BELIZE CITY, Mon. June 5, 2017–In the 1960s Grammy award-winning vocalist, Tammy Wynette, sang, “Stand by your man, give him two arms to cling to…”
And that is exactly what Prime Minister Dean Barrow did on Friday when he went out on a limb in defense of his embattled Cabinet minister, Edmond Castro.
Castro’s diplomatic and personal visas were unceremoniously revoked by the U.S. State Department last week.
Castro claimed to have had no interest in travelling to the United States and so declined an invitation by the US Embassy, he said, to discuss the renewal of his visas.
PM Barrow told the press that Castro’s visa was revoked only because he declined the invitation to discuss the renewal of his visas which were nearing expiration.
The Leader of the Opposition, John Briceño, maintained that Castro and Barrow have begun their attempts to downplay the serious nature of the revocations.
Last week Briceño called for Castro’s removal as minister and over the weekend, he commented on the Prime Minister’s response to the revocation.
“How can he say that he sees nothing wrong when a sitting minister, one of his members of his Cabinet, has visas, both diplomatic and tourist visas, cancelled, that says a lot. The US government is not going to take away the visa of a sitting minister of any government in any country unless if it is something serious,” explained Briceño.
According to Briceño, Castro and Barrow “are skillfully trying to confuse the Belizean people.”
Castro’s name has been mentioned in connection with a series of irregularities that took place at the Immigration Department which have led to shady international characters receiving fraudulent Belizean Immigration documents.
Briceño told the media that Castro was simply afraid to set foot at the US Embassy.
“Remember, the US Embassy is legally American soil, and so that once he goes there, they could arrest him, and they could ask him a lot of questions, questions that Mr. Castro, I believe, does not want to answer,” said the Opposition Leader.
He continued, “If Mr. Castro is not afraid, Minister Castro needs to go to the US Embassy and answer whatever questions they have for him. I suspect that the Prime Minister knows this, but he is trying to do any and everything to protect his government.”
Interestingly, on January 12, 2004, the then President of the United States, George W. Bush, signed a proclamation surrounding the United States diplomatic visa revocation.
Proclamation 7750 explained the basis for the suspension of entry of persons engaged in or benefiting from corruption.
That proclamation begins by laying out that, “For purposes of this proclamation, ‘serious adverse effects on the national interests of the United States’ means serious effects on the international economic activity of U.S. businesses, U.S. foreign assistance goals, the security of the United States against transnational crime and terrorism, or the stability of democratic institutions and nations.”