BRITISH HONDURAS: A CASE OF DEVIATION IN COMMONWEALTH CARRIBBEAN DECOLONIZATION
The process of decolonization in the Commonwealth Caribbean in the post-war period has so far followed a single pattern – from Crown Colony or similar ‘de facto’ status, through internal self-government, to independence within the Commonwealth. The pattern has not been wholly advantageous. For one thing, it has given rise to an inherent particularism in matters affecting constitutional progress and nationhood which has already in part proved too strong for the survival of a West Indian Federation. Heretofore, only in Guyana, and then doubtless because of what the imperial power chose to regard as abnormal political circumstances, was a temporary diversion necessitated. Indeed, the Colonial Office might just plausibly have argued that the return to direct rule after 1953 was undertaken in the interest of ensuring Guyana’s adherence to the pattern.
The pattern is now standard. Jamaica, Trinidad and Tobago, Guyana and Barbados have completed the process. The opportunity to follow suit is available to the Leeward and Windward Islands though the harsh realities of the lack of economic viability, diminutive size and small population, have constrained them to accept Associate status with the United Kingdom rather than full independence. But this does not constitute a deviation from the pattern. It is a mere pause based on expediency. The ambition of each of the remaining seven territories, as exemplified by the behaviour of their political leaders, is to become politically independent as soon as economic viability is realised. If this were not so, the successive efforts to unite the ‘Little 8’, ‘Little 7’ and ‘Little 6’ in political federation could hardly have failed so miserably. The decision of Barbados – a former member of the ‘Little 8’ – to become independent certainly supports this view, as does the statement attributed to one of the leaders of the ‘Little 7’ that he would seek independence for his territory as soon as its budget was balanced.
Independence within the Commonwealth achieved amidst panderings to popular democracy, and inter party tolerance amounting to a kind of democratic behaviour between opposing political factions, have become two of the more important features associated with decolonization in the Commonwealth Caribbean.
Independence within the Commonwealth has been one of the notable features of the pattern. Jamaica, Trinidad and Tobago and Guyana are all members of the Commonwealth by choice, Barbados has already applied for membership, and other things remaining equal, each of the leeward and Windward territories will choose to join if and when they qualify to do so.
The choice of Commonwealth membership is not mainly the product of a brain-washed colonial mentality, or of the fear of insecurity resulting from the severance of the umbilical link with the metropolitan country. In the Caribbean, the Commonwealth tie is regarded, despite the political diversity of its various units, as a near tangible form of assurance of stability, justice and democracy.
Here too, the influence of the pattern is instructive. In every case the popular will has supported the various stages of the process of decolonization. This was perhaps most clearly demonstrated in Jamaica. In Trinidad and Tobago, the expectations that Dr. Capildeo might seek to create discord at the territory’s independence constitution talks were short-lived. In the event, the people of the country rallied behind their leaders in support of independence. Guyana’s problems are well known. Dr. Jagan’s boycott of the independence constitution talks led to fears that a large minority might not support independence. However, P.P.P. support came somewhat disguised in the slogan “freedom yes, celebration no.” Mr. Burnham and Dr. Jagan embraced publicly at the ceremony of the replacement of the Union Jack by the Guyanese Flag as the new nation breathed its first breath of ‘free’ air, Dr. Jagan seconded the vote of thanks proposed by Mr. Burnham on the occasion of the handing over of the constitutional instruments by the Queen’s representative in the chamber of the Legislature in Georgetown, and feelings transcended party rivalries as Guyanese vowed to live up to the challenge of the motto “One People, One Nation, One Destiny.”
In Barbados, two Cabinet Ministers resigned to show their preference for further exploring the prospects of a federation of the ‘Little 7’ against the Government’s proposal for independence. The marginal situation of the territory in terms of qualifications for political autonomy created some misgivings and the independence constitution talks were marred by fundamental differences between Mr. Barrow and Sir Grantley Adams on the propriety of general elections before independence. However, in Barbados, as in the other territories, overwhelming support for independence was ultimately achieved.
