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May 28, 2018

Protest on High Cost of Living Fizzles

The Belize Leaders for Social Justice were only able to attract a minimum number of protesters to their widely advertised march from Constitution Park to Battlefield Park on Saturday morning. The protest concerned the general high cost of living including recent increases in electricity, cable, and gas. It was thought that Belizeans would have felt the call to come out and try to stir up the political elite to act, but many were too busy or too afraid to come out, by their own admission. Organizers acknowledged to News Five’s Aaron Humes that they will have to re-strategize following the disappointing turnout. But they also questioned whether Belizeans are committed to fighting for change. 

 

Aaron Humes, Reporting

At show-time, ten-thirty a.m. Saturday, organizer of the protest Moses Sulph told us there were more police officers than protestors at Constitution Park. But the point remains the same.

 

Moses Sulph

Moses Sulph, Belize Leaders for Social Justice

“It is a fact that gas prices are very expensive, and it’s the most expensive in the region. It is a fact that people find it very hard to provide food and shelter for their kids – to pay their rent, to pay their light bill, to pay their water rate. I can tell you that I have messages from about twenty different mothers who need graduation fees paid right now who can’t afford it. And I can tell you that I meet people every day who can’t afford a ‘pack bread.’ But then they must get involved in their own liberation. People are somewhat afraid; I’m not certain why, because they are already suffering, so I’m not sure how much more the government can victimize you beyond suffering. The other thing is that people want to be paid to come out to demonstrate – we don’t have money to pay anyone. The pay that you’re going to get for coming out to demonstrate is that when you come out in numbers, your salary is going to increase, your minimum wage; the cost of living will go down. We are demanding free education for low-income families; free health care for low-income families, and proper housing for low-income and poor families, so that is how you get paid when you come out to participate in a demonstration.”

 

But even as they proceeded down Cemetery Road and Orange Street into the center of town – Albert and Regent Streets – there was no initiative by the masses to join in. The group seemed more of a curiosity to Belizeans who suffer in the same conditions Sulph spoke about and were too busy thinking of their next plans. But protestor and educator Abdul Marin Nunez was unsparing in his criticism nonetheless.

 

Abdul Marin Nunez

Abdul Marin Nunez, Protestor

“The Belizean people – I have always said they are not suffering enough yet; when they start suffering they will come out. If I was the only person out here I would be out here, because I am not a slave. And I am not going to allow any tyrannic government or anybody to make me a slave and that’s the reason I’m taking a stand because I know my constitutional rights: I have a right to freedom of expression, a right to life and all the others. So I am taking my stand now, before it gets too late.”

 

It is back to the drawing board for the BLSJ and other activist organizations who have flourished on social media but seem to lack the drawing power on the ground. One thing that is clear according to Jose Luis Espat is that they will not give up entirely.

 

Jose Luis Espat

Jose Luis Espat, Protestor

“It is obvious, like you said a short while ago, that protesting is not working anymore. So us activists need to come together and sit at a table and come up with different things that need to be done, because I always say no government in this world will act for the people if they are not bound by the law and the constitution of this country, and if anyone knows me, I am always binding them with the court, I am always binding them with the law. We need to take a different approach, because look at us: ten, fifteen of us out here today, all these ministers are there looking at us, if they are even paying attention to what is going on, and they are laughing at us. But my brother Abdul said the people are not feeling enough – I believe the ministers and people in power are not feeling enough; they are not feeling the pain, because I am out here in the mud looking for people’s missing families, I am feeling it for them. we need to understand that these ministers are living a free ride on our backs, and all these government people are living for free, so they won’t move unless we move them.”

 

Aaron Humes reporting for News Five.

 

Sulph also noted that they got no support from either the main Opposition party, the People’s United Party, or other activist and political groups.

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