Important Note: This Internet version of 7 News is a verbatum
transcript of our evening television news script. Many interviews on our newscast
are conducted in Creole. In the interest of clarity for our foreign readers,
we attempt to paraphrase the Creole quotes in English
Last night we told you about the special Cabinet meeting which is set for Monday, and the special House Sitting which we are now informed will be Wednesday, not Tuesday. But what's it all about; what could be so special? Many have speculated that it's to announce a date for elections - but tonight 7News has confirmed that it's not that. Best information to our newsroom is that Government has hammered out a settlement agreement with Fortis International to compensate the Canadian Power company for taking over BEL.
Our information says that the special Cabinet meeting to sign off on the agreement will be held in Belize City in the morning followed by a press conference in the afternoon - where the Prime Minister will publicly announce the settlement. From there, it will be taken to the house for approval on Wednesday and then the Senate on Friday.
The terms of the settlement are not known - but the Canadian company is expected to receive compensation of well over 100 million Belize dollars for their asset, BEL, which Government took over in June 2011. At that time Fortis said it needed to increase electricity rates or Belize would face rolling power outages - so government swooped in. Since the takeover - thanks in no small part to rapidly declining world fuel prices - the government controlled BEL has lowered rates dramatically. And while we don't know the figures or the terms of the settlement tonight, just from a tactical perspective, it will be seen a major boon for the Barrow Administration - since it will have disposed of one very big question mark and price tag hanging over government's head. The other, with the Ashcroft Alliance for BTL, remains unresolved.
The Sarstoon River has become the flashpoint for the Belize Guatemala Territorial Dispute - and now PUP Senator Lisa Shoman wants answers from the top brass in Foreign Affairs and National Security. She sent a "notice of motion" to the clerk of the National Assembly today - in advance of next Friday's Senate meeting. Shoman is invoking the powers of the Senate to bring the CEO's in both Ministries before the upper house to speak about the recent aggression that the Guatemalan military has shown on the Sarstoon. She's says its necessary after the Prime Minister reported tone week ago that the BDF has been putting up with routine harassment and intimidation from the Guatemalan Navy when they go up river to the Cadenas border lookout. When we travelled there eon Tuesday we saw the BDF Patrol Boat jetting out of the Sarstoon, which the Guatemalan navy boat at high speed right behind them. It looked like a chase, but the BDF has not confirmed. the She explained via telephone today:...
Hon. Lisa Shoman, PUP Senator "I think it is important for us as the senate to bring in, because we can, we have that right and that responsibility to bring in the CEO's of National Security and of Foreign Affairs and let them tell us what has been happening in the Sarstoon River, how long it's been occurring, the steps that have been taken, if protest has been made to Guatemala."
Jules Vasquez "The argument may be made that: A) it's a sensitive matter B) it's being handled by all the relevant professionals."
Hon. Lisa Shoman, PUP Senator "You cannot simply say to the National Assembly and citizens of Belize 'we are handling it leave us alone' and we cannot be prevented from finding out what is happening from being told. Now if there is classified information, senators have sworn oaths and they know what they can and can't say."
Jules Vasquez "In terms of the prospect of success, I know that you have brought at least one motion before and it failed."
Hon. Lisa Shoman, PUP Senator "No, it just didn't succeed, it didn't quite failed. Jules I expect to get unanimous support on this man. All citizens should expect that we will get unanimous senate support on this. It is beyond me why any senator would vote against this motion."
Jules Vasquez "The prospect of success of this Madam Senator is nil. The reason being that the government controls the majority in the senate and election is upon us, nobody move, nobody get hurt. Why rock the boat?"
Hon. Lisa Shoman, PUP Senator "It's exactly your cynical view that is one of the biggest problems that we faced when it comes to governance in this country. I repeat, if the senate right duties and responsibility are to mean anything, then they must be exercised."
Shoman says she is lobbying her senate colleagues for support. The Senate meeting will be held next week Friday.
Undersized lobster caused a major headache for a Chinese Restaurant Owner in Belize City today. Fifty year old Pin Yin Wu Li, the owner of Billy's Kitchen, a restaurant at mile 1 on Phillip Goldson Highway, was charged with possession of 18 undersized lobster.
She appeared today before Magistrate La Donna John where she pleaded not guilty. She was released on bail of $800 dollars and her case was adjourned until October 7.
On August 25 - a fisheries officer found the undersized lobsters inside the cooking area. Lobster season is open right now, but tails must weigh 4 ounces or more for it to be legal.
One week ago on August 21st. at 10:50 pm, two men - one black, one Hispanic, stormed into the San Ignacio home of 37-year-old Environmental Officer Anthony Mai. They demanded the keys for his government owned Toyota Hilux and his Chevy Colorado Pick-up which was parked in front of his yard. They drove off in the Chevy and fired a shot at Mai's house as they tore off into the night. Well, police say they have the culprits. Cayo residents, Melvin Budna Jr. and Julian Garcia have been charged for aggravated burglary, aggravated assault with a firearm and theft of motor vehicle.
