7 News Belize

7 News Belize HeadlinesThursday, September 29, 2016

Teachers Getting Ready To Escalate On Ministry of Education
Last night, we told you about the Ministry of Education's plans to pass a statutory instrument which will allow for temporary teachers to be hired to fill in for teachers who decide to...
Opposition Leader Calls DPM’s Actions “Despicable”
And so, the battle lines are drawn, but what's unusual this time around is that the Barrow Administration is attempting to use political persuasion to muscle in in the teacher's turf - whi...
PM Appeals To Unions For Urgent Negotiations on 3%
So, while there no doubt that the teacher's strike - like their slogan says - is not about the 3; it's about country, the Prime Minister trying to make sure that money doesn't become part of...
Catholic Diocese “Blesses” Barrow Admin, Praises Teachers
The Catholic Diocese - self-described as "the largest stakeholder in education" - today sent out a press release praising the teachers for taking a stand against the government. The releas...
GOB Loses Big $$$ To Ashcroft Alliance In CCJ Judgment
Last week, we took you inside the teleconference hearing that the Caribbean Court of Justice held to resolve the currency fight between the Barrow Administration and the Ashcroft Alliance. T...
Who Drafted Sloppy (And Costly) Settlement?
As you saw, the judgment reflects what the Government signed and agreed to, not what the Government intended to be put into the agreement. It all comes back to the convoluted wording of the ...
Will Paying Ashcroft Alliance Force A Crisis In Foreign Reserves?
So now, the Government has to find around 67 million US dollars to pay to the Alliance in a time when the country's foreign reserves are shrinking, and there are a number of financial pressu...
Swapping Greenbacks for Queen Betty’s
So, while the Government has to find 67 million US dollars, the Ashcroft Alliance will refund them that first payment of about 130 million Belize dollars. You'll remember it as the payment t...
Briceno: CCJ Judgment Lamentable But Preventable
Today the Leader of the opposition was careful not to jump all over the Barrow administration for the costly loss in court. He said it is lamentable, but was also preventable:... Hon. J...
Galvez Charged For Shooting Customs Officer
21 year old Nigel Galvez has been charged in connection with the shooting of Customs Officer Jose Acevedo. The incident happened in Orange Walk on September 14th. Acevedo arrived home at 8...
Fatal In Independence
A motorcyclist was killed in an accident on the Southern highway. Last night around 6:30, bus driver Julio Caceres was taking a group of construction workers back home to Bella Vista in a bu...
PUP May Be Ready To Compromise On Senate
The Senate meets tomorrow to consider two motions for the appointment of a Special Select Committee to investigate irregularities at the immigration department. One is put forward by opposit...
PUP Start Long Journey On Road To Reform
Now, in a situation like that one where there is expected to be an easy majority supporting Rocke's motion, not even a 13th Senator could swing things against the government. But the 13th...
Mother Missing For A Week
The last time Julie Salazar saw her mother, Cruz Pu, known as Maria, was on Friday morning. Before she left for work, Julie said everything seemed normal, however, when she got home that...
Management: Port Will Not Close In solidarity With Teachers
The BNTU's 8 demands and their strike action have been dominating the headlines and as we have reported, the teachers are only getting started. So far the PUP has openly expressed support ...
Belize Fights For Dominance In Volleyball
Heading into their fifth match of the FIVB International Men's Volleyball tournament, both Belize, and the Dominican Republic had a lot on the line. Both teams lost to the undefeated Guate...
Fire Leaves Older Woman Homeless
A 70 year old woman is homeless after her Corozal house was burnt down on Tuesday night. Virginia Guy left her son sleeping and went to visit a neighbor. Guy rushed back home after she found...
Questions About Environmental Impact of Marine Multibeam
A marine multibeam - it may sound like some science fiction device, but it's actually a real tool that's going to be used to conduct what's called a "sea seep" survey in the marine territo...
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7 News Belize - News:
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

Teachers Getting Ready To Escalate On Ministry of Education

Last night, we told you about the Ministry of Education's plans to pass a statutory instrument which will allow for temporary teachers to be hired to fill in for teachers who decide to strike. The "temps" will be deployed if the industrial action extends beyond 2 days.

As we told you, the Ministry's emergency actions does allow - in theory - for classes to stay open, but it also undermines the BNTU's industrial leverage. We wondered if this response would cause the teachers to escalate further to try to outdo the Ministry, and reliable information reaching 7News is that it will.

