Features — 01 June 2019
The UDP grab for seats and positions!

“Those who are too smart to engage in politics are being punished by being governed by those who are dumber.” — Plato

It’s interesting to note that anyone in Belize can be a politician. There is no requirement for any educational qualification, nor any level of economic stability, nor any history of public service, nor any professional experience, and, worse yet, there is no requirement for disclosure of campaign financing.  As a matter of fact, ex-felons convicted in other jurisdictions, who have fled to Belize or been deported, have run and are running for office. There is no requirement for specific qualifications or some level of skills or proficiency in the Ministry that they will head, except for the Ministry of the Attorney General, where an attorney is required! So we have had people with no clue about agriculture heading that Ministry, or no clue about medicine heading that Ministry, or no clue about construction heading the Ministry of Housing, and the list goes on… you get me! As a matter of fact, there is a strange trend in our history that it seems that those qualified and skilled in a particular field are being intentionally kept out of that field.

Doctor thrown out of Ministry of Health!

The most recent example of this has been the fact that in the present administration a qualified doctor such as Dr. Angel Campos was not made Minister of Health, but instead, his unqualified political colleague Pablo Marin was given the post. Now, I personally knew Pablo from primary school at St. Francis Xavier and I must say he was not the sharpest knife in the kitchen academically, but he seemed to have the skills, in my view, of a sweet-talker and a player. The more qualified for the post, the good Dr. Campos, was instead made his Minister of State in the Ministry of Health. We hear little about the doctor, who, while more educated in this field, had less say.

He kept quiet when he knows his Hippocratic Oath set certain standards of right and wrong and duty that are sacred. Nevertheless, he has paid his price for his silence and failure to denounce, when the qualified Chief Pharmacist was removed from her post, which was given to the rookie, Ms. Contreras, who is the daughter of Minister Erwin Contreras.

Dr. Campos kept silent when the scandal over monies being mismanaged at the KHMH broke out and even when 13 babies died from unsanitary conditions. I say all of this because his silence did not gain him respect, but rather, in the political world, he is seen as just an expendable political crony who toes the line, and thus it comes as no surprise that he has no allies or colleagues in the medical field rooting for him after he is re-assigned as Minister of State in the Ministry of Human Development, Social Transformation and Poverty Alleviation.

One news media said, “Speculations are that the change comes as a result of bad blood between Dr. Campos and Minister of Health, Pablo Marin.”! Of course there will be bad blood, because Marin, who has not a clue about medicine and administration of it nor the management of the hospitals and the requirements to keep them effective nor the challenges of those working under strained conditions, was not placed there to make a difference, but, as Prime Minister, Rt. Hon. Dean Barrow said, he is a top guy because he keeps winning elections! So all his failures as Minister of Health are overlooked, simply because politics is not about solving problems.

As Thomas Sowell said, “No one will understand politics until they understand that politicians are not trying to solve our problems. They are trying to solve their own problems — of which getting elected and re-elected are number one and number two. Whatever is number three is far behind!”

Sure win for Kareem Musa

The other recent development of what is the root of evil in politics is rearing its head in the Caribbean Shores area. The news that Darrell Bradley stepped down and took the post of President of the Senate, while Lee Mark Chang seeks to become the UDP runner in that area, is intriguing. For one, Bradley had it in his hands and seemed to have been unopposed, but he does not seem to like to lose, and I think he knows something those other contenders do not know. Intriguing, because Lee Mark only became President of the Senate when he lost his bid for the seat in the Freetown area, where Francis Fonseca remains undefeated and where one of the Elrington boys will run. So Lee Mark may be re-enacting the story of the dog and the bone, since he is letting go one sure bone for the shadow of a bone.

I say “shadow,” because per the news PM Barrow is throwing his support behind Leila Peyrefitte, who has not shown any major accomplishment in the area of politics, as in my view she did not leave a mark while being a City Councilor at the Belize City Council. She is not a known community activist, nor has she evinced a stalwart record of community involvement.

It is said Ms. Peyrefitte helped PM Barrow win the “yes ICJ” vote. Hmmm, well if that is the basis for his lending his support to her, he is being extremely biased, since I witnessed first-hand how diligently Lee Mark worked to get out the “yes vote” in Freetown, so much so that he hired a restaurant, named Cooking Master, to house all the “yes-ICJ” supporters. I witnessed the passing out of food, money, and T-shirts there, and when I spoke with him, he explained that the place was closed for business to the public on that date and that all the activity in there was for the “yes” supporters. One of his supporters even tried to push me and I complained directly to him and he told the fellow to stop. Another time for that story.

