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May 30, 2017

Defence Minister Insists There Was Nothing Wrong with Bandits’ Trips on Coast Guard Vessels

While Castro is in the news tonight for the cancelation of his visa, Minister of Defence John Saldivar is pushing back heavily against claims of misuse of Coast Guard assets to support his Belmopan Bandits sporting teams, which is being investigated by the U.S. Embassy, which gifted the vessels. Following a statement by his Cabinet colleague, Minister of Police Elodio Aragon Junior on Monday, Saldivar hit back in a social media post. Seemingly referring to Aragon’s comments, Saldivar said, “Sometimes it is better not to open your mouth and confirm you are a fool! There is absolutely no misuse involved in using public resources to help a basketball team and I am absolutely prepared to go down believing that!”  Saldivar then drew a comparison to sponsorship of concerts featuring international artists such as Machel Montano by the Belize Tourism Board and Belize Telemedia Limited and what he calls assisting a team with transportation.  Later, a press release from the Ministry of Defence explains that the commanders of the armed forces – B.D.F. and Coast Guard – are responsible for deployment and are, “completely aware of the purpose of which they are to be used.” Addressing the question of whether the use of the vessels outside the primary mandate of deterring and detecting illegal activities is improper, the Ministry takes the position that the commanders, “may deploy them for other activities as they see fit, providing that these activities do not contravene any local or international laws or military standing orders.” So does that mean that Rear Admiral John Borland knew and approved of the usage of the vessels?  Will this “policy” now apply to all sporting teams and their friends and families, as is the case with the Bandits? And were the Bandits exempted during Government’s “belt-tightening”? But fundamentally, should public resources be used for private purposes?  And were the vessels donated for the use of the Minister’s Bandits? The bottom-line, as Minister Aragon said on Monday, is that his Police Department is responsible for maintenance of its equipment and assets and therefore take great care to ensure that they are not misused.

 

Reporter

“Are you aware that the Minister of Defense was using coast guard resources to ferry his various sports teams across the country?”

 

Elodio Aragon Jr.

Elodio Aragon Jr., Minister of State, Police [File: May 29th, 2017]

“No I don’t know about Jules.”

 

Reporter

“You are a minister in charge of a large array of resources.  Is this something that’s off limits or could you phone the police department in Orange Walk, for example, and say, “Hey, I got some supporters who need so and so.  I need them moved around.  Unnu bring the big bus.”

 

Elodio Aragon Jr.

“Jules, the Belize Police Department, yes it’s a huge department but at the end of the day every commander is responsible and we at the ministry level, we will definitely have to look into situations if there is abuse because we, at the end of the day, commanders are responsible for their personnel and they are responsible for all the equipment under their command, all the use of human resources and otherwise, in terms of fuel, in terms of how these vehicles are maintained, et cetera.  So definitely under the Belize Police Department and under my watch we will ensure that such abuses are not and do not hamper the Belize Police Department.”

 

Reporter

“So it should not happen?”

 

John Saldivar

Elodio Aragon Jr.

“Of course, it should not happen.”

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