We haven't been able to confirm, but reports suggests that having heard of these temporary replacement teachers, the Belize City Branch of the Union used their evening meeting yesterday to suggest escalation and retaliation against government's emergency actions. There is a Council of Management meeting tomorrow, and the Ministry's bold SI is expected to feature prominently on the agenda. The final decision on what action will be taken should come out of that meeting. Suggestions include extending the strike and taking material out of the classrooms which teachers bought.

We'll follow up with the BNTU's Council of Management tomorrow to find out more.


Opposition Leader Calls DPM’s Actions “Despicable”

And so, the battle lines are drawn, but what's unusual this time around is that the Barrow Administration is attempting to use political persuasion to muscle in in the teacher's turf - which is fueling the escalation. Today the leader of the opposition called the actions of the Minister of Education "despicable":

Hon. John Briceno, Leader of the Opposition
"We find the actions of the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Education despicable, that pretty much what the government is trying to do is union bust. They want to try to break up the BNTU and try to intimidate the teachers by saying that if you don't come to work, we are going to find somebody to replace you. It is so ironic that when you want to see a minister, you can't see them, but right now you have all the elected representatives and ministers of the government and even their none elected representatives going to the schools right now and talking to the teachers and talking to the managers for them to be able to keep the schools open. It is like they are shooting the messenger. Instead of looking at the message that the BNTU is talking about."

"Who are these people they are going to bring in? A lot of these people have been dismissed as teachers or they have not been able to get their licenses for one reason or the other. And those are the people they are going to bring into the classrooms to look after our children? Something is seriously wrong with this government."

Reporter
"Have you met with the BNTU leadership?"

Hon. John Briceno, Leader of the Opposition
"No, I have not met with the BNTU leadership and I have deliberately done so, because I don't want for people to think that what the BNTU is doing is political. Even though the Prime Minister is already accusing the president Mr. Luke Palacio that it is political, that it is being driven by us in the PUP. We have not met with the BNTU. What we have been doing though is that we have been meeting other unions and other organizations and appealing to them that we need to stand up with the BNTU. We cannot allow the teachers to feel that they are alone with this fight."


PM Appeals To Unions For Urgent Negotiations on 3%

So, while there no doubt that the teacher's strike - like their slogan says - is not about the 3; it's about country, the Prime Minister trying to make sure that money doesn't become part of the fight.

He wrote the Teachers Union, the Public Service Union, and the Association of Public Service Senior Managers, on Tuesday noting that they have not responded to him as yet on proposal to defer the salary adjustment. In his letter he says, quote, "We met on September 16...the APSSM and the PSU reiterated their 'yes' decision in support of the deferral until April 2017, and the BNTU reiterated its 'no'. I then put forward a proposal for a compromise to try to achieve unanimity on the issue, and the BNTU president agreed to take that proposal to his membership and report their reaction to us." End quote.

The Prime Minister point out that it has been 11 days since that meeting, and the BNTU hasn't responded.

He continues, "Time is clearly of the essence and I therefore write to ask for a meeting at your early convenience so that we might try to progress this long outstanding matter. Government earnestly wishes to finalize our joint consideration of the salary adjustment payment, and so I ask for a reply soonest to this letter." End quote.


Catholic Diocese “Blesses” Barrow Admin, Praises Teachers

The Catholic Diocese - self-described as "the largest stakeholder in education" - today sent out a press release praising the teachers for taking a stand against the government. The release frames the situation in dramatic language, describing the teachers as "selfless", fighting a quote, "distinguished...battle bravely fought on behalf of this grateful nation and its children." End quote.

And speaking of those children, the Diocese acknowledges that it's responsible for about 50 thousand of them. And so what will happen to them on Monday? Well, the church says it, quote, "recognizes the temporary vacuum that the teachers in their fight for truth in governance will leave in their absence." End quote. So what should parents do? Well the Diocese says, quote, "we believe that the safety of up-wards of 50,000 students in our care will be at risk, without the adequate supervision of our teachers." The release continues, "Recognizing these security challenges posed to the Catholic Management at this time, we hereby ask that all parents take note of these special circumstances for Monday, October 3, 2016." So, bottom line? The Catholics say "don't send your kids to school on Monday." And what happens after that? The release says that "the Diocese will continue to closely monitor developments concerning the teachers' industrial action."

The release ends with a jab at government saying, quote, "It is our prayer that…Government Leaders…respect the search for truth in governance and…preserve and protect our governing democratic system..."

