By Wellington C. Ramos
I am a proud Belizean and American citizen, who is a veteran of these two beloved countries that has put his life on the line for both nations like thousands of other Belizean American citizens before and after me. Even though I have lived in the United States for many years, I still consider Belize to be my home because it is the country of my birth. My American citizenship could be revoked but my Belizean citizenship is solid like a rock.
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
There are about 300,000 or more Belizean Americans living in America and most of them feel the same way about Belize as I do. Our weekly contributions to our families in Belize are what keep the Belizean economy viable, as has been documented by all reputable financial agencies. Belize cannot survive without the involvement of Belizeans who live in the United States because they possess the most financial and human resources. Any Belizean who fails to accept this fact of life is living in a world of fantasy.
Yet, both political parties have failed to formulate a comprehensive benefit package to involve Belizean Americans so that they can invest their financial and human resources in Belize to make it a vibrant nation in this world. The current Prime Minister Dean Barrow had the right idea when he proposed Article 7 to amend the Belizean constitution so that Belizeans with dual citizenship could be entitled to run for office, represent Belize and do everything like all other Belizean citizens without giving up their American citizenship.
The People’s United Party and a few selfish individuals within his own party were against this idea. However, they are giving away and selling Belizean citizenships to foreigners who now have more benefits, privileges and rights in Belize than natural born Belizeans. If the political parties in Belize continue to disrespect and disengage Belizean Americans in the political affairs of their country where they have a vital interest, Belizean Americans will eventually be forced to form their own political party in Belize to represent their interest and that will become one of the most powerful political party in Belize. They possess the financial and human resources that their fellow Belizean brothers and sisters in Belize cannot match.
In the ten years that the People’s United Party was in power they borrowed about US$600 million dollars on behalf of the people and government of Belize. This money was not used to invest in the country’s infrastructural, industrial, economic, technological and human development. They took all this money and spent it with their families, friends and political cronies. Plus, corruption was rampant in their administration. They acted as if Belize belonged to them and them alone.
In the year 2008, when the United Democratic Party took over the reins of government in Belize, the government was broke, unemployment was high, no significant industrial, technological, infrastructural and human development and an increase in the poverty rate. The UDP had to find ways and means to revitalize the nation’s economy, pay the debt and bring back the country economically sound.
The government indicted the former Prime Minister Said Musa and Housing Minister Ralph Fonseca for the diversion of the Venezuelan money but due to some legal technicality the charges against these two men were later withdrawn. Charges were also brought against two other ministers, namely, Jose Coye and Florencio Marin Sr. for devaluing some government properties to buy for themselves then reselling them for higher prices. They were convicted but then appealed their convictions to the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ). In a landmark ruling, the court ruled that former ministers of government can be held accountable for acts they committed while they were members of the government.
To date I do not know if this government brought back these two ministers to court to get back the money for the people and government of Belize. The legal instruments are still available to the prime minister of Belize to look into how this debt was accumulated, look at how the funds were spent, disbursed and have these former elected representatives pay for the debt.
It is unfair for the poor citizens and our country to pay this debt, when many of those ministers are wealthier than when they first got elected into office, as was reported to the nation by one of their own disgruntled ministers, the former leader of the People’s United Party John Briceno.
Our 31st anniversary of independence is not time to celebrate but to contemplate what we are going to do about our current state.