Saturday, December 31, 2011

The story of ARAB MUSLIM migration and the results.

SEEMINGLY, THE BASIC PROBLEM WITH ARAB CONTROLLED COUNTRIES HAS BEEN THEIR INABILITY TO CREATE A SEPERATION BETWEEN HUMAN ENGINEERED RELIGION AND A STATE GOVERNMENT. The USA is the prime example how well this works, dealing with so many false religions pandering to political power and money making opportunists in the name of a GOD, or creator of the Universe. The DIVISION between religionists and secular government is needed in Arab states, or they will never go anywhere. Always at their religious wars, with each other, SHIA versus SUNNI and any other man made FALSE religion.

This message sent to the Bz-Culture Mailing List from Bill Holly :

> ........ it's the cold hard truth.
> The Arabs are not happy
> . They are not happy in Gaza .
> . They are not happy in the West Bank ..
> . They are not happy in Jerusalem .
> . They are not happy in Israel ..
> . They are not happy in Egypt .
> . They are not happy in Libya ..
> . They are not happy in Algeria .
> . They are not happy in Tunis .
> . They are not happy in Morocco .
> . They are not happy in Yemen .
> . They are not happy in Iraq .
> . They are not happy in Afghanistan .
> . They are not happy in Syria .
> . They are not happy in Lebanon .
> . They are not happy in Sudan .
> . They are not happy in Jordan .
> . They are not happy in Iran .
> Where are the Arabs happy?
> They are happy in England.
> They are happy in France.
> They are happy in Italy.
> They are happy in Germany.
> They are happy in Sweden.
> They are happy in Holland.
> They are happy in Denmark.
> They are happy in Belgium.
> They are happy in Norway.
> They are happy in the U.S.
> They are happy in Canada.
> They are happy in Romania.
> They are happy in Hungary.
> They are happy in Australia.
> They are happy in New Zealand.
> They are happy in any other country in the world that is not under Muslim rule.
> And who do they blame?
> . Not Islam.
> . Not their leadership.
> . Not themselves.
> . But the countries in which they are happy to live.
> Democracy is really good for them:
> In a democracy they can live comfortably,
> enjoy the high quality of life which they did not build and work for,
> they don't have to be productive and earn a living,
> they can be wild, and break the law,
> exploit the social services, wear Burkas and make a mockery of our Police
> and Courts and generally bite the hand that feeds them.
> The question is why do they always try to bring their failed system with
> them, why do they want to turn other countries into the country
> they left for a better life...?
> Muslims generally make up about 3% of a population yet our Governments
> are fixated on pandering to them... Why??

Friday, December 30, 2011



This article gets more pertinent to the problems of Belize with international trade, about half way through.