They appeared in court on Wednesday and were remanded into custody until October. The stolen pickup has not been recovered.
Yesterday we told you about the "Export to Mexico Workshop". The idea was to give Belizean producers and exporters an overview of the Mexican Market - with the finer trade details of all the in's and out's of the third most populous country in the America's.
And while BELTRAIDE took the lead, the effort was brought together by the Belizean Embassy in Mexico City. It's an important detail because as the Deputy Chief of mission explained, that embassy is also a quick reference resource for exporters:..
Michelle Vanzie - Deputy Chief of Missions, Belize Embassy to Mexico "The Mexican economy is a very big economy. It's one of the largest in Latin America. I believe it's the second largest, perhaps after Brazil. So what we are trying to promote, is basically to get the Belizean products into Mexico because it's such a big opportunity, such a huge market. We are able to assist. One of the things that challenges Belizeans producers and distributors and so forth is that I believe because the market is so big they don't know where to start. They don't know who to touch base with and that kind of impedes them from trying to get in. So this is where the Embassy of Belize can come in. You contact us. We have set up strong relationships with different entities from the private sector, NGOs, non-profit and so forth. For example the chambers of commerce out there, licenses, accreditation and certification bodies. So if we are there to provide assistance and to provide advice and to network you with the persons that can get your product in."
"We had a workshop yesterday actually, which was very well attended hand in hand with BELTRAIDE and we brought down different guest speakers in different areas and one in particular for example what her company does is she is able to tell you okay fine, this product looks great, let us do a market study in Mexico. Let's see if there is a demand for your product in the first place. If there is a demand then the next step is okay, but this is the presentations that the Mexicans required, this is the presentation that they like and she continues and continues, her company, until she gets you to the point of listen, you are set now, you are ready. Would you like your product to be distributed? I can open the doors for you and I can set up meetings with the appropriate companies for you to meet distributors and for your product to get in there. So it's an on the ground. For government to government, they makes agreements, but sometimes the difficulties and realities are when you actually start doing it on the ground. And that was really the point of yesterday's forum, is to be able to put you in touch with and present a face to you who can help you. How you can get this done without any glitches and get it into Mexico."
Mexico and Belize are also working on a partial scope trade agreement.
Two weeks ago we showed you Police Minister John Saldivar touring the newly restructured Eastern Division's North, South and Rural formations. Well, San Pedro and Caye Caulker are also part of Eastern Division - North. He toured those areas on Wednesday and Thursday of this week. Now, the island formations have their own particularities - not the least of which is the high number of extortion cases committed by corrupt cops against tourists, and of course, the murder of 18 year old Hilberto Sotz, which happened on Caye Caulker. But bad policing can sometimes be caused by poor working and living conditions. And that's what Saldivar found when he visited Caye Caulker. He discussed that and more when the tour was finished yesterday evening.
Hon. John Saldivar, Minister of National Security "I continue to be impressed with the level of organization and strategy that the various officers in charge have been employing in their area. I am also again more convinced that the new configuration that we have put together for the Belize District is working and will continue to produce dividends for the police department."
Reporter "What is the way forward sir?"
Hon. John Saldivar, Minister of National Security "We have looked at various areas of deficiencies that we need to improve. One of the key things out here in San Pedro and Caye Caulker is residential quarters for our police officers. We must keep moral high and part of it is living conditions and other conditions under which police officers have to work and so the way forward for us is to try improve that. The ever present problem of mobility of our police officers through the two islands continue to be an issue for us and so we are also going to be working on that. Seeing it first hand and having the officers walk along with me to the various spots of interest and being able to see for myself what they are going through, visualize it, it definitely gives you a better perspective and it makes you understand more the plight of both police officers and the community."
Reporter "What is your word of advice or caution to the police officers?"
Hon. John Saldivar, Minister of National Security "Well as you know over the last year or two we've been trying to implement the community oriented policing strategy. We've always felt that there wasn't sufficient buy-in from the police perspective and also from the community perspective, but it seems to be changing, both from the police side and from the community side. People are more receptive to this new strategy and my advice is to embrace this community oriented policing strategy."
And to upgrade those barracks The Ministry of National Security has tapped into a 30 million US dollar loan from the Central American Bank for Economic Integration. IT will be used for various Security initiatives.
