GUATEMALAN AGGRESSION & TRESPASS

The People’s United Party expresses its strongest condemnation of the actions of the Guatemalan Armed Forces and the inaction of the Government of Belize following the blatant harassment of Belizeans within our territorial waters this weekend.

We have been informed and presented with video evidence which clearly shows that at least four Guatemalan gunboats with armed personnel entered and remained within our waters at the Sarstoon as Belizeans participated in the 2nd Annual Sarstoon Island Eco-Challenge organized by the Belize Territorial Volunteers. The GAF clearly executed manoeuvres designed to intimidate paddlers in their kayaks and organizers/service personnel in vessels. We are also informed that the GAF turned back one of the vessels and did not allow it to approach Sarstoon Island.

Guatemalans stationed at the Sarstoon have maintained operational control of the entire Sarstoon River, and the Government of Belize through the Ministry of Foreign Affairs has committed a gross error in allowing this to happen. On various occasions SATIIM rangers have been turned back from routine patrols of the Sarstoon Temash National Park, and we know that the media has also met with Guatemalan aggression multiple times.

Our government has not taken a strong, unequivocal stance to support our territorial sovereignty over half of the Sarstoon including the Sarstoon Island. During these occasions of Guatemalans aggressing Belizeans, our military has never intervened, due to instructions coming from our Government leaders. Over this past weekend, as GAF vessels operated just in front of the BDF base at the Sarstoon, there was no movement from the BDF to assert our sovereignty or to protect Belizean lives.

The PUP calls on Prime Minister Dean Barrow and Foreign Minister Wilfred Elrington to ACT NOW to protect our territorial integrity. If they will not act, we call on them to tell the Belizean people how we lost the Sarstoon which we sing about in our National Anthem. As we prepare to celebrate our Independence, the people deserve to know the truth.

PUP Concerned About SSB Over-Exposure in GOB

September 14, 2017 – The recent revelation that over 80% of $458M of the Social Security Board’s investment portfolio held in government interests is of serious concern to the People’s United Party, and should be of concern to all Belizeans. With a thorough review of the audited and monthly financials, it becomes immediately evident that the Government is using the people’s monies to advance its political agenda.

The SSB’s investments are over-concentrated in government loans, statutory boards and government-controlled institutions such as the National Bank, which continues to operate at a loss. The government controlled BTL and BEL takes up as much as 33.5% of SSB’s investment portfolio in shares and debentures. Other investments are in the Belize Airports Authority, Belize Water Services Limited, Development Finance Corporation (DFC), as well as the Belize City Council Bonds.

Our concern grows when we consider that only a year ago there was over $130M in liquid assets in the banks and today merely $25m is deposited in the commercial banks, and of this only $16m is in short term deposits. This is a threat to contributors and beneficiaries of SSB whose payment of benefits, especially in the short and medium term, require considerable amounts of liquidity.  In addition, of the $25m about half is deposited at a single bank.

While SSB plays an important role in the development of the economy, steps should be taken to limit the concentration of the portfolio with any one institution. This holds true with the placement of certificates of deposit with any one bank. In placing CDs the bank and its assets and liabilities should be properly analyzed. Liquidity of the investments is a foremost consideration in the implementation of an investment in accordance with actuarial recommendations, taking into consideration that the increase in reserves will arise exclusively from a decreasing share of investment income in the medium term.

Given the recent information on the status of the GOB’s financial situation it is alarming that so much of the monies paid by the workers and employers to the SSB could be in jeopardy. This fund is the main safety net for thousands of Belizean workers in time of sickness and old age. We call on the Social Partners represented on the Board of Directors of the SSB to ensure that the fund is not placed in a positon of undue risk.

The latest press release sent out by the Belize Airports Authority (BAA) stating that a $7m loan to upgrade the Caye Caulker airstrip is expected to come from the SSB raises further concerns for it comes on the heels of a $17m loan for the upgrading of the Municipal Airstrip which as we understand is only 65% completed.