Reports to 7News are that some in the Catholic Community have their own concerns about the strident tone of this message, and have asked the Nunciature in Honduras to review the situation. He could visit as early as next week.


GOB Loses Big $$$ To Ashcroft Alliance In CCJ Judgment

Last week, we took you inside the teleconference hearing that the Caribbean Court of Justice held to resolve the currency fight between the Barrow Administration and the Ashcroft Alliance. The half a billion dollar settlement for BTL is supposed to end the fight over the phone company, but up until this morning, they could not agree on whether the bulk of the settlement was to be paid in Belize dollars or US dollars.

Well, the Caribbean Court of Justice ruled today, and the judgment came out against the Government. The CCJ is telling GOB that it must honor the terms of the settlement agreement as they signed. That's something that the Government is disappointed to have to do because millions of dollars that would have gone to the benefit of Belizeans must now be handed over to the Alliance - in US dollars.

As we've reported, the two sides agreed in principle that the settlement would have a special "carve-out." The way it was supposed to work is that the Ashcroft Alliance would be compensated for the book value of the shares that the Barrow Administration took away from them to gain control of BTL.

Whatever value that the unlawful Accommodation Agreement added to the price of the compensation, that amount would go into a trust to be used for the benefit of the Belizeans. Basically, the Government and the Alliance agreed that to end this saga, the country would have to overpay because of the Accommodation Agreement.

But, instead of all that money going to the Ashcroft Alliance, a percentage would be put aside for the development projects.

To reach to this compromise, the Alliance insisted that whatever value, the Permanent Court of Arbitration arrived at for the BTL shares, they would be paid 50% of that upfront in US dollars. The trouble is that the real value of the shares only turned out to be 40% of the half a billion dollar price tag. This means that the other 60% should, in theory, go to that special carve-out for Belize. But, that's not going to happen because of that written demand of half of the total upfront…so, the Alliance is walking away with 10% more than was agreed in the compromise. And 10% works out to about 50 million Belize Dollars more.

7News was there this morning at that teleconference hearing when the CCJ ruled against the Government. With video provided by the court, here's that moment when the presiding judge explained the reasoning behind the ruling:

Hon. Rolston Nelson - CCJ Judge
"The meaning of the written contract is to be gleaned from the language of the contractual terms, and the court adopts the words of Lord Neuberger in Arnold and Britton, where he said, 'Unilike commercial common sense in the surrounding circumstances, the parties have control over the language they use in the contract.' And again, save perhaps in very unusual cases, the parties must have been specifically focusing on the issue covered by the by the provision when agreeing the wording of that provision. Again, the fact that the contract is badly drafted is no excuse for the court to embark on the exercise of what Lord Neuberger called, 'Searching for - let alone constructing - drafting infelicities' in order to facilitate departure from the natural meaning. Lord Neuberger in that case also emphasize that it is not the function of the court, when interpreting an agreement, to relieve a party of the consequences of his imprudence, or poor advice. Accordingly, when interpreting a contract, the judge should avoid rewriting it in an attempt to assist an unwise party, or to penalize an astute party. I think this is the answer to Mr. Barrow's submission that the court should read words into...Clause 4, to the effect that the enhanced value of the Telemedia shares was to be held in Trust for the Belizean people in Belizean dollars. The court orders the Financial Secretary to pay to Dunkeld, US 50,789,613.44 dollars, and to the Trust, US 16,520,510.54 dollars."

The direct effect of that judgment is that Belize's portion of the settlement deal just got a bit smaller by a several million dollars. After the hearing was over, we got a chance to speak with both sides about the outcome. Here's what they told us outside of court:

Denys Barrow, SC - Attorney for GOB
"There were the two views available, and they decided that their interpretation of the agreement supported the arguments put forward by my good friend, Mr. Courtenay, and therefore, they decided against us. As far as the Court was concerned, it was a matter of interpreting the agreement as it was drafted. They thought that the agreement was badly drafted; that is, of course, a view which has to be respected. They Government fully respects the CCJ's decision, and will obey what the Court has decided. They real effect is that the people of Belize have lost out on a number of millions of dollars which the Government negotiated with Lord Ashcroft's companies, which should have gone for the benefit of the people of Belize. That really is the short of it. The other more immediate consideration is the crunch it puts the country in, as regards the availability of foreign exchange."

