Posted: Saturday, June 11, 2022. 12:06 pm CST.
By Aaron Humes: Leader of the Opposition Moses “Shyne” Barrow has aired his disagreement with Prime Minister John Briceño’s remarks at the Ninth Summit of the Americas in Los Angeles, California, in which the P.M. showed solidarity for American outcasts – but Belizean friends – Cuba and Venezuela.
Briceño directly addressed U.S. President Joe Biden, calling for an end to the Cuban economic embargo and for these socialist states to be accepted back into the arms of the region.
But Barrow begs to differ. He told Channel 7 News, “The concept that because a country gives you financial assistance then you wholesale normalize and accept their violations of human rights is what is reprehensible… To me, it is nothing more than diplomatic prostitution….
Countries that oppress their people and rule by authoritarian decree should be condemned and encouraged to change their ways…We that enjoy freedom should not abandon those that suffer under dictatorships…”
Asked today whether specifically, is this an indication that a future UDP government under his leadership would distance or perhaps abandon diplomacy with Cuba and Venezuela in favor of tighter relations with the U.S., and whether is it his position that human rights violations do not occur in the U.S., Barrow responded, “This is an indication that as Prime Minister the UDP Government that I Lead will not use any summit to defend dictatorships while chastising our partners in Democracy! in exchange for anything!”
He continued, “More pressing than the exclusion of dictators who jail and kill, journalists, political opponents and any dissident is debt reduction for smaller Countries such as Belize, de-risking is another issue that needs to be urgently addressed where it cannot be that the biggest banks in the Americas can walk away from small Nations such as Belize. Covid-19 economic recovery, Climate Resilience and a looming recession should have been the focus.”
And asked whether this signalled a shift in UDP policy toward bilateral partners such as Cuba and Venezuela, and how much of his favour for the U.S. over Venezuela and Cuba is influenced by his time in America, and perhaps his personal business interests there, Barrow explained thus, “Growing up in Belize and the U.S. I have been blessed to enjoy the unfettered freedoms of Democracy. While no Democracy is perfect Belize & the U.S. remain committed to the ideals and principles that form a perfect Democracy. As the Leader of the Opposition, I have a heightened sense of appreciation for the privilege that we enjoy in Belize’s strong Democracy. In Nicaragua I would be jailed or executed, same thing in Venezuela and in Cuba they do not even have an opposition.”
He continued rhetorically, “Imagine a Belize where the state owned everything? Imagine a Belize where the Prime Minister could get rid of the Judiciary for not doing his bidding? Imagine a Belize with no free press, no Opposition, no accountability, no rights, everything determined by an authoritarian regime?”
For context, we note that the former Dean Barrow administration consistently stood up for Cuba and Venezuela, especially the latter as it relates to its provision of oil and gas under the Petrocaribe initiative. However, there were instances in which it condemned certain actions of the Venezuelans.
Support for Cuba on both sides stems from its support of Belizean sovereignty in the days of Fidel Castro and its welcoming of many medical students and others to study in Cuba.
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