The second feature identified above as associated with decolonization in the Commonwealth Caribbean is the tolerance of each other, shown by leading party political adversaries. The rapport that exists between the Prime Ministers and the leaders of the Opposition in the four independent Commonwealth Caribbean countries is heartening. It augurs well for stability and for the maintenance of democracy. A situation, in which the personal relations of opposing political leaders are so strained that oral communication breaks down, is symptomatic of the absence of tolerance. It conduces to the suppression of the opposition and to the substitution of violence and force for the orderly exercise by which democratic governments are changed. (This conclusion is well supported by numerous events in Latin American experience, as well as from contemporary Commonwealth Africa.)
In British Honduras, the only territory of the Commonwealth Caribbean not discussed so far, there are compelling reasons why the territory should conform to the pattern of decolonization in the Commonwealth Caribbean and should exhibit the features that are associated with that pattern.
In common with the island territories and Guyana, British Honduras has been a part of the British West Indies for the purpose of British Colonial rule. Accordingly, it has been exposed to the same traditions of law, of politics and political institutions and of administration as the other territories. The vast majority of its people share the same ethnic origins with the overwhelming majority of the Commonwealth Caribbean people. They speak the same language, share the same culture, or lack of it, and are in the main ostensibly Christian by religion. Like Guyana, British Honduras has a mainland rather than an insular location. Yet as we have seen, the locational factor has not affected the similarity of the process of decolonization in Guyana with the process in the island territories.
British Honduras has reached the stage of full internal self-government in the process of its decolonization. So far, therefore, it has conformed to the pattern of the Commonwealth Caribbean. However, evidences of deviation from this norm are already clearly visible. Despite the similarities enumerated above, British Honduras is embarking on a completely different path in its political and constitutional life than the one which has become traditional for the Commonwealth Caribbean. It is with the analysis of this factor of deviation, that we are primarily concerned. For, the feature of independence within the Commonwealth, the culmination of the process of decolonization, seems to have eluded British Honduras. The current of events indicate that unless radical changes occur in the direction of the political winds, the destiny of the territory will lie in absorption by, or political association as a negligible junior partner, with the Republic of Guatemala; that is, in re-colonization, rather than decolonization.
The most striking evidence supporting this conclusion was recently publicly revealed by a member of the British Honduras delegation which visited London last May at the request of the British Government to discuss the future international status of the territory, in the light of the Anglo/ Guatemalan dispute over its sovereignty.
The member, the leader of the Opposition in British Honduras, has stated in several public addresses that the following thirteen articles, based on the recommendations of the United States Special Ambassador, Bethuel Webster who had been appointed to mediate in the Anglo/Guatemalan dispute, were presented to the delegation as the basis on which the British Government was seriously considering entering into a treaty to settle the Anglo/ Guatemalan dispute and the future international status of British Honduras:-
Article l – The name of the territory called British Honduras by Great Britain and Belize by Guatemala shall hereafter be Belize.
Article 2 – On a date which shall not be later than December 31 1968 Great Britain will relinquish all claim to the territory and shall thereafter cease to exercise all Governmental functions. The Government of Belize shall then assume such Governmental functions.
Article 3 – The normal channel of communication to international bodies by the Government of Belize will be through the Government of Guatemala. The Government of Guatemala when requested shall provide diplomatic representation in foreign countries for the Government of Belize.
Article 4 – On the date the treaty comes into effect, Great Britain and Guatemala would immediately assume joint responsibility for the defence of Belize. Guatemala’s responsibility will include the patrolling of the seacoast of Belize.
Article 5 – The Governments of Guatemala and of Belize will be jointly responsible for the internal security of both countries.
Article 6 – The agricultural and manufactured products of Guatemala may be exported to and through Belize without payment of duties, tariffs or taxes of any kind. The products of Belize may be exported to and through Guatemala under similar arrangements. Vehicles registered in Guatemala and Belize may travel freely in both countries without restrictions other than local restrictions.
