Following their protest on Tuesday, the United Democratic Party says that if the demands of the Belizean people are not met immediately, the Government can expect an escalation in resistance.
by Khaila Gentle
BELIZE CITY, Wed. Aug. 24, 2022
“Life haad out ya!”
Those were the words echoed by disgruntled Belizeans on Tuesday as they marched through the streets of Belize City demanding a decrease in the cost of living. The demonstration was orchestrated by the United Democratic Party who, despite being denied a permit by the Police Department, went ahead with their plan of marching to the Shell Gas Station located on Central American Boulevard, which they believe is owned by the Prime Minister’s family.
Today, the UDP is saying that if the demands of the people are not met by the Government soon, an increase in resistance can be expected. That list of demands, chanted by the people on Tuesday and posted on the UDP’s social media pages shortly after, is not a long one. The Opposition is telling the current administration to do three things: lower gas prices, lower the cost of living, and stop corruption. According to the Leader of the Opposition, Hon. Moses “Shyne” Barrow, those demands are all being made in an attempt to provide relief to the Belizean people.
The protest began in front of the UDP headquarters on Youth for the Future Drive, and as it made its way toward Central American Boulevard, the size of the crowd gradually increased. Standing front and center was Hon. Barrow, who was flanked by several longtime party members, including Port Loyola standard bearer, Philip Willoughby; former Belmopan area rep, John Saldivar; former Lake Independence standard bearer, Dianne Finnegan; and UDP senator and second deputy leader of the party, Beverly Williams. Also present was party chairman, Michael Peyrefitte, who, on Monday, confidently told the press that he would be protesting even if he were the only person to show up.
When asked by KREM News’ Marisol Amaya, how he felt about the turnout (estimated to be 200 by 7News), Senator Peyrefitte said that it came as no surprise, as there are many who want their voices and their opinions to be heard by the Government.
“With all that’s happening and not happening, I doubt very much that I’m the only one who wants to see some change and who wants to send a message to the government,” he stated.
In regard to the small size of the crowd, Senator Peyrefitte said that the fact that they were protesting without a valid permit may have impacted the turnout, with many persons fearing arrest or police aggression. While there were some police officers present, they had little to no interaction with the crowd.
While in front of the Central American Boulevard Shell Gas Station, the Leader of the Opposition spoke with reporters.
“We believe that it is a conflict of interest to have a Prime Minister that has vested interest in a gas station, and now we have the highest gas prices ever. That is problematic, and we need action. We want action,” he said.
“Bring down the gas prices. Bring down the cost of living. Stop the corruption,” shouted Hon. Barrow.
Back at the UDP headquarters, the party leader was asked whether the recent conflicts within the United Democratic Party (including the recent expulsion of former member of the UDP central executive Delroy Cuthkelvin and the recent disciplinary measures brought against former UDP leader Patrick Faber) made it difficult to organize the protest, he did not give a direct answer.
“As the responsible opposition, we cannot allow distractions to take away from our responsibility to advocate on behalf of the Belizean people. That is exactly what we are doing with the Chairman, the Deputy Party Leader, and the grand leaders of this party, which are the delegates and the party faithful and the Belizean people,” he said.
“For the past two years, the Opposition, whether in question to the Ministers in the House of Representatives, whether in the media, we have been asking the Government to respond appropriately to the plight of the suffering people, and that has not taken place,” he added.
The Opposition Leader called the rise in the cost of living, particularly the record-breaking increase in fuel prices, borderline inhumane and noted that it has affected even working-class persons who have since been “pushed to the margins of poverty.”
“We deserve a Government that is going to take into consideration our quality of life. We deserve a government that will use our taxpayer dollars to our benefit,” he told the press.
According to the Leader of the Opposition, Tuesday’s protest was “only the beginning” and the first of many.
Notably absent from the protest were UDP parliamentarians Hon. Tracy Panton (Albert area rep) and Hon. Patrick Faber (Collet area rep).