Features — 06 November 2015 — by Johnelle McKenzie
In Cayo, UDP 4, PUP 2

CAYO DISTRICT, Wed. Nov. 4, 2015–Our Belizean flag is blue and red in color, and at its center is the coat of arms that identifies us and brings us together as a nation; however, on November 4, when the general elections were held, we were a country divided by colors and the parties those colors represent.

The Cayo District is divided into the following electoral divisions: Belmopan, Cayo North, Cayo Central, Cayo West, Cayo South and Cayo North East.

The Cayo North constituency was created around the time of the 1961 general election as a result of a nationwide redistricting, and 6,940 registered voters are in this division. The UDP standard bearer in this constituency for this year’s general election was Omar Figueroa, who had won a bye-election on January 5, 2015 over his opponent, Richard Harrison, and the PUP candidate was Michel Chebat.

Figueroa told Amandala he believed that 65% of the registered voters would be voting for him. “The election is about the people, what they want, what their needs are and who can really represent them,” he said.

Cayo Central – which consists of Santa Elena, Georgeville, Buena Vista, San Ignacio and Cristo Rey – holds one of 10 seats created for the 1984 general elections. Daniel Silva became the PUP standard bearer for the constituency after winning a PUP convention on April 27, 2014, over Luke Espat.

Meanwhile, Rene Montero was the UDP’s incumbent. Amandala caught up with both candidates at Santa Elena Roman Catholic School.

Silva told Amandala that he had high hopes that 75% of the 8,468 voters would vote for him. He noted that the turnout had been slow but expressed the belief that it would increase later in the evening. He was confident that he would win because of his past record in politics.

Silva said, “I left politics 14 years ago and coming back has been easy, since we have a pretty good record in the constituency. We have built schools and houses and given away lots.”

Rene Montero, the incumbent, told Amandala that he would like the people of Cayo Central to know he would not disappoint them and as their representative he would work for them by continuing the infrastructural work and awarding scholarships to the young people of the area.

The Cayo West constituency – consisting of Arenal, Benque Viejo, Calla Creek and Succotz – was also created at the time of the 1984 general elections. In Cayo West, the candidate for the PUP was Lesbia Guerra Cocom, who is a general practitioner, and for the UDP, Erwin Contreras, the incumbent; both were trying to gain the majority of the 7,069 registered voters.

Guerra-Cocom told Amandala that Benque Viejo is her hometown and she serves her community as a medical doctor and by doing so, she has become familiar with the needs of the people, as well as their challenges, such as poverty. She noted that Benque Viejo doesn’t have a hospital, and as a result accessing good healthcare is difficult. Also Guerra-Cocom said the unemployment rate has been on the rise in Benque Viejo. She expressed the desire to address these needs if she got elected and make life better for the people of Cayo West.

Erwin Contreras, the incumbent, first was elected in 1998 when he defeated Amin Hegar of the People’s United Party by 10 votes. He thus has a track record as the area’s representative. Contreras said if he was returned to power he would continue repairing the streets and creating jobs and noted that there is a Free Zone that will be opening shortly in Cayo West.

Cayo South, which has 7,442 registered voters, was created in the 1961 general elections as a result of redistricting. The candidates hoping to garner the majority of the votes in order to be elected as area representative of the division were Ralph Huang for the UDP, Andrew Williams for the Belize Progressive Party (BPP), John Banner, an independent, and Julius Espat, the PUP area representative since 2012.

Espat told Amandala that he was expecting an overwhelming majority of the registered voters to be voting for him. “The last 8 years the government has been very vindictive and has suffocated any opposition representatives from getting access to funds for their people,” said Espat.

He said that in Cayo South, he (Espat) has incorporated what he refers to as the community spirit, whereby people with more access to funds give to establish projects for the area and so a lot has been accomplished, but it is small in comparison to what an area representative can do if provided with government support. He noted that the government is formed from both the ruling party and the Opposition, and he is fighting for each elected representative to have a budget set in place for their constituency.

The Cayo North East constituency consists of the northern part of San Ignacio, as well as the villages of Santa Familia, Spanish Lookout, Billy White, Esperanza, Duck Run I, Duck Run II, and Duck Run. Cayo North East has a total of 5,953 registered voters. John August, the UDP candidate, once a mayor, had replaced Elvin Penner, the former disgraced Minister of State, in June 2014. Orlando Habet was the PUP candidate.

The polls were closed at 6 p.m. and then the counting began to determine the winners.

In Cayo North, the UDP candidate, Omar Figueroa, received 2,674 votes, while his opponent, Michel Chebat, received 2,515 votes, Figueroa was declared the winner by a margin of 159 votes.

For Cayo Central, the UDP candidate, Rene Montero, received 3,299 votes, winning over his opponent, Daniel Silva, the PUP candidate, who received 3,036 votes.

For Cayo West, the UDP candidate, Erwin Contreras, received 3,290 votes, while his opponent, Lesbia Guerra-Cocom, received 2,006 votes; Contreras won by a margin of 1,284 votes.

In Cayo South, the PUP candidate, Julius Espat, received 3,008 votes, beating his three opponents – Ralph Huang, the UDP candidate, who received 1,892 votes; John Banner, the independent candidate, who received 57 votes; and Andrew Williams, the BPP candidate, who received 77 votes.

In Cayo North East, Orlando Habet, the PUP candidate, received 2,217 votes, while his opponent, John August, the UDP candidate, received 2,145 votes. Habet won over his opponent by a difference of 72 votes.

In Belmopan, John Saldivar, the UDP incumbent, received 3,532 votes, while his opponent, Patrick Andrews, the PUP candidate, received 2,775 votes; and Charles Leslie, Jr., the BBP candidate, received 177 votes.

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