Article 7 – The ports of Belize City and Stann Creek Town will be free ports for the entry of Guatemalan goods under the jurisdiction of the Authority appointed under Article 13 of the treaty.
Article 8 – Nationals of Belize and nationals of Guatemala may move freely through the two countries under valid identification documents issued by the Authority named in Article 13, or by the Governments of either country. Nationals of Guatemala and Belize may work in either country without discrimination of any kind.
Article 9 – A Free Trade Area agreement will be established between Guatemala and Belize allowing the products of either country to be imported into the other without payment of duties and without quantitative restrictions of any kind.
Article 10 – The transportation and communications systems of Guatemala and Belize will be integrated as far as practicable under the jurisdiction of the Authority named in Article 13.
Article 11 – The Authority will undertake joint studies of the cultural and economic resources of the two countries with the view to their integration for the mutual benefit of the peoples of both countries.
Article 12 – Citizens of Belize will receive degrees from Guatemalan educational institutions and citizens of Guatemala will receive degrees from Belizean educational institutions.
Article 13 – The Government of Guatemala and the Government of Belize will set up an Authority to implement Articles 6, 7, 8, 9, l 0 and 11. The Authority will consist of seven members – 3 from Belize and 3 from Guatemala with Ministerial rank. The six will appoint a Chairman who will be a full-time officer of the Authority. The Authority will have authority to initiate and supervise studies, promulgate regulations and enforce them over subjects within its jurisdiction. The Authority will have a staff.
The issue of the publication by the Leader of the Opposition of matters discussed at a secret meeting need not concern us here, though it, and not the treaty itself, has been the focus of severe public debate. His argument in extenuation that the thirteen articles are so fundamental to the territory’s future and the Government’s silence so sinister is much more than merely plausible. The questions that spring to mind are “Is the Opposition Leader’s statement true?” “Is the British Government seriously considering a settlement of the Anglo/Guatemalan dispute in terms of the spirit of the thirteen articles?”
The truth of the Opposition Leader’s statement seems to be beyond dispute. None of the parties concerned have denied the statement. On the contrary, their behaviour has tended to confirm it. What calls for more intense analysis is the effect on the territory of an agreement concluded on the basis of these Thirteen Articles.
Whatever else they may do, according to the Treaty, the Thirteen Articles do not provide for independence. Guatemala is hence to assume responsibility for foreign affairs and for the security of territorial waters. Apart from this, directive factors indicate that British Honduras is more likely to find itself in a situation of subordination than of partnership.
Guatemala is five times the size of British Honduras; its population is forty times larger and its Gross Domestic Product is thirty-six times higher. Guatemala maintains an army, a navy and an air force. British Honduras has neither, nor does it possess the mobilized resources to raise comparable forces unless some unforeseen and truly spectacular developments are achieved. Guatemala has a cadre of economists, scientists, technologists, etc., whereas British Honduras has none. It is obvious, therefore, that the crucially important Joint Authority envisaged in Article 13 would be completely dominated by Guatemala. Moreover, Guatemala’s imperialist appetite for British Honduras would hardly be satisfied by the Associate status which the proposed agreement seeks to confer. After all, it is enshrined in the Guatemalan constitution that British Honduras is an integral part of that country. Guatemalan produced maps of the country incorporate British Honduras. Finally, generations of Guatemalan youth and adults have been taught that “Belke es muestro” – the Guatemalan rallying cry. The feeling of ownership is so entrenched that the temptation to incorporate the territory fully will be hard to resist.
Finally, Guatemala’s behaviour in international affairs has been such as not to inspire confidence in any assurance it might give to honour the treaty once the (‘de facto’) British imperial presence is removed. It has been known to sever diplomatic relations with the United Kingdom, yet it maintains a Consulate there. More recently, the presence of Ambassador Webster in British Honduras and in Guatemala on a fact-finding Mission in connection with his task of mediation, did not seem to the Guatemalans to provide good enough grounds for at least temporarily discontinuing the radio propaganda of their claim to British Honduras.
