By Wellington C. Ramos
Belizeans have been granted dual citizenships by the United Democratic Party since they were first elected in 1984 but there are no real benefits to back it up. Yet, the People’s United Party (PUP) under the leadership of Francis Fonseca, Vision Inspired By The People (VIP) under the leadership of Hubert Enriquez and People’s National Party (PNP) under the leadership of Will Mehia, are all still opposed to granting Belizeans with dual citizenships their fundamental rights as citizens.
Born in Dangriga Town, the cultural capital of Belize, Wellington Ramos has BAs in Political Science and History from Hunter College, NY, and an MA in Urban Studies from Long Island University. He is an Adjunct Professor of Political Science and History
These rights include voting by proxy, the right to run for office while maintaining their dual nationalities and all rights given to Belizeans living at home and foreigners who became citizens of Belize and preserve their dual nationality rights as citizens of both countries. The only party in Belize that has written in their constitution full citizenship rights for all Belizean citizens, including those who possess dual citizenships, is the Belize People’s Front (BPF) under the leadership of their visionary leader Nancy Marin from Cayo District.
Some of the most fundamental rights of any citizen is the right to vote for their elected representatives, have representation in the legislative branch of government to represent them on issues of major importance to them and to be granted all rights and privileges as citizens of their country.
The excuses I have heard coming from the representatives of the political parties, namely, UDP, PUP, VIP and the PNP, for not granting Belizean citizens abroad their right to vote by proxy and all their other fundamental rights as citizens keep changing just like night and day with some of these selfish individuals.
While they keep denying natural Belizean born citizens with dual citizenship their rights as Belizean citizens, they continue to grant Guatemalans, Salvadorans and all other nationalities their full rights as naturalized citizens of Belize just to get their votes to retain political power.
Belizean Americans’ annual contributions to the country of Belize is estimated at about US$22 million. Added to this are other goods that they ship to their family members and friends. It is estimated that there are about 300,000 Belizeans living in the United States, which is almost equal to the current population of Belize.
When Belize signed the memorandum of understanding to agree to take the Belize-Guatemala dispute to the International Court of Justice (ICJ), they also made it clear that 60% of the Belizean population must also participate in the referendum process. Belizeans who live in the United States that were born in Belize or acquired their citizenships through whatever means meet the qualifications to vote in this referendum as part of the 60% population.
Under our constitution, all of our citizens are entitled to the same privileges and treatment, whether they reside in Belize, the United States or any other foreign country. There are some Belizeans who do not think that Belizean Americans and other Belizeans who possess dual citizenships should be entitled to the same benefits and treatment like them but that belief is unconstitutional.
Belizean Americans and those who live in other countries that possess Belizean citizenships reserve the right to bring a case against the Belize government for denying them their constitutional rights for all these years. If they were to win such a case, it would force the government of Belize to pass laws so that they are given the right to vote by proxy from the United States and other countries and all rights and privileges available to the entire Belizean population.
The People’s United Party has always been opposed to any legislation that favours Belizean Americans and Belizeans who live abroad. They foster this false belief, without any proof, that most of the Belizeans who left Belize to come to the United States were members of the United Democratic Party and they would more than likely vote against them. African Belizeans are the most people who leave Belize due to the economic hardships they face in their homeland daily and their party is losing the support of most of them.
Belizeans have witnessed the takeover of the People’s United Party mainly by people who do not share their interest and concerns. They use their money to get the poor working class to vote for them but when they get elected it is only a few businesses, relatives, friends and cronies who benefit the most financially.
The Belize People’s Front has the most sensible political idea. Why? Because almost every Belizean has a family member that lives in the United States who assists them in some way or form. For the UDP, PUP, VIP and PNP to deny their relatives their fundamental rights and privileges as citizens of Belize is disrespectful to all of them. The Belize People’s Front have also learnt from the mistakes that the VIP and PNP have made over the years by failing to organize their political parties throughout the entire country of Belize and gain grassroots support to become a viable alternative to UDP and PUP in the elections.
This has led to losing all the seats they have contested in the past municipal and general elections nationwide. Belizean Americans who possess dual citizenship are happy and pleased that finally there is a party that will speak and represent them. This party is new but is moving and growing faster than one could expect. All they have to do now is to come to the United States and spread their message to their Belizean people.
Once the Belizeans in the United States throw their support behind this political party, they will be a force to reckon with soon. The UDP and PUP will be singing the same old song: “they do not stand a chance”. For them to say this is disrespectful to our voting citizens because they do not control our citizens’ votes.
If they think that their money will guarantee them victory at the polls at the next municipal and general elections, they better think again. Belizeans can always take your money and still vote against you, like they have done in the past. Belizeans are angry all over and a few dollars will not be able to get rid of their anger. They have too many important fundamental issues that they are concerned about. When they have to get up every morning with no money in their pockets to buy food and pay their bills, their faces are angrier.
Unemployment is almost at 35% and it has been high for years now. The governments can give out statistics but the people are taking licks. The two major political parties UDP and PUP have been back and forth blaming each other for all the problems we face but we still find ourselves in the same position after years of voting for both of them.
If we look at all the issues we face today and we compare them with the issues we faced years ago, most of them are still unresolved. We cannot continue to expect better results if we have the same people giving the same excuses without any fundamental changes taking place with our lives and our country.
Patience has its limitations and too much patience should not be tolerated in any given circumstances because we live to provide the best for our children, families and ourselves. Let us now think clearly as to what type of future course we want to take our beloved country Belize.