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
Today's regular senate meeting wasn't regular at all. That's because the opposition opened up asking to make what's called "a privileged statement". They wanted to talk about the menacing and deliberately disruptive behavior pulled off by UDP operatives at the Senate Special Inquiry on Wednesday. But, to make a privileged statement, there has to be advance notice and permission from the president. The PUP didn't have that permission, and so they started out the meeting with a defiant tone. Here's how it went:...
Hon. Lee Mark Chang, President of the Senate "I just speak with your senator earlier and I already told him I declined and it won't happen. Thank you."
Hon. Michel Chebat, PUP Senator "You will not allow me to speak Mr. President."
Hon. Lee Mark Chang, President of the Senate "No, because we have spoken about it already."
Hon. Michael Peyrefitte, UDP Senator "This was discusses already with the former Prime Minister Musa in the national assembly. There is no privilege here like that."
Hon. Lee Mark Chang, President of the Senate "Senator Chebat, please let us continue our sitting today. Next time if you want, send it in writing one hour before and then we can proceed."
Hon. Michel Chebat, PUP Senator "Mr. President, you were advised an hour before at about 8:30 this morning that we'd be making this motion."
Hon. Lee Mark Chang, President of the Senate "Senator, I was not advised an hour before. When the phone call came it was after 9am. Senator Courtenay can attest to that."
Hon. Eamon Courtenay, PUP Senator "Mr. President, I will attest to the fact that exactly 8:37 this morning..."
Hon. Lee Mark Chang, President of the Senate "There was a phone call that came in at 8:37 and it was not answered, Senator Courtenay. You return a call after 9am. Senator Courtenay, we have already been through this in the back already. Let us move on please."
Hon. Eamon Courtenay, PUP Senator "We do not unfortunately accept that you can muzzle us like this and therefore in protest we are leaving the senate for today's sitting and we want to put on record our condemnation of what happen here on Wednesday on the assault on the press and we are now leaving."
Outside, PUP Senators Chebat and Courtenay explained what they were trying to do, and why they felt muzzled on a matter of public interest:
Hon. Michel Chebat, PUP Senator "The standing orders of the senate allows us to make as what is called a privilege motion. It requires that notice of the motion be given to the president at least one hour before. We attempted to do that this morning. A call was placed to him, despite that he refused to accept that as notice and he exercise his authority which we reject."
Hon. Eamon Courtenay, PUP Senator "The president accepts that he was called before one hour. He didn't take the call and then when we pointed it out to him, he just uses another standing order to stop us."
"I just want to be clear, because he referred to us talking at the back. At the back we were making it clear to him that we wanted to say what we are supposed to say and that we had a right to say it. We did not agree with him that he could muzzle us."
"I said to him sir you would not allow us to speak and he said straight to my face I will not allow it under any circumstances. They are muzzling representatives of the people in the house, they are muzzling senators appointed to represent the opposition."
Reporter "Now our understanding as well was that the opposition was trying to get the social partners as well in their bid to walk out if a statement was not allowed to be made or even if a statement has been made. Are you able to share if that was the case and why that could not happen?"
Hon. Eamon Courtenay, PUP Senator "Quite frankly what the situation was that we were in consultation with the social and their view was that we should make a statement and that they would also make a statement condemning it. We felt that we for the People's United Party wanted to go one step further and that we would protest by walking out of today's sitting. We consulted with them on that and they felt that they wanted to participate with the other matters that were on the agenda for today and so they said they would associate themselves with our protest by speaking strongly and condemning what happen. But they did not want to go as far as to walk out, because they wanted to debate those other matters."
Later on we'll have the full debate on those "other matters", but the PUP's main matter was this statement which they couldn't give to the Senate. But they did give it to the press:..
Hon. Michel Chebat, PUP Senator "I rise to put on record the People's United Party strong condemnation of the behavior of members and the supporters of the United Democratic Party at last Wednesday's meeting of the senate special select committee investigating illegalities in immigration. In what can only be describe as a carefully orchestrated plan to disrupt last Wednesday's hearings. The chairman of the UDP and the mace bearer of the House of Representatives, behave in such an unruly manner that the hearing had to be suspended. This is unacceptable. We call on the United Democratic Party to respect the honorable senate and we demand that the senate inquiry be allowed to proceed without any further disruption by UDP operatives, in a direct attack on our Belizean democracy. These same UDP goons assaulted members of the press. These assaults were done within the walls of the honorable house. During the meeting of the special senate select committee, not only threatening words were used, but there were physical assaults. We on this side, the PUP senators, condemned these actions and call for the criminal prosecution of those responsible."