The funds at the Social Security Board belong to the Belizean people. This is the people’s money. The People’s United Party will remain vigilant in protecting the people’s money against the undue risks taken by the UDP for political expediency.

Opposition Leader writes PM Dean Barrow

Rt. Hon. Dean Barrow
Prime Minister
Office of the Prime Minister
Sir Edney Cain Building
Belmopan

1st September 2017

Dear Prime Minister:
For too long, the good people of Belize have been fed a constant diet of corruption in the
highest ranks of the Government you lead. You have presided, as Prime Minister over a
Government that facilitated and condoned the bucket sale of nationality, passports and visas
orchestrated by your Ministers and their cronies for personal profit, the pillaging of the land
resources of our country under the leadership of your colleague and former Deputy Prime
Minister Gaspar Vega for his family and friends, and the wanton abuse and criminality lately
revealed by the Auditor General in several ministries. This criminality has been met with
perfunctory acceptance by you its “a hotbed or corruption”; with weak appeals, “for God
sake stop if’; and callous disregard “what it is is what it is”.

We have witnessed undeniably criminal giving of national land on Mosquito Caye to
members of the Vega Family. This is but the latest in the litany of corruption in your
Government. Misfeasance in Office has been obvious over the years and you have done
nothing. We have had enough.

Social partners have over the past two days publicly expressed their outrage at the latest
scandals. They are right. But just as importantly, they have highlighted the fact that the
Government you lead has deliberately undermined the institutions of oversight. The Public
Accounts Committee has been undermined by your Government. The Integrity Commission
has been rendered powerless, again by your Government. The result is where we are today. A nation beset by scandal after scandal perpetrated by your Government. Basta, Prime
Minister!
We are monitoring very closely the investigation by the Police, which you have publicly
announced. We call on you to immediately produce to the public evidence that indeed the land illegally given to the Vegas on Mosquito Caye has been cancelled. But that is just the start. We demand that you immediately do the following:
1. Establish a Commission of Inquiry into the hotbed of corruption in the Ministry of Lands
for the period 2008 to 2015;
2. That you instruct the Attorney General to initiate a claim for misfeasance in public office
against Gaspar Vega and ensure the recovery of all the ill-gotten gains by him and his
family, and damages in the millions for loss suffered by the people of Belize;
3. That you instruct the UDP members of the Public Accounts Committee to vote in support
of our call for meeting of the PAC to be public hearings; and
4. That you cause your nominees on the Integrity Commission to vote in favour of our call
for all public officials to file returns beginning in20l2.
These, Mr Prime Minister are our minimum demands. You have allowed a culture of corruption to flourish under your watch. The confidence of the Belizean people has been betrayed by you and your cabinet colleagues.

I look forward to a positive response.

 

Public Service Union of Belize Press Release

The Public Service Union of Belize has noted the increased incidents of reported acts of corruption in several Government Ministries in particular the Ministry of Lands and Natural Resources, the Ministry of Works and the Ministry of Health. These reported incidents come on the heel of the Senate Select Committee Inquiry into all allegations of corruption at the Immigration and Nationality Department. The Senate Select Committee Inquiry has so far implicated several Senior Public Officers in outright corruption, wrongdoing and  lack of integrity in the performance of their duties.

Whilst the chief perpetrators of these corrupt acts may be Senior Government Ministers who abuse their authority and the several loopholes in existing legislation, it must be noted that it is the Public Officer who is invariably left exposed and made to suffer the consequences of these illegalities. The Public Service Union of Belize therefore wishes to advise Public Officers to adhere to the regulation that govern their code of conduct, to not compromise the fair exercise of their duties and to not to allow their integrity to be called into question. Be remind ed that no member of the House of Representatives is to give direct instructions to any Public Officer but rather communicate through their Accounting Officer

It is in this spirit that tht union welcomes the initiative by Government to conduct an extensive investigation into the allegations of fraud and outright corruption at the Ministry of Lands that have come to light in the recent days. We ask that this investigation be extended to include other questionable land transaction at the Ministry of Lands and Natural Resources under the tenure of the  former Minister Hon. Gaspar Vega. The Ministry of Works and the Ministry of Health must also be similarly investigated for alleged acts of corruption.