Certainly other artists and writers have been inspired by the plight of the banana. Chilean poet Pablo Neruda trounced on the foreign-owned banana companies for their arrogant antics and political interference in Latin America in his poem, "La United Fruit Co." But as we talk, I learn just how intimate Naufus's connection with bananas is.
"It's a weird tropical fruit love poem," Naufus tells me. "It looks at bananas as a source of income. There is such a dependence on bananas in Guatemala. Even for me personally. Maybe there's no way out."
I'm Chiquita banana and I've come to say Bananas have to ripen in a certain way When they are flecked with brown and have a golden hue Bananas taste the best and are best for you You can put them in a salad. You can put them in a pie-aye. Any way you want to eat them. It's impossible to beat them. But, bananas like the climate of the very, very tropical equator. So you should never put bananas in the refrigerator.
– Chiquita Banana jingle
The United Fruit Company (UFCo) introduced the Chiquita name and the Carmen Miranda character and jingle in 1944. There were financial difficulties over the years. The company merged with AMK, a meat producer, in the 1970s and became United Brands. It wasn't until 1990 that they became Chiquita Brands International. Now the largest U.S. distributor of bananas, the company is owned by American Financial Group (AFG), which doesn't seem to have much to do with food. Carl Lindner was chairman of the board, founder and principal shareholder of AFG. He was also CEO of Chiquita from 1984 to 2001, and remained on the board until May of 2002. He has donated tens of millions to both the Republican and Democratic parties, so his concerns are always taken seriously. During his reign, the company was actively donating money and arms to terrorist groups on both sides of the conflict in Colombia.
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To its credit, Chiquita has worked hard to be a better environmental steward. The Rainforest Alliance's Better Banana Project now certifies all of its farms in Guatemala, Honduras, Costa Rica and Panama. The program protects workers, local communities, the environment and wildlife. More than 15 per cent of all internationally traded bananas now bear the little frog sticker. The group also certifies pineapples, mangoes, avocadoes, guavas and citrus fruits. However, in Costa Rica, for example, the label does not guarantee the freedom to join a labour union.
Banana perfection
There are other programs, such as fair trade, that also protect workers. Already popular in European markets since 1996, fair trade bananas hit the North American market in the spring of 2004. As with coffee, tea and chocolate, fair trade bananas are certified through members of the Fairtrade Labelling Organizations International (FLO). The stickers guarantee that the deal has been made directly with the farmer (usually a cooperative), cutting out the middleman and ensuring that the farmer gets a higher price for the fruit, and also that the working conditions are healthy and safe, and that child labour laws are obeyed. The community benefits too: increased revenue helps the co-op set up schools, health clinics and improve housing in the community. Shoppers pay a higher price for the peace of mind this kind of social accountability brings. A fair trade banana is not necessarily organic, although sustainable farming practices are encouraged. Organic fruit will carry another label if certified.
Chiquita played a pivotal role in the history of the banana. And not just for its memorable jingle and Carmen Miranda-esque branding. They were responsible for setting the quality standards for bananas. Their trademark blue sticker announced: "This seal outside means the best inside."
To be label-worthy, a Chiquita banana had to be eight inches long and have a fullness to it (remember PR man, Bernays, was Freud's nephew). The bunch had to be symmetrical. The fruit had to be free of defects, meaning no blemishes on the peels. The ripening must be uniform. The company was concerned with the visual effects, not nutrition or flavor. And so the perfect fruit was born.
I remember Dr. Vandana Shiva talked about bananas at the lecture I attended at the University of B.C.
"Smallness is dangerous," she said facetiously. "Standardization is the norm for safety. In India, we have hundreds of varieties of bananas. But if we bring small bananas in from Kerala, they will kill you. We must have the big Del Monte rocks you call bananas." We all laughed of course, but us banana eaters knew she spoke the truth.
Chiquita's new quality standards and increased market demand led to the heavy use of pesticides and fertilizers on the crop in the 1960s. That demand for perfection has crossed all fruit and vegetable boundaries now and is part of the reason why consumers find it hard to accept more imperfect looking organic produce.
Trade war
It is also why many developing countries can't compete on world markets. When I was in Belize on a kayaking trip, I asked one of our guides, a marine biologist, about the rough, unrefined sugar we were using. He said they get all the inferior products there because all the good stuff is exported. The fruits in Belize generally go straight to juicing plants for domestic fruit juice. Belize is also at the center of a banana battle between the U.S. and the European Union (E.U.). The trade war over a fruit that neither of them grows began in the 1990s and is still not resolved. While Chiquita has started to clean up its act, it is not above political shenanigans. They have been in the thick of the trade war.
Here's what's been happening. The E.U. has tariffs on Latin American bananas because it has a special deal with its former Caribbean colonies, countries such as Belize, Grenada, Saint Lucia, Dominica and other Windward Islands nations whose economies depend on banana exports. Only seven per cent of the E.U.'s imports were from these countries. These bananas are smaller, sweeter, more delicious and healthier because they use fewer chemicals; the poor farmers can't afford them. Also the black leaf-spot disease has not been present until now.
The E.U. thinks of the trade arrangement as a kind of aid to these small poor countries. Bananas are pretty well all they can grow on the volcanic soil, and the E.U. says without this income, growers would probably grow pot or other narcotics. The Central American plantations can grow other crops however, and they grow bananas so cheaply that without the tariffs they would easily wipe out the Caribbean market.
But even seven per cent was too much for the big U.S. banana companies. The U.S. threatened to slap massive tariffs on European goods like Scottish cashmere sweaters, French wines and Italian cheeses, German coffee grinders and French handbags, unless the E.U. dropped its tariffs on Central American bananas. The World Trade Organization (WTO) tried to mediate, but the U.S. would have none of it. They continued to cry foul on free trade (free for who exactly?), and the WTO ruled in 1998 that it was, well, against their law to favor former colonies. So it was now illegal to help the poor.
After the ruling, many Caribbean farmers were ruined or forced by poverty to migrate to the U.K., Canada or the U.S. When small countries lose their market, it's not like they can just switch to another product over night. They don't have the population base, and so there are efficiency problems. And it is the most efficient (meaning giant, usually from the west) who rule at the expense of the small and the poor. These private companies have bigger annual budgets than many of these small countries. The argument is that big monopolies can give us cheap food and so corporate greed outweighs public good.
This story plays out over and over again in the developing world. Countries like Belize and Guatemala have been battered by this new world trading order, unable to compete with their homegrown products. Belize already lost ground on the citrus market because Mexico (a good friend of the U.S.) was given favoured status under the North American Free Trade Alliance (NAFTA). Apparently, it's okay to favour when it favours the U.S. Just one more example of how unfair and political free trade really is. To mention renegotiation of any of these sacred trade agreements (as Barack Obama did during his first presidential campaign) is blasphemy.
Reign of the 'big banana boys'
But the war didn't end there. The E.U. appealed the WTO banana ruling and the battle continued. A 1999 Guardian Weekly newspaper article gives some background on the dispute. It was reported that U.S. diplomats said privately that they were ready to negotiate a joint aid-and-trade agreement with the E.U. to help the Caribbean Islands. Their main concern, they claimed, was to protect the "principles of free trade." But bananas are just the tip of the iceberg between these two trading partners: there is also the little matter of the Europeans not wanting hormones in the meat coming in from the U.S., and the matter of all matters, the E.U. is dead set against genetically modified crops. The U.S. is in the opposite camp.
Of course, Chiquita wasn't the only banana company throwing its weight around. In fact, it may be the tamest. Bandegua, a subsidiary of Del Monte, has its headquarters in Bananeras, a well-manicured and secure compound complete with company store and one-hole golf course. Crop dusters regularly take off from the company airfield to douse the vast banana plantations that surround the town with a variety of toxic sprays.
Del Monte managed to stay out of trouble for many years, exporting around two billion bananas a year. But then in 1999, they fired 900 employees, blaming a worldwide slump in banana prices and a drop in productivity following Hurricane Mitch. The unions rose up and organized strikes and roadblocks. Vigilante groups struck back with violent force, and families fled in terror. Following suspicious resignations of the union leaders, there was an international outcry. The UN, the president of Guatemala and the US ambassador finally came to an agreement and all workers were reinstated by the following year. The vigilantes did receive light prison sentences, but the union leaders were forced into exile, fearing retaliation. The conflict, complete with firings and protests, continued into the late 2000s.
Heightened competition was the cause of much of the turmoil. In the late 1990s the market was flooded with bananas, in part because of new countries entering the market. That caused prices and stock to plummet and forced the big bananas to search for new ways to slice costs in order to compete. Cutting jobs, lowering wages, and closing plantations were the order of the day. They needed to keep the stockholders happy and keep cheap food in stock.
One country in particular became the banana companies' saviour: Ecuador. The country currently provides 30 per cent of the world's bananas; 25 per cent of North American bananas come from Ecuador. Five companies dominate the Latin American banana industry: Noboa (an Ecuadorian company, sold as Bonita brand in the US); Fyffes (the European giant); Dole; Del Monte; and Chiquita. The big banana boys loved the country because of their low-wage, non-union workforce and their lax rules around workers' rights, the environment and child labor. In 2002, Human Rights Watch found children as young as 10 working 12 hour days and handling dangerous fungicides. Ecuador is dependent on banana revenue; its exports are second only to oil, and the industry employs nearly 400,000 Ecuadoreans. Dole currently gets 31 per cent of its bananas from Ecuador, Del Monte, 13 per cent and Chiquita seven per cent.
Instead of owning their own plantations, more and more of the big boys are contracting out and simply purchasing fruit from a nationally owned producer company. Often the companies, the multinationals and their suppliers, hire temporary labor through sub-contractors. Because these temporary workers are not officially recorded as employees, the companies can sidestep any health or pension benefits or safe workplace conditions. This subcontracting system is similar to the one used in the garment industry (a.k.a. sweatshops), and human rights activists call it a race to the bottom.
More rotten apples
The banana industry cannot lay claim to all the rotten apples. There is plenty of politics in the rest of the fruit world. In pineapple regions like the Philippines and Costa Rica, more and more land is being taken up to grow pineapples. Workers and the environment suffer from the chemical exposure. With less land to grow other crops, the communities have to buy expensive imported food. Labour abuses are common, too. Dole, one of the world's largest exporters of fresh and processed pineapple, has used intimidation to weaken unions. From the 1990s, the company replaced over two-thirds of its workforce in Costa Rica with contract labour to evade any responsibilities for basic employee benefits. In recent months Dole has finally agreed to stop its union-busting.
While banana workers are still some of the most exploited in the world, unions have made a difference in their lives. There are more than 40,000 unionized banana workers in Latin America alone (2002). Chiquita is the most unionized of the banana transnationals in Latin America. They signed a groundbreaking deal in 2001 with their unions and the International Union of Foodworkers. Union benefits include eight-hour workdays with decent wages, around $11 a day or more, on-the-job health and safety measures, adequate housing, healthcare and schooling for their children. By contrast, in Ecuador workers get lower wages and attempts at unionizing have often been met with intimidation, firings and even armed force.
While Chiquita has set new standards in the banana world, they say they can't compete with the lower wages in Ecuador and play that card in contract negotiations with banana unions. But they don't play as dirty as others. When Del Monte threatened to leave Guatemala in October 2001, workers agreed to a 30 per cent wage cut, plus 70 per cent of their health benefits and two-thirds of the school funding.
I corresponded with Alistair Smith, International Coordinator at Banana Link, a Britain-based non-profit dedicated to creating a fair and sustainable banana and pineapple trade. He sent me some very good news on the banana front: a peace agreement on E.U. import tariffs was finally reached and signed in Geneva in December 2009. That same month at the headquarters of the FAO, the World Banana Forum was launched. All the banana majors -- global retailers, growers, trade unions, plantation workers and groups along the supply chain -- will now be working together to ensure a sustainable banana industry.
Sustainable purchasing policies adopted by local governments, hospitals and academic institutions are also helping to address workers rights, social equity, community and environmental stewardship. The City of Sacramento has adopted an environmental purchasing policy. The City of Vancouver has an ethical purchasing policy that complies with codes of conduct set out by the International Labor Organization. The City of Seattle has a sustainable purchasing policy that informs its purchases of goods, materials, services and even capital improvements. In partnership with Local Food Plus, the University of Toronto became the first university in North America to formally commit to purchasing local sustainable food for its cafeterias and residences.
Naufus is not convinced that the banana world can be sustainable. "There is no way bananas can be grown without someone getting exploited," he said when I told him the news from Banana Link. "Bananas are as delicate as orchids. They need a lot of land to grow on. That land is taken away from people. And it takes a lot of labour. Then they have to be refrigerated and sent through a network of exporting. The real cost of a banana is very expensive. It is a luxury that is sold very cheap. They should be thirty dollars a bunch!" His advice, "Stop eating bananas here."
Bananas of our subconscious
I tell Naufus about a line I came across in my research: "A cluster of bananas is called a hand and consists of ten to twenty bananas, which are known as fingers." It seems an ironic but apt image for the banana multinationals. "Inspiration for a new piece?" I suggest. It also reminds me of my little statue, still lying broken on my dining room table. That night I dream about Carmen Miranda dancing in a banana grove.
Carmen Miranda is an enduring icon of camp. The lady in the tutti-frutti hat was the inspiration for Chiquita Brands logo and for countless drag queen revues. But behind the outrageous costumes and cartoonish sensuality was a real woman battling her own inner demons and trying to live up to the expectations of her new country and her home country of Brazil.
She was a huge recording and film star back home before coming to America. She came from a middle class Portuguese family, but her music had its roots in the black slum samba sounds of Bahia, a northeastern state. Her costume was also inspired by the clothing worn by the poor black women fruit sellers. From the 16th to the 18th centuries, Bahia was a center of sugar cultivation. A vast number of African slaves were imported to work the cane fields; more than 37 per cent of all slaves from Africa were sent to Brazil. Bahia is now the main producer and exporter of cacao in Brazil.
Once in the U.S, the Brazilian Bombshell starred in a bunch of goofy south-of-the-border musicals. The Latin stereotype was born with her: flamboyant, gaudy, fast-talking, with amusing contortions of the English language. And the role paid off for Miranda; in 1945 she was the highest-paid woman in America. Her home country was not amused, accusing her of ridiculing them for the pleasure of entertaining Americans and branding her a sell out. Her participation in Roosevelt's Good Neighbor Program, an effort to improve relations with Latin America, didn't help her image at home. All that stress took its toll on her. She had drug problems, an abusive marriage and was clinically depressed. Like Marilyn Monroe, another tragic icon, Miranda buckled under the pressures of Hollywood. The funny, vivacious woman died of a heart attack at the age of forty-six while performing live on the Jimmy Durante Show. Struck down by powerful outside forces, just like my unsuspecting little statue.
I wondered if the women from these banana-producing countries were really just passive bystanders though. I came across a movement that tells me they are not. For the last 20 years, women banana workers, las mujeres bananeras, or simply bananeras have been organizing, and are gaining a foothold for gender equity issues in unions, workplaces and their communities. Dana Frank tells their story in her book, Bananeras, Women Transforming the Banana Unions of Latin America (South End Press, 2005). The symbol on the front of the book is a redesigned Chiquita label picturing a strong, smiling woman with one arm raised up as a sign of power and solidarity.
"Bananas have been part of Guatemala for so long now, more than a century, so they are now a part of our subconscious," said Naufus. "They come up in our dreams. They are part of our fantasy world. They are no longer just something objective. They are so embedded in the culture now. It is no longer about being communist or capitalist... They are so rooted in that place, that if the industry went away, there would be a wound, even if it would be better economically for the country."
Bananera. I hear the echoes of meaning. From company towns to powerful symbol. I attempt to glue my statue back together and in the process, snap her arm off. I decide to re-attach it pointing upwards and transform her into a bananera.