Joel Bishop was killed in a massive gang related brawl on Princess Margaret Drive two weeks ago. Police have not made any arrests because we are told there are no witnesses coming forward. Bishop was viciously beaten and run over - and while police do have suspects - there's no enough evidence for an arrest. Today, Bishop's mother Deseree Hernandez who is visiting from Miami told us that she knows who is responsible for orchestrating her son's death - because there had been threats:
Deseree Hernandez "I would like the world to know who send out the threat and who is happy and laughing about my son's death. And I would like them to know that she has threaten my son a long time ago. She threaten my son, she threaten me, she threaten my brother Goldburn Samuels, she threaten my other son Joseph Bishop and she needs to stop. My son told me that she told him that 'we will let them slaughter you like a cow in the street you Bishop, you will die and I will make them kill you.' She needs to stop and like my scriptures says that I have to forgive her and you cannot with Yahooweh Yahshua, you cannot play with him. He is nothing to play with."
Hernandez - who just came to the country - told us she would also be telling her story to the police.
Next week Tuesday, September 1, primary schools all around the country will be opening up for the new school year. Faith Nazarene Primary School in San Ignacio, like other schools are doing the same, but tonight a rift between the parents and teachers on one side, and the principal on another, is widening, and threatening the stability of the school. 400-500 students stand be affected, and parents are contemplating pulling their children out and enrolling them at another school.
What's the reason for all this? Well, the teachers and parents who we have spoken to say that the Principal, Policarpia Pech, has mismanaged the school, disenfranchised the teachers, and disrespected the student population and their parents. Add to that allegations of poor decisions which have caused the school money, and it made for a tense situation where teachers and Parents of the Parent Teacher Association committed to protest this evening. But, they decided against it at the last moment, because the General Manager of the Nazarene Group of schools called them into a meeting to discuss a compromise.
The first thing that came out of that meeting is that the Management is trying to get the principal removed and replaced. Now, only the Teaching Services Commission has the authority to do that, and they have been given an extensive internal investigation conducted by the Nazarene Management.
Next, the General Manager himself will take over day-to-day management of the school by assuming the post of interim local manager. That means that he will be involved in the decision making process that the embattled principal will be making for this school year while the Teaching Services Commission makes its final ruling.
That meeting lasted for almost 2 hours and shortly after, at around 5:00 p.m., we spoke with the General Manager, and here's what had to say:
Raymond Shepherd - General Manager, Primary Schools "We have held interviews with teachers, parents, even the principal, to get an understanding of what is really happening. after conducting all the interviews, we came to the conclusion that something is very wrong here and needs to be fixed and still in that process at this time."
Daniel Ortiz "We understand that the fixed that the management of the school is suggesting at this time is that Ms. Policarpia is replaced a principal. Can you disclosed if that is the position?"
Raymond Shepherd - General Manager, Primary Schools "That is the position of the management, that we feel that we need to change course. We need a new direction and in order to go in a new direction, we need a new person to steer the ship and yes, its not secret that in fact we have made it very clear to all the parties concerned that we need a change in administration and it is our wish that we will get that sooner rather than later."
Daniel Ortiz "Sir we have to ask you about a few of those complaints we've had. We understand the first is that the principal may not have followed the rules, the same rules you speak of. She did not follow the rules in terminating a particular teacher and that she further compounded that illegality by hiring a teacher without following the same rules of getting the Teaching Services Commission involved and that costs the school thousands of dollars in trying to resolved that to pay that illegally hired teacher and to retain the services of the teacher which was illegally fired. Can you confirmed that this happened?"
Raymond Shepherd "I do not want to get into the specifics, but I will say that in fact there has been a number of violations and those violations have been clearly spelt out in a letter which we have written and copied to the present principal. So she know what those are. The Services Commission and the Ministry knows exactly what goes on as well. So we will leave it at that."
Daniel Ortiz "Would you agree that if the management did not make the interventions that it made, there would have been an irreparable rift which could have affected this coming school year?"
Raymond Shepherd "Certainly. It's at that point right now where the damage is almost irreparable and hence there has to be intervention and hence the decision which we have made to intervene. It's absolutely necessary. We as management, we the owners of this institution will not allow any single individual or any entity to damage what we built."
We also spoke with at few of the teachers and parents who attended the meeting, and here's why they are adamant that the principal must step down:
Tamara Guerra Ochoa - Concerned Parent "Teachers also are not feeling satisfied already working the school because they have been abused also emotionally and even we have not have a good PTA communication. It's not been working because of the things that she is doing."
Daniel Ortiz "What would you like to see? Is the unanimous call or the overall voice, a call for her removal?"
Tamara Guerra Ochoa "Yes, I believe many parents are calling for her removal."
Maria Ruiz - Teacher "Because of her attitude, teachers cannot no longer work with her and the teachers are really have gotten enough I must say and we want her to step down and she is refusing to do that. We teachers are being victims. We are being victimize by her. We have been targeted by her. We have been discriminated by her and I think that's enough."
