Belizean politics has a real soap opera quality about it. Where are we now in this current five year soap opera?
Well, the PUP political party won the last election in a protest vote against a mediocre UDP caretaker government that had no future vision for Belize. The outgoing UDP party basically folded and is no longer in the picture. The UDP party members were offered a big gratuity equal to a year or more of salary, plus a life time pension if they would quit politics. Most of them took the money and ran. Bird in the hand is worth two in the bush. This has left the PUP political party running the country with no opposition.
The PUP party on the other hand has deteriotated over the past few decades into a party with a reputation for corruption and greed. Because of the retirement of the old party leader, a new one was elected and he was perceived to be wearing a White Stetson representing the good guys. He sort of promised, or hinted obliquely about improving democracy, political reform and a lot of things. Technically, he has done what he said, except the actual promises turned out to be gutted of any real meat when they were actually done. His white hat had turned to grey. Not black yet, representing the bad guys, but grey. In the meantime, a year and a half has passed and the public has been waiting to see what the new guy and party he runs was made of. The leader of course, has been traipsing around the world at government expense, sightseeing. Ostensibly on government business at a lot of useless make ,talk conferences. Can't fault the fellow for wanting to see the world as a tourist by government credit card. His technical excuses ( he's a lawyer) are always justifiable, even if the public feel he is just touring. But in the meantime, as the first year and a half pass, the scoundrels still in the party from previous era's are perceived to be having a field day with money making schemes. From dam scams to loan programs. These are just twists and turns in the background of the major plot line of this Belizean port town political opera carried on in Belmopan.
The erstwhile party leader seems to be getting tired of running around the world and living out of hotel rooms. After all, when you have seen one big city, the rest are all the same, with a different language. It gets boring. So the party leader starts to look at what is going on with the country now.
Enter a scandal, dragged over from the last time this party was in power; in which the Social Security Board funds were allegedly looted by a party member appointed to the Board of over $3 million and change. The money is long gone of course. Accusations and rumors abound. Some say the Board member has it in offshore accounts, others say it was distributed to other cabinet party members. Whatever the real happenings, the money disappeared. Over $ 3 million dollars is a lot of money in a small country like Belize. Jealousy among other crooks abounds and horror and distaste among the honest population. The case went to court and was appealed and all that, and the offending Social Security Board member was ordered by the courts to bring the missing money back. Well, under the new administration, we are back to the same political party, the PUP that did the scam in the first place. A recent review by a judge, wanted to know where the money was and why it hadn't been paid back. Lo and behold the PUP government that scammed the money from the last time in office, said to the court that they were not interested in getting the money back. Wow! ($3 million)
And there we stop in this long running saga! Glad to bring you up the latest episode.
Here are some insights in how it all works. The country of Belize inherited the population representation system from colonial Britain. This is the same system giving all the trouble in African countries and Latin America. Under this system, one town, the old capital gets to rule the whole country of Belize. Within that town, in Belize this is the old capital of the port Belize City, there are two mafia gangs of opportunists. Their intent is to make a living off governing the country. It has all kinds in the two political parties. But a good section of the controlling segment are lawyers.
In this saga, along came a new party leader from the town named Said Musa, who promised democracy, political reform and a host of changes to the way we govern. But he was vague in his campaign promises and the reality is, it was so much hot air and bombast. Nothing has changed! Up to election day and for a year or so afterwards, he continued to make vague commitments, public utterances and was given the benefit of the doubt. About a few months ago, his White hat started to change color to grey. People no longer had faith and believed in him. His utterances were notable for lack of commitment to specifics.
Now the scandal of the missing $3 and more million dollars, allegedly looted from the Social Security funds and a court order to pay it back. The latest turn in this week's episode of the political opera quality mini-series, is that the Social Security fund spokesperson Ms. Lisa Shoman ( another PUP lawyer I believe) told the court, that the government was no longer interested in getting the more than $ 3 million back. Her orders,;( the Editor of the Reporter, a much respected patriotic gentleman named Harry Lawrence says); must come from the Prime Minister Said Musa, the leader of the PUP political party. Whoops! Horror and consternation! The new PUP party leader's hat just went from light grey to black. He is now perceived by the public at large and even within the PUP political party to be one of the bad guys.
If Said Musa the PUP party leader and Prime Minister of Belize was Jesse Ventura of wrestling fame who wore a feather boa and fancy tights when wrestling, but is now the no-nonsense REFORM PARTY Governor of Minnesota, we could understand the switch from GOOD GUY to BAD GUY. It makes the soap opera qualities of the unfolding story more interesting. Even so, there is a lot of the wrestling opera quality writing in this melodrama in Belize. The twists and turns have everybody guessing! Even Belizeans.
For next week's episode, the public wants to know?
Will the Prime Minister show some guts and purge the PUP political party of the bad guys? He gets a gratuity and life time pension anyway, so what does he have to lose?
Will the bad guys cut him in for some of the loot and buy him off? (It would have to be more than half for me to consider it, if I was Prime Minister.)
Has the Prime Minister changed from good guy to bad guy and why is he wearing a black stetson?
Will the good white hat wearing PUP party members, hold a special meeting and have a vote of no confidence?
Will Freddy Hunter, wearing a white stetson, PUP party member be voted in as new party leader and Prime Minister?
Which side of the crowd will Patty Arceo take? The white hats or the black hats?
Will the PUP party be able to cleanse itself of corruption? Milesovic in the Federation of Yugoslavia with his voter base in Belgrade shows that under this system, it is tough; when the judges, courts, police and military answer to the guys wearing the black hats.
All of this is not so easy to forecast. Under the system, both for PUP party internal politics and the government, the mafia crowd in the port of Belize City hold all the cards. It is a stacked deck and the dealer is the casino. You can't really ask for a new dealer and a new deck of cards in fresh plastic wrapper under this game.
To have a successful vote of 'no confidence' you would require some of the Belize City port town PUP party members to go over and join the PUP party members from the districts. But the port town Belize City crowd are renowned for their greed and self justification of corruption. They can be bought with promises of world travel conference trips as tourists, or promised land that will make them rich and extra allowances to their salaries and other things. They are very susceptible to being bought. Some of the wheeler dealers in the PUP party from behind the scenes are not even elected officials, they just manipulate those that they have as elected representatives from the port town of Belize City.
Stay tuned and see what Prime Minister Said Musa does within the PUP political party. Has he really changed sides, or was he always wearing a black stetson? Will Freddy Hunter be able to mount enough votes to get a special party meeting and call a vote of no confidence? Will other PUP party members really have the courage to stand up against a Milosevic style operation?
See you next week in the Belize political SOAP OPERA!