By Wellington C. Ramos
Dean Russel Lindo, an attorney by profession, and the first leader of the United Democratic Party (UDP), died on September 17, 2018, at his home in Belize City. He was also a two-time elected representative from Fort George Division in Belize City, a minister of natural resources in the 1984 UDP Manuel Esquivel administration, a Belizean ambassador to the United States of America, UDP national campaign chairman and advisor to the party.
He was the uncle of Belize’s current three term prime minister, Dean Barrow, who was named after him and was his mentor since he entered politics in the late 1970s. From the time I was born in Dangriga, there were only two main political parties in Belize and they were the People’s United Party (PUP) led by George Cadle Price, a former premier and prime minister, and the National Independence Party (NIP) led by the late Philip Goldson, a representative for Albert Division in Belize City for many years.
These two men were part of the original founders of the People’s United Party (PUP), which was formed in the early 1950s, but Goldson, Lee Richardson and others broke away due to some disagreements with George Price and founded the Honduran Independent Party (HIP).
Up until the end of the 1960s, the People’s United Party was the dominant political party in Belize and the National Independence Party (NIP) was no match to them. Why? Because the root of the People’s United Party, came from the labour movements that were formed in Belize to protest the way the British government and their businesses were treating the citizens of Belize during that period.
From these movements came the cry for independence from Great Britain. However, for Belize to achieve its independence, Guatemala’s claim stood in the way. George Price, with his determination to obtain independence, was accused of negotiating with Guatemala by the British. Some Belizeans believed the British and turned against him to become NIP.
The PUP had a men’s group, women’s group and marshals in their party all over the country. In Dangriga, when they held a meeting, you could have seen their men, women and marshals neatly dressed going to their meetings. If George Price came to town, they would go to the “Y”, which was the entrance of our town at the time, and await his arrival. From there they would back him on their shoulders and parade him on Saint Vincent Street all the way to Zabaneh’s Riverside Hotel at the beginning of Commerce Street at the middle of the town by the main bridge.
Their slogan was; George Price All The Way and PUP All The Way. If any person was to say anything negative about George Price, he or she risked being beaten up by some of the PUP marshals who were non law abiding citizens. If they were arrested, the PUP would come and bail them and some police officers were terminated from the police force for arresting them.
When Philip Goldson came to town, some of these same marshals would go and heckle the NIP meetings and stone Goldson on the rostrum with rotten eggs and the police officers would not arrest them. These things I witnessed at Central Square in the heart of Dangriga town and it turned me against the PUP.
Some Belizeans were so afraid of George Price’s PUP that some of them did not talk about the things they were experiencing with them. Many Belizeans left Belize and came to the United States because of what they endured during those years opposing the PUP. Some members of the NIP and other Belizeans were disgusted and wanted a leader who could stand up and fight for them against this PUP bullying.
In the late 1960s and the early 1970s, their dream came true when UBAD and two new parties emerged by the name of the Liberal Party and People’s Democratic Movement (PDM) under the leadership of Dean Lindo. The main players that I could remember were Evan X Hyde, Ken Tillett, Paul Rodriguez, Harry Lawrence and Manuel Esquivel.
Shortly after they were formed, George Price called general elections and they decided to merge to become one party. From the time Dean Lindo became the leader of the UDP around 1973, I saw a major difference in his aggressive style of leadership compared to the late Philip Goldson who was more gentleman-like. The Belize people were joining UDP and were getting brave.
When the elections were held in 1974, the UDP made significant improvements by winning six seats out of 18 compared to all the previous NIP attempts. In some of the seats that they lost, the margins were so close that they almost defeated the PUP. Even Dean Lindo won his seat by defeating Said Musa.
I was a police officer on the election campaign team and was assigned to the Matron Roberts Health Centre counting station in Collet Division. The candidates were Evan X Hyde (UBAD), Harry Courtenay (PUP) and Ken Tillet (UDP). The PUP candidate Harry Courtenay was declared the winner by one vote after a recount was done. Many people including myself still believe up to this day that Ken Tillet won that division.
Dean Lindo then began concentrating on building the party for the next election in 1979. Unfortunately, in 1979 PUP won 13 seats and the UDP won five seats, with Dean Lindo losing his. After that election, Dean Lindo resigned as party leader and a new politician to the UDP from Dangriga, Dr Theodore Aranda, became the party leader. Manuel Esquivel was made deputy leader of the UDP. Dean Lindo became the party chairman and continued to assist his party in building its base for future elections.
Dr Aranda later resigned as party leader and Manuel Esquivel became the new leader of the UDP. On September 21, 1981, Belize was granted independence by Great Britain and the political situation in Belize was getting worse. Said Musa and Assad Shoman were labeled as communists and the party was becoming fragmented.
Civil wars in the Central American countries of El Salvador, Nicaragua and Guatemala were becoming intense and the US was concerned.
Elections were called in 1984, which the UDP won by a margin of 21 to 7 and Dean Lindo ran again against Said Musa and defeated him. He was then given the post of minister of natural resources by the new prime minister, Manuel Esquivel. As minister of natural resources, he implemented some new reform programs related to land issues.
Dean Lindo assumed several other roles in his party to assist them in retaining, regaining and maintaining political power in the country of Belize.
In studying Belize politics, two of the most important eras in our country were the 1950s and the 1970s. Some people from the 50s were George Price, Philip Goldson, Lindy Rogers, Alan Arthurs, Rudolph Mckoy, Nicholas Pollard, Leigh Richardson, John Smith, Agapito Hassock, Herbert Fuller WH Courtenay and others. Only George Price became a prime minister from this group.
The people from the 70s were Dean Lindo, Harry Lawrence, Ken Tillet, Dr Aranda, Paul Guerrero, Said Musa, Assad Showman, Florencio Marin Sr., Evan X Hyde, Curl Thompson, Paul Rodriguez and others. Manuel Esquivel and Said Musa became prime ministers.
The politicians from the 80s include Dean Barrow, Wilfred Elrington, Derick Aikman, Charles Wagner, Joe Briceno, Michael Finnegan, Guadalupe Pech and others. Only Dean Barrow has become prime minister so far.
The next prime minister of Belize can become anybody from any political period because there is a lot of low confidence in our political parties and their leadership. Dean Lindo was a man that future politicians need to study because he changed Belize politics forever. If it was not for him, UDP and Dean Barrow would not be where they are today and they all know this. PUP was not easy to beat because they will and would do anything to win an election. They remind me of the Republican Party here in the United States.
Dean Lindo was fearless and aggressive and had no fear in him for them. The third parties in Belize must realize that, just like how Dean Lindo agreed to merge with other political parties to defeat PUP, they must merge to defeat UDP/PUP. People do not give up political power out of kindness. Politics is war and sometimes it could be life or death.
Our country is in a mess and our people and nation are both crying for new leadership and new direction. Let us offer our services to save our people and nation. Thanks for your contributions Dean Russel Lindo. When you saw the need to offer your services to our people and nation you did. Those services can never be repaid by anyone. You are now gone but will remain in the minds of many Belizeans like me, who appreciate what you did for us.
Arrangements are currently being made to grant this patriotic Belizean a state funeral, which is deserving. His life will now be included in the political history and development of our beloved country Belize.