REPORT #206 March 2000

Produced by the Belize Development Trust


(extrapolation): Can we make Belize democracy work? How and Who?

The new challenge in the 21 st. century is how to make dysfunctional democracies work? In the last 20 years, closing the 20th century, there was a profound change in governing! Democracies spread world wide. Elections for Presidents, Prime Ministers, parliaments and local governments have become more frequent and normal processes.

Democracies are fraught with inconsistancies, abuses, corruption, special interests and all the foibles of human nature. There are military controlled democracies, corporate owned democracies, one party controlled pseudo democracies, police state democracies, dictator owned democracies, feudal democracies and other variations. The quality of a democracy is what we mean when we talk about dysfunctional democracies. For this coming century, it will not be a question so much as the quantity of democracies that exist globally, but rather the quality of the type of democracy they claim to be.

In Belize, we have a dysfunctional democracy. One patterned on African British Imperialist Colonial models. The one party elected controlled state, with a party leader the defacto dictator, strong man ruler. Control is by 'reward or punishment' and paternalistic despotism awarded by party leader patronage. The rest of the country producing the export and dollar earnings does not even count, only the port town controls Belize via crooked electoral boundaries and a colonial population representative system.

In Ecuador, the fight for feudal control of the dysfunctional democracy lies between two factions. One is the merchant, import-export class of the Pacific Coast port of Guayaquil and the other faction is the landed aristocracy of real estate ownership on feudal scales found in Quito, the inland capital. The rest of the country in the rural areas, just like Belize, do not even count.

In Belize, the problem aspect of dysfunctional democracy is much clearer. Rule is the elected one party controlled state, dominated in turn by the old colonial capital intelligentsia of the port Belize City. The African British Colonial plantation model of pseudo-democracy! Diffusing the problem of one party 'wins all" factors in the election process and disbursing the national power controls to district equality is the problem in Belize, facing an upgrade of dysfunctional democracy to a working model of consensual democracy.

Dysfunctional democracies worldwide are facing new forms of political repression. Obviously, human nature being what it is and the corrupting aspects of power, in particular the effect on the ego, of a budding one party leader pseudo-democracy, in which absolute power corrupts absolutely, the battle to bring a dysfunctional democracy up to the level of a working model of consensual democracy is going to be a continuous one.

Democratically elected regimes, be they Belize's African style, one party controlled state, or Ecuador's feudal aristocracy and merchant money class controlled state, both with authoritarian proclivities, at least understand the need to keep up appearances for the outside world. The secret police will be less likely to call at 2 a.m. But the Defense Force might turn the house upside down looking for drugs, or an exaggerated assessment for back taxes arrive by registered mail, or a court case called by a government department against a newspaper, or the editor. President Milosevic of Serbia, two days ago at this writing, just sent the police to seize a television transmitter from a town, that protested his self styled police state under an elected democratic disguise.

The internet is playing a new role in disbursing democratic ideals. No longer are secret meetings of activists necessary, or people who would share their ideas, at a loss for a medium to find others of like mind. International support is now easier and faster to muster and local events come under the scrutiny of global media. This is a strong deterrent to abusive government. There is still the colonial empire inherited problem in most dysfunctional democracies, of disarming the civilian population, making them vulnerable to oppression ( the government orchestrated genocide in Rwanda and Guatemala). In the USA, the population are allowed to be armed, to prevent an over oppressive government from forming. Not so in many dysfunctional democracies.

The world in the new 21st century is probably going to see some new ways of using sophisticated tactics to control populations and curtail political freedoms by the power hungry. In many countries, including Belize, the fight for a true democracy is now 12 years old.

It is a new century, one can only wonder if Belize will ever become a consensual democracy? Or will all democracies be taken down by a world war started by the barbarian states, that seem to recurr regularly throughout human history. The next hundred years? What will become of humanity and the human governing condition?

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