Political Clientelism and Democracy in Belize
From My Hand to Yours
- Published: April 2022
In Political Clientelism and Democracy in Belize: From My Hand to Yours, Dylan Vernon revisits the modern political history of Belize from 1954 to 2013 through the unique analytic lens of the often unspoken but ubiquitous political clientelism, in which politicians provide resources and services to people in return for political support. Presenting Belize as an illustrative and critical case of rampant and damaging political clientelism in the Commonwealth Caribbean, Vernon methodically examines how clientelist politics took root in Belize during the nationalist period and why it expanded exponentially after independence in 1981. He explores and exposes the varied interactions between the widespread day-to-day practices of entrenched clientelist politics, the multiple actors involved and, importantly, the deleterious implications for the quality of democracy and people's livelihoods.
Based on meticulous qualitative research, including in-depth interviews with Belizean political leaders and citizens, Vernon convincingly illustrates that even as the thousands of weekly informal politician/constituent transactions are essentially rational choices that have some short-term benefits for individuals - and especially the poor - collectively they spawn damaging macro-political and economic consequences for small developing states. Electoral democracy is tarnished, public resources are wasted, more politicians become clients of wealthy donors and political corruption is facilitated. As a parallel but unofficial social welfare system embeds itself at the constituency level, politicians and citizens alike have become trapped in a thorny web of mutual clientelist dependency.