This morning the Office of the Prime Minister – and not the People’s United Party (PUP) – issued a public statement announcing that PUP standard bearer for the capital city Belmopan, Moises Cal, had withdrawn himself as candidate for the next general elections “for personal and family reasons.” The news of Cal’s withdrawal had been out since the weekend. The real reason for his abrupt retirement was beginning to leak out late Sunday and early Monday.
Our newspaper has been reliably informed that Cal got in trouble in Panama, where he was found with a very large amount of undeclared cash – our sources say the equivalent of half-a-million Belize dollars in United States currency – while he was passing through Customs in Panama on a diplomatic passport. Our reports are that he had made 14 trips to Panama in the last three months.
While Belizean officials have been very quiet about the matter, our newspaper downloaded a press release this evening off the Belize Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ website that said merely that Cal was “the subject of investigations in Panama.”
Amandala tried to contact Moises Cal at his residence in Belmopan today, but his wife told us that he was not there, and asked us to leave a message – which we did, indicating that we are interested in interviewing him. She told Amandala that she did not wish to speak about the matter, but would convey our message to her husband.
Channel 7 News reports this evening that while Cal was asked to remain in Panama, he left the country and returned home.
Belmopan sources say that tonight there was unusually high activity around Cal’s home, where acquaintances were reportedly gathering.
Despite Cal’s resignation some months ago from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs as an ambassadorial representative for Belize, he still traveled on a diplomatic passport. Ordinarily, persons traveling on diplomatic passports are subject to almost no scrutiny unless authorities are suspicious of them. We understand that drug enforcement authorities in the United States, and particularly the DEA – the Drug Enforcement Agency – want to question Cal. Our sources further suggest that his temporary detention in Panama was a result of teamwork between US and Panamanian officials.
We have received reports that Cal came under suspicion after he recently acquired two new vehicles and built a major three-storey complex in the University Drive area of Belmopan. Observers questioned how he could afford those things on a mere Government salary.
Intelligence sources also say that since Cal won the Belmopan convention, he has been observed making frequent trips to Guatemala, and he has been under surveillance.
How Cal managed to slip away from Panama authorities remains unknown to us.
There is, of course, a deeper undercurrent to this controversy – that of internal politics. Some observers suggest that a party insider who did not want him to run for the Belmopan seat ratted on Cal.
We note that Moises’ brother, Ismael Cal, is the Orange Walk South area representative for the ruling People’s United Party. The Cals are originally from Yo Creek in the Orange Walk District.
Cal has been a highly respected official, and he was a long time ambassador for Belize, having most recently served in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) and Foreign Trade as Belize’s representative to the Central American Integration System (SICA), Commissioner for Plan Puebla-Panama, and ambassador to Nicaragua and Costa Rica.
On Sunday, December 2, 2006, he defeated Senator Anthony Chanona in a PUP standard bearer convention for Belmopan. The result was considered a surprise. According to the MFA release issued today, Cal immediately resigned from the Foreign Ministry at that time.
And before Cal’s seat as Belmopan standard-bearer gets cold, the Prime Minister and PUP party leader, Hon. Said Musa, made it high on his week’s agenda to call in Chanona to try to convince him to replace Cal in the general elections. But Senator Chanona told our newspaper that even though the Prime Minister met with him this evening and asked him to consider running for the PUP in Belmopan, he is not interested, because there was a convention and the people of Belmopan spoke, sending him the message that his effort was not good enough.
“For me, going back at this juncture is not something I want to do,” Chanona told Amandala, adding that he has closed that chapter of his life.