Headline — 06 November 2015 — by Rowland A. Parks
PUP Leader, Hon. Francis Fonseca, steps down

BELIZE CITY, Thurs. Nov. 5, 2015–In the wake of its crushing defeat at the polls in yesterday’s general elections, the Leader of the Opposition People’s United Party (PUP), Hon. Francis Fonseca, who successfully defended his Freetown constituency seat with his resounding defeat of the United Democratic Party (UDP) candidate Dr. Carla Barnett, announced this afternoon that he is stepping down as PUP Leader, and that after serving out his term as area representative in the House of Representatives for the Freetown constituency, he will retire from electoral politics.

Fonseca made the announcement at the party’s Independence Hall headquarters, in the presence of several PUP standard bearers who ran in yesterday’s elections.

Before making the announcement in the hall, where the mood was somber, Fonseca said that many of the PUP standard bearers have called him to say that “they are of course very tired and very disappointed and apologized for not being here this afternoon.”

“[I’m] certainly glad that some of our standard bearers have been able to make it here to join me this afternoon,” he then commented.

Fonseca then declared, “Ladies and gentlemen, the Belizean people have spoken and as I have said very consistently over the past few weeks, in particular leading up to election day, we in the People’s United Party always respect the will of the people. So the people have spoken. We congratulate Prime Minister Barrow. I have spoken to him personally; he and I had a very cordial conversation this morning and I expressed to him congratulations on behalf of the People’s United Party, both to him and his party on a very clear and national victory for the United Democratic Party.”

“Elections by their nature are very divisive, and as I said to Mr. Barrow, the elections are over and we must begin the healing process. We must work together in the interest of the Belizean people,” he then remarked.

Fonseca personally thanked all those who participated in the elections — the voters, campaigners, and organizers for the party, for their support

“I am proud of each and every one of them. I have spoken to many of them last night, and this morning, and those that I have not yet spoken to I certainly intend to do so sometime today and tomorrow. I believe that everyone was committed to fighting and winning this election,” he stated.

“Ladies and gentlemen, it has been my distinct honor and privilege to lead the People’s United Party over the last four years. I think, given the results of yesterday’s elections, it is right and appropriate that I stand down as the Leader of the People’s United Party,” Fonseca said.

He explained that he does not intend to do so immediately; that he wants to make sure there is an orderly and smooth transition.

“I will advise the Chairman of the Party to ensure that we put in place a structure to ensure that that smooth transition takes place over the next few weeks,” he said.

Fonseca said the PUP will have to meet as a national executive to discuss the transition process in compliance with Party’s Constitution so that the Party can prepare itself for the election of a new leader.

“On a note of personal privilege, I certainly want to thank the wonderful people of Freetown for their unwavering support for four consecutive general elections. I have been and continue to be humbled by their love and support,” Fonseca noted.

“I am a very young man. I am still in my forties, but I think that I will have to find another way to contribute to the development of Belize. I will of course serve out my term working for the people of Freetown, but I do not intend to seek re-election,” Fonseca explained.

Fonseca expressed his thanks for the love and support that he has received over the past four years, especially from the team at the PUP Secretariat, Secretary General Myrtle Palacio and Sherol Saldivar, as well as his personal team of George Domingo and Albert Vaughan.

Francis Fonseca ascended to the leadership of the PUP after being personally selected by members of the family of the late PUP Leader emeritus Rt. Hon. George Price, following the unexpected resignation of Hon. John Briceño. Mark Espat had been appointed as Interim Leader. Just a couple weeks later, however, Espat resigned as Interim Leader.

Espat’s resignation created a leadership vacuum for the PUP in late October 2011, and Fonseca came forward to lead the PUP just months before the March 2012 general elections, in which the UDP narrowly defeated the PUP by a 17-14 majority.

Shortly before Prime Minister Barrow announced the date for general elections, Fonseca’s leadership came under intense challenge when twelve PUP standard bearers, about 40 percent of its standard bearers, began boycotting National Party Council meetings and staying away from party activities in an effort to bring about reform within the party.

The group, which included Cordel Hyde, area representative of Lake Independence, who won his constituency yesterday by a historic margin; John Briceño, area rep of Orange Walk Central; and Dan Silva, the PUP standard bearer for Cayo Central, among others, had made calls for a National Convention at which Fonseca’s position as leader could be challenged.

The group of dissenters also agitated for a return to the PUP’s social justice roots.

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