Outside the meeting, the media asked President Lee Mark Chang what was the big deal since it was such a short statement - which wasn't exactly earth shattering. Here's how Chang put it:..
Reporter "Why couldn't have been allowed? I mean it's a simple statement and it comes off as you trying to muzzle the opposition on that statement."
Hon. Lee Mark Chang, President of the Senate "First of all let the record reflect. In all my couple of years of being the president of the senate, I have never tried to stifle or muzzle any senator from saying whatever they need to say. Actually I've always give them leverage to say things that are not supposed to be said. With that said, with so many times that I have allowed certain things and now there is one thing that I don't allow, then they are saying that I'm trying to stifle them. I have spoken to Senator Courtenay when he call me and I said let me review my standing orders and let me see if I could allow it. The standing orders give me the authority to either agree or disagree. I disagreed because I also have some pending meetings to address these matters. We are going to address these matters and make sure these reoccurring does not continue to happen or does not happen again."
And what the PUP and the media don't want to happen again, is a repeat of the heckling, disruption and menacing that happened at Wednesday's session of the Senate Hearings. Senior Counsel Eamon Courtenay took on professional rabble rouser, Yellowman and said someone has to put him in check:...
Hon. Eamon Courtenay, PUP Senator "Audinette is an employee of this honorable house. It is unacceptable for him to behave that way on the premises of the very house of which he is the macebearer, the person who is to ensure that law and order on regular business can be conducted. But more than that, it is the arrogance, it is the disrespect, it is the criminal behavior of these people. They believe that they can behave with impunity and attack even the media who is recording as is their right what is taking place."
"Now they are talking about bringing mass police here on Wednesday so that the senate can conduct its inquiry. Really, we need police to come to protect us from who? From agents of the government? It is a very sad indictment of where we are as a democracy. What has the Prime Minister said about the behavior of his chairman? What has the speaker said about the behavior of the macebearer? These people needs to be called out."
Reporter "Speaking of the chairman, he was on Wave Radio this morning. I am sure you heard him say at the inquiry on Wednesday they will be back each and every time you appear, because the protest is about the inquiry, not about the press, it's about you specifically."
Hon. Eamon Courtenay, PUP Senator "I will not dignify the comments of that gentleman with any response, absolutely none. I deny his existence."
But, Senate President Lee Mark Chang has to acknowledge their existence, Yellowman and August are his party colleagues in the UDP. But he says he won't encourage their antics in "his" house:
Hon. Lee Mark Chang, President of the Senate "Well I will be very clear with unu, not in my house. Once I am here that will not happen."
Reporter "No matter who it is."
Hon. Lee Mark Chang, President of the Senate "It doesn't matter who it is. I have cleared the gallery, threatening words have been stoned across the aisle and I have instructed the officers to send them out. So once I am here I will do what I need to do, hence the reason why I am going to a meeting right after this to make sure that we can have more enforcement for future things not to reoccur. Yes, mistakes have been done, but we need to fix it and move on."
Directly after the meeting, Chang, along with the Clerk and the Speaker of the House met with Belmopan police to discuss a beefed up police presence at future meetings. The police - as we understand it - will be tasked to take preemptive measures before House Meetings are disrupted or get out of hand.
Belmopan police today also got a visit from Marisol Amaya, the news Director at KREM Radio and TV who was assaulted by Yellowman when he snatched her cell phone. She made a complaint against him, but did not request court action. She says she just wanted it on record.
Today the Belize Network of NGOs issued a statement saying they, quote, "stand in solidarity with Senator Eamon Courtenay and the media regarding the vicious and personal attacks on them."
The release concludes, quote, "Given the current Sergeant at Arms' loutish behavior, it is reprehensible and embarrassing that a person like him be allowed to continue to carry the Mace, the very symbol of the Speaker."
And while the media was being assaulted and threatened on Wednesday in the Senate at the same time, one of Belize's most well known media personalities, was being criminally charged in Cayo - he says for doing his job. PLUS TV's Luis Wade was charged for assault and indecent language - almost 6 months after he'd had an encounter with works Minister Rene Montero's son, Robert at the Santa Elena Sports Complex. Wade was there reporting on a story, and says he was almost run over by Montero who was trying to get him to stop capturing the ongoing work. Of course, there are two sides to every story, and police concluded that Montero was the victim and Wade, the aggressor. Today when he want to san Ignacio Magistrate's Court, we asked him all about it:
Courtney Weatherburne reporting
You see him every morning on his Rise and Shine Show on Plus TV.