Similarly, little reliance can be placed on Britain’s ability and will to see that the treaty is maintained.
Although, according to Article 4, overall defence is to be undertaken jointly by the British and the Guatemalans, the British Government has reneged too often, even in British Honduran affairs, to engender confidence in its will to intervene in the event that Guatemala should seek to annex British Honduras in violation of the terms of the treaty. For several reasons, some of which we shall later note, Britain cannot be depended on to ensure that the end of the decolonization process in British Honduras does not culminate in re-colonization by Guatemala.
It can hardly be claimed that popular feeling is in favour of the proposed link with Guatemala. The announcement of the London proposals evoked strong protests from large sections of the population. In the absence of a referendum or similar device to test support for the proposals, it is difficult to determine the popular will. The Opposition party which polled over 40% of the votes cast in the last General Elections is solidly and articulately against, and there are signs that a number of the Government’s supporters are also opposed to the proposals. A recent bye election in a municipality in which all the seats were held by the party in Government, was won by the party which has openly opposed the London proposals. The proposed treaty was one of the election issues.
The vehemence of opposition to the proposals has been manifested by civil disorders of a severity not experienced in the territory since the ex-servicemen’s riots immediately following the First World War. The disturbances were spontaneous and well supported. The territory’s Civil Service, unprecedentedly and successfully struck for two days. Such was the situation that the Colonial Governor declared a dusk-to-dawn curfew which had to be maintained by British troops rather than by the indigenous internal security forces of the territory.
An early casualty of the present conflict has been the rapport which continuously exists between rival political leaders in the Commonwealth Caribbean and is one of the notable features of the decolonization process. British Honduras has both an Opposition party and a Leader of the Opposition in the House of Representatives. Yet, the relations between the Premier and the Leader of the Opposition have been so strained by current events associated with the future of the territory that they are not even on speaking terms. Thus, the discussion of important non-partisan political issues by the political leadership of the country is retarded. Nor can their differences be effectively aired in public. In British Honduras, a far flung and sparsely populated country, the radio which is the best and only medium of reaching the citizenry as a body, is a Government monopoly and is denied to the opposition to discuss fundamental issues such as the London proposals.
These are the factors which have bred frustration and which have already led to violence and to the threat by opposition spokesmen of asserting the will of the people by force. Thus, political despotism threatens to bring about the substitution of the ‘coup d’ etat’ for the ballot box.
Four prime factors seem to determine the deviation of British Honduras from the pattern of decolonization of the Commonwealth Caribbean. These are the absence of a common spiritual identity with the wider area; internal intrigue aimed at de-West Indianization on the one hand and Latinization or Central Americanization (if not Guatemalanization) on the other; the Guatemalan claim to Honduras; and ‘Big Power’ international politics.
It is not that there are no obvious areas of identity of British Honduras with the Commonwealth Caribbean which should make for a common pattern of decolonization. Some of these, particularly the imperial administrative links, have already been noted yet the keen and close observer of the British Honduras attitude to the Commonwealth Caribbean in recent years will, however, have observed that British Honduras has tended to lack more and more any spiritual affinity with the wider area.
A brief comparison with Guyana will help to illustrate. Like Guyana, British Honduras never joined the short-lived West Indies Federation. However, although Guyana took the further step of withdrawing from the University College of the West Indies, there have been few reservations about the essential West Indian identity of Guyana as compared with British Honduras. Despite sporadic assertions of a continental destiny, the embryonic free trade area with Barbados and Antigua, the offer to accept island immigrants in properly organized and financed settlement schemes, the full participation in all the phases leading up to the recent Ottawa Conference of Heads of Commonwealth Caribbean and Canadian Governments, the representation of Guyana on the West Indian Cricket Team, all combine to place Guyana firmly in the Commonwealth Caribbean. Dr. Jagan’s recent espousal of economic co-operation within the region taken in the context of his earlier opposition to Federation, shows how unmistakably clear Guyana’s belonging to the fold has become.