The Union calls for the urgent reactivation of the Integrity Commission and the Public Accounts Committee. These bodies must be allowed to carry out their functions in a fair and impartial manner and without undue politicaI influence. The Union also expects that the implementation of the United Nations Convenntion against Corruption will be hastened so that Ministers of Government who engage in acts of corruption, will be dealt with to the  highest extent of the law.

Party Leader Hon. John Briceño’s Statement to the Press Wednesday, 30th August 2017

Good afternoon, on behalf of the People’s United Party, I condemn yet again the corruption in the Government of the United Democratic party, under the leadership of the Rt. Hon. Dean Barrow.

We Belizeans have witnessed an obvious act of misfeasance in public office, which occurred at the Lands Ministry during the tenure of Former Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Natural Resources Gaspar Vega.

I place on record our utter dissatisfaction with the Prime Minister’s dismissive comment to the press when asked about the recent revelations of yet anther Vega land scheme saying: “what it is, is what it is”.

Ladies and gentlemen, what this is, is a Prime Minister making light of one of his minister’s land hustle. “What it is”, is a case of self-dealing on the part of his former Deputy Prime Minister.

“What it is”, is a Prime Minister who chose to do nothing while the nation’s patrimony was being looted and stolen.

“What it is” is a well-orchestrated get rich scheme by the Vega Family.

That is what it is.

For too long the Prime Minister has turned a blind eye to what was happening in the Ministry of Lands under his former Deputy Prime Minister.

It was 4 years ago, on the 20th of October 2013 that the Prime Minister publicly declared the Ministry of Lands under Gapi Vega as “a hotbed of corruption”.

The fact that the Prime Minister removed Gaspar Vega from the Ministry of Natural Resources is not enough! The fact that Vega was allowed to resign from Cabinet is still not enough!

This latest scam operation that occurred at the Lands Department during the tenure of former Deputy Prime Minister Vega can be added to:
? The Shipstern sea front properties
? The close to seventeen hundred acres of land in the Carmelita area now famously called Rancho Vega
? The more than 400 acres of land in the Spanish Creek Area near the Belize River on the George Price Highway
? The lands that were de-reserved from the Don Elijo Panti National Park in the Mountain Pine Ridge Forest Reserve
? The countless caye lands sold cheaply to his family members and associates
? And the big hustle in respect to compensation for lands his son Andre and other family members received.

This is similar to what occurred with the land near the Haulover Bridge, which was private land that the Government ended up compensating Andre Vega and Sharon Pitts for $400,000 each.

Now this Mosquito Caye land swap is an obscene UDP scam designed to reward the Vegas with their own private island located right next to Leonardo di Caprio’s Blackadore Caye. Here is what was corruptly and criminally done:
First the Government of Belize compensated a company called Aquarius Ltd. for a portion of land Aquarius Ltd. acquired privately.

This very same private land that they knew did not belong to the Government was then transferred to Darrel Henry and Amy Forte, which according to the documents was sold for $2500 each.

Then according to the records Henry and Forte supposedly turned around and sold their parcels of land to Andre Vega and Eduardo Vega in separate transactions.

Lo and behold, the lands that were sold to Andre Vega and Eduardo Vega was once again discovered to be private land and so for the second time the Government had to compensate individuals for the same land.

That is the same land for which compensation had been paid to Aquarius Ltd. But it was not ordinary people involved this time, so the compensation had to be different.
And what was the compensation this time around?

