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Sep 6, 2017

P.U.P., U.D.P. lock horns in Sugar City

But before the police would descend on the protestors, by nine this morning, thousands gathered along the San Lorenzo Road where the march kicked off.  Their call was for the resignation of Area Rep Gaspar Vega who presided over large scale land grab benefitting his family and friends.  But not too far away, only a handful would come out to support Vega, including ministerial colleagues John Saldivar and Angel Campos. News Five’s Isani Cayetano reports.

 

Isani Cayetano, Reporting

This morning inOrangeWalkTown, the People’s United Party staged a massive demonstration, mobilizing supporters primarily from the northern districts.  The protest was the brainchild of Orange Walk North Standard Bearer Ramon Cervantes and was organized to send a strong message to his political nemesis Gaspar Vega.  The turnout inSugarCitytoday was quite significant.

 

Ramon ‘Monchi’ Cervantes, PUP Standard Bearer, OW North

Ramon Cervantes

“We had been thinking about this movement, about this event, maybe two or three weeks ago, with these outrageous land scandals and the evidence to back up the charges of corruption against Gapi.  The people of the north have been clamoring for action because we’re just talking and talking and so we came about and said we need to organize this and so I went to the party leader and the party leader and the whole party gave me their full support to go ahead with this event, planning this event and that is how we came about to having these thousands of people out here today.”

 

Gaspar Vega is the subject of the opposition’s protest, particularly in light of the ongoing land scandal which reveals a number of questionable transactions during his tenure as Minister of Natural Resources.  Across town, he held a considerably smaller crowd of UDP supporters near his residence.

 

Gaspar Vega

Gaspar ‘Gapi’ Vega, Area Representative, OW North

“It’s a movement that they prepared for on their own.  If you can notice, there were no buses running here, it‘s just the people that feel, I guess, disenchanted because I said that I‘m not going to run and there are still people, I would say thousands of people in Orange Walk North, that are still hoping that I would run again.”

 

But today was for the People’s United Party, and to hear Leader of the Opposition John Briceno tell it, Vega would not stand a chance the next time around.

 

John Briceno, Party Leader, PUP

John Briceno

“I’m praying to the good Lord for Vega to run again.  We want him to run in Orange Walk North to continue to represent the stench of the UDP, the corruption of the UDP and everything that has gone wrong with the UDP, Gaspar Vega is the poster child for that.  So we wish that he would run but I am not too sure if his party wants him to run and I think that is the question.”

 

At the heart of the issue for most Belizeans, certainly for those in opposition, is the seemingly calculated land grab orchestrated by Vega and his family while he held office as Minister of Lands.

 

Gapi Vega

“If I give tens of thousands of lands or a hundred or a thousand decide to sell or give it away, I don‘t have any control over that and that is where I think a lot of times people are being unfair because we all know that it‘s not something that I can control.  We all know that people do whatever they want after that.”

 

But that defense flies in the face of residents of Vega’s constituency, including Cervantes who has since launched a vigorous campaign to have Vega removed as an area representative altogether.

 

Ramon Cervantes

“The people of the north especially are fed up of Gapi Vega who has abandoned them, who has insulted them, who has hurt them, who has been petty and taking away people‘s lands and give it to somebody else, has mocked the people of Orange Walk North by telling them that they have land and when they go to Lands someone else has that land.  So the people are tired of Gapi Vega and it‘s time for him to resign.  It‘s time for Dean Barrow, for the prime minister to force him to resign because Gapi is really hurting this government with all this corruption.”

 

Today’s demonstration, nonetheless, was staged in Briceno’s stomping ground.  But what does it mean for support from other areas of the country?

 

John Briceno

“This is a movement that was started by Orange Walk North.  The people of Orange Walk North wanted to show their disgust and they wanted to show how upset they are over their area representative.  And when we heard that Monchi and his executive wanted to do something, we felt that we needed to join with him and to show him the support.  This is the support of the Northern Caucus.  This was organized just over the weekend and so in a period of about three days we got all of these people out here.  If it would have been longer we would have gotten a lot more people but this is just a start of the protest.”

 

Isani Cayetano reporting for News Five.

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