He is also known as a vocal activist - leading protests like his "I want my country back" movement.
But this morning instead of him rallying and leading his supporters through the streets, he was led out of the San Ignacio Magistrates Court after he was arraigned on charges of common assault and using insulting words - charges he says he is falsely accused of.
Luis Wade, Charged for Common Assault, Using Insulting Language "Everything is totally fabricated, I will stand by that until the day I die."
The incident happened on November 23rd 2016. Wade was out getting footage at the Santa Elena Sports Complex. He was following up on a report that the Ministry of Works was using tax payers money to finish a private contractors work. But - allegedly - the Ministry didn't like Wade snooping around and Works Minister Rene Montero's son Robert Montero son showed up while Wade was getting footage of the Complex and allegedly charged at him with his vehicle.
Luis Wade, Charged for Common Assault, Using Insulting Language "I was almost finished shooting my video and pictures when out of the corner of my eye a red pickup truck which most Cayo people recognize as belonging to one Robert Montero came directly at me at very high velocity because I was simply doing my job as a journalist. I jumped out of the way, he reversed his vehicle at me, I jumped, this man was trying to run me over with his red pickup truck. When he saw that I was not ..I was..that I was still there, he saw I was still there, he got out of driver's seat and came around his vehicle and came to me."
But according to Wade, the story was completely flipped. 3 days after the incident Robert Montero reported to police it is Wade who assaulted him. Wade made his report against Montero one day after Montero's was made.
Luis Wade, Charged for Common Assault, Using Insulting Language "He beat me to the police and a person who assaulted me made a report to the police that he was assaulted."
"Now how could any police investigator, OC prosecutor, could come up in a scenario like that where I am already on the scene, a person appears on the scene, comes fast brings his vehicle, tries to block me and how can any police officer, investigator, officer in charge of any department come to a conclusion that a person who was standing up was assaulting a person who is in a motor vehicle that appeared on the scene."
"Mr. Montero came out of his vehicle at me shouting ..which will..words which will appear in the court..I..."
Courtney Weatherburne, 7News "And in no way did you respond or aggress him?"
Luis Wade, Charged for Common Assault, Using Insulting Language "Mr. Montero did not come closer than 6 feet to me, not closer nor did I tell him one word?"
Wade says the police department didn't bother interviewing the witnesses or following up on his side of the story. It is only until this Wednesday that police called him into the station to get video evidence of the incident from Wade. But he later found out that the officers just wanted to slap him with the 2 charges.
Luis Wade, Charged for Common Assault, Using Insulting Language "When I came in that Wednesday, coming into to bring the evidence as the OC said little did I know that my charges were already written up and sitting there on the file."
"The police have not looked at my case yet, yes the actual complaint has not been looked at yet, I want the OC to tell us why he has not brought in Robert Montero and charged him for assault."
But his attorney Stacey Grinage is fighting for him and hopes the prosecution will seriously take her submissions into consideration regarding Wade's case.
Stacey Grinage, Attorney "We made certain preliminary objections, one of those objections or challenges that we raised was that the delay, the delay and the time within which the prosecution took to initiate and commence these proceedings was long and we said that delay amounted to an abuse of process and I made submissions and I relied on authority and presented that to the court, the magistrate heard both sides and he decided he will reserve his decision and he gave both sides an opportunity to submit further written submissions and so the matter has been adjourned sine dei until the magistrate comes to a decision on that preliminary challenge which we have made."
But while the court processes continues, Pastor Wade has to carry the burden of these charges as his cross, but he is also weakened by the hardships he believes Belizean journalists endure.
Luis Wade, Charged for Common Assault, Using Insulting Language "Journalists are seen as bottom of the barrel and I'm proud for the time I am sharing, just a time I am sharing with journalists, I am proud to stand alongside media in this country for fruit and freedom, I am proud to go through what I am going through for the media and for my nation."
And with that Wade descended the stairs of the San Ignacio Police Station into the warm and welcoming crowd waiting outside - a crowd who eagerly joined him with arms stretched toward the station in prayer.