Thursday, December 29, 2011


Glen Ysaguirre, Central Bank Governor in Belize.

Courtesy of the Reporter newspaper.

Wednesday, 28.12.2011, 01:04pm (GMT-6)

Central Bank's Governer, Glenford Ysaguirre, says surplus cash will bring down interests rates
by Dyon A. Elliott
Commercial banks may very well be impelled to further reduce their lending and deposit rates, as the banks’ cash reserves, which are held at the Central Bank, are well above the prescribed limit, Central Bank Governor, Glenford Ysaguirre, told the Reporter on Tuesday, December 20.
Ysaguirre explained that the Central Bank of Belize (CBB) mandates that the commercial banks keep 8.5% of their average deposit liabilities at the Central Bank as cash reserves. However, current figures show that the banks have an excess liquidity of $108.9 million.
“The amount that they are holding at the bank right now is $283.5 million, under the regulations they are supposed to hold $174.6 million,” CBB’s Deputy Governor, Mrs. Christine Vellos, explained.
Looking at it from a merchant’s perspective, the situation does create difficulties for banks because this means there is less demand for their “product”—loans; while there has been a simultaneous increase in their “inventories”—increased deposits.
But, like any prudent business owner, the price of their “product” (interest rates) is expected to come down, as they hope to attract more borrowers.
“High levels of excess liquidity are an indication that savings levels within the system are high. This is good to the extent that it will put pressure on lending rates...Some advertised lending rates are already in single digits which was previously unheard of in Belize,” Ysaguirre noted.
As they apply to loans to the business sector, the rates have also started to come down, although not as fast as some in the private sector would like.
Ysaguirre said the measured reduction is largely due to the high levels of non-performing loans, which is due to poor decisions made by some banks in past years and complicated by global economic pressures. The banks are now left to carry these high levels of defaulted loans, so there is a resistance to lowering the price of their goods, because they are trying to recover some of their losses.
However, while any reduction may be good news to the borrower, it does mean the banks would be “buying” less from their “suppliers”—the depositors, and they would be inclined to lower the interest rates offered, because they are already “overstocked”.
“Given the current international situation, it is not unusual, in the U.S. for example, for deposit interest rates to approximate 0% or even become negative, [that is to say] banks charge depositors a fee for safe keeping of deposits since they already have more than sufficient funds to meet their lending needs,” Ysaguirre explained.
He pointed out that the surplus is different for each domestic bank, because the liquidity isn’t evenly distributed. This means that the interest rates for deposits, or the conditions under which they are accepted, may vary. Even so, Ysaguirre says, there has been a marked decrease in deposit rates, especially as it pertains to large time deposits.
“Some banks may not accept large time deposits, but as far as we know no restrictions are being placed on savings deposits,” he said.
The CBB has gradually reduced the flooring on savings deposits from 4.5% in 2010 to 2.5% in 2011, in order to give the commercial banks more incentives to lower their lending rates, although such a reduction doesn’t automatically result in huge decreases.
“It is necessary to bear in mind that there are other factors that influence the lending rates such as the level of non-performing loans... [And] the domestic demand for loans is also influenced by the level of economic activity in countries that are our major trading partners,” Ysaguirre said.
He reiterated that, in the end, the matter is ultimately determined by the individual bank’s operating costs; and the economic realities across the region and in the United States, where he says, “excess liquidity is so high, interest rates on regular deposits are well below 0.5%.”
But, as it pertains to the overall health of the economy, Ysaguirre pointed out that Belize has recorded a 2.7% growth up to September, which exceeds the 1.8% increase of the same period last year.
He explained that the excess liquidity in the system can in no way be the sole indicator of the economy’s health. There are several other factors to consider such as GDP growth, the level of inflation and growth in the country’s foreign reserves, he said.



(It´s the economy stupid!)

The Belize economy was average. The government was still a problem with red tape. Government political corruption is still a problem. Not as bad as under the previous PUP, but still there, with the current UDP. Inefficiency of the government service sector is still a BIG problem. No changes there. THE FOCUS FOR GOVERNMENT has to be on GROWTH through new entrepreneurial business startups.

If I´m remembering right, our International Bonds are at 8.5% and we are not paying anything down on PRINCIPAL, nor according to the government are we allowed to. Just paying interest on the Bonds which is 25% of the revenues of the country. Debt to GDP ratio is 85% and continuing to grow.

Since 2012 is THE ELECTION YEAR, we can expect more Borrowing by the UDP and a worsening of our Debt to GDP ratio, as the fight for control of the treasury tax revenues goes to the competing political ambitions. The UDP is forecasted to sweep elections, as the PUP are still considered controlled by the criminality of the OLD GUARD members. That leaves the United Alliance Party, but they in turn only are fielding 6 elected representatives out of the 31 needed nationwide. So the judgement is the UDP will get it, for a second term. With UDP political spending of your and my tax money on projects to also influence the vote, we can expect next 2013 after the General Election, will find the country in worse financial shape, unless the oil company down south actually hit oil, rather than selling stock abroad. EXTERNAL GRANT FUNDING is the only way the government can meet even a little bit, of the infra-structure requirements during 2012.

For comparison to the EU. The big THREE, Germany, France and Italy in that order. Italy is in trouble. Unable to sell ten year bonds, Italy cancelled the XMAS sale. The Italian Debt to GDP ratio is 120% to GDP. Italy threatens the continuance of the EU as a viable entity. Offers on Bonds are running around 7.89% Italy has the 3rd largest economy in the EU. France is number 2 and Germany is number 1. The U.K. has opted out of the financial EU arrangements. To protect the U.K. Financial Services industry domination over the EU comnpetition.

From: Charlie Trew
To: Belize Culture
Sent: Thursday, December 29, 2011 5:54 PM
Subject: Bz-Culture: Belize City Retailers Comment On Christmas Sales

They say that Christmas, like death, brings its own money - and - as hard as folks say things are - this year, we also saw them shopping hard in the days leading up to Christmas.
Now, looks can be deceiving. Maybe they were just window shopping, so today, I went to downtown Belize City and major business houses to ask a few businesses how sales were.

Here's what they said:

Jim McFadzean Reporting
The bad news came from the majority of retail outlets in the Indian community who say, and most would only talk off camera, that sales were significantly down over last year. One merchant went in so far as to say that this has been the worst year since he opened business in 1982.
But not so at the San Cas Group of stores; it's Chief Executive Officer, Santino Castillo was boasting that sales were up by 8.5 percent this year.

Santino Castillo - Chief Executive Officer, San Cas Group of Companies Limited
"We were up this year from last year. We're up exactly 8 and a half percent, and I did the figures before you came over, and as you know, we're in food. So I believe that this was one of the reasons that accounted for it. People did not hesitate to buy food to put on the table."
But while the San Cas Group enjoyed a prosperous 2011, over at Hofius Hardware Limited, downtown Belize city, sales remained sluggish for much of the year.

Jackie Crump - Managing Director, Hofius Hardware Limited
"They year was sluggish, and it was sluggish all the way up to early December. And then, the momentum started, the christmas shopping took over. It had its energy and it's own momentum. And it certainly didn't disappoint us, but it took a little bit longer to get going. It was much of the last three weeks before Christmas, as opposed to years before when we saw that the momentum started earlier."

Jim McFadzean
"Was your Christmas sales better this year than last year?"

Jackie Crump
"No, I wouldn't say that they were better. Like I said, December was strong, but when we look at the months before December, the overall figures didn't over-exceed last year."