On the other hand, political leaders in British Honduras continue to resist the idea of economic co-operation with the Commonwealth Caribbean which is now the country’s fourth largest international customer; and to avoid identification with the area. Thus British Honduras’ participation in the Commonwealth Caribbean/Canadian talks was peripheral, and was intended mainly to be a public relations exercise. The idea of West Indian emigration into the territory, even if properly organized and financed, is anathema to the Government. Cricket, that steadfast link, is not the favourite sport of British Honduras and to enquire about the score during a West Indies test series is to invoke a derisory response.
In part the problem is, of course, geographical. Geographic separation giving rise to an absence of contact between West Indians and their consequent ignorance of each other was one of the rocks on which the West Indies Federation floundered. The location of British Honduras at the western extreme of the area, some 700 miles away from Jamaica, the nearest Commonwealth Caribbean country, and the complete absence of direct communications, virtually isolate the territory from the islands and from Guyana. Apart from a few Barbadians who were recruited as policemen in the 1920s, the only other West Indians whom British Hondurans have met are Jamaicans and these they tend to regard as too pushful.
Thus, the, recommendation of the Evans Commission for the settlement of a modest amount of surplus ‘island’ population in Guyana and British Honduras created some apprehension. Such fears were exacerbated when Federation was misrepresented by certain political leaders as a device for the wholesale transfer of unemployed surplus ‘islanders’ to deprive British Hondurans of jobs. Indeed, many a political victory has been won on the ‘no federation’, ‘no immigration’ platform. It won easy support from the unemployed, the tenuously employed and the unambitious. The element of fear which was more fundamental than was anxiety over unemployment constituted something of a barrier which is only beginning to be demolished by British Honduran students returning from the University of the West Indies. Today, the Calypso is growing in popularity and the steel drums and the Eastern Caribbean blend of jump-up have arrived, but the spiritual identity is still absent.
The joint processes of a de-West-Indianisation and Central Americanisation have been intensified in recent years. The campaign has been both skilful and subtle. Its manifestations include the growing exclusion of the calypso from the radio despite its popularity and the intrigue to ‘kill’ the first steel band. The rapid rise in the number of hours of Spanish broadcasts, the increase in the number of Latin American musical broadcasts and the inordinate amount of time and effort devoted to Latin. American independence celebrations as against the mere mention – when it is made – of the independence anniversaries of Commonwealth Caribbean countries are also signs of the times. The replacement of English place names by Spanish ones, the Premier’s use of Spanish first on the occasion of the dedication of the site of the proposed new capital town, the preference for the Mexican guayabera and the insistence on the bilingualism of the territory – despite the fact that English is universally understood, spoken and written and that the need to print public documents, road signs, etc. in two languages strains an already overburdened budget. The pattern is further emphasized by the continued pursuit of membership of the Central American Common Market against professional advice from foreign as well as from local sources. In fact, both the traditional analysis in the Jacob Viner mould and the newer E.C.L.A. type approach to economic integration, show that British Honduras would be unlikely to benefit substantially from joining the Central American Economic Union. Finally, the governing party insists on constantly repeating the obvious by always referring to independence on the mainland of Central America. Since the territory is so clearly on the Central American mainland, presumably the repetition is a subtle attempt at indoctrination.
The need to become detached from the unidirectional orientation of imperial domination; the need to improve one’s knowledge of one’s neighbour; the need to adapt one’s self more closely to one’s environment, are necessary concomitants of political growth. Insofar as some of the actions enumerated in the last paragraph result automatically from the political growth process, well and good. However, any close and discerning observer of the British Honduras scene will readily perceive in all this, a conscious attempt at de-West-Indianization on the one hand and Latinization on the other.
The Guatemalan claim to the territory is, however, the fundamental factor determining the apparent deviationist behaviour of British Honduras among Commonwealth Caribbean territories in search of nationhood. The other factors mainly devise from it.