Eamon Courtenay, SC - Attorney for Ashcroft Alliance
"You also heard the presiding judge offer to the Government, an opportunity for a stay of execution, or to say that they wanted time to pay. And, that was declined, and they indicated that if they needed time to pay, they would make an application to the CCJ. Listening to that, I am assuming that very shortly, we will receive full payment from the Government, and that is only right because of how long outstanding this matter is. If we do not receive the full amount from the Government, we are, of course, entitled also to come back to court and to say to the court, 'You need to force the Government now to make the payment.' Obviously, that is not in the interest of my clients. It's not in the interest of the Government. It's simply paying the amount that is due, and let's try to move forward."


Who Drafted Sloppy (And Costly) Settlement?

As you saw, the judgment reflects what the Government signed and agreed to, not what the Government intended to be put into the agreement. It all comes back to the convoluted wording of the Settlement deed, which the CCJ criticized as poorly done.

So today, we wondered which Government attorney fumbled on the crafting of the document, and failed to adequately ensure that what the Prime Minister agreed to by word of mouth was what was ended up in writing.

The only man we could get some answers from today was Government attorney Denys Barrow. He made it plain to us that this loss of millions of dollars, locked away behind the agreement, is not his fault:

Daniel Ortiz, 7News
"The court used some very specific words which we have to take note of, it said, "unwise, imprudent" vs "astute". Is that a condemnation of your handling of the drafting of the agreement?"

Denys Barrow, SC - Attorney for GOB
"But, Daniel, you were in court the last time when it became clear I did not draft the agreement."

Daniel Ortiz, 7News
"But the attorney for the other side said that everybody had input, and was in Government's interest that you catch anything which would nullify, or water down the agreement for Belize's interest."

Denys Barrow, SC
"But, you're not paying attention. I was not involved in drafting this agreement. So, those who were involved, the CCJ's comments reflect on them. That, with respect, I do not agree with, but it doesn't concern me. I did not participate in drafting this agreement. At an early stage, I was involved. When this agreement reached that particular stage, I had ceased to participate in the drafting. So, Daniel, your high regard for me can continue undiminished."

Daniel Ortiz, 7News
"Which Government attorney took over after you, sir?"

Denys Barrow, SC
"With the greatest of respect, I think that is entirely an unnecessary question."

Daniel Ortiz, 7News
"Would you reject the assertion that your clients managed to pull a fast one to get more money than was agreed to?"

Eamon Courtenay, SC - Attorney for Ashcroft Alliance
"My clients made very clear exactly what it is that it expected to get, 50% of the final award. There was no qualification to that. That is simple and clear. The Government of Belize, the Prime Minister, signed that agreement after having an opportunity to review, to revise, and to propose changes. That agreement that was signed by the Prime Minister, binding the country, is what the Government committed itself to. You cannot, after you sign an agreement, things don't turn out the way you want them to turn out, attempt to re-negotiate, attempt to redraft the agreement. And, I think the court confirmed that today."


Will Paying Ashcroft Alliance Force A Crisis In Foreign Reserves?

So now, the Government has to find around 67 million US dollars to pay to the Alliance in a time when the country's foreign reserves are shrinking, and there are a number of financial pressures to contend with.

Two days ago, we told you how the IMF says that the economic outlook has worsened when compared to last year. The outgoing Central Bank Governor, Glenford Ysaguirre, wrote to the Financial Secretary saying that it would be destructive for the economy of Belize if the Central Bank were to even attempt to find 70 million US dollars more to meet this demand.

That was two months ago, and so, when the Financial Secretary exited from today's hearing, we asked if the country's reserves can realistically withstand the strain. He told us that it will have to:

Daniel Ortiz, 7News
"Will the Government's coffers be able to withstand? It appears as though it is at a dangerous level at this time."

Joseph Waight - Financial Secretary
"Well, indeed the court has ordered the payment of 66 million US dollars forthwith, as you heard. It will take a huge dent in our reserve. We do have reserves to cover the payment, but then, what is left, it will be difficult. It will be difficult."

Confirming that position, the Government sent out a release this afternoon, which says, quote, "(GOB) expresses its disappointment at the decision of the Caribbean Court of Justice... GOB does not agree with the ruling of the Court, but must accept it. GOB now has to pay 10% more of that award in US currency - that is 50% rather than 40% of the total award." End Quote.

The Government says that it is working out a strategy with the Central bank to avoid too large a drawdown on the foreign reserves. The release ends, quote, "GOB is comfortable that the ruling will cause no shock to Belize's foreign exchange position." We note that the ruling comes the day before Governor Glen Ysaguirre leaves his post.


