BELIZE CITY, Mon. Aug. 16, 2021– Last Friday, August 13, just a few months after being appointed Governor of the Central Bank, Gustavo Vasquez was removed from the post as a result of a direct order issued by the Prime Minister and Minister of Finance, Hon. John Briceño.
The termination of Vasquez, which reportedly followed failed negotiations to buy out his contract, was formally put into effect by Governor General Froyla Tzlam. In a letter to the staff of the Central Bank, Vasquez reportedly indicated that he had “tried to restore the integrity and operational autonomy of the Central Bank.”
Vasquez was appointed as Central Bank Governor on April 1 of this year, replacing Joy Grant, who held the post since 2016. His sudden departure just a few months after his appointment, has raised eyebrows across the public domain.
Vasquez was a long-time staff member at the Central Bank, where he served as Director of Banking Supervision for almost 15 years. He later worked at the International Monetary Fund (IMF) for a subsequent 15 years, and upon his return to Belize, he served as an advisor to former Central Bank Governor Joy Grant before being appointed to the post himself.
In his letter to Central Bank staff, Vasquez reportedly indicated that he had faced pushback from the Ministry of Finance and “special financial and economic sector interests” which remain unnamed.
This recent decision handed down by Prime Minister Briceño may lead to yet another legal battle for the Government of Belize, since there are indications that Vasquez intends to challenge the termination. He has stated that all necessary action will be taken to defend his reputation.
For now, former Central Bank Governor and newly appointed Central Bank chairman, Sydney Campbell, will be tasked with managing the bank’s operations until a new governor is appointed.
The Prime Minister is expected to advise the Governor General “at an appropriate time” regarding such an appointment, says a release from the Central Bank.
“During this transition, the Board expects Deputy Governors, Kareem Michael, and Marilyn Gardiner-Usher, along with the Bank’s Senior Management and Staff to collaborate closely with Chairman Campbell,” a Central Bank release states.
The government has not yet indicated to the public what its purported reasons were for the dismissal of Vasquez. Neither has Vasquez identified which “special financial and economic sector interests” caused the strained relations between leadership at the Central Bank and the Government of Belize which led to his ultimate dismissal.
In fact, no public statements have yet been made by the Prime Minister and the government of Belize relating to this recent shakeup at the Central Bank.
Interestingly, there were observers who had predicted that Vasquez’s tenure at the head of our banking system would be short-lived, because they thought he likely wouldn’t be flexible enough in an economy as small as ours after having worked for so many years within the rigid IMF system. In a research paper he prepared for the Inter-American Development Bank, he is described as “a former International Monetary Fund official, currently a financial sector consultant who specializes in anti-money laundering and combatting the financing of terrorism.”
Interestingly, PUP-friendly career banker Mr. Martin Marshalleck tendered his resignation to the chairman of the Belize Bank, Lyndon Guiseppi, earlier this week. Mr. Marshalleck, the former Chief Operations Officer at the Belize Bank, is a brother of E. Andrew Marshalleck, S.C., the chairman of BEL’s Board of Directors, and a son of former Financial Secretary, Mr. Edmund Marshalleck (deceased).