And while Pastor Wade and his supporters prayed, police were taking a pounding on social media. That's because Wade's narrative puts them as the bad guys, deliberately ignoring his witnesses and his evidence, and charging the journalist doing his job, rather than the political operative who's running interference.
And so after yesterday taking a hardline that they would not comment on this case because it is too minor, the police department buckled under the pressure of public criticism and agreed to grant interviews so that they could get out their side of the story. We spoke to Superintendent Richard Rosado who told us that Wade has deliberately distorted the story. He says they waited months for his evidence, which never came:
Supt. Richard Rosado, OC - San Ignacio "And in the course of natural justice, the investigator decided to use his discretion and gave Mr. Wade ample to submit the evidential material that he claims he has. However, it was not forthcoming and on Monday I personally call Mr. Wade, he told me that he would have submitted the evidential material on or before Wednesday. Wednesday he came to the station, he told me that on the advice of his counsel, he will not submit the evidential material to the police and the investigating officer determine that Mr. Wade evidence was insufficient for any charges to be laid against Mr. Montero."
Jules Vasquez, 7News "Mr. Wade said he had his own witnesses who could make their own attestations on his behalf. Were those people questioned? He claims they were ignored."
Supt. Richard Rosado, OC - San Ignacio "Sir, please appreciate that the police when he gave a few names, the police went and speak to each of those individuals. Those individuals have certain information to the police, but refused to give any statement."
Jules Vasquez, 7News "Have you all questioned Mr. Montero about his alleged role in this confrontation where Mr. Wade is accusing his of perpetrating and aggravated assault by trying to run him over with a pick up?"
Supt. Richard Rosado, OC - San Ignacio "We have enough evidential material, we have statement that collaborate what transpired on the 23rd November."
Jules Vasquez, 7News "Was Mr. Wade at any time under threat or might he have made to feel under threat in a hostile situation where he was capturing evidence that public assets were being used to complete a private contract?"
Supt. Richard Rosado, OC - San Ignacio "The initial statement that Mr. Wade gave, at no time he stated he was in fear or any injury would have caused to him."
Jules Vasquez, 7News "The allegation is that you all change investigators. The insinuation is that this second investigator was assigned with the understanding that 'listen we will charge Luis Wade, because he is going against the ruling party.' that type of thing."
Supt. Richard Rosado, OC - San Ignacio "That is farthest from the truth. After the statement was recorded I was the person that assigned an investigator which is the standard operating procedure for the police department. I assigned an investigator to conduct an investigation. That investigator conducted the investigation from day one until he concluded with his investigation."
Jules Vasquez, 7News "Do you understand the public uproar that this has created in so far as Mr. Wade is a well-known television personality and a journalist who was doing his job."
Supt. Richard Rosado, OC - San Ignacio "Which is fine. An offence has been committed and it's the duty of the police to investigate that offence thoroughly and all the evidential material suport the charges that was laid against Mr. Wade. An offence was committed by Mr. Wade and all the evidential material support the charges laid against Mr. Wade. Mr. Wade know that happened. He informed us that he has certain evidential materials, why was he not forthcoming with those evidential materials."
Wade says Rosado is misrepresenting the facts. He claims the second investigator was NOT following up with him; and that they spoke ONCE months ago. As for the video, he says he was only asked to bring it in this Wednesday, and when he did the found the police had charges already written up for him. His lawyer advised him not to give them the video only AFTER he saw that the charge sheet had already been written up. As for his witness, Wade says he had to bring him in personally, and the police took over an hour BEFORE they interviewed him.
We stress that while we have heard fully from Wade, only police investigators have heard from both Robert Montero and Wade, and they say Montero is the victim.
Today, two alleged kidnappers were released on bail. Jeffery Gongora and Brian Espinoza allegedly made up half of the team that robbed and kidnapped Eder Hall and two of his friends.
According to police, Hall and his companions went to Ranchito Village with $13,000 in cash to purchase a car, but before the transaction took place, they were held up by Gongora and Espinoza, along with Elio Lopez and Jason Espinoza. The trio were bound and stuffed in the back of their vehicle. However, as they were being driven away, Hall managed to pull a razor blade from his wallet and cut himself loose, while his companions hopped out of the trunk.
Two of the kidnappers, Jason Espinoza and Elio Lopez, were caught and charged in the Magistrate's Court last week with three counts of kidnapping and three counts of robbery. But Brian Espinoza and Jefferey Gongora remained at large. They handed themselves into police earlier this week and were given the same charges.