Swapping Greenbacks for Queen Betty’s

So, while the Government has to find 67 million US dollars, the Ashcroft Alliance will refund them that first payment of about 130 million Belize dollars. You'll remember it as the payment that the started this currency fight before the CCJ. They wanted that money to be in US dollars, and so they are willing to get rid of it as soon as possible.

Today, Eamon Courtenay, attorney for the Alliance, told us the quicker, the better:

Denys Barrow, SC- Attorney for GOB
"The Belize dollar portion has to be paid back. The contention of the Ashcroft group is that Government ought never to have paid that sum in Belize dollars. Therefore, they will accept implicitly that they are not entitled to that sum in Belize dollars. They want it in Belize dollars. They will be happy to give it back, and they have made that plain from the beginning."

Daniel Ortiz, 7News
"Sir, the portion in Belize currency that was paid to your clients, will that be returned?"

Eamon Courtenay, SC - Attorney for GOB
"Believe me, I will be the happiest person when that cheque is signed, and that money is out of our client's account. It should never have been paid over. It was in Belize dollars, and we're ready to pay it back."

The CCJ has also ordered the Government to pay the costs of this lawsuit. The two sides are hoping that when the time comes for next year's payment, there will be no dispute about how that installment will be done.


Briceno: CCJ Judgment Lamentable But Preventable

Today the Leader of the opposition was careful not to jump all over the Barrow administration for the costly loss in court. He said it is lamentable, but was also preventable:...

Hon. John Briceno, Leader of the Opposition
"It is unfortunate that we had that ruling. I am in no way rejoicing that the government has to pay 67 million US. Because we know that there is a shortage of US dollars. We know, that it's no other than the government's banker, the governor of the Central Bank wrote a letter I think in July to the financial secretary saying that they cannot afford to give out this US dollars, because then our 2-1 peg; $2 Belize to $1 US is going to be threatened. That there could be a devaluation."

"If you talk to the business people, every one of them will tell you that they cannot get access to US dollars, because there is a shortage in US dollars. The economy contracted by 1.5% over the first 6 months and this is when we have all the economic activity. You could imagine what we are going through right now when everything has slowed down? So now because again, of the arrogance of the Prime Minister, feeling that he knows more than everybody, signed on to something knowing full well that he has to pay in US dollars and then decides that he is going to pay in Belize dollars, now taken to court and the court says that he has to pay in US dollars. I am not rejoicing for the loss of the government, because all of us, we are Belizeans first and foremost, but this is in the hands of the Prime Minister."


Galvez Charged For Shooting Customs Officer

21 year old Nigel Galvez has been charged in connection with the shooting of Customs Officer Jose Acevedo. The incident happened in Orange Walk on September 14th. Acevedo arrived home at 8:00 pm that night when he was ambushed by two armed men. The report is that Galvez allegedly held a .45 caliber weapon and pulled the trigger, but the gun snapped. That is when Acevedo grabbed his licensed gun and shot Galvez in his pelvis. When police got to the scene, Galvez was on the ground with the .45 beside him. Well Galvez has recovered from that gunshot wound but instead of being taken home, he was taken to the Orange Walk police station where he was charged with aggravated assault and possession of a prohibited firearm and ammunition. Galvez has been remanded to prison until November 30th.

Fatal In Independence

A motorcyclist was killed in an accident on the Southern highway. Last night around 6:30, bus driver Julio Caceres was taking a group of construction workers back home to Bella Vista in a bus. As Caceres approached the entrance to San Juan between miles 34 and 35, he saw 50 year old Mango Creek resident, Antonio Valerio on a motorcycle parked on the right side of the road. It seems Valerio had stopped too close to the highway and by the time Caceres saw him, it was too late. Caceres slammed into Valerio and he was flung from his cycle. Caceres told police that he tried to avoid Valerio by swerving unto the left lane but a James Bus was coming at the same time. Police are still looking into this case. Caceres has been served with a notice of intended prosecution.

PUP May Be Ready To Compromise On Senate

The Senate meets tomorrow to consider two motions for the appointment of a Special Select Committee to investigate irregularities at the immigration department. One is put forward by opposition Senator Eamon Courtenay - and that calls for 3 social partners, one member from the opposition and one from government. The other is put forward by the churches senator Ashley Rocke, and that calls for 3 social partners, two government representatives and one from the opposition. So both motions seek to appoint a Special Select Committee, but each proposes different compositions. Rocke seems to have the numbers on his side, since he - along with 6 government senators comprise 7 of the 12 Senators, and the PUP's 3 senators along with the other 2 social partners only count five. Today the leader of the opposition told us that they do have some flexibility:

Jules Vasquez, 7News
"What will happen in the senate tomorrow?"