Jim McFadzean
"So were you slightly up, or slightly down in sales, overall?"

Jackie Crump
"For the year, it was more sluggish than last year, slightly."
Crump says the Belizean shopper has become much more savvy in the way they shop. And It's that change in behavior that was most noticeable this year, not necessarily any change in their disposable income.

Jim McFadzean
"Did you do anything different this year in terms of generating sales?"

Jackie Crump
"Absolutely, I think that the Belizean consumer has changed. I think that the Belizean consumer is looking for more of a discount market. They are now used to seeing discounts, and they wait for the discounts. That is something that has only really started happening in the last 2 or 3 years. So yes, we did discount days, customer appreciation days."
That new marketing strategy appears to have taken on wings of its own among many merchants, including the owners of Mirage, a popular clothing outlet on Albert Street.

Milan Hotchandani - Manager, Mirage
"Basically, we had all our customers coming out last year and shopping, so we did well. In the last day we did really good, but we had to offer them some sales, because, I guess, no parking in downtown, so we have to give them an incentive, and I think that help. So we had customers coming out and shopping last minute."

Jim McFadzean
"So you're saying that Christmas sales this year was better than last year? Or are you just speaking specifically of that last day just before Christmas where it had picked up to really make a difference?"

Milan Hotchandani
"It picked up just day. I think the last few days after the 20th, we saw people coming out, but they were actually buying on the 23rd and 24th. So we saw a lot of people buying their gifts on the 23rd and the 24th."
The main downtown shopping thoroughfares were indeed flooded with thousands of shoppers the last several days leading up to Christmas, creating plenty of traffic snarls in the old capital, causing many to wonder where was that last minute infusion of cash coming from?
One possibility is the usual cash flow coming from Uncle Sam.
Silvano Guerrero, Manager of Zitro International told Seven News, his Western Union business has seen an increase in activity over last year. At the San Cas Group, much of that cash was being spent on a whole lot of food and liquor.

Santino Castillo
"I personally believe -it's my belief that the economy is a little better than last year. We've been noticing that trend throughout, and maybe they're just prioritizing differently, and maybe not spending in areas that they don't need to spend. But I do know that on food, they've been spending. So for us, we're glad for the food, and liquor business has been good as well."

Jackie Crump
"We saw more shoppers out in the evening and at night time this year, compared to last year. Last year, people weren't out at night. That changes; there is more confidence on the streets, and more excitement on the streets after hours."

At Wellworth Store on Regent Street, its Manager, Dinesh Bhojwani, told us sales for his store were down by as much as 10 to 15 percent.
A majority of the predominantly Indian owned retail outlets we spoke to, attributed poor sales to increasing cross-border shopping in Chetumal and Melchor.

Ranchito family forms MARIACHI music combo.

Ranchito family, forms MARIACHI music group.

Ranchito Family Forms Their Own Mariachi Group

Written by CTV3 Publisher Thursday, 29 December 2011 04:46 ( compliments of CTV3 )


Although the origins of Mariachi music go back hundreds of years, in the form we know it today; Mariachi began in the nineteenth century in the Mexican state of Jalisco. Until the 1930's Mariachi groups were local and semi-professional. They were almost entirely unknown outside their own region. But over time, the music has spread across the globe and Belize is no exception. But listening to the music is one thing and when you talk about playing it, well that's another story. Here at CTV3 News we had to the opportunity of meeting a Mariachi group that originated right in our own back yard. And from what we found out, for this particular group, Mariachi music has become a family tradition and a form of making money.

Grupo Mariachi Galaxia o Garibaldi

“Camilo Pop el gerente del Grupo Mariachi están mis hijos que son guitarristas y el segundo tengo a Morelia Pop que es bajista y a Wendly Pop que es secretaria y también trompetista, nosotros somos grupo Grupo Mariachi Galaxia o Garibaldi cantamos norteños como canciones de los tigres del norte y bastantes canciones famosos.”

Grupo Mariachi Galaxia or Garibaldi was formed 6 years ago in the village of Ranchito in the Corozal District. According to its founder Camilo Pop what started as a hobby turned into a family business.

Grupo Mirachi Galaxia o Garibaldi

“La música me ha gustado me ha gustado desde muy pequeño por ese estos niños que son mi familia los entrene y también a ellos les gusta cantar y hoy no cantaron porque no hay tiempo pero la próxima si y eso es el deseo de continuar adelante para servir a la comunidad.”

McBride Pop, Lead Guitarist

“A mí me gusta tocar los términos después cantar con mi guitara. Jefe de jefe también hay de Pedrito y el niño triste.”

For the Pop family unity is very important, but apart from that, Camilo Pop says he has found a way to keep his children out of harm’s way at the same time safeguard their future.

Camilo Pop, Father

“La forma de que estos niños estoy organizando en apoyándolos para que sean buen futuro para Belice y para la gente de la sociedad que hagan cosas buenas y que no se vallan a la perdición y es muy importante porque el día de mañana serán el futuro y están progresando bastante.”

The group is one of the first in Belize and is presently working on a number of original songs.


Flood of rosewood exports drives rare exotic tree into extinction in Belize.
Wil Mahier reports of effected Toledo District, suffering from rape of ROSEWOOD rare patrimony, by UDP greed.


Dec 28, 2011
Young rosewood trees harvested

The Christmas weekend was busy not only for highway robbers but also those who prey on precious natural resources in protected areas as well as on crown land. The extraction of Rosewood continues unabated and despite numerous objections held by groups such as SATIIM and the Maya Leaders Alliance, poor villagers continue to cut down the much sought after tree. The Forest Department had indicated its interest in seeing the trade slow down, but nothing has changed. Peoples National Party’s Toledo East Representative Wil Maheia says not only does the trade continues; young trees are now being targeted.

Wil Maheia, Toledo East, People’s National Party

Wil Maheia

“There is a sign on the Forestry door that says no more commercial logging should take place during this time; this is the rainy season, yet if you go down there right now, there are not only tractor loads, but semi-trailer loads coming out of the villages. And what is happening right now is that it is causing a lot of confusion among the villagers because some villagers are moving into other villages and cutting rosewood. In the case of San Felipe and Jacinto, there are two villages that are close to each other. Jacinto saw that a lot of people from San Felipe was going into their community to cut rosewood. So the village council from Jacinto decided well we will give our own people permission to cut rosewood within the village limits because if we don’t give them somebody else will come and take it. That’s how out of control it is where villagers are taking it into their own hands. You have people who are cutting their trees because they don’t want it stolen. It’s gone haywire down there; there’s no control over rosewood at this time.”

Jose Sanchez

“Let me ask. In terms of the prices that the villagers are getting for cutting rosewood and the price on the international market, what kinda figures are we looking at?”

Wil Maheia

“Well it is a pittance. The prices villagers are getting three-seventy-five to four dollars a board foot for rosewood when it is being sold in the international market for as much as twenty-seven dollars U.S. per board foot. So the people who are actually on the ground and doing the hard work; sure it’s a little money for them, but if we take this rosewood and instead of shipping out raw material, [but] manufacture it, we could be creating much more jobs in Toledo district or Belize on a whole and also bringing in more money into the communities. So really they are just raping the resources down in the south.”

Jose Sanchez

“And while this rape is happening, is anybody actually planting new trees?”

Wil Maheia

“Absolutely not. Like I said, it’s like a free for all. People are going in there and they are just raping as much as they can rape. They are extracting as much trees. Right now the trees are coming out really smaller than they were six or eight months ago because all the big trees are gone. So now they are taking even the small trees.”


Wednesday, December 28, 2011



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Belize, - to form an NGO based on GRANTS to fund growing corals and replanting on dead reefs in Belize


---------- Forwarded message ----------
From: Coral Restoration Foundation
Date: Wed, Dec 28, 2011 at 8:36 AM
Subject: Help CRF continue to restore our reefs!

CRF had another great year in the nursery and on the reef!
Support []
like yours makes it all possible.

Looking back on 2011...

2011 was an incredibly successful year for CRF. With help from donations like yours
and grants, CRF was able to more than triple the number of coral in the Tavernier
Nursery! Here are a few of the other major accomplishments of the year:

* Planted 1,200 new staghorn coral on Molasses Reef, and replanted an additional
700 broken fragments on the Wellwood site on Molasses.
* Reached an inventory of over 20,000 Upper Keys staghorn coral, 500 elkhorn coral,
and 250 Lower Keys staghorn coral.

* Developed the Coral Tree Nursery, and published a paper explaining the new coral
growing technique. Over 160 trees are now in the Tavernier Staghorn Nursery!

* Worked with 24 school groups, dive clubs, volunteer groups, aquarium staff, and
scientists during nursery and restoration dives.

