BELIZE CITY, Mon. July 3, 2017–The political rivalry between Orange Walk North area representative, Gaspar “Gapi” Vega, former deputy prime minister, and his challenger, Ramon “Monchi” Cervantes of the Opposition People’s United Party, is no secret, and it was most pronounced after Vega was publicly fingered by the alleged hit man in the disappearance and murder of Cervantes’ father back in 2014—an allegation which sparked the threat of a lawsuit from Vega.
On Vega’s return to Parliament on Friday, June 30, after an extensive 10-month absence from House meetings, Orange Walk South rep for the PUP, Jose Abelardo Mai, said that Vega, notwithstanding his exit from Cabinet in 2016, was enjoying special police protection—cops on around-the-clock guard at his home in Orange Walk.
Barrow claims threats from Cervantes against Vega; Cervantes says it’s a “damn, blasted lie!”
Mai said that, “…what is disgusting… is the fact that we have three policemen in a 24-hour shift minding the premises of an area representative—not a minister no more. On top of that, Madam Speaker, the member for Orange Walk North’s son attends a high school and a special branch officer goes every day to that high school to ensure that everything is right and nobody is trailing his son. The Prime Minister… don’t have that kind of security.
Taxpayers can’t be paying for this kind of luxury,” said Mai, adding that, “Policemen are there to protect innocent people—not criminals!”
Police officers are also on-guard at the residence of Prime Minister Dean Barrow, who said Friday that similar courtesies of police protection have been offered to members of the Opposition, including ex-Prime Minister Said Musa, when someone fired upon his residence in Belize City in 2013.
In reply to Mai, Barrow said while he was not sure that what Mai was reporting is true, he would accept the assertion he had made that three cops are actually stationed in shifts at the residence of the member for Orange Walk North.
“With respect to [Vega],” said Barrow, “after the circumstance which saw him resign from Cabinet, there were all sorts of threats made against him and his family, as far as we can determine, promulgated in particular by his defeated PUP opponent from the last election.” (Barrow was referring in this instance to Ramon “Monchi” Cervantes, Jr., who did not let the allegation go unchallenged.)
Barrow went on to say that, “Any citizen—and in particular somebody who is a member of this National Assembly—confronted by that kind of specific threat, is entitled to protection [by] the police.”
Deputy Prime Minister Patrick Faber interjected that when Senator Eamon Courtenay (a member of the PUP in the upper house of Parliament) had complained of threats while Faber was acting as prime minister, they had also offered that kind of police security to him.
“I hope now that the campaign against the member for Orange Walk North and his family, has stopped and if it has, and the threat has accordingly moderated or disappeared, then we can take away the security. But you all know, especially those of you from Orange Walk, how his defeated opponent behaved… how that ‘gentleman’ behaved and how vicious and vitriolic his campaign against the member for Orange Walk North certainly was, if not still is. It is in those circumstances, I am sure, that the police high command in Orange Walk did what you say it has done, in terms of offering that kind of security,” said Barrow.
Whereas Cervantes is not a member of Parliament and so could not respond in Parliament, Leader of the Opposition, John Briceño, rose to his defense.
“Just for the record, as far as I know, that is not true. That has never come to our attention. I have never heard Mr. Cervantes at any time or his people call or try to throw aspersions or try to threaten the former deputy prime minister. It is very important for me to put this on record, because he is not here to defend himself,” Briceño said.
Rising after Briceño, Julius Espat, PUP member for Cayo South, jested that during the short periods of time he spends in Belize City, he feels safe because the Prime Minister’s security provides protection for him also.
Cervantes was not in the joking mood when he heard of the allegations, though. He called a quick press conference in Belize City this morning to respond to the allegations that he was responsible for threats against Vega.
“All what I will say is, ‘That is a damn, blasted lie that he said!’ That is what I have to say about that,” said Cervantes.
In speaking with the media this morning, Cervantes said that he was saddened that on the eve of the disappearance of his father, Ramon Cervantes, Sr., “the Prime Minister would seek to justify the special protection, the special security that is being afforded to the very person that was accused by Manuel Castillo, the fugitive, of being involved in my father’s death, in such an emotional and painful time especially for my mother and my sisters.”
Cervantes said that Barrow “…used the privilege in the House of Representatives to not only justify the protection to this person, but also to launch a baseless and callous and vicious attack on my character…”
The aspiring politician, who indicated to the press that a move is still afoot to depose Vega in the wake of the lands scandal involving his (Vega’s) son, further remarked, “…it’s been three years since the gruesome attack of my father; it’s been three years since his lifeless body was exhumed from a shallow grave and I think everybody remembers that his wrists were shackled and manacled with police handcuffs… yet it’s been three years that this very same person that is being protected has been accused of being involved and in those three years, we haven’t heard a response from the Prime Minister regarding the alleged involvement of elements of the police, and of his colleague in the death of my father.
“Now all of a sudden, he responds to questions posed to him by the Honorable [Jose] Aberaldo Mai and he jumps in protection of this person, and attacking me with a lie. So I just wanted to say that yes, my heart is heavy, but my mind is at peace that justice will come…”
Cervantes told the press that they do not want revenge for the killing of his father; they want justice and peace.
“No one has threatened Vega or his family. I certainly haven’t threatened Vega or his family. You know how things operate here. If any such thing would have happened, they would have arrested me or they would have detained me for questioning, for interrogation, and that’s why I am making this as open as possible, asking and challenging the authorities, the Commissioner of Police, the highest office in the police, to come out and prove or disprove those allegations, and I guarantee you that that false statement that the Prime Minister uttered against me cannot be supported,” he said.