Hon. John Briceno, Leader of the Opposition
"I think that it's something that our senators will have to sit down and speak with the senator from the church. Then to try to find which one would be the best option that would work."

Jules Vasquez, 7News
"Are you flexible to go to 2?"

Hon. John Briceno, Leader of the Opposition
"I haven't re-read his motion, so I think it would be unfair for me to say yes or no. what we want is for us to be able to have an open, fair investigation into what has transpired in the department of immigration. If it means that you have to have two members from the government side and two members from the opposition, if that is what it requires to happen, I don't think our senators are going to object."

Reporter
"Sir, but at the same time the party has said that a mechanism has been used before."

Hon. John Briceno, Leader of the Opposition
"I agree with you. I've been saying over and over that we have precedent. A precedent has been set where under the PUP government we had one from each government and opposition and three which we believe is the best way. At the end of that day what is it that we want? We want to have an opened and transparent investigation into the criminal activities that have taken place in the department of immigration. if it would require, and I don't know because as I've said I have not read their motion, but if at the end of the day we required 2 from government and 2 from the opposition, I don't think our senators would object. The important thing is that we want to get to the bottom of what has taken place in that department."

Jules Vasquez, 7News
"The government insist that the doctrine of the Prime Minister Dean Barrow, the doctrine is that majority rules, so you are talking about 2:2. Government is saying they must maintain a political majority of at least 2:1. Would you all be agreeable to that?"

Hon. John Briceno, Leader of the Opposition
"We are going to fight the Prime Minister every step of the way when it comes that he wants to have a majority. In 2004 he was the very one along with Minister Hulse who was saying that the government cannot have a majority. What has changed?"


PUP Start Long Journey On Road To Reform

Now, in a situation like that one where there is expected to be an easy majority supporting Rocke's motion, not even a 13th Senator could swing things against the government. But the 13th Senator could meaningfully tip the balance of power in the Senate, and that's why the PUP has committed to it in a Good Governance platform that it issued today to coincide with the 66th anniversary of the party's founding. Now for the PUP which usually holds events at its party headquarters - this was a big step up - they rented out the largest conference room at the Biltmore and invited a cross section of party supporters and dignitaries. It's a major platform initiative, but it comes less than a year after the most recent general election. Party Leader John Briceno explained that the vision of good governance is something his party wants to work on continuously:...

Hon. John Briceno, Leader of the Opposition
"If we consider all that has taken place in our nation, there can be no better time than the present to layout our plans and offer real solutions on how we will govern this nation. What Belize needs more than ever is not some tough talking prime minister, but a leader who can unite people to strengthen institutions, manage our development and build Belize. We believe the time has come to re-establish a credible and effective framework for good governance. It is time for governance that respects the rule of law as it is enshrined in the Belize constitution. Meaningful and effective governance must result in actions that reflect our values. Our governance must be based on a commitment to honesty that goes beyond what we say and its reflection be seen to all that we do. As leader of the People's United Party, I am happy to introduce to you this initiative. It is rooted in our sincere commitment to a meaningful partnership with every Belizean for the effective governance of this nation must be a shared responsibility."

And while his prepared remarks were progressive, in real terms, is a wary electorate still seduced by sweet words? The past 20 years of governance have been sobering lessons in "realpolitik" - and we asked Bricneo what makes his pledges for good governance credible:...

Hon. John Briceno, Leader of the Opposition
"We need to start the discussion from now. I think it is very important for us to be able to have an open, honest and frank discussion with the Belizean people. We don't want to be seen that one month before the elections we're quickly writing things that will look pretty on a paper and then once we get into government we forget it. We as politicians recognize that there's a frustration and cynicism within our citizens which is what we probably earned that for people to feel that way. The only way we can change that is by having an open and frank discussion. A discussion that will be long enough so that by the time we get into government we have a blue print as to what are the we're going to take to ensure that we have better government governance."

Jules Vasquez, 7News
"Sir aren't you a part of this sort of expectation fatigue. You've been in government, you've spent when the PUP we elected in 98', it was on a great bounty of promise as well and there are many who would say that your administration in the ministry of natural resources was not perhaps representative of the highest standards of good governance. Your critics would say that, so you are as much as a part of the problem which you complain about."