* Hosted a successful "Upper Keys Restoration Kick Off" event sponsored by National
Geographic Education outlining the need and place for community involvement.

* Featured on Jeff Corwin's "Ocean Mysteries" series.

Looking ahead to 2012...

CRF is planning to have an even more successful 2012! With help from donations like
yours, we'll be able to work toward achieving the following goals:

* Plant over 8,000 staghorn and elkhorn coral to Upper Keys Reefs.

* Develop a new North Key Largo coral nursery.

* Open a Visitor and Educational Center in the Pilot House Marina/Lake Largo area.

* Complete the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act grant in June.

* Continue and expand International developments throughout the Caribbean.
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I got it from my belizeculture listserve, posted as an email

From San Pedro Daily:

All the time we see them come
Some are smart, some are dumb
Some are black, some are white
Chinese, Indian, Israelite
Canadians, South Africans, often Brits
Belize is great, home’s the pits
We tell them come and stay awhile,
Rent a house, Belizean style

Never rush, never jump,
Or you could buy a rubbish dump
“Oh no! Not me” they often cry
“I’ve been around, let them try
I am too clever, worldly-wise
To buy a swamp or collapsed high rise
I know the law, bring them on”
How often do we hear this song?

“I got money, want to spend
Cash to burn, cash to lend”
“Slow down SLOW DOWN we tell them all”
But rarely do they heed our call
To hide your money, don’t be flash
Don’t let them see your petty cash
Take it easy, make no strife
Come and try the easy life

“I know, I know! I have a brain!
Advice you give is all in vain
I’m not stupid, been around,
I’ve seen it all, there’s no new ground
Was in Belize, stayed three days,
Here’s my plans, be amazed
Bought some land, has a creek
Gone home to sell, be back next week”

“Going to build, got so much space
Belize will have to change its pace
I’m getting old, don’t have time
My place will be a real gold mine
I’ll make a fortune wait and see
My plans will work out faultlessly
I’ll start a business make some money
A king in the land of milk and honey”

And so they come despite the warning
Truck piled high and spend all morning
At the border checkpoint getting mad
Thinking that they’re being had
“How can they charge? This stuff’s not new!”
As they watch the customs turn the screw
“My truck is dirty used and old

Credit card reaches max
On environment and sales tax
And their pockets full of hard earned booty
Have emptied fast on import duty
So to the ATM they have to dash
When the Customs guy wipes out their cash
It’s just a setback, not too bad
They’re in Belize so just be glad

So jubilant they wend their way
To the jungle deep where big cats play
Where mozzies bite and scorpions sting
And the bush’s thorns large scratches bring
To the forest damp where mildew grows
To rot your ‘lectrics, shoes and clothes
But they’re not daunted, they are strong
How often have we heard this song?

And oh! What Joy! They find their neighbour
Can build their house, and do hard labour
Can chop their bush, can plant their trees
The smartest man in all Belize
There is nothing that he can’t do
Given cash and tools and wood and glue
A house by Christmas, won’t take long
How often have we heard this song?

But cash aplenty are his needs
To start construction, plant your seeds
A new machete to chop your grass
To build a road so you may pass
He needs material, steel, and screws
Cement and block, no time to lose
Gimme dollah gimme quick
Buy me hammer, saw and brick

He has a cousin, wife and brother’s son
His auntie’s uncle’s sister’s one
His whole family will lend a hand
To build your house and till your land
To cook your meals and wash your clothes
To guard your house whilst you doze
It just takes money, little bit
On little bit and bit and bit

But soon those bills are getting large
The money pit’s not free of charge
The credit card is getting worn
Our new arrivals look forlorn
All the while demands for cash
Are diminishing the money stash
The materials that came were wrong
The nails too short, the steel too long
And wondrous neighbour soon forgot
He told you he could do the lot

Excuses and evasions come
The started work was never done
Sun too hot, it rain too hard
Me granny dead, they burn ma yard
Foot painin me, Ma house collapse
Car done bruk, Licence lapse,
Pickni sick, he very ill
Gimme money to buy a pill
Police ketch me, I done no wrong
How often do we hear this song?

And soon they meet officialdom
To Belmopan they must come
To show their passport, licence, form
To stay in a land of sun and warm
You residency they want to thwart
Your retirement plans may come to naught
Immigration take too long
They’ve lost your file, your paper’s gone
Pay more cash to extend your stay
Wait one month or two they say

The mall’s not built, the shops are bare
Of modern goods ‘cept Chinese fare
No bowling alley, cinema
Was it wise to come this far?
The roads are bumpy have big holes
My pickup truck is looking old
There’s no Big Macs or KFC
Italian restaurant ceased to be
The power’s hardly ever on
How often have we heard this song?

The rains did come, the land did flood
The building site has turned to mud
The lush mangrove that I cut down
Has caused my coconuts to drown
And even though I had a plan
My huge Condo they want to ban
It’s not my fault, Third World you see
I am foreign, they pick on me

My neighbour’s gone, my cash he took
His auntie’s wife could never cook
My tools, my blocks, my roofing tin
Have vanished into air so thin
Cement got wet, the sand was dirt
My funds are gone I lost my shirt
The gas was bad my truck has seized
I won’t accept I’ve been Belized
My health has failed not feeling well
My worldly goods I have to sell
Going back home, where things are normal
Where rules are rules and life is formal

And all because he didn’t listen
To those well versed in his position
He burned his bridges, came too fast
And we all knew he’d never last
We told him loud we told him blunt
NEVER pay your cash up front
NEVER think you know it all
NEVER think our tale’s too tall
And all advice that he forsook
To never jump before you look
Has sent him packing, pockets empty
Back again to lands of plenty

Be even though we are so smug
We know Belize is like a drug
That if you come and stay awhile
You’ll be swept in Belizean style
A pirate’s land, with pirate’s luck
We need their cash, their loot, their buck
Where many fail, just some succeed
To fill that urge, that inner need
To live a life, exotic, free
Of jungle trail and sun and sea

So who can blame them, those who come
To try their luck with what we’ve done
But sure as dawn on misty mornings
The ones that fail, ignored the warnings
That things are done here differently
To the things back home you wish to flee
So bide your time, be at ease
Time means little in Belize
Its not that we don’t know its wrong
But we do get tired of this old song. by Rigrat

Tuesday, December 27, 2011



Education ! What in Belize can be considered a good education today?

Well if you study the small country of Belize, you will find that standard education copied from the Europeans and USA systems; that the European systems are pretty much worthless in BELIZE for demonstrated in the real world practical reasons. We lack the population and size to go industrial in the big scale sense. Educational specializing, seems useless, we are not big enough, and a general smattering of broad education exposure, in special subjects more compatible with our immediate future decades of growth. Our higher educational institutions outside of the successful ITVET fledgling "PAY AS YOU GO", demand College Education system, produce the academics needed for our bureaucracy, but in the private sector they have proved inadequate, if not worthless for the development pioneering expanding needs of the small Belize economy. The future for GROWTH in Belize is small scale light manufacturing and exporting for niche markets. These things we can teach ourselves given access to the internet at home.

The 60,000 or so Mennonite populated communities found in the boonies of Belize, have shown that a GOOD PRIMARY SCHOOL EDUCATION, done with HIGH teacher, to student ratios. About ONE TEACHER to five or six students in most MENNONITE privately funded schools, is the best way to go. The basics are the three R´s. Reading, Riting and Rithmetic. Nowadays you can include for Standard 5 and 6, a typing class for keyboard typing, plus computer familiarity. The internet has replaced HIGH SCHOOL AND UNIVERSITY EDUCATION. You can teach yourself almost anything, and certainly anything productive that small Belize will fabricate and export to the outside world. Why knock demonstrated Belizean success? European education is worthless here in our development conditions.

Now you cannot fault the Mennonite education system, because in the conditions of the REAL WORLD and our place as a nation in that world, the Mennonite educational system works many times better and more productively than existing European educational system copies we have made to date. BELIZE IS PROOF OF THAT. It concentrates on a work ethic and Mennonite kids start working from 6 years old. It is not unusual to see a 10 year old kid, driving a huge combine machine, or a team of horses and wagon, or driving his own 4 wheeler, or dirt bike. The 12 year old girls are tending the cash register in local stores. So are the Chinese kids. It used to be that way in Colonial Belize. They learn by watching and nowadays they are learning lots of NEW THINGS, using the internet. Unfortunately, most of the other rural Belize has no internet and dubious electricity supply. THAT WE HAVE TO FIX.

Mennonites are rebuilding engines, reboring, grinding, repairing with machine shops and huge lathes. ( They are self taught. ) They are building ultra light airplanes and kids are learning to fly them, self taught with a bit of tutoring from someone who already knows how. Belizeans on the coast have a long tradition of ship building and this still is learned by mentoring, or self taught.