Today they went to the Supreme Court for bail and were both released on $10,000 bail. They must report to the Corozal Police Station every Friday, must reappear in court again in August, and were ordered not to interfere with the complainants and witnesses.
The Belize Chamber of Commerce has joined the chorus of organizations calling for the Integrity Commission to dig deeper into the finances of elected representatives and parliamentarians.
The Chamber released a statement today asking for the Integrity Commission to return to its earlier decision and review the previous 5 years of the finances of the persons serving in public life, instead of only one year.
Their statement opens saying, quote, "Corruption continues to grow throughout the economy, enriching the few at the expense of the many, yet an ongoing shortage of political will continues to deny us the chance to halt the actions of the corruptâ€¦" End quote.
The Chamber reasons that the decision to only review 1 year is quote, "â€¦the latest example where corruption has triumphed."
The Chamber doesn't only want the Commission to review 5 years, and their statement says, quote, "The BCCIâ€¦ calls on the Commission to reverse its last decision and mandate that all Members of the National Assembly and public officials comply..., not just for 5 years, but commencing with the date when they assumed public office."
The Chamber also condemned the disruption of the Senate Hearings on immigration by "Yellowman" and the other UDP's. They say that appropriate action must be taken.
At the top of the news, we showed you how the Opposition's Senators walked out of parliament, refusing to the participate in today's meeting.
Well, after they left, the Government's Senators and the other social partners went on with the business of the day.
They had 5 motions to debate and pass, but there were 2 which generated the most robust back and forth. The first was the approval of a loan from the Caribbean Development Bank of $20 million US dollars for the Development Finance Cooperation. The second was the approval of a 10-million-US-dollar loan from the CDB to the Social Investment Fund.
That's a total of $60 million Belize's dollars that these two statutory boards will be borrowing.
As soon as the Government's side tabled the hefty loan motions, the Social Partner Senators pounced.
Here's the back and forth on the bill for the CDB's 8th Consolidated Line of Credit to the DFC:
Hon. Osmany Salas - NGO Senator "We ask Mr. President that the motion for this CDB line of credit include commitments on behalf of the government and DFC to see a direct pass through off the access to cheaper capital to the community that bares the real burden as a government guarantee, the stable sector for economy, the business community, the NGO community, thank you Mr. President."
Hon. Elena Smith - Labour/Civil Society Senator "As we sat to go over this, we realize that the document given to us lacks a lot of details and so we, I'm sure that we are going to be hearing the responses to whatever questions we have. Unfortunately Mr. President, we make our decisions based on what we have in front of us and so we could only make decisions based on what we have here. We have several questions or clarity that we would need to have made today for us. Now, while we support the work of the DFC, because we understand and we know that persons who are really in need are the persons who benefit from the DFC and so we cannot help but support that those persons be given assistance. We look at this motion here and we see that its going to be used for 4 sectors; small and medium size enterprises, student loans, low income housing and then energy efficiency and renewable energy and our first thought was so, how will these funds be distributed among these 4 areas? Instead of having to come here with more questions as opposed to being able to fully support a motion, we would want to ask that when these documents are given to us always ask, that we be given enough information so that we can make proper decisions at the end of the day Mr. President my organization represents the workers and the poor of this country. This is an area where they can benefit from and if we do not have proper details, we cannot make proper decisions."
Hon. Ashley Rocke - Church Senator "I believe that when we are given motions, it is our responsibility to find the sense in what is presented to us and in our deliberation talking with some of the representative of our church, we felt that the 2 entities in question have done tremendous in representing fiduciary responsibility as it relates to loans and so we lend our support for the motions relating to the loans for the DFC and the SIF."
Hon. Michael Peyrefitte - UDP Senator "I hear my fellow senators specifically Lizarraga, Smith and Salas asking for more information in a loan motion like this, in a loan motion of this nature, the type of details that the senators are requiring are not the types of details that you can give up at this stage. Why? Because, the DFC is a statutory body. The DFC determines who will get what and how those monies will be disperse. There is a DFC report every year that comes out. You can take a look at that and see what is a habit of the DFC on how they disperse funds. We in this United Democratic Party Government, whenever we borrow money for our lending, there's transparency, there's efficiency and there is confidence in the DFC. So, I fully support this motion Mr. President."