Hon. John Briceno, Leader of the Opposition
"What would you say Jules? You remember coming to my office and you see that I dealt with everybody as fairly as I could possibly do. Remember during my time we issued out over 65,000 leases and titles, I am sure you can find one or two or five or ten that you can question. but when you look at what we were doing in that ministry, how we were restructuring that ministry the way we do business where the minister does not have to be involved in anything, I was the one that stopped that."

Now, some of what was proposed and put in writing for today's presentation is indeed progressive. It proposes for example that discretionary powers would be removed form ministers, that a fixed date will be implemented for general elections, and that all bids and awards of contracts will be placed on the internet so that, quote, "the public will know what was purchased from whom - not only the company but also ultimate beneficiary owners of the company and at what price." End quote. That's a serious threat to the gravy train that greases governments and political parties and Briceno conceded that expectations would have to change:..

Hon. John Briceno, Leader of the Opposition
"I don't think that it is going to be too restrictive. When we talk about curtailing the powers of the minister, it does not mean that we're going to change the law that we will prevent the minister from doing his or her job. It simply means that that clause that we have that the minister can do almost any and everything, we need to curtail that, but the minister must also have the necessary powers to carry out his or her functions."


Mother Missing For A Week

The last time Julie Salazar saw her mother, Cruz Pu, known as Maria, was on Friday morning. Before she left for work, Julie said everything seemed normal, however, when she got home that night, "mom" was nowhere to be found. It's been a week and no word and today she told us why she is worried:

Julie Salazar - Daughter of missing woman
"When I got home Friday evening from work I noticed that the shop was closed and she wasn't home. So I called her and no answer. The next day calling, calling and no answer none at all. I went to the police station on Saturday evening to put in a missing person report. Then on Saturday night the police called me and said that they got information that my mother crossed the border Saturday evening. And to me it's really weird because my mother never leaves home without telling anyone anything about where she would go. And I'm really worried because it's not something that she would do. She wouldn't go nowhere without leaving her kids."

Pu, a fruit and vegetable vendor in Ladyville, contacted her niece in Guatemala asking her to meet at the border, however, she did not show up there. Since Pu is an adult who seemed to have left the country on her own free will, the police cannot do anything more to find her. For now, her family and friends will have to wait for her to cross back over to Belize and hope that she is safe.


Management: Port Will Not Close In solidarity With Teachers

The BNTU's 8 demands and their strike action have been dominating the headlines and as we have reported, the teachers are only getting started. So far the PUP has openly expressed support for the union in their fight - but we haven't heard much from other unions. But today, a call in to a morning show said that the stevedores also want to show solidarity by shutting down or blocking operations at the Port of Belize. The outspoken stevedore advised the public to stack up on supplies for a week because the stevedores will not be unloading any cargo ships in solidarity with the teachers. Today we asked the Port's CEO Arturo "Tux" Vasquez about this and he told us he hasn't gotten any official position or notice from the stevedores about this proposed strike. But if the stevedores plan on going through with it, Vasquez says it really isn't be the best way to show support to the teachers.

Arturo "Tux" Vasquez, CEO, Port of Belize
"We have been getting calls asking us about it whether the port will be opened or closed and of course the port will be opened for business as usual, not that we do not support the teachers but I believe we have an important job to do and we have a responsibility. In relation to the stevedores, I understand that there were some comments or remarks made on the talk show this morning, I'm not sure by who, but we haven't gotten any word from the Christian Workers Union who would be the representatives for the Stevedores. If the stevedores are in solidarity with the teachers that is fine, but as to what their actions will be in relation to supporting the teachers will be where they fall in, as you know the stevedores are basically hired based on ships calls, I'm not sure if there is a ship here on Monday, but that is where the port will be affected."

"Giving notice of a strike is one thing but you have to give notice and give your reasons why. I am not too sure if solidarity with the teachers will be a reason to strike, I don't think it is, a strike against the port would be having an issue with the port, so while I would support the stevedores in supporting the teachers, because on a personal basis I do support the teachers, but I would think that by supporting the teacher, having a strike would not be a way of giving or manifesting that support."

We asked Vasquez if he really believed it was about the teachers or if there is some other message the stevedores want to send to the Port. Vasquez told us he knows of no urgent issue regarding the stevedores other than the pending collective bargaining agreement.