I think the point of EDUCATION IN BELIZE, now points to more money being put into PRIMARY SCHOOL QUALITY EDUCATION, like the Mennonites do, with low student to teacher ratios. Six to one preferably. A change in the labor laws where these laws conflict with the needs of a developing country. Less emphasis on tertiary education copying European style and more to do with ITVET, Community College type systems.
Most of all, the rural farms, villages and homes, NEED ELECTRICITY and INTERNET SERVICE, to raise the next generations by their own self education bootstraps, so to speak. We are not going to invent complicated industrial mass produced factories in Belize, but we can copy well, and we can import the materials to build OFF THE SHELF products, to assemble or rearrange for export. For this, a GOOD PRIMARY SCHOOL EDUCATION and access to the INTERNET, MILLIONS OF " HOW TO " websites can change Belize. BETTER THAN HIGH SCHOOLS AND UNIVERSITIES. The world of education has changed and outside of providing academic,degree papered salaried people for our government bureaucracy, there is little need to do other than the MENNONITES have proven in EDUCATION. THINK ABOUT IT?



While the European Union countries, at least a dozen of them are financially collapsing, because of the inability of past politicians, to control WELFARE SPENDING PROGRAMS. The cries from those economically endangered dozen EU countries and the cries for more social welfare spending, echo in the halls of our Belmopan bureaucracy and particularly among the poor population of the infamous crime capital of Belize, the port town of Belize City.

Can we Belizeans learn from the collapsing European Union?

The world is changing. Changing very fast. The DEVELOPED INDUSTRIAL COUNTRIES are declining in their export product empires, due mostly to overspending, and higher taxes to fuel the WELFARE good life. The third world EMERGING COUNTRIES are now taking over WORLD DOMINATION. The cycle of economics means that in the next 30 years, Europe will be done and second rate. Except for France and Germany they are already second rate. China, India, Russia, Brazil and Mexico are coming into the first tier level of economics and good living.

Where does Belize stand? We stand very well. It might be time, to consider having LOCATION TICKET programs for the Belize City port town poor? Belize is tropical, you can grow enough food in a good sized house lot, to feed your family the majority of food you need, on a year round basis. I know, we are consistantly giving away food to our neighbors, who do not grow their own food. We have too much, we cannot eat it as a family. The climate is great! Screened shelters from the rain, are all that is needed in housing and bug prevention. We need a program that moves the poor from the port town into the plentiful rural areas, where they can subsist in more comfort than they do in the port. What they don´t need and we cannot afford is European Union style welfare programs, that have got them in trouble over there across the pond.


Machaca Hill resort in the Northern winter.


Belize’s low-key tempo and stunning natural habitats
Belize’s low-key tempo and stunning natural habitats
Areal view on flight from Belize City to Punta Gorda / Photo by Andrew Princz,

By Andrew Princz | May 13, 2010

My first evening perched in a treetop resort in the jungles of Belize was rudely disturbed by a long, strange, and ear-splitting sound. While the unique architecture of my room included an airy veranda with a simple screen separating me from the rain-forest’s natural inhabitants was pleasing, at that moment I must admit that I longed for the classical wall structure. But nature won out that night as I fell asleep in the lush tropical setting despite the mysterious groans that continued to emanate from above.

Nature throws you a loop in Belize. That first evening was a sign. Coming here, be it hidden away in the secluded south or even on the quiet agricultural northern highways, as a traveler you are propelled far away from the cookie-cruncher tourism of vast resorts, grand pools, and flocks of weary travelers. In Belize, you are a guest among others at nature’s reality show.

What this small nation lacks in fine sandy beaches or grandiose developments, it is even more appealing for its verdant natural beauty, romantic secluded settings, spectacular aquatic life, and the unique cultural mix of people who call this land home.

An image that I came to Belize with was from “Three Kings of Belize,” a documentary of first-time Canadian filmmaker Katia Paradis. In her slow-moving portrait she tells the stories of three of the country’s notable musicians and their daily existential struggles. The mix of an aging Garifuna composer, an ethnic Mayan harp player, and a Creole accordionist and their simple lives in the jungles somehow prepared me for this world of unsung kings and quiet natural diversity.

The next day began with a patio breakfast overlooking the dense forest canapé at the Machaca Hill Rainforest Canopy Lodge. This sprawling resort occupied my first days in the southern corner of the country. At breakfast, staff pointed out a pack of howler monkeys roaming the treetops. These are the largest monkeys of the America’s, I was told. I was less surprised to hear that they are also the loudest. They venture in groups, and the howls of the night before were likely two male monkeys setting the territorial boundaries straight.

Located on top of Machaca Hill overlooking an expansive swath of protected rainforest of the Rio Grande River, the property spans an incredible 12,000 acres in a lush jungle setting. The resort includes twelve perched treetop cabanas, a newly-constructed Jubalani spa, a private gourmet restaurant, and a landscape with few boundaries, literally or physically. With a vast swath of pristine rainforest as far as the eye can see, Machaca Hill is lodged in an area of an abundance surrounding jungles, coral reefs, and untouched azure-blue waters.

A boat-ride towards the open ocean begins on the river's edge that is a short walk down the forested hill. Manatees occasionally bob up and down in the calm waters. They inhabit a winding waterway of mangroves and cays. Innumerable birds appear and floating lilies pervade this part of the Port Honduras Marine Reserve.

Machaca Hill works hand-in-hand with the Toledo Institute of Development and Environment, a conservation organization which works in the Maya Mountain Marine Corridor, a one million acre area that stretches from the Maya Mountains to the Belize Barrier Reef, an area that was described in 1842 by Charles Darwin as, “the most remarkable reef in the West Indies.”

The reef straddles the coast of Belize about 300 meters from the shore and is the second largest coral reef system in the world after the Great Barrier Reef in Australia.

As we reach our destination, I stop to take out my snorkeling gear and flop into the warm waters. Amazingly, swimming a few feet away from the reef is a sprawling view of large and small multicolored fish that swim around hardly taking note of your presence. So close was this stunning reality show that I searched for the schools of hundreds of fry being guarded over in this limitless natural aquarium.

The surrounding towns, villages, and even archeological sites of this southern Belize outpost range from the humdrum and the curious to the outright fascinating. The local town of Punta Gorda is nondescript. Found here are stall-like stores, a small local market, or an assortment of craftspeople selling their wares. There is even a mobile ice-cream stand that plays tunes like a true-to-life European music box.

While far from the significance in archeological terms of sites in neighboring Guatemala or the Yucatan in Mexico, the ancient Mayan settlements of Nim Li Punit or Lubaantun – which are 40 kilometers or 45 minutes from the resort, give you an idea of the stone craftsmanship of the ancient Maya. These sites were also part of the vast network of interconnected settlements of the Maya, peoples who flourished during the Classical period between 250 AD and 900 AD. These settlements and interconnected roadways ranked this civilization among the most densely populated and most structured in the world at the time.

A short distance away from here is the sleepy village of Barranco, where a lonely crowing of a rooster reverberates through the hamlet. This small village is host to a lesser-known but storied community of peoples who escaped slavery and settled on the coast of the Caribbean over three centuries ago.

It wasn’t the first time that I’d bumped into Garinagu (also referred to as Garifuna) settlements, whose history on the Atlantic coast dates back to the early 17th century when this West African peoples haphazardly escaped the fate of slavery as they landed on the Caribbean island of Saint Vincent. I had already ventured to the sleepy Garinagu village of Livingstone in nearby Guatemala and was tuned in to the good vibes and music that these people are largely known for.

Considering these Black Caribs enemies during a territorial war between the British and Spanish, the British deported the Gariguna to Roatan; a small infertile island, leading to the death of about half of the population. They were forced to flee.

“Many suffered and eventually left for Belize, which became a safe-haven after landing here in 1802,” Mr. Alvin Loredo, one of Barranco’s one hundred and thirty Garinagu inhabitants tells me as we walk through the village, “They originally came to Belize City where they were granted permission by the then governor of the country to settle in these lands.”

Mr. Loredo shows me around the village, its church and a tiny post office. There is even a dibujaba - a thatched-hut construction, which is a place of prayer and dance for families who gather to connect with their forbearers, an important preoccupation for the Gariguna.

In Belize, the Gariguna settled primarily in the coastal towns of Dangriga, Hopkins, Seine Bight, Georgetown, Punta Gorda, and Barranco. While the Gariguna population in Belize is said to be over thirteen thousand, pockets of the ethnic group are also found in neighboring Honduras, Guatemala, Nicaragua amd Saint Vincent, and the Grenadines.