The arguments for and against the claim are well documented and do not require to be repeated here. The dispute over the claim is a dispute between the United Kingdom and Guatemala. The two parties have failed to agree to submit the dispute to the international judiciary for a settlement. Guatemala has concluded that the only acceptable settlement is the annexation of British Honduras. The attitude of the ‘man-in-the-street’ in British Honduras is that this is the age of self-determination; accordingly, he will resist all attempts at being transferred chattel-like from one imperial power to another. The recent disturbances testify to this, as do the results of the recent bye elections referred to earlier.
Guatemala is popularly associated in British Honduras with frequent revolutions, instability and arbitrary arrests. The average British Honduran reasons that since Guatemala does not have the capital to develop the vast resources of its own Peten Department, it is unlikely to find the capital to develop British Honduras. He knows that the general level of living in British Honduras is higher than it is in Guatemala. On the whole, he considers that apart from physical contiguity, his territory has very little in common with Guatemala, yet he feels no hostility to his larger neighbour. He is anxious for cordial relations and is willing to make the territory’s roads and port facilities available for the transshipment of Guatemalan exports and imports.
Lastly, the question of big power influences must be considered. An element of big power politics has now entered the arena and will probably be the crucial factor in determining, in the near future, the ultimate international status of British Honduras. Both the United Kingdom and Guatemala have asked the United States to mediate in the dispute. Since the United States is a very interested party the propriety of the invitation and of its acceptance are questionable.
It now appears, in the light of recent events, that although the United Kingdom has given the assurance that the people of the territory would not be handed over to another Power like chattels, has promised to grant independence to the territory and has agreed to defend it, certain factors now compel a settlement with Guatemala that is incompatible with these undertakings. This is disappointing, but not surprising. British Hondurans still remember the celebrated case of the devaluation of the British Honduras dollar only a few weeks after the United Kingdom Colonial Secretary had given a categorical assurance that this would not occur. Is it coincidental that the then Colonial Secretary was a “Socialist” and that a “Socialist Government” is again in power in the United Kingdom at this time?
The perceived change in the attitude of the United Kingdom can be easily analysed. The United Kingdom’s own financial situation has been causing increasing concern particularly over the past two years. British Honduras is a financial burden and the United Kingdom Treasury has to provide grants in aid of the recurrent budget as also funds for public capital formation and subsidies to help maintain the inefficient sugar and citrus industries, the territory’s two largest agricultural industries. All this may amount to a minute portion of the U.K.’s resources but this fact has not been reflected in the behaviour of the British Treasury. More importantly, the United Kingdom’s presence in British Honduras strains its relations with Latin America in general and with Central America in particular. The United Kingdom has only recently reawakened to the growing importance of Latin America and of its potential as a trading partner. This is evidenced not only by increasing concern of British businessmen but also by the number of institutes of Latin American studies which are mushrooming in that country. Improved relations with Latin America are, therefore, an important factor in the U.K.’s foreign and commercial policies and any expendable barriers such as the Anglo/ Guatemalan dispute over British Honduras, which may obstruct the achievement of good relations, must be removed.
The United States too has substantial interest in the settlement of the Anglo/Guatemalan dispute. The two disputants are its allies in the Cold War. Any split in the ranks of the West of which it is the leader, are clearly undesirable. Yet the reassertion of the principles of the Munroe Doctrine is repugnant to the continued British presence on the American Mainland. This might not have been important were it not for the fact that Guatemala is something of a U.S. protégé. There is little doubt about the influence which the latter has wielded in that country, particularly since the overthrow of the Arbenz regime. Moreover, it is generally accepted that a part of the ‘Bay of Pigs’ force was trained in Guatemala. The U.S. cannot afford to lose this important friend and springboard in Central America. Tiny British Honduras with its mere 106,000 people is a negligible sacrifice in the context of reinforcing this type of alliance.
These three factors – de-West-Indianization and Latinization, the Guatemalan claim and ‘Big Power’ international politics provide the rationalization for the ‘thirteen points’ and the fundamental courses of the deviation of British Honduras from the pattern of decolonization in the Commonwealth Caribbean.