Arturo "Tux" Vasquez, CEO, Port of Belize
"Other than the negotiations that have basically come to halt, I don't know of any other concerns that we have with the stevedores, we are basically working in solidarity right now, people are doing what they are supposed to do, so I don't know if anything is pending, if there is anything pending I would have to be advised about it."

Vasquez says the stevedores must give 21days notice and a valid reason for the strike and as you heard, support for teachers won't fly as a reason. Vasquez says the best way he sees fit to show support is to personally participate in a demonstration if one is organized by the teachers.


Belize Fights For Dominance In Volleyball

Heading into their fifth match of the FIVB International Men's Volleyball tournament, both Belize, and the Dominican Republic had a lot on the line. Both teams lost to the undefeated Guatemala but were still on track to earn one of the top two spots in the tournament, which would grant them entry to the North American tournament. Whoever lost would be out of contention, while the winner would have the opportunity to represent their country, and get a chance at a spot in the World Championship. High stakes - and here's how team Belize fared off:..

Alex Courtenay reporting
Last night at the FIVB Men's Volleyball tournament, Team Belize lost to the Dominican Republic after 5 sets of intense action.

After a slow start in the first set, Belize managed to bring themselves back from a double-digit deficit and stay in play until the end of the set. Despite struggling early, Team Belize ended the set with the momentum and carried it over to the second and won.

The teams traded sets for the rest of the match, both sides struggling to gain an advantage over the other

Team Belize, having already shown its offensive dominance over the net in previous matches, displayed prowess on the defensive side as well, stopping several powerful spikes sent by the large Dominican players. The well timed and well-positioned blocks neutralized the Dominican Republic's offensive onslaught.

The home team also showed tenacity, keeping the ball in play long enough to wear out its opponent and score.

Still, Team Belize did not play perfectly. Our back line was unable to receive several serves from the strong Dominicans, which resulted in the loss of several points.

With this defeat, Belize has lost the chance to advance to the next tournament round, where they would face off against the top teams in North America. Still, it was clear that the Belizean fans stood with their team and were proud of their performance.

Reporter
"Tomorrow is a day off for you guys. What will you do on that day off? Will you go back to the drawing board and come back to try and win that final game on Friday?"

Karym Coleman - Captain, Team Belize
"Oh well, we will win that final game on Friday. Tomorrow we're going to rest, recuperate and come back stronger than ever on Friday."

Delio Arruebarrena - Coach, Team Belize
"The game plan went well. We were set to be tougher on the net, and defensive on the back, but the lack of concentration is what went wrong."

And while they won't be representing the country in the North American championship, the tournament is still not over for Team Belize. On Friday they play their final match against Honduras, and if they win, they will walk away with the bronze medal.


Fire Leaves Older Woman Homeless

A 70 year old woman is homeless after her Corozal house was burnt down on Tuesday night. Virginia Guy left her son sleeping and went to visit a neighbor. Guy rushed back home after she found out her house was on fire but there was nothing she could do, the fire had already spread throughout the entire house, destroying everything. Police believe it was arson. They will continue to investigate

Sources indicate that one of Guy's sons was detained by authorities for questioning, but she defended her son, saying he was blameless.


Questions About Environmental Impact of Marine Multibeam

A marine multibeam - it may sound like some science fiction device, but it's actually a real tool that's going to be used to conduct what's called a "sea seep" survey in the marine territory of Belize east of the barrier reef and in the Exclusive Economic Zone, excluding all marine protected areas. A release says the survey will be done "in deep water only and away from any major tourist activity, fishing areas or spawning sites."

It's part of a larger regional geophysical survey currently being done by the United States Government and the Mexican Government in the US Gulf of Mexico, the Mexican Gulf of Mexico and east of the Yucatan Peninsula supposedly to gather new regional data to advance the knowledge of the geology and hydrocarbon systems of these geological provinces.

A multibeam survey is usually done to obtain water depth maps and seafloor maps of the world's oceans and harbors for navigation and scientific information.

The survey is done using an echo sounder similar to a fish-finder that maps the bottom of the sea floor. The survey will start in early October 2016 and is expected to take one month to complete. A release says all data acquired will be the property of the Government of Belize. We assume it will also be used by those who do the mapping, which is the US and Mexico.

And while it is pitched as bening and non-invasive information gathering, those in the conservation sector fear that no Environmental Impact Assessment has been done.

The Coalition to save our national heritage has written to the chief environmental officer asking for all relevant documents which suggest that the scane will have little or no environmental effects.






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