannot abuse the generosity of Evan X in allowing me space, but let me end with a poem by Alice Walker in reply to those who criticize Fidel:

But for us, it is a point of honor to say
that we have witnessed the flourishing
of a great sheltering tree
that would protect the world
should the world
throw off its fear
and rise
beneath its branches;
a tree rooted
not in ideology
but in human courage
soul and heart.

Assad Shoman, Havana, 1 December, 2016

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