The land in question is 2.75 acres of prime seafront property located near the Haulover Bridge. It has been privately owned since 1988. But in 2011 attorney Sharon Pitts applied to survey. After an investigation was done it was revealed that the property was privately owned and documents show that Minister Vega, despite being informed that the land was unavailable, still approved a title to 1.626 acres to Pitts. Because of the Minister’s actions, the government of Belize then entered into an agreement with Pitts to reacquire the land, an agreement with Pitts to reacquire the land, an agreement which saw Pitts getting $400,000 in 2015, for land she purchased in 2012, thanks to Minister Gaspar Vega, for only $10,569.
But Vega was not done with that particular parcel which totaled 2.75 acres. After giving Sharon Pitts 1.626 acres in 2012, he then approved a title for the balance of the prime property, 1.057 acres, for his campaign manager and right hand man Hilmar Alamilla. Vega instructed that Alamilla was to pay only $2500 for the prime property. Alamilla appears to have been only a facilitator in the scheme, because he turned around and sold the land for $15,000 to Gaspar Vega’s son, Andre. But remember this land was privately owned, a fact the Minister knew. So then the government of Belize through the Ministry of Natural Resources under Vega, was forced to pay to reacquire that piece of land from his son for $400,000.
Because of the deliberate actions of Vega, Belizeans taxpayers were forced to pay $800,000, almost a million dollars, to Vega’s son and a well-connected UDP, Sharon Pitts. Vega paid only $15,000 for the land, while Pitts paid only $10,569.
– pg. 2, THE BELIZE TIMES, Sunday, October 16, 2016
When United Democratic Party (UDP) Cabinet Ministers, Hon. Michael Finnegan (Mesopotamia) and Hon. Tracy Panton (Albert), held an urgent press conference on Friday afternoon, October 14, it was less than 24 hours after the leaders of the striking teachers of Belize had met, for the second time in two weeks, with the Rt. Hon. Prime Minister of Belize, Dean O. Barrow (Queen’s Square) and his team of advisors.
Hon. Finnegan was able to appeal to his audience (the press conference was televised live on the UDP’s WAVE television station and its major segments were broadcast in the nation’s various radio and television news packages that evening) for public support for the UDP government against the striking teachers on the grounds that the Prime Minister had given the teachers almost everything they wanted during the Thursday afternoon meeting of October 13.
While it has been established during their recent industrial action that the teachers represent the vanguard of national probity where Belizean governance is concerned, the teachers are not a professional political organization, and they were badly outmaneuvered by the Prime Minister on Thursday. After meeting with the teachers, and while the Council of Management of the Belize National Teachers Union (BNTU) was huddling in order to prepare a preliminary response to Mr. Barrow’s proposals, the Prime Minister held a sudden, unscheduled press conference which was televised live nationwide by LOVE Television. In the press conference, he claimed that the leaders of the teachers had not brought up the seminal matter of the 3 percent salary adjustment, but he did not explain that the BNTU had indicated that since they would be meeting the PM/Minister of Finance in tandem with the other two unions involved in the 3 percent issue, they would wait until that joint meeting before addressing the 3 percent.
What the Prime Minister’s Machiavellian televised press conference move did was raise a furor amongst the BNTU base and temporarily divide the teachers from their leaders. Enraged by the PM’s perfidy, the BNTU Council of Management, without explaining in detail to the people of Belize what had happened, railed against the Prime Minister because their reaction to that specific perfidy was to conclude that his four hours of negotiations with respect to their 8-point agenda had been conducted in bad faith. The BNTU leaders left the opening for Minister Finnegan and Panton to launch their propaganda broadside the following afternoon.
Because of their failure to get the militant support of the water, electricity and telecommunications workers, as represented in the other unions in the National Trade Union Congress of Belize (NTUCB), the BNTU find themselves exposed to the full fury of the Government of Belize. The generalized public support which had been sustaining the teachers, was weakened on Friday when the BNTU were outfoxed by the elected Pharisees.
The same Friday afternoon of October 14 when the Finnegan-Panton press conference was being held, the Opposition People’s United Party (PUP) announced that they were calling for the Prime Minister to resign because of his mishandling of the Belize Telemedia Limited (BTL) nationalization negotiations with Lord Michael Ashcroft. The sensational issue on Friday afternoon, October 14, for the masses of the Belizean people was, however, neither the PM’s negotiations with the BNTU or his payment of US$67 million to Lord Ashcroft from Belize’s meager foreign resources: the issue was Gapi Vega, his son Andre Vega, and the “loyal and patriotic” attorney, Sharon Pitts. The stench of corruption was foul. It was more than a whiff, Mr. Whiff.
We don’t believe there is anything wrong with Mr. Barrow’s olfactory sense. The evidence suggests that he has fallen in love with his power. And for that reason, he has made compromises with principles the Belizean people hold dear in public office. The primary reason the Belizean people hold these principles dear in public office is because it’s our hard earned money our elected PUDP politicians have been playing with through the years.
The Hon. Gaspar Vega was Mr. Barrow’s Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of National Resources from February of 2008 until November of 2015. Mr. Vega ran the Government of Belize when Mr. Barrow was taking his frequent and extended trips to the United States, and, let it be noted, no Belizean Prime Minister has ever been absent from his desk as often as the current one.
During his press conference on Friday afternoon, Hon. Finnegan registered his disapproval of one of Ya Ya Marin Coleman’s street interview shows where a couple of her guests referred to Mr. Barrow as corrupt. Mr. Finnegan appeared to think that these opinions were abominable, and that Mr. Barrow should take legal action. Our question to the Hon. Finnegan would be, if the captain is running a manifestly corrupt ship, how can observers be indicted for ascribing that corruption to himself?
Perhaps it may have been a case of self-righteous arrogance, perhaps it was a case of pathetic naiveté, but the honorable teachers of Belize took it upon themselves to address the issue of corruption, once and for all, when they began this bold industrial action of theirs. As the days go by, it becomes more and more clear how outgunned the teachers are by the massive power of the Government of Belize, acting for and on behalf of the invisible power structure. None of the crooks who have violated the people’s moneys has ever gone to jail in Belize. We have a serious systemic problem here. Corruption is protected and condoned. It is for this reason that the teachers have taken a stand.
For us at this newspaper, the most important aspect of the teachers’ demands is the United Nations anti-corruption legislation. It is because of such legislation that the long-suffering people of Guatemala were able to imprison their President and Vice-President last year. For as long as this newspaper has existed, we have condemned oligarchical corruption in the republic to the west of us. Brave people in Guatemala have done something dramatic about it. Why is it that Belizeans cannot do the same?
Power to the people.