When Mexico and Central America became independent from Spain in 1821, Roman Catholic Mexico held a kind of hegemony over Roman Catholic Central America. The Anglican, English-speaking settlement of Belize, not yet an official British colony but very much linked with British Jamaica, was stuck, geopolitically speaking, in between Mexico and Central America (which did not include Panama at that time.) In 1823, the Central American republics – Guatemala, Honduras, Salvador, Nicaragua and Costa Rica broke away from Mexico and formed a Central American Confederation. The year of 1823, interestingly enough, was the same year the United States of America, independent from Great Britain less than a half a century at the time, declared the Monroe Doctrine, through which the Americans declared their authority over the Western Hemisphere. Soon after they broke away from Mexico, the Central American republics began fighting amongst themselves.
Around 1840 or so, the one Rafael Carrera emerged as the President of Guatemala, which had defeated the army of Francisco Morazán, who had basically enjoyed the support of Honduras and El Salvador.
Between 1850 and 1856, the United States pressured Great Britain to sign the Clayton-Bulwer and Dallas-Clarendon treaties, which essentially pushed Britain out of Nicaragua and Honduras, while allowing the British to remain in Belize. Then in 1859, the Guatemalans, still under Carrera’s rule, signed a treaty with Great Britain to demarcate the borders between Guatemala and Belize. While these treaties were being signed, remember, Great Britain was planet earth’s foremost imperial power, and Guatemala and the other Central American republics were puny entities. It was the United States, which had purchased the Louisiana territory (two-fifths of today’s U.S.) from France in 1803 and then grabbed from Texas to California from Mexico in 1848, which was flexing its muscles in this region and influencing British behavior.
In 1862, the settlement of Belize finally became a British Crown colony named British Honduras. There was continuing disagreement between the merchants in Belize Town and the landowners/mahogany contractors in the Legislative Assembly, and this resulted in the settlers here giving up what remaining authority they possessed and seeking direct British rule, which was instituted in 1871. It is interesting to note that this was the year immediately preceding the historic defeat of Marcos Canul in Orange Walk by the British West India Regiment.
In 2017, as the Americans prepare to inaugurate their 45th President this week Friday, the United States is comprised of 50 great states. But, up until 1776 when they declared their independence from Great Britain and fought a war to consolidate same, the Americans had been only thirteen struggling colonies. To repeat, they bought the Louisiana territory in 1803, seized from Texas to California in 1848, and spent the rest of the nineteenth century killing out the remainder of the Native American tribes which had been the Indigenous people of North America. Along their violent nineteenth-century way, the Americans fought a bloody civil war amongst themselves between 1861 and 1865.
Because they had themselves been colonial subjects, the Americans had embarked on a foreign policy which did not emulate the colonial practices of European nations such as Spain, France, Germany, Great Britain, and so on. European colonialism had featured European military occupation of the colonized territories, and European administration over the native peoples with expatriate officials.
In the first instance, because the territories they were grabbing involved linear expansion, the United States had these new territories become new states in their Union. When the United States began taking possession of territories outside their continental borders, such as the Philippines, Puerto Rico, Cuba, Guam, the U.S Virgin Islands, Panama, and so on, they exercised a less direct influence on these territories than traditional colonialism would have done. The peoples under American control understood how awesome American military power was, and when Washington was forced to, they sent in the Marines to impose law and order, but, on a whole, the American form of imperialism did not feature the direct rule of the old European colonialism.
When British Honduras became a self-governing colony in January of 1964, the United States, which had opened its borders to Belizean refugees after Hurricane Hattie in October of 1961, almost immediately influenced the People’s United Party (PUP) Government of Belize to change our school holidays so that Belize’s long holiday (previously April and May) coincided with the summer holidays (July and August) in the United States. This change had massive implications for Belizeans in both the short and the long terms, but the change went down smoothly. The change was not imposed by the Americans: it was only influenced. Belize was learning to follow instructions from Washington.
In the matter of the Seventeen Proposals in 1968, four years after the change of the school holidays, these Proposals were prepared by a New York attorney by the name of Bethuel Webster, who had been appointed to mediate talks in Washington between Great Britain and Guatemala to settle the Guatemalan claim to the Belize territory, so that British Honduras could move on to political independence. The Seventeen Proposals were not presented to Belizeans as official American State Department foreign policy, but all the indications in the decades following 1968 have suggested that they were just that – official foreign policy of the United States of America.
The world is now holding its collective breath as we await the inauguration of Donald J. Trump to the Presidency of the United States. There is substantial uncertainty in the world, and, of course, within the borders of what some thinkers refer to as planet earth’s only superpower – the U. S. of A. In the case of Belize, Trump will become the emperor of Belize on Friday. He will literally have the power of life and death over us, because Guatemala will belong to him.
Emperor Trump has already inflamed tensions in the Muslim world because of his anti-Islamic rhetorical outbursts. This situation suggests to us that there will be an increase in terrorist acts as Trump’s America reverts to the naked, aggressive imperialism of its formative years in the nineteenth century. Soft targets in innocent parts of the world will come into play as the war between America and radical Islam escalates. There are implications here for Belize outside of the Guatemalan claim. This is our message to you on Friday, January 20, 2017.
Power to the people.