Hon. Aldo Salazar - UDP Senator "The people of the DFC should be commended for a stellar track record under this new re-emerged DFC. I think that it is a good loan and I think that it is deserving of support."
Hon. Dr. Carla Barnett - UDP Senator "Let me, for the record, commend the development finance corporation for turning the institution around and allowing it to be in a positon where a CDB will lend directly to it. There was a time when that had stopped, not only from CBB but from everybody else. DFC has made a strong turn around over the years and I would want to commend them and let them know that we expect them to continue to do as good a job or better as they have been doing over the last several years."
Hon. Steven Duncan - UDP Senator "Mr. President I too want to support this motion. We as a country found it necessary in 2009 to totally restructure and I think that is a mild word, I think we actually have to resuscitate and to add life to it once again. It was just about dead. It is very good to see how it has been running and managing its affairs since."
Hon. Godwin Hulse - Leader of Government Business "We are now satisfied that the track record of the DFC is such that we have the confidence that they will do so and that they will be able to pay back their loans."
After that motion was passed, Senator Godwin Hulse, the Leader of Government Business, tabled the second loan from the CDB. That's the 10 million US dollar loan that's going to the Social Investment Fund for 24 small to medium sized community projects, which is supposed to improve the living conditions 35,000 Belizeans.
Some of the social partner senators said that this description was too vague to make an informed decision on whether or not to support it. Here's the fiery back-and-forth between them and the government's senators:
Hon. Mark Lizarraga - Business Senator "In support of the position previously stated and I lend clarity Senator Salazar, that what Senator Smith was saying and I make reference to what is before us now. If there is a proposal, a loan proposal before us right now for the sum of 20 million dollars or 10 million US to finance 24 small medium size community projects. Where did this number 24 come from? Certainly, it did not come out of the air. Certainly, these projects have been identified, one would hope and we know exactly where these projects are going to be done and for what purposes. So, what is the problem with providing us with the details that Senator Smith, myself and other senators continue to call for? Why can we not be given the materials that we need in advance so that we can rise and gladly support all those projects that are needed?"
Hon. Michael Peyrefitte - UDP Senator "Madam President what is the senate to do? List the projects? Listen, we got these papers for a week. If there were these questions to be had, just go to the Social Investment Fund Senator Lizarraga. Being a senator is a contact sport, you don't sit down and wait and say provide information to me so I can go and argue as to what the merits and demerits are? You can visit the Social Investment Fund at any time."
Hon. Mark Lizarraga - Business Senator "Madam President on a point of order reference section 33-4, I have not received my papers for a week, I got my papers yesterday."
Hon. Michael Peyrefitte - UDP Senator "It is your duty as a senator whenever you receive them, to look them over and if you want to know details go over and seek those details. If it's something that can be spelt up - we can't spoon feed to you all the information. Some of the information, you need to take an initiative to go and find out. We are being paid to be senators."
Hon. Macario Coy - UDP Senator "I am here to support this motion and I will continue to support this motion because when it comes to development Mr. President I will support it, because all the development that is happening to the Toledo District and throughout the nation, anyone can see and can testify to that, even if you are ignorant to accept it Mr. President."
Hon. Elena Smith - Labour/Civil Society Senator "We are happy to see that these projects that they are going to be embarking on will be for poor rural communities, because we are quite aware that these communities need this type of assistance in those areas and so we are happy for that. We are happy to see that some of the areas that are of concern to us will be address. Our poor areas will be assisted and so my organization is supporting this motion."
Hon. Godwin Hulse - Leader of Government Business "It is the responsibility and right of every senator to get clarification on any matter from the public service. Nobody can deny you that, indeed going through my papers I also wonder what the 24 projects were about, so I went to SIF. They didn't sent it to me, I went to SIF to try to get an indication and I was told that the reason, they cannot give you the list of projects because they don't have it exactly what Senator Barnett said, but I will for clarity for Senator Lizarraga and Senator Salas and Senator Smith, they have what is called an indicative sub project pipeline. There are more than a hundred applications coming from all over the place to SIF. so SIF doesn't have the money, but they know that they have to continue to lend so they put this proposal and said okay when we look at these sub projects we from a big broad brush are satisfied that we will be able to lend into education, water and sanitation health, social services and also organizational strengthening projects. They can't list the project because then people will think well I got the loan approve well, they did not get their loan approve because they have then go through the details etc."