Barranco is the birthplace of singer, songwriter, and Gariguna cultural advocate, Mr. Andy Palacio, who contributed to bringing the sounds of the unique African-Indigenous people to the world. Palacio, who died in 2008, championed Garifuna music that is characterized by fast-paced hand drumming on hollowed-out hardwood instruments that reverberate African traditions, accompanied as they are by vibrating snares. But even here the sounds of Gariguna are less heard today.

“There are no industries close to Barranco,” lamented Mr. Loredo, “There are mostly older folks and younger kids here, because the working-age groups is what we have lost to migrations to cities like New York, Chicago, Las Angeles, or even Belize City or Belmopan.”

The next chapter of my journey through Belize took me north from Machaca Hill in the southern Toledo District town of Punta Gorda, north to Belize City before heading to my next destination – another of the nation’s many secluded resorts. Traveling up the coast is done by way of a small aircraft that makes swift and periodic stops along numerous smaller settlements with tiny runways and curious names like Placencia or Dangriga.

The modern aircraft feels like a flying hop-on-hop-off bus ferrying small groups of passengers along the coast that from above looks much like fresh broccoli heads floating on the waters bellow.

I pass briefly through Belize City, which is more of a stopping-off point towards San Pedro, Caye Caulker, Caye Chapel, or my destination, a hideaway on St. George’s Caye, 14.5 kilometers or twenty minutes by boat from the capital.

Heather Sellors and her friendly giant dog, Sam, greet me at the docks of St. Georges Caye Resort. Ms. Sellors is a Canadian from Fort Nelson who left the frigid north to manage this quiet resort property of oceanfront cabanas, which face the Caribbean Sea. Giant umbrella-like palm trees shade the resort with its winding pathway and tropical plants. The resort even has a vocal yellow head parrot, Lorry, who rolls his r’s like a Frenchman and laughs something like a crazy witch.

St. George’s Caye Resort also offers a varied pallet of activities to bring you closer to nature. Underwater adventurers dive deep into the nearby Blue Hole, a natural wonder discovered by Jacques Cousteau. A Mecca for scuba enthusiasts, this sinkhole is located within the Lighthouse Reef Atoll and spans 1,000 feet in diameter and measures 400 feet at its deepest point.

Day trips in the area also take you to a baboon sanctuary located in the rainforests, or there are visits to the ancient Mayan sites of Atun Ha or Lamanai, which feature monumental architecture, temples, and terraces of the Mayan Classic and Pre-Classic periods.

Then came a BBQ in the open sea. A boat brought me out to a shallow sand dune out in the ocean where our chef was cooking brochettes in knee-deep waters. It was an out-of–this world experience as he cooked up a storm in the middle of a scenic sand dune. It was literally fine dining at sea, leaving moments of reflection watching the pristine azure-blue waters and fine sandy shoals.

While the property is another natural playground, I also went inland to look for the cultural mosaic of this area. I found communities that had settled the lands here in an organic but somewhat haphazard way. The first stop was Hattieville, a town originally set up as a refugee camp after Hurricane Hattie ravaged Belize City in 1961, hitting the community with damaging winds and a deadly tidal wave. The refugee camp slowly developed into the town not far from the country’s capital city of Belmopan.

In the south it was the Gariguna, but here it was another people who had found shelter in the natural paradise of Belize that peaked my interest. It wasn’t hard to notice the Mennonites in these parts because they were distinctive in their appearance and there was a strict adherence to their cultural roots.

The much-misunderstood Mennonites are conspicuous in their use of horse-drawn carriages led by men dressed in their suspenders, straw hats, and simple one-color shirts. Women wear conservative long plaid dresses and even bonnets. In my mind, the scene had more to do with these people’s northern European roots than an alternate model of living.

“About fifty years ago after a circuitous route from Mexico and Canada, a group of Mennonites decided to settle here and make a place where we could farm and have our own schools,” Mr. Peter Reimme, a local Mennonite and owner of the Good News Bookstore in Spanish Lookout told me.

The Mennonites live largely on agricultural industries and came to Belize with promises of being able to live largely outside of the systems of the state and respect their refusal to pay taxes or to support the military.

“The government of Belize provided us with an agreement that we would be exempted from military service, which was a key point in our move to Belize,” Mr. Reimme said. “After, quite a few people were drafted in the military. This concerned the church, which had been concerned to keep our young people back home instead of going to kill people.”

In 1959, 3,000 Mennonites were relocated to Belize, and were promised a life free of religious persecution and relief of the pressures of modern society. Uniquely, after concluding an agreement with the Belize government, these peoples were exempt from military service, certain taxes, and were guaranteed the right to practice their distinctive form of Protestantism. To this day, they farm within their own closed communities and run their own schools, banks, and businesses.

Like the Gariguna before them who escaped slavery in Africa and landed at these shores, Belize also provided the Mennonites a quiet space in a lush setting where unsung peoples go about their everyday lives in a tolerant and beautiful space.

“All of this has developed with a lot of hard work and efforts,” said Mr. Reimme, “Many people have been very diligent and committed to make a go of things here.”


Montreal-based journalist and cultural navigator Andrew Princz is the editor of the travel site He is involved in country awareness and tourism promotion projects globally. He has traveled to almost sixty countries around the globe seeking to communicate the stories of the diverse peoples and cultures that he comes across, from Nigeria to Ecuador, Kazakhstan to India.




Column 122611 Thompson

Monday, December 26, 2011

Epic Tales of 'Civil War' and Uncivil Politics in Guatemala

By Barnard R. Thompson

A post on the Council on Foreign Relations' "Latin America's Moment" blog, "Why is Guatemala's Ex-President Worried about his Genocide Trial? Ríos Montt's Visit to the Attorney General's Office," by Natalie Kitroeff, was published on December 20, 2011. A noteworthy piece on Mexico's contiguous southern neighbor, and an interesting update on what could be a winding up chapter on Guatemala's so-called "civil war."

As well, on further background, a 2003 piece follows that summarizes, in part, a 1989 interview this observer had with Gen. Ríos Montt in Guatemala City. The 2003 commentary was of particular interest at the time, considering the developing uproar regarding attempts by Ríos Montt to run for the presidency in November of that year, as he had done in 1990 (losing both elections, in 2003 the General was eliminated in the first round of voting).

The Council on Foreign Relations article of December 20, 2011 begins:

"Last Thursday, former de facto President of Guatemala during military rule, General (ret) Efraín Ríos Montt walked into the Attorney General's office to ask whether they planned on trying him on ten-year-old war crime charges anytime soon. He stands accused of committing genocide and crimes against humanity against indigenous civilians in the early 1980s - the most violent years of the country's civil war. Flanked by his lawyer and a gaggle of reporters, he calmly told public prosecutors, 'I'm here, I'm healthy, and I'm not afraid... if there's a criminal investigation against me, it should go forth according to due process and I should stand trial.' While this may seem like an ill-advised move, it's actually quite cunning given the weak hand he now holds.

"When the new legislature takes office next month, Ríos Montt will officially lose his congressional seat, and with it his immunity from prosecution (granted to all members of congress unless they're removed by court order)."


Déjà vu Politics and Unrest in Guatemala, by Barnard R. Thompson (July 28, 2003):

Presidential elections in Guatemala are scheduled for November 9 of this year [2003], and while the actual campaigns of the different parties' candidates have yet to begin one fight has already broken out. And it is a clash the world has seen before.

Once again retired Brigadier General Efraín Ríos Montt wants to run for the presidency of Guatemala, and over the past several weeks the quest for power by the former dictator and two-time presidential hopeful has brought about not just legal crises and a constitutional dilemma, but political pandemonium and rioting in the streets.

The enmity among opponents of the now 77-year old populist and current president of the unicameral Guatemalan congress goes back more than 20 years, to a time when Ríos Montt ruled Guatemala with an iron fist. For those old enough to remember it goes back to a so-called civil war when tens of thousands were killed in insurgent fighting, and to an era when further tens of thousands were massacred.

General Ríos Montt participated in the March 1982 military coup that ended the brutal reign of General Romeo Lucas García [1978-82], and he was part of the junta that then took power. But it was Ríos Montt alone who ultimately emerged as "chief-of-state," the superpower position he held until he himself was unseated by another general in August of 1983.

The forced retirement of Ríos Montt led him to become active in Guatemala's evangelical religious movement, where he kept a rather high profile in part to launder his image. And the retired brigadier kept an eye on politics, with his thirst for power yet to be quenched.

The general's ambitions however were dealt a blow. On January 14, 1986, Guatemalans promulgated a new Constitution, and Article 186 prohibits anyone who has participated in a coup d'état or similar movement from being president. Moreover, Article 187 prohibits the reelection of persons who have been president, although it refers specifically to those elected by popular vote.