To me it doesn’t matter who wins and becomes the UDP standard bearer in that division. Once it is Santiago Castillo, he will not be able to defeat Kareem Musa, who has solidified his presence there, and not even the very popular former Mayor, Darrell Bradley, was able to defeat him.

Why Santi not running?

It is no secret to those involved in politics at the inside level that the SanCas empire has always given solid financial backing to the UDP. That support was there especially during the run of Manuel Esquivel for the UDP, which signaled the first-ever win at the national level for the UDP in 1984. The stalwart support for the UDP from people such as Nestor “Net” Vasquez is rooted in the clout the San Cas group has in the UDP due to its financial support. By extension, “Net” Vasquez’s involvement as Board Chairman for BTL under the UDP stems from that root, as well as does the support and apparent bias his Channel Seven station often shows towards the UDP, despite Jules Vasquez’s attempting on occasion to give a more balanced view or to give the appearance of non-bias. After all, you do not bite the hands that feed you.

But that is exactly what PM Barrow and the UDP are doing to Santiago “Santi” Castillo, who by 700 votes won the Caribbean Shores division in 2012. It is not known why he is not openly welcomed by the UDP. My guess, and opinion, is that he was never a fanatic supporter and evinced some level of independence and was always candid and open when interviewed, which sometimes damaged his party, though not intentionally. A man like Santi is financially stable and able and thus does not have to bend and compromise for political pickings and largesse. The SanCas business has withstood every government, and that sense of security and independence in a candidate is dangerous, per my assessment.

It was reported Wednesday night on 7News that he gave an exclusive statement to them regarding his position about running in Caribbean Shores: He stated as follows:

“When I gave up my seat to Darrell Bradley, I did it for greater good of my party without asking for anything in return. Consequently, when I announced my candidacy for Caribbean Shores on May 10th via Facebook, I was sure I would have the support of both the Party Leader and the party. However, the PM called me last week Thursday to tell me he would be supporting Leila Peyrefitte due to her work in Caribbean Shores for the Referendum. Obviously, so would the UDP hierarchy. As I told the P.M., I was his Minister of State during my time in Government and there is no way I can run in a convention without his endorsement and unequivocal support. Consequently, I will NO LONGER CONTEST the seat in Caribbean Shores.”

It’s amazing that the PM is rewarding Leila Peyrefitte for helping with the “yes-ICJ” vote, which is not even a year of work, as opposed to the heir of the SanCas empire, who has given decades of financial support. And Referendum Day was only one day. This may signal that the UDP no longer needs SanCas’ campaign financing and there are other sources identified. The Peyrefitte empire that once existed at the corner of Freetown Road and Douglas Jones has for decades now gone defunct, thus that cannot be the financing source for that division. It is no mystery that in this day and age massive campaign financing is needed to run an election. Voters increasingly want incentives, or in other words, bribes, to motivate them to vote, especially when it comes down to the last two hours of voting and the voter turnout remains low!

I am really curious, however, to know how Leila helped bring out the votes on Referendum Day? What incentives, if any, did she give the voters, or what campaign did she carry out and what did she tell them, or what resources did she put in to persuade them. Incidentally, the PM resides in that division, so I assume he is also registered to vote there!

The last time the PM and his wife backed a female candidate in that division, it was Chandra Cansino, and at the convention she was defeated in a blowout by Santi, who again did not get the PM’s support.  Also in that run was Anne-Marie Williams, who also did not get the blessings of the party’s hierarchy, despite her years of dedication to their work!

I can imagine Santi’s disappointment that the PM would not back him, especially since he proved he can win and he is a match for Kareem Musa. This is duplicitous on the PM’s part to me, because he backed Erwin Contreras and Pablo Marin because, as he publicly said, they keep winning their division, and the same can be said about Santi, which I believe he can do again, if given an opportunity. It only is left to see if Lee Mark Chang, who gave up the presidency of the Senate to run in this division, will stay in the race or be persuaded to back down too!

As the race for post, position and leadership takes place in the coming months, I see where the UDP can reach the point of imploding!  More on that leadership run another time!

“If voting made a difference, they wouldn’t let us do it!” — Mark Twain.

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Deshawn Swasey

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