Posted: Monday, March 14, 2016. 5:13 p.m. CST
By BBN Staff: Most Belizeans don’t pay much attention to American politics but are familiar enough with it to recognize names like Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton and of course Donald Trump. For the most part, Belizeans here at home aren’t concerned with US politics; hell, they’re hardly concerned about Belizean politics, as evidenced by the quality of men elected to office, but that’s another topic.
There are moments, though, when US politics draws worldwide attention as was the case with Obama’s historic election in 2008 as that country’s first black president. That moment had a profound effect throughout the world and likewise here in Belize. Even now, some houses adorn pictures and memorabilia celebrating Obama’s achievement, so there are occasions when Belizeans take special interest in American politics.
In this election cycle, though, Trump has emerged as the front-runner candidate for the Republican party. His popularity even before politics has made him a household name so it doesn’t require much knowledge of US politics to know who he is. Less obvious, however, are the policies behind the public persona and what a Trump presidency could mean, not just for countries like Belize, but for the entire world.
The US has one of the strongest economies in the world and by virtue of its military is perhaps the most influential world power on earth; it is Belize’s largest trading partner and provides much assistance to Belize. As a result, whoever becomes the head of that nation is of some interest to Belizeans, particularly those in the diaspora, much of whom reside in the US.
Currently, Trump is the front-runner having done well so far in the primaries and news outlets in the US are reporting that if Trump wins in Ohio and Florida within the next few weeks he will secure the spot as the Republican candidate in the next US election in November.
Immigrants are especially concerned about Trump’s policy on the immigration issue because he has expressed disdain for immigrants on a number of occasions. Trump has taken a hard stance on immigrants, saying at one rally last July: “These are people who shouldn’t be in our country. They flow in like water…we have to take back the heart of our country.”
He has even mentioned a plan to deport 11 million illegal immigrants back to their countries of origin. And certainly, the vast majority of Belizeans living in the US are there legally but there are also significant number of Belizeans who have taken up residency in the US illegally.
If the US government were to tighten its policies on immigrants even further and there were to be a mass deportation it could have several negative effects, not only in this country but in others in the region as well. But in Belize, the immediate concern would be the remittances that many households depend on from relatives in the US to send back.
There are many children and elderly people in Belize who depend on remittances from working relatives in the US to provide money for school fees and supplies, medication and the like. This is not to say that such people would not be able to earn a living in Belize but given the current state of the economy, a mass deportation of that kind could have serious negative implications.
But Trump has been rather vague in regards to his policies, or lack thereof, on a number of issues. At times, he has displayed a lack of knowledge on certain topics, skirting around questions with generic answers. His supporters like him because he appears to be a bold candidate and his best qualities are often listed as being a ‘tell-it-like-it-is guy’, and being successful.
It appears that Trump is on to something that Belizean politicians have long exploited, a bombastic, target-the-opponent style that riles up the crowd and deflects their attention from the issues. At times, his responses are startling.
In an over-the-phone interview with Fox News in December, Trump said his administration would try to “take out” terrorists’ families, in addition to the militants themselves. “With the terrorists, you have to take out their families,” Trump said during a “Fox & Friends” interview. He argued that such tactics were necessary because the terrorists claim to not care about their own lives.
“When you get these terrorists, you have to take out their families,” he repeated. “They care about their lives, don’t kid yourselves. But they say they don’t care about their lives. You have to take out their families.”
The problem, however, is that such an act is a war crime, a fact that his critics have been quick to point out. And if this is any indication of the kind of foreign policy Trump would employ, the world should be on full notice. There is no telling what Trump would decide in regards to issues currently affecting, not only Belize, but the region for instance the “de-risking” problem threatening the country’s banking and offshore sectors.
Belize is constantly listed among the most notorious money laundering and tax evasion havens. Would these play any role in a Trump policy toward Belize or the region? It’s hard to tell. But would you care to find out?
On November 8th when US voters go to the polls, the world will be watching because so much of what happens in the US indirectly affects the countries they do business with. For this reason, it is always helpful that the person elected as US president is sympathetic to the concerns of this region.
Obama has visited Jamaica, making him the only president to do so in the last 30 years. And while he has dragged his foot on a number of issues brought to his attention by leaders of the Caribbean and Latin American regions, he has maintained a very good level of support for the region. Let’s hope that continues.
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