Joan Pineda - Teacher "We have had instances where we are being treated as children. We cannot interact with others, with parents, with our peers, referring to teachers like ourselves. Whenever we have young members of staff that comes to our school, they are being told by the principal not to affiliate with us the senior teachers."
Blanca Aguirre - Concerned Parent "We are tired of this. We know that teachers are not happy. We know that parents are not happy, but we can't do anything else. I have 5 kids and all of them came to this school and we have never had a situation like this. It's very molesting and we need to have a change."
Daniel Ortiz "Are you one of those parents who was considering removing your child and putting that child at a different school?"
Aide Hope - Concerned Parent "Oh yes I do and I still have in mind if this situation doesn't get fixed."
This evening, we contacted Principal Policarpia Pech via telephone, and asked her for a comment. She declined saying that she has gotten in touch with her lawyer who she's directed to take control of her defense.
So, that's where it is at this point, the teachers and parents want the principal removed. The Nazarene Primary School Managers agree and they have forwarded their written recommendations to the Teaching Services Commission, which has not made a final decision as yet. The current principal remains in place, but she will not be reporting to work until a week or so later because she submitted a sick leave form. Indications are that she will fight to vindicate her name.
On Wednesday's newscast we told you about the inflation figure for July. It was down minus one percent - meaning, that the groceries you bought for 100 dollars in July of 2014, would cost 99 dollars in July of 2015. Now, anyone who shops at the market knows that isn't so - and that's because essentials like eggs and beef have gone up sharply. Eggs went up 17% and today we asked the Manager of the Belize Poultry Association, Orland Habet to explain the price spike and tell us when you can expect lower prices:..
Orland Habet, Manager - Belize Poultry Association "The production of eggs actually went down because if you recall in January, BAHA had made a report that Spanish Lookout through a regular surveyance program flocks of hens were found to have Avian Influenza H5 which is a low pathogenic Avian Influenza. Belize had options of either depopulation and or also to do a vaccination program. We, along with BAHA and the Ministry of Agriculture opted to go the depopulation side instead of the vaccination, because it's more difficult, it costly and it takes a long time and we have to have a plan to get out of it. So, because of the depopulation, more than 86,000 birds were depopulated and of those, 70,000 were layer hens and some older hens, but most of them were also young pullets who just started to lay. So, the effects of the young pullets start laying isn't felt until 4-5 months later. Which is what we felt about a month and a half to two months ago. So the egg production went down and when you depopulate these birds, the birds take at least 5 months for a new flock to start production and when they start production which they just started about a month ago, the eggs start small and within two months they get to medium size and after 3 months they are regular normal size. So that actually caused decreased in production and so an increased in the price of eggs."
"If you watch the news, you would see that in the US for example, just this year they had Avian Influenza and the price of eggs actually doubled and in Mexico it quadrupled. In Belize it went up like 17%-18%. The production right now is almost back to normal. We believe that within two weeks it would be fully back to normal. The prices went up a little but, from the productive sector side, the problem sometimes is that we the industry cannot control the prices that the supermarket put on the retail. For example, a case of eggs which is 360 eggs is sold for about $87 per case, which comes out to $7.50 per egg flat and $3.10 per dozen. I just want to mention that eggs fluctuate in price throughout the year. During the Christmas time it may go up to $90 - $95 per case. But at time normally eggs would be selling like $76 - $78 per case. Right now it's at $87 per case."
Journalist Kareem Clarke was killed on July fifth, and by July 10th media workers had organized themselves to honour his memory with the Kareem Clarke Memorial Fund. After 6 weeks of meetings - the group is moving ahead with its first event tomorrow. It's a food drive for a feeding program where media workers will be gathering outside some of the city's largest supermarket and asking you to contribute. Treasurer Marisol Amaya told us more:...
The media crew will be in front of the supermarkets from 10:00 am - 2:00 pm, so you can make your donations then.
The musical artist Bredda David created Kungo Music in the early 80's. Since then he's remained an enduring presence on Belize's musical scene - where he sees the himself as more than just a music man - he sees himself as a messenger. And he's carrying an important message in his latest CD called Mama Africa - he says it's about a nation at 34, coming of age:..
The song "We've come a long way" was first recorded in the early 80's - but it's experienced a resurgence in popularity, so the video was recorded this year.
And, in our last story for tonight - our news team today happened on a small police ceremony being conducted by the commanders of the San Ignacio Police Formation. The purpose of it was for the police leaders to decide who would be the officers of the month for August. We got a chance to speak with them about the rigors of the job and how they managed to distinguish themselves amongst their peers:
We are obliged to note that while Corporal Ricky Valencia is making positive news tonight, he was under intense scrutiny last year when he was accused by Unitedville resident, Elston Arnold of looking on while a fellow officer brutalized him, shot him, and left him on the road while he was bleeding out. He was charged with criminal and disciplinary charges for that incident, but he was freed of the criminal charges.