BELIZE CITY, Mon. June 8, 2015–Of recent, discussions in the public domain have centered to a great extent on the use, or as some have alleged, misuse – by the Barrow administration – of the bountiful Petrocaribe monies, courtesy of the Government of Venezuela, which were supposed to have been set aside for development and infrastructure programs.
The government’s critics have heavily criticized some of the ways in which the money has so far been spent, even as the Government of Belize (GOB) has made every effort to justify its utilization of those funds for varied purposes.
Those critics were considerably more annoyed after Minister of Education and Collet area representative, Hon. Patrick Faber, while speaking at an endorsement convention for newly installed Caribbean Shores standard bearer, Mayor Darrell Bradley, yesterday, Sunday, announced that Petrocaribe money was used to take 22 busloads of voters from the Collet division some 80 miles from Belize City on a retreat to the Corozal Bay to ‘eat tacos and bathe in the sea.’
Faber said, “I just got back, because I promised Darrell that I will be back [here in Belize City] in time to speak at this convention, but my friends, we were able, in the Collet constituency, to roll 22 loaded buses to Corozal Town today, and we had a wonderful family day, courtesy of Petrocaribe and our Prime Minister, Hon. Dean Barrow.”
Faber went on to elaborate on the trip, adding that “we danced to Jorge Ernest Babb and the Caribbean Roots Band, we bathe up eena di beautiful Corozal Bay sea – which was all turquoise and milky and beautiful, and we had a good – well we eat tacos and pibil and we eat barbeque, we had a feast. But most importantly, we bonded with the Collet family and we were able to share with the constituents of the north, and it would not have been possible if we did not have the kind of support from our Prime Minister and party leader, and also from the PetroCaribe funds.”
Today, Amandala attempted to get in contact with Faber to find out exactly how much was spent on the trip, but when we called his office, we were told that he was not there and that it was uncertain when he would be available.
We also tried to get comment from the Financial Secretary, Joseph Waight, but we were informed that he was in a meeting and that he would get back to us – but he hasn’t.
We also tried reaching PM Barrow to ascertain whether such a rendezvous was a valid reason for spending Petrocaribe finances which, as critics have pointed out, must be repaid at some point in time; however, our calls went unanswered.
At the start of this month, a document was exposed on KREM’s Wake Up Belize Morning Vibes show which indicated that in March 2014, $20 million was transferred from the Petrocaribe funds to meet mid-month salary commitments for public servants.
The document revealed that the same thing happened in March 2015 even though Government had emphatically stated that it would not, and could not use Petrocaribe funds to meet recurrent expenses such as salaries.
Financial Secretary Waight told us last week that the transactions were reimbursements to Government for funds which had been earmarked for general Government expenses but which had been used to pay PetroCaribe bills.