But Ríos Montt now says, just as he claimed in the past, that the constitutional reforms do not apply to him. Furthermore, he insists that what was promulgated in 1986 cannot be applied retroactively.

In late 1989, during the run-up to the 1990 presidential elections, I interviewed Efraín Ríos Montt at his home in Guatemala City. And what he said then is what he argued prior to the 1995 elections, and almost exactly what he is saying today. The following are excerpts from that 1989 interview.

BRT- Will you officially become a candidate for the presidency of Guatemala?

ERM- Yes. Legally I have no obstacles. From the judicial aspect there are no obstacles.

BRT- What about the Constitutional Court and its ruling (against the legality of your candidacy)?

ERM- (That court) has nothing to do with the process of my being a candidate.

BRT- So, does Guatemalan law allow the reelection of an ex-president?

ERM- No.

BRT- Then how can you run?

ERM- Because, according to the laws of Guatemala I have not been president. As such, and according to the Constitution, there are no problems.

BRT- What about the prohibition against anyone who has participated in a coup d'état?

ERM- That went into effect after my government.

BRT- But again, what about the Constitutional Court rulings?

ERM- That court cannot consider the issue, because the one that makes the real judgment is the Supreme Electoral Tribunal. The Supreme Electoral Tribunal is convened for elections, and it addresses the political questions.

The interview continued, with Ríos Montt reiterating his argument several times that no constitutional obstacles exist to his becoming president. Besides the semantics manipulation, the one-dimensional logic boiled down to questions of human rights, the constitutionality of Article 186 and whether the applicable laws applied - then or now - to him? In addition to maintaining that the Constitution cannot be applied retroactively, the general and his backers argued that Article 186 violated other articles of the same Constitution, as well as Article 23 ("Right to Participate in Government") of the American Convention on Human Rights.

On July 14, 2003, the Constitutional Court found that Ríos Montt could not be barred from running for president, overruling a prior judgment of the lower Supreme Court of Justice. Following opponent appeals, the Supreme Court next ordered a suspension of the general's candidacy, and on July 23 the Constitutional Court upheld that ruling. On July 24 supporters of Ríos Montt, many armed and wearing masks, pugnaciously took to the streets.

[Déjà vu politics and unrest in Guatemala (7/28/03)]


Barnard Thompson, editor of, has spent 50 years in Mexico and Latin America, providing multinational clients with actionable intelligence; country and political risk reporting and analysis; and business, lobbying, and problem resolution services.

Monday, December 26, 2011



The big issues priority wise for infra-structure in Belize are getting electricity out to ALL rural dwellers in the Nation. This is the challenge facing BEL.

Electric production has to be somehow tripled or more. We produce half our electricity right now and buy the other half from Mexico. BEL and the supply system is underperforming badly. NATIONAL DEVELOPMENT follows the availability of electricity. Without electricity there can be no development. You need machines that run on electricity. Electricity demand from a stagnant supply is increasing at 20% per annum. If we are to develop, we must supply that demand from our own resources.

For 15 years incumbent governments in Belize have failed to create NET METERING legislation. Thus unleashing the pent up entrepreneurial capability of the growing Belizean population, to produce electricity. The next government needs to make this a campaign pledge.

The other factor is INTERNET SERVICE nationwide. To all rural dwellers. Given electricty and internet availability, both education, foreign markets and development will bloom. Without it, we remain stagnant, stuck in a colonial relic TIME WARP.

PROJECTIONS FOR THE NEXT SIX YEARS indicate we will have austerity government due to the high NATIONAL DEBT TO GDP RATIO. Six years of strong austerity, ( government spending ) could cut the Debt to GDP ratio from 85% to 42%. This has implications. The last few years, GRANTS have been funding most of our development and infra-structure. This needs to continue, but actually it needs to be expanded by identifying GRANT PROJECTS. Lots of money out in the world willing to help Belize. We only have to ask. So, for the next six years, the percentage of infra structure projects needs to be stepped up tenfold, financed by GRANTS. Or Grants through NGO´s. Otherwise we as a country will continue to stagnate. We cannot keep up with population growth. The new economic giants in the world to start pestering for GRANTS are Brazil, Canada, China ( mainland ), Russia and India.

Economically, the USA is still the leader in the world. However, 20 to 35 years out, the USA will slip to FOURTH PLACE. Still important and not shabby. But Belizeans need to be cognisant that RUSSIA in world trade will become bigger than the USA, as also MAINLAND CHINA.
The shopping sprees by chartered plane trips from mainland China to LONDON for this Christmas shopping holiday, had to do with TAX FREE SHOPPING. I don´t know how that works, but DUTY FREE SHOPPING in Belize for foreign tourism is as big a DRAW, as are the Mayan temples and islands and scuba diving. The whole idea of making Belize a nationwide TAX FREE SHOPPING ZONE FOR TOURISM needs some work, by the bureaucrats. They need to change their existing ideas and paradigm.


Chinese tourist shoppers in LONDON, ENGLAND for the Christmas holiday shopping, accounted for 30% of the store retail sales this 2011 Christmas.
Chinese tourist shoppers in Harrods, in London.

The amount of rich Chinese flooding the world tourist markets is astounding. It is estimated for the Christmas period shopping spree, the mainland Chinese spent 3 TRILLION DOLLARS AROUND THE WORLD on tourism and buying shopping sprees. London alone already is boasting that this Christmas season, CHINESE TOURISTS, plane loads of them, swamped LONDON, ENGLAND and spent over $2 Billion Euros. They were going for designer brand names mostly. From the crowds I watched on TV storming London stores, the age group seemed to run from Age 18 to 35 years old for the chinese shoppers.

World economy leaders remain this year, the United States, China, India and Brazil.
A 20 year out projection, says China, Russia, India, USA and Brazil will fill the TOP ECONOMIES of the world.

Makes you think about TOURISM in BELIZE and how we can tap the MAINLAND CHINESE TOURIST MARKET? We have to do a better job of selling our Great Barrier Reef and the ancient Mayan ruins.

Sunday, December 25, 2011



Seems our BIG BROTHER IN AGRICULTURE is going to be MEXICO. The MEXICANS are going to spend half a million dollars to help Belize growers with the citrus GROWERS greening disease.

There is no further information how this OFFER and collaboration has come about, but Belizeans are grateful for this assistance from our neighbor and big brother, to our North.


BELIZE UNITY ALLIANCE the new political party, UNABLE to get organized.

With only six weeks to go, before the deadline for organizing disparate political groups into one party, to contest the NATIONAL ELECTIONS this coming year of 2012, the progress on the ground has been dismally slow. The SWING VOTERS were rooting for the different parties, the PNP and the VIP to get together and put in some sort of organization for NATIONAL ELECTIONS. Unfortunately, these aspiring politicians to offer SWING VOTERS a choice to voting for the UDP, have squandered AGAIN their last three years since the last election. They seem to have only 6 candidates for National Elections out of the 31 candidates needed and only 6 weeks to get it all organized. Swing Voters cannot take them seriously. They are only amateur dilletantes.

While they play around and in their selfishness, act only to acquire fame and fortune in TOWN COUNCIL ELECTIONS, they are not proving their mettle, and capability. Failing which, they will do NOTHING in the TOWN Council elections, except gratify their egos a little bit, for serious alternatives to our one party run dictatorial government at the NATIONAL ELECTION this year 2012. It would seem that we the SWING VOTERS cannot rely on them to lead us, if they cannot lead themselves.

The PUP is out, too much baggage, corruption and embezzlement scandals in their history. PURE CROOKS is the consensus opinion. While the UDP are not the best, the three years under BARROW worked out well for the nation, given the tough circumstances. Unfortunately, there have been a few scandals, among his CABINET MEMBERS. CASTRO was one big one. HULSE was another, then DEAN BARROW himself has made a big BOO BOO with his using of government funds ( 1.25 million thereabouts) this Christmas, for his party member campaigning. Unfortunately, there is no alternative and the hoped for rise of the BELIZE UNITY ALLIANCE, seems to have totally flopped. Without an alternative, it would seem the UDP will sweep the polls and votes this 2012.

Dean Barrow himself is expected to resign this year. Probably after the MUNICIPLE elections? If he is to stick to his word? Of course, POWER CORRUPTS and it is likely he will renege on his promise? The replacement this summer is likely to be PATRICK FABER, Minister of Education. Nobody else in the UDP have shown leadership capability. Rene Montero has been successful in his job with Agriculture, but is deemed not to have the political smarts and ruthlessness to handle a ONE PARTY DICTATORSHIP GOVERNMENT.
2012 is the year of change in our country, by 10,000 years of Mayan historical tradition and the cyclical calender. One can only wonder how the politics will smooth out and what is in store for Belize during 2013?