Saturday, January 22, 2005

The Riot Next Door

There appears to be a dustup over in Belize

On January 13, 2005 the government of Said Musa announced its budget for 2005-2006. The budget included major tax increased on a variety of businesses and commodities, including a 11% increase in the real estate sales tax, a 5% tax increase for financial institutions, an 8% tax increase on tobacco, and a 100% tax increase on rum. Although the government claims that these tax increases are comparable to increases instituted in 1998 under the previous government of the United Democratic Party (UDP), these taxes, on top of years of popular frustration at alleged financial mismanagement and corruption by the People's United Party (PUP) sparked protests at the National Assembly building on January 15, including confrontations between demonstrators and police. Demonstrations continued through the following week.

On January 20, the business community and labor unions called for a two-day nationwide strike. As employees did not report to work, water service for much of Belize has been turned off. On January 21, local news reported reports of scattered demostrations [sic] in the capital city of Belmopan, including some burning of government buildings and roadblocks by protestors. As government ministers were walking towards the government building the demonstrators threw rocks and bottles at the ministers, prompting police and military to get involved and subdue the demonstrators. The government has reportedly installed cameras on the exterior of some buildings where protestors are expected to congregate, and government buildings have been pre-emptively barricaded. A major public demonstration is planned by the opposition for January 21 in Belmopan; the ruling PUP has also planned a counter-demonstration.

From what little I can tell about this country, there isn't any clear "good guy" in this fight. Both parties appear to be provoking civil unrest. Both parties plan to raise taxes and appease labor unions. Their proposed "austerity plans" go the wrong way--tax hike heavy with few budget cuts. Both parties seem to be promising the moon and that everything will get better if they're elected.

Absolutely no one else is talking about this story. I searched everywhere I could think off: AP, Reuters, Google News, CNN, Fox News. The only stories I could find on Belize were some travel articles. Exotic and romantic Belize is a travel destination for couples looking for a getaway far from the maddening crowd one article laughably asserts.
As a pleasant discovery, the best source of news on this region appears to be a weblog: belizean.

UPDATE: Shiplord Kirel over at LGF informs me that said Musa is a Palestinian emmigrant.


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