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Apr 28, 2005

Unions march in Benque, take aim for the city

Story PictureMeanwhile in Benque Viejo, a union rally this morning had protesters looking positively well behaved.

Anthony Fuentes, President, B.N.T.U.
?Today we are out here to show and let the government of the day know that the National Trade Union Congress of Belize will take back Belize. Belize belongs to Belizeans and we are tired of our government ignoring the cry of the people, so they have to listen to cry of the Belizean people.?

Patrick Jones, Reporting
After two days of protests in Belmopan, teachers and public officers took their picket to Benque Viejo del Carmen. With hundreds of supporters bussed in from San Ignacio, Belmopan, and Belize City, union leaders dropped a heavy barrage on G.O.B.

George Frazer, General Secretary, N.T.U.C.B
?This is a stand for Belize, this is a stand for freedom, this is a stand against dictatorship, against corruption.?

While the crowd was whipped into a frenzy by the leaders, the lingering question remained as to why support for the strike appears to be less than spectacular. Veteran trade unionist John Pinelo Sr. says intimidation could be playing a major role.

John Pinelo Sr., Adviser, B.N.T.U.
?What happened is that we do have some people who are supporting but they are afraid to come out and show their faces. It can be attributed to the threats by management, by ministry, maybe loyalty to the party. But all in all I believe that the main thing has been the threat that salaries will be deducted.?

But the union leader say their resolve remain strong. President of the Public Service Union Dylan Reneau says today?s rally in Benque gave them renewed vigour to carry on the fight.

Dylan Reneau, President, Public Service Union
?It?s energising our membership. It?s something that is necessary. They were in Belmopan, so we had to come out here and give them some energy and I do believe we are being successful.?

Patrick Jones
?In some instances it would appear as if though support for the strike action is not what it should be. What is your opinion on that? What could be causing it??

Dylan Reneau
?In fact we brought out today that there are C.I.B. agents in the crowd and they are taking pictures, taking names, and in fact I got a report from Belmopan today that public officers told us that C.E.O.?s are calling them into meetings and threatening them and showing them pictures of C.I.B. agents inside our events and saying that they are taking names and pictures and those who are caught in the crowd will be terminated, will be fired. Certainly those are intimidation tactics. We wished they would have put it on paper so that we could send it to the I.L.O.?

So confident are the unions that what they are doing is right, that B.N.T.U. president Anthony Fuentes says G.O.B. will have no other recourse but to give in.

Anthony Fuentes, President, B.N.T.U.
?Well at the end of day the government of the day will have to come to the table and dialogue with the National Trade Union Congress of Belize in order for us to settle this problem. We are saying that the thirty-seven percent should be going to the employees of B.T.L. They are the ones who have made and built that particular company and we do not want foreigners to come into our country and then take out the capital from Belize. We could use these monies to develop our country. So at the end of the day, there has to be dialogue.?

And while he is not knocking Fuentes? leadership, Pinelo, who has had his share of encounters with governments in the past, suggested that the unions need to be more forceful in their approach.

John Pinelo Sr.
?As a past president, probably some of the things that are going on I would do a little different. I support them in whatever they are doing, the only thing is that some of the things that we have been doing have been misconstrued. People are giving it a different dimension so as to discourage people from participating in what is going on; that is how I see it.??

Patrick Jones
?As an advisor to the BNTU, what would you do differently??

John Pinelo Sr.
?Well I think that maybe I would be a little stronger when it comes to talking and convincing our people as to the things we should be doing; maybe a little stronger.?

Patrick Jones
?How do you see this all ending??

Dylan Reneau
?I believe that it will end in the resignation of the Prime Minister and his government. Certainly something else that we have done–and I will give you a quick brief of our plan of action. Tomorrow we are having a demonstration in Belize City is the police gives us the permit. We have also started a petition to solicit the views of the Belizean people, whether they think the government should resign. And in fact, we?ve gotten a good two thousand signatures already. We are showing the Prime Minister that the people have a mandate: they want you to resign. So we are going to present that to the government as soon as we have his over fifty thousand signatures, his fifty thousand claimed voters?

John Pinelo Sr.
?I believe that shortly the government will come and talk to us. It is my hope that they will sit down and talk to us and we should resolve this thing. That is exactly what we want. We would love them to come to us and sit down seriously and get these things sorted out so that everything can go back to normalcy.?

Patrick Jones, for News Five.

On Friday, the unions have called for a rally and march in Belize City, although at news time it appeared that a permit had not yet been granted.

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