Well — the compensation was Mosquito Caye, located right next to Di Caprio’s Caye and which at today’s market price could fetch around five million US dollars.
But here’s the thing, since the news broke about this land scam Ms Amy Forte has come forward.
Ms Forte has disclosed that she never received title to the land; nor did she pay any purchase price to government for Fiat Grant No 175 of 2009; nor did she receive $30,000 for the sale of such land to Andre Vega. Ms Forte had tests done to the documents bearing her signature and according to the expert her signature was forged. Interestingly, the fraudulent Conveyance bears the signature of Ms Darlene Padron, a justice of the peace who worked at the Ministry of Lands under Vega.

As the Belizean people know, this is not an isolated incident; this is a scheme by these UDP Ministers to enrich themselves and their families. Belizeans, enough is enough!
It is time for the Prime Minister to take action.

We in the PUP demand that the Prime Minister take the following immediate actions:
1. Ensure that the Commissioner of Police instruct the Criminal Investigation Branch of the Police Department to open an investigation into the fraudulent scams by the Vega Family.
2. As he is the current Minister of Lands, we demand that the Prime Minister immediately cancel all land titles issued, since 2008, by the Government of Belize to members of the Vega family.
3. Establish a Commission of Inquiry into the hotbed of corruption in the Ministry of Lands for the period 2008 to 2015.
4. We demand that the Prime Minister instruct the Attorney general to initiate a claim for misfeasance in public office against Gaspar Vega and ensure the recovery of all the ill-gotten gains by his family, and damages in the millions for loss suffered by the people of Belize.

In addition and in accordance with standing order 25 of the House, we will table a motion in National Assembly calling for a full and thorough investigation into the Ministry of Lands during the tenure of Gaspar Vega and will also instruct our PUP Senators to call for the same in the Senate.

The Belizean people deserve better from all of us who offer ourselves for positions of leadership, whether it be as politicians, social activists, business or religious leaders. All of us have a responsibility to speak out against corruption. I call on all our leaders to join me in demanding that the Prime Minister do the right thing and take the appropriate action against Gaspar Vega and his family.

BNTU Calls on the PM to IMMEDIATELY Address the Latest Illicit Land Hustle Affair and to Tell Minister Elrington to Watch His Words

August 30,2017;  The Belize National Teachers’ Union (BNTU) bas been carefully following the latest revelations,through the media,about the Ministry of Natural Resources. We are sorely disappointed to witness yet another obvious blatant form of corruption coming out of this Ministry. The BNTU reminds the Prime Minister and his Government that last year we demanded and became a signatory to the United Nations Convention on Anti-Corruption (UNCAC) and therefore schemes such as this most recent one must be immediately investigated and addressed with the implementation of structurally tangible measures.

Our bleak economic situation continues on its decline and yet we continue to be bombarded by hustling (get-rich-quick schemes) such as these, which have and continue to contribute to the haemorrhaging of our country’s coffers. We are appalled at the PM’s rather flippant and dismissive response when questioned by the media on this matter. “What it is, is what it is,”were his words, which in no way demonstrates that our Prime Minister is concerned about the issue at hand but rather clearly shows his trivial outlook on the situation.The checks and balances which SHOULD be in place through the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) and the Integrity Commission MUST now engage in full gear. We repeat that we DEMAND immediate investigation into the Ministry of Natural Resources and those who continue to use politics and position for personal gain.

Additionally, the Foreign Minister of Belize, the Honorable Wilfred Sedi Elrington, in recent media interviews, continues to call our borders into question. Minister Elrington, who seems to have a monopoly on knowledge and understanding in our country, publicly equates our Belizean territorial right, (established since 1898) to SQUATTING. He also consistently insists that our borders are NOT INTERNATIONALLY RECOGNIZED; hence the need to go to the International Court of Justice (ICJ).

The BNTU, through this medium, denounces these public statements by the Foreign Minister and calls on the Prime Minister to advise the Foreign Minister to “watch his words.”  We continue on our “Stand Up For Belize Campaign” and call on all “right tltittking “ Belizeans to join us in calling out these and other matters which continue to threaten the sovereign and territorial integrity of Belize and the economic stability of our nation. It is high time that this Prime Minister and the Government elected to serve, do so in the interest of WE THE PEOPLE who have put them into power.

