BELIZE CITY, Thurs. April 16, 2015–The much-anticipated political face-off between Belize City Mayor, Darrell Bradley and Caribbean Shores area representative, Hon. Santiago “Santino” Castillo, Jr., will never see the light of day, since Castillo announced today that he has made a decision to withdraw from the race.
During a press conference which took place at the United Democratic Party (UDP)’s headquarters this morning, Castillo declared that after lengthy consideration, he withdrew his bid for a second term primarily to avoid disunity within the party as it prepares for the general elections.
Prime Minister and UDP party leader, Hon. Dean Barrow, told the gathering that he is pleased at Castillo’s resolution to simply hand over the reins without a fight.
He said, “We are pleased that there is no longer a need for a contested convention because, inevitably, these conventions are divisive. They are a very necessary part of our democratic process, and this party has made it plain…that nobody in the UDP, no minister, no area representative, is immune from challenge.”
Barrow commended Castillo, who is the Minister of State in the Ministry of Finance and Economic Development, as an “outstanding” minister in the sectors which fall under his portfolio, and described Bradley as a “young, charged, full of energy, and extremely spry” candidate whose proven popularity within the area will enable him to hold on to the Caribbean Shores constituency seat for the UDP.
Castillo explained that he made the decision on his own after “long and hard consideration” and consultation with his family over this past weekend because he thought that it was “the noble thing to do”.
“I called the Prime Minister on Tuesday afternoon to tell him of my decision, and when I looked at everything that was on the board, the main reason I made this decision is because a convention in Caribbean Shores would have been like a Manny Pacquiao/Mayweather fight, but I was not prepared to put my party through that situation, giving the People’s United Party [PUP] the edge, so to speak, in that regard. That would have divided the party [and] it would have taken a long time to heal the wounds, and so, after discussing it with my family, I decided that the noble thing to do was to in fact step down and give the seat to Darrell”, Castillo affirmed.
Castillo also mentioned that a part of the decision could also be attributed to the fact that politically, he was financed solely by his mother, Mrs. Addy Castillo, and although she was willing to support him once more, he did not want to face the prospect of seeking additional campaign financing from other external sources for future elections.
Bradley said that he was caught “a bit off-guard” when he was informed of the decision last night, but said that nevertheless, he is ready to take up the mantle.
“I’m very grateful to know of the decision of Mr. Castillo, and I view it with honor and humility. Let the work continue. We will continue to be out in the streets working to try to coalesce all the people in the area”, he said.
PM Barrow conceded that although he and the Mayor may have had their “ups and downs” in the past due to certain political differences they had, “there has never been a mayor in living memory that can compare with Darrell Bradley.”
He went further and defended Bradley in the face of criticisms that the Mayor is “project-driven”, and therefore would spend a lot and rack up mounting debt, by saying that as far as he knows, the only debt Bradley has been fighting to manage is the recurrent debt that the City Council accrues through private sanitation contracts.
The Mayor’s political opponent is the PUP’s Kareem Musa, the son of former Prime Minister, Hon. Said Musa; however, Bradley maintained that he is unfazed by Musa, although he (Musa) has been on the campaign trail in the division for a while before Bradley.
Bradley’s eyes have been on the Caribbean Shores seat since April of 2013 when the news broke that he had submitted his name as a candidate for the UDP standard bearer position in Caribbean Shores.
After several months of flip-flopping, Bradley announced two weeks ago, on March 30, that he would be officially taking on Castillo in the division less than a month after winning a major landslide second term as Belize City mayor in the Municipal Elections earlier that month.
The convention to select the Caribbean Shores standard bearer, which was scheduled for Sunday, June 7, 2015, will now be held as an endorsement event for Bradley, who would have to demit his office at City Hall if and when he were elected to national office in the next general election.
Two and a half weeks ago, the outgoing UDP Albert constituency standard bearer, Hon. Herman Longsworth – a first time area representative who was gearing up to face a challenge from four-term City Councilor Phillip Willoughby – similarly stepped aside and handed over the torch to the outgoing Chief Executive Officer in the Ministry of Tourism, Culture and Civil Aviation, Tracy Taegar-Panton, who will face her former political ally, Paul Thompson, who will be representing the PUP.