BELIZE CITY, Tues. Feb. 18, 2020– Last Wednesday, Prime Minister Dean Barrow called an “emergency Cabinet meeting” in Belmopan, in an effort to mitigate the major embarrassment suffered by the ruling UDP when Minister of National Security, Hon. John Saldivar (Belmopan), was implicated in the Lev Dermen fraud trial in Salt Lake City, Utah.
Just the day before text messages were made public in the Utah US$500 million plus fraud trial, Saldivar was elected UDP party leader and was sworn into that office on Sunday, February 9, after he defeated Deputy Prime Minister, Hon. Patrick Faber (Collet), in an acrimoniously contested party national convention.
When the emergency Cabinet meeting was over, Saldivar had resigned from the post of party leader-elect and was suspended indefinitely from Cabinet, but by the following evening, Thursday, Saldivar, Minister of National Security, who had the portfolios of the Police Department and the Belize Defence Force, had also resigned from Cabinet.
The scandal was therefore consequential for the ruling UDP, leaving it without its newly elected leader less than 72 hours after an extravagant national convention during which the 570 party delegates were wined and dined, and reportedly even given land in exchange for their support vote in the many other leadership races, apart from that of party leader.
The man appearing to benefit from all this trouble is its newly endorsed UDP party chairman, Attorney General Michael Peyrefitte, who got Saldivar’s powerful Ministry of National Security in today’s Cabinet reshuffle, announced from the Office of the Prime Minister.
The Government Press Office’s release announced, in reference to what had been decided by “Cabinet at its meeting today, February 18th”, that “the Prime Minister will advise the Governor General that: (a) The Attorney General, Senator Hon. Michel Peyrefitte, be appointed as the substantive Minister of National Security to fill the vacancy created by the resignation of the Hon. John Saldivar as Minister of National Security…[and] that the Minister of State for the Ministry of National Security, the Hon. Elodio Aragon, Jr., be responsible for the supervision of the Ministry’s day-to-day management.”
The release added that Prime Minister Barrow would also advise the Governor General “that the Hon. Omar Figueroa, Minister of State, be appointed as substantive Minister responsible for the portfolios of Fisheries, Forestry, the Environment and Sustainable Development.”
This appointment for Figueroa is a promotion because the Fisheries, Forestry, Environment and Sustainable Development ministries were held by Senator Godwin Hulse. Minister Hulse will continue with the Agriculture and Immigration portfolios, according to the release.