Theoretically, a number of directional alternatives are available to the territory. In reality, the territory faces a grave dilemma. The theoretical alternatives are: independence within the Commonwealth, Associate Status with the United Kingdom, Associate Status with Guatemala, membership of a West Indies Federation or Confederation, Associate Status with Mexico, Associate Status with Canada, Associate Status with the United States of America or independence supported by the United States.
Both political parties in British Honduras have stated that they wish independence within the Commonwealth although as stated earlier, one insists on further qualification by adding “on the mainland of Central America.” The United Kingdom has recently indicated that it will not conclude any treaty pertaining to the disposition of British Honduras without consulting the territory’s ‘government’. Since any settlement which does not accord with the objective of independence within the Commonwealth would raise a fundamental question on which the Government was not given a mandate, the entire electorate should be consulted either by referendum or by general elections at which the matter would be the dominant issue.
Although the notion of independence may be emotionally satisfying, we live in a world of realism. With a mere 106,000 people, almost half of whom are in the ‘dependent’ age group, and a most underdeveloped economy, British Honduras could not afford the trappings, let alone the realities, of independence for many years to come unless some spectacular and as yet unforeseen developments occur, or unless some fairy godfather is prepared to finance it. It has accordingly been suggested that, British Honduras should, like the Leewards and Windwards with which it shares so many characteristics, seek Associate Status with the United Kingdom. However, in Britain’s present financial mood and its strong desire to attain a rapprochement with Central America, it would not be likely to accept any situation which gives the impression of a continued imperial presence or which involves the continued deployment of British troops in Central America. Despite the many similarities between British Honduras and the Leewards and Windwards, it has two characteristics which create an important basic difference in the context of this discussion – its mainland location which gives it a high visibility and more important, the Guatemalan sword of Damocles hanging over its head.
The point has been made that Associate Status with Guatemala would be unacceptable to the vast majority of the people. With regard to a West Indies federation or confederation, it appears that even if this were an imminent reality – which it is not – the question of defence against Guatemalan invasion would arise. It is doubtful whether the West Indies could afford it; in addition, British Hondurans have exhibited no mood for throwing in their lot with the West Indies. This might have been remotely possible had the Federation succeeded. In the event, ‘the I told you so’s’ are strongly entrenched.
Until the inauguration of the new President in Mexico, the prospects of a partly Mexican defended ‘independence’ even within the Commonwealth, seemed hopeful. Mexico and Guatemala were at odds and the Mexicans were said to be prepared to play big brother in the more healthy domestic meaning of the term. The situation has now changed. The new President recently made a goodwill tour of ‘Latin’ Central America. Relations with Guatemala are now cordial and Mexico’s wish for hegemony in Central America could hardly be satisfied if Mexico obstructed the satisfaction of Guatemala’s territorial ambition.
With regard to Associate Status with Canada, the Canadians have shown their overwhelming preference for dealing with a closely-knit Commonwealth Caribbean. Singling out British Honduras for special treatment would not accord with this policy and might therefore not be attempted. Moreover, it is extremely doubtful whether Canada would risk disrupting its relations with its southern neighbours by assuming the British Honduran problem.
Finally, we are left with an alternative in which the U.S.A. would play the major role. Presumably, there is a price at which Guatemala’s ambitions over British Honduras could be bought. Considering the existing relationship between the United States and that country, the former is perhaps the only country with the material means and the resources of persuasion to satisfy Guatemala. Having done this, the United States and the people of British Honduras could then jointly work out a plan for the country’s political future. This would be contingent on a change of heart on the part of the USA. United States statesmen advocate the principle of self-determination from time to time. The British Honduran dilemma presents an opportunity to convert words into deeds.
Unless this happens or unless the present and foreseeable situations change radically, the deviation of British Honduras from the Commonwealth Caribbean pattern of decolonization will be inevitable. Its destiny might well lie in recolonization rather than in decolonization.