And while the debates were entertaining, that's about all they were, since the Senate cannot stop loan motions. Those 2 loan motions were passed along with 3 other resolutions.
The ATM Caves, properly known as Actun Tunichil Muknal in Teakettle Village are among the most prized Mayan tours in Belize. It takes visitors through a network of caves where human remains from sacrificial offerings centuries ago have been preserved. The caves get a lot of premium tourist traffic, and that requires a fair amount of technical and logistics support. And now NICH has set up a Rangers Facility to accommodate that. I found out more when I visited today:
The Institute of archaeology built the building at a cost of 62 thousand dollars. They plan on building more ranger bases at three other sites by December, including Barton Creek, Santa Rita, and Cerros.
If you follow the news, you'll probably remember the destruction of a part of the Uxbenka Mayan Site in September 2015. That caused some ugly racial friction, but a new case involving the destruction of a mound on private property in San Pedro isn't quite that controversial. According to the san Pedro Sun, the mound, located in the San Pablo neighborhood south of San Pedro Town, was disturbed. There's been an outcry to preserve it and we asked the Director of Archaeology to update us on it:
The Institute of Archaeology will investigate to determine the extent of the damage.
Police from the Eastern Division South Strike Team are conducted a raid in the Conch Shell Bay area, and they found almost a pound of marijuana. That search happened today at the residence of #46 West Collet Canal. The officers found 383 grams - or 13.5 ounces of marijuana, and so they've arrested and charged 38 year-old Wilton Anderson with the offense of drug trafficking.
San Pedro Cops also made a small cocaine bust in the Boca Del Rio area. That search happened last night at around 10, when officers were on mobile patrol. Their attention was drawn to a group of five men who were sitting on a golf cart in the corner of a yard. the officers searched the men, and they found 6 transparent plastic bags with cocaine. They also searched the golf cart and found another transparent plastic bag with cocaine. The drugs were weighed and the cops found that there was a total of 5 grams of the drug.
As a result 17 year-old male, 18 year-old Alfredo Pasqual, 21 year-old Jose Marroquin, 23 year-old Antonio Marroquin, and 23 year-old Leroy Hendricks have all be jointly charged with possession of a controlled drug. Antonio Marroquin was additionally charged with drug trafficking.
It may be one of the richest countries on earth in terms of it's oil reserves, but Venezuela is a mess right now. Huge protests are held daily, inflation is at almost 100% in just the past few months, they have one of the highest murder rates on earth, there are chronic shortages of everything from toilet paper to flour, and their currency has crashed.
With the worsening economic climate, Venezuela's president, Nicolas Maduro, has been struggling to hold unto power, and has been going to extraordinary means to do so.
All that's according to the mainstream media, who according to the Venezuelan Embassy here in Belize, is only telling part of the story.
The Embassy held a press conference today to tell us that things aren't as bad as they seem. The Embassy maintains that the mainstream media has been deliberately manipulating the public's view in an attempt to demonize the President and his government. Here's what the Embassy's representative, Mykel Castillo Pena, had to say the alleged media bias...
During his presentation, Pena pointed fingers at the Venezuelan Opposition for deliberately trying to overthrow the current regime.
Does President of the Sante Lee Mark Chang have some kind of relationship with Immigration fixer Barton Middleton? That's what observers at the senate asked after he was seen interacting with him outside of the Senate Inquiry hearings recently. Lee Mark told us no good deed goes unpunished.
In other news, Chang told us that the sale of his Phone Saan Belmopan building to the Immigration Department is off after government wouldn't pay his asking price of 1.65 million dollars. He has leased it to a new tenant.
Elite female cyclist Kaya Catotuse is taking cycling as an organized sports to the High Schools. She's doing it in the hopes of bringing more high school females into the sport, but she found that high school males are just as eager to get involved. Cattouse told us it is an attempt to make cycling as regular and structured as basketball and football programs for secondary schools:
The high school cycling series is held Thursdays at the Marion Jones Stadium.
And in other cycling news, the second cancer challenge or ride will be held this Saturday and Sunday May 20th and 21st. The idea is to make men more aware of prostate cancer. Kwame Scott told us it starts tomorrow in Dangriga:
And while those cyclists will tour the country, minister of state in the ministry of home affairs Elodio Aragon is going on a different kind of tour. He's going on a countrywide Familiarization Tour of the Belize Police Department. He started yesterday in his home town of Orange Walk - and he told us what he found:
The tour will continue at stations across the country.