 

UNDERSCORING THE NEED FOR THE RULE OF LAW (BCCI press release)

AUGUST 30TH , 2017 .. A fundamental element in the sustainable development formula of any nation is the enduring practice of the rule of law at every level of society. A country that builds a reputation for prevalence of rule of law and is determined through its leaders to protect its citizens and the state against all forms of corruption will very likely be a model of developmental success.

Belize’s governance structure, even without UNCAC, already allows for checks and balances through the Supreme Audit Institution, the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) and the Integrity Commission. However, political expediency and interference have rendered these bodies almost completely ineffective. The latter two bodies have had absolutely no effect in checking corruption in the public sector, while the former is unable to carry out the number of audits required on a more timely basis. Case in point is that the last tabled Audit Report is for Fiscal year ended 2012.

The constant media reports of the many corrupt schemes employed at the Ministry of Natural Resources are appalling. Despite evidence of blatant abuse of office for personal gain, the Prime Minister has commented that he doubts there is any “actionable illegality.” With due respect to the office, it is not for any Prime Minister to make that determination. Corruption accusations must be subjected to the same judicial scrutiny to which any other criminal accusation would be subjected. The BCCI therefore calls upon the relevant authorities to investigate the allegations of acquisition of land and improper compensation so exhaustively discussed in the media. The Prime Minister, as a responsible leader, must encourage a thorough investigation without political interference and anyone found to be involved brought to justice.

It is time for the various branches of law enforcement to carry out their mandates to use their legal powers to expose and eliminate all forms of corruption now entrenched in our society; thereby giving Belize and her people a chance at developmental success. If these entities fail to perform, then the people of this country must find other methods for eliminating corruption, and with urgency.

The BCCI reminds Prime Minister Barrow and the public that almost exactly one year ago he committed to having the Laws redrafted to have the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) re-configured for the inclusion of Social Partner Senators. The public should take very seriously the fact that to date, this task remains incomplete. The most recent Audit report on the Ministry of Works is damning and so are the many land scandals. Inaction by the GOB on the abuse of our natural and fiscal resources is no longer acceptable.
No one should be above the law, regardless of name, position, or political affiliation.

PUP CONDEMNS CORRUPTION IN LANDS DEPARTMENT

August 24, 2017

The People’s United Party is appalled at the level of corruption which has been revealed in the Ministry of Natural Resources, and which overwhelming evidence shows is directly linked to Gaspar Vega and members of his family. This has gone far past the point of calling for Vega’s resignation as a Member of Parliament. The PUP, on behalf of the Belizean people, demands that the Prime Minister immediately convene an impartial investigative team to look into the gross unjust enrichment of Vega and members of his family from the public purse, with a view to criminal prosecution.

Even worse than the institutionalized corruption in the Lands Department which saw Vega and family appropriating thousands of acres of prime property across the country, evidence now suggests that documents were forged to facilitate such enrichment. If that is so, then all who are involved, including the then Minister, need to be jailed.

For absolute clarity, the PUP states here and now that we have no confidence in the Prime Minister to do the right thing. He has consistently and deliberately ignored all evidence of wrongdoing where Vega, his personal friend, is concerned. His comments on Friday when faced with questions about Vega’s outrageous corruption and the evidence was this – “Why would I look at those documents? What it is, is what it is.”

We send notice to Mr. Barrow that his deliberate inaction where Vega’s corruption is concerned makes him complicit in larcenous schemes which likely robbed Belizeans of tens of millions of dollars and thousands of acres of prime property.

The next government of the People’s United Party WILL launch a comprehensive, independent investigation in the Ministry of Natural Resources. We WILL seek the criminal prosecution of ALL who are found guilty of wrongdoing including then Minister Vega and members of his family. The PUP WILL enact an “Asset Recovery Law” that will allow for the recovery of assets and seizure of goods obtained by means of corruption in government and illicit transactions.  This is in keeping with UNCAC to which Belize is now a signatory.

