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Dec 9, 2014

VIP lashes out a G.O.B. over use of Petrocaribe funds

Since announcing its Christmas loan program a few weeks ago, hundreds of Belizeans from across the country have stood in snaking queues at the National Bank waiting to apply for government-funded credit.  Many are up before the break of dawn and journey to Belmopan to participate in the promotion.  The initiative has come under intense scrutiny from other corners of the political arena.  Vision Inspired by the People, on the eve of commemorating International Day of Ant-Corruption, today lashed out at government for its use of the controversial Petrocaribe funds.  V.I.P. spokesperson Robert Lopez says that money is being doled out through the program with little to no guarantee being required.

 

Robert Lopez, Vision Inspired by the People

“I am located right across from the National Bank.  Five o’clock in the morning when I walk I see the crowds there.  I feel for my people, I’m not saying, you know, I know everybody, even some of my workers have gone for the loan but we need to put mechanisms in place to make sure it’s not just being freely given away and there is that check and balance so that it’s a loan we have to pay back.  And imagine, very shortly we may join Jamaica and Guyana and, I think, Nicaragua and we end up paying somebody out of Wall Street, perhaps at a higher rate.  So the misuse and abuse of public funds needs to stop and I want to remind Mr. Barrow, he was elected on an anti-corruption platform.  The people of this country gave him their trust to do exactly that.”

 

Isani Cayetano

Robert Lopez

“Does this, in your opinion, constitute a form of corruption and can you expand on that?”

 

Robert Lopez

“It definitely is.  First of all, it’s disguised as another pro poor initiative being done precisely at Christmas time with borrowed Petrocaribe, not funds, loan.  It’s a one percent compounded annually loan.  So when you misuse, we look at that as a misuse of public funds, and it’s a loan, for what we think or what we will blatantly say is political mileage and political expediency.  So yes, that is an abuse.  You just don’t give out this money with so little protection.  You need a mortgage, you need a mortgage.  You need something, you know, follow the track record of the credit unions who really have a good track record of making sure their loans are good loans and they have very little bad loans on their books.  We see this and many other programs that they are using the Petrocaribe funds for as a misuse and abuse of that loan.”

 

Isani Cayetano

“Even if, in this instance, the loans are capped at five thousand dollars?”

 

Robert Lopez

“Well, I don’t care what you cap it at, it’s a loan, they are public funds.  They are entrusted to manage those funds properly for us the people because at the end of the day Isani, we have to pay back for it and guess what, the leaders that we have in office right now are probably going to be dead and gone and our children and grandchildren will have to pay that bill.”

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