Up until the late 1970’s the largest ethnic group in Belize were Belizeans of African descent which comprised the Garifuna and Creole people. Belize also have a small population of East Indians, Native Mayas, Mestizos, Mennonites and Chinese that makeup its estimated population of about 390,000 people. During that period of time, the Creoles dominated the Civil Service branches of government and were prominent politicians in both the People’s United Party (PUP) and the United Democratic Party (UDP) but that has changed to Mestizos.
Around that same period, civil wars were occurring in; Mexico, Guatemala, El Salvador and Nicaragua. As result of these conflicts, the citizens of these countries began to migrate to the United States in huge numbers. Those from El Salvador and Guatemala who could not reach the United States, decided to settle in Belize. Due to the economic conditions in Belize and the demand by some Belizeans in Belize to join their relatives in the United States, Belizeans of African descent (Creole and Garifuna) were migrating to the United States in large numbers.
The United States President in the 1980’s Ronald Reagan was afraid that most of these people will end up in the United States so he encouraged the Belize government to grant them refugee status and later on Belizean citizenship. This was backed up by the United Nations granting additional benefits to the governments of Belize PUP and UDP to make them stay permanently in our country. In 1976 when the then Guatemala President General Kjell Laugurud Garcia was planning to invade Belize, they had Guatemalan and Salvadoran troops by our border. Now, we are giving some of these same people citizenship in our country without knowing their backgrounds. Under Belize constitution it is unconstitutional to grant citizenship to Guatemalan citizens until their country recognizes our independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity, which they have not done so far.
In all those years that our PUP and UDP governments were granting citizenship to the people in our country of birth, they did nothing for us to grant us; lots, lands, the right to invest, own homes, businesses, to vote by proxy and to run for office in Belize. All these benefits of citizenship that we are being deprived of, is being given to the people of Guatemala, El Salvador and other foreign citizens who live in Belize. I am not against the people of these countries because like I always mentioned my grandmother is from Guatemala. However, common sense tells us that this is not fair to us as natural born citizens. Now, is the time for these politicians to correct this unjust, unconstitutional and nonsensical policy that makes no sense when anyone is told that this is what is happening in Belize.
If we the people of African descent in Belize do not stand up for justice now, we are going to find ourselves as third class citizens in Belize. Giving people the right to vote and run for office is giving them power and that is what the Guatemalans and the Salvadorans are getting over us. Denying our people the right to vote and run for office is taking away power from us and that is what we are getting. Garifuna and Creole people need to stop their bickering and in the name of survival come together to address this problem now otherwise we are doomed.
This is not about PUP and UDP but more about our fundamental rights as citizens of Belize. This Redistricting is crucial because after this is done they will have total control over our country. In the southern part of Belize the Garifuna and Creole people are now the minority. An area where we were once the majority. Belize district is the only district with a majority of Belizeans of African descent and they will be coming there next. I have thought about and wrote about this issue for several years now but nothing was done about it by both the UDP and the PUP governments. Writing about our problems only help to make our people aware of them. We as a people have no other choice but to organize ourselves to take action. The only way out of this dilemma, is to bring a court action against our government to cease and desist from granting citizenship to Guatemalans or to table the Article-7 Amendment.
Until, a constitutional amendment is made to fix this problem and to give us the right to vote by proxy, run for office and all the other items that I mentioned earlier. A Guatemalan, Salvadoran and all the other people who became naturalized citizens of Belize, will have all the rights as we the natural born citizens of Belize in their country and ours. While, we the Belizeans who were born there do not have those same rights just because of our dual citizenship status. A Belizean who go to Belize and live as an American citizen can vote in an election but cannot run for office, unless he or she gives up his American citizenship. There are several ambiguities that needs to be cleared up in our constitution so what are we waiting for?
Members of the PUP are quiet on this issue. While the UDP have been making unfulfilled promises for years now. We can no longer wait because we are going to die waiting in vain. I hope our Belizean politicians of African descent, read this article and think about what they are doing to their people. Race and politics go hand in hand and even if you do not think that it can influence a vote, the reality in the real world is that it does. The Mayas and Mestizos in Belize will always stick with each other despite the country where they are from because they see themselves as one people. We the Garifuna people are the same, except that we also have African descent in us and because of our color of skin we will be treated the same. Pretty soon all the politicians of African descent, will all be out of office and they will become the victims of some of the policies they all implemented but it will be too late then for them to act.