The PUP calls on our Social Partners and all Belizeans to stand with us as we demand an independent investigation into blatant wrongdoing in the Ministry of Natural Resources. It is critical for good governance today as well as in administrations to come.

PUP REJECTS THE REMOVAL OF FUEL SUBSIDIES FOR CANE FARMERS

July 24, 2017 — The People’s United Party is gravely concerned by a statement coming out of the Ministry of Agriculture regarding the future status of fuel subsidies to cane-farmers. In an interview with the media, Agriculture CEO Jose Alpuche stated, “I know for a fact that Government is coming under tremendous pressure by the IFIs to end the subsidies that they provide to sugar. Sugar is one of the only industries that obtains those levels of subsidies and Government is coming under increasing pressure to end those.”

This is another nail in the coffin for cane-farmers who have been forced to deal with rising costs of inputs and production. They will be unable to produce cane competitively, at a time when they are faced with the inevitable loss of preferential markets. Each and every year our farmers must deal with deteriorating sugar roads the increase in fuel and fertilizer costs. To be told now that they likely will lose the fuel subsidy for the 2017-2018 crop is the worst possible news.

The PUP condemns Government’s position of always targeting the small man while protecting big business. While the Barrow Administration through the Ministry of Agriculture speaks about doing away with fuel subsidies, claiming pressure from the International Financial Institutions, they say nothing about the subsidies granted to ASR/BSI and Santander. Both these companies enjoy tax and duty exemptions and other incentives. If the IFIs are indeed speaking about fuel subsidies to farmers, and this is not just another ruse to refill GOB coffers, then why aren’t they talking about the subsidies to these multinational companies?

While ASR/BSI has proclaimed the 2016/2017 season a success, we note that this is due largely to the efforts of farmers to produce and deliver high-quality sugar cane. Still, we note for context that the estimated price per ton for this season in Belize will be approximately $57BZ per ton even though our Mexican neighbors recently paid their farmers $93BZ per ton.

The PUP calls on Government to revisit any intention to cut fuel subsidies to cane-farmers, who produce arguably the best quality sugar in the region. The consistent and constant failure of this inept UDP Government to adequately support the productive sector is once again being brought to the fore. This Barrow Administration must address these issues NOW…and MUST make decisions with the farmers, and not big money, at heart.

UDP Ministers Display Disrespect at the Senate Select Committee Hearings

The People’s United Party strongly condemns the contemptuous and disrespectful behaviour displayed by two sitting UDP Ministers who appeared before the Senate Special Select Committee today.
Minister Anthony ‘Boots’ Martinez and Minister Edmond Castro were both disrespectful and rude while giving testimony before the Senate Select Committee. Their behaviour showed a complete lack of respect for the Senate and for the office which they hold.

Both ministers refused to answer most of the questions put to them by members of the Committee, becoming progressively contentious and hostile when faced with queries about their roles in the rampant corruption in Immigration. They were also deliberately dishonest, repeatedly claiming that they were not aware of any culture of corruption in the Immigration Department. Neither Minister seemed to remember the Prime Minister’s comment about Ministerial involvement in the Visa hustle when he exclaimed: “Fuh God’s Sake Stop It!”

Quite apart from our outrage at the disrespectful and brutish behaviour of these men, as Belizeans we are ashamed at the knowledge that what occurred in the Senate today will surely be broadcast regionally. Our regional and foreign partners will observe this shameful display from those who are, regrettably, in leadership roles in this country.

The actions of these Ministers who clearly believe that they are the ‘untouchables,’ show a troubling pattern by the Barrow Administration to display wanton disregard for truth and the rule of law. We would, in this instance, call on Prime Minister Dean Barrow to sanction them, but they are monsters of his own making, and he has demonstrated that he condones and defends such behaviour from his Ministers.