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Aug 31, 1998

Esquivel resigns as U.D.P. leader, Barrow takes over

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While the P.U.P. representatives were forming a Cabinet in Belmopan, what was left of the Opposition gathered at the Biltmore Plaza in Belize City to make some news of their own. After twenty-five years as a founding member, chairman and finally leader of the United Democratic Party, former Prime Minister Manuel Esquivel called it quits. Under the U.D.P.’s constitution the post falls to the deputy, and Dean Barrow made it clear that he is going to tackle the job with a renewed sense of energy. Patrick Jones reports.

The elevation of Dean Barrow to the leadership of the U.D.P., follows the resignation of Manuel Esquivel from the post on Sunday. Reading from a prepared statement, Esquivel told the press and well wishers that while he was passing on the baton, the party will continue to enjoy his full and active support.

Manuel Esquivel, Former Leader, U.D.P.

“I am determined to continue to serve the party in whatever way I can, because the United Democratic Party is the only party with a sincere commitment to serve the welfare of the Belizean people. I am part of a consensus that is convinced that we must prepare our party for the next century by a process of revitalization that includes administrative as well as political reconstruction.”

That job of reconstruction is now in the lap of Dean Barrow who, while admitting that the task will not be an easy one, says it’s a challenge he is ready to tackle head on.

Dean Barrow, Leader, U.D.P.

“It’s going to be challenging, but not altogether difficult. Already Patrick, we have the makings of the team that can able us to put this process in place. What I’m saying is that we have been surprised by the number of persons, outstanding personalities actually, that already have come forward to say to us, look, democracy can potentially be in crisis as a result of the massive victory of the People’s United Party. There is a need for a strong two party system. We if for no other reason than for that, wish to help the United Democratic Party to rebuild. So I don’t have any doubts at all that the process, while it’s going to be an arduous one, will be a successful one.”

Barrow assumes control of a devastated party, one that has just suffered the most humiliating defeat in its twenty-five year history. The new leader says that while the substance of what the party stands for will not change, the style and approach will be revamped.

Dean Barrow

“Not institutionally but in terms of personality and that clearly is to the extent that we are different personalities. With respect to the ideals and objectives of the United Democratic Party, those remain the same. There clearly needs to be re-orientation. There needs to be refocusing; there needs to be a new sense of purpose created.”

A sense of purpose that will have to withstand enormous challenges in view of the U.D.P.’s anaemic presence on the opposition bench in the House. And with the P.U.P.’s declared intention to merge the Senate and the House, Barrow says the persons he names as Senators will reflect the U.D.P.’s rebuilding effort.

Dean Barrow

“The appointees will be consistent with the party’s position which I earlier placed on record. That is we’re seeking to re-structure; we’re seeking to rebuild and clearly that involves a search for new talent, a search for fresh blood if you will, so that the appointees must reflect that new determination of the United Democratic Party. Beyond that I can’t go. I will say that no defeated candidate is going to be one of the two Senators.”

As he prepares to take up his role in opposition, the new U.D.P. leader, in hindsight, said the massive defeat at the polls last Thursday was caused by a combination of factors.

Dean Barrow

“Our policies, clearly were extremely unpopular. We still think that they were the right policies, the only policies that the circumstances permitted. Perhaps the implementation left something to be desired, but we’re not going to be resiled from our position, that we did what we had to do. But apart from that kind of unpopularity of our policies, the P.U.P., I give the party credit, ran the kind of campaign that was able to capture the minds of the people, that was able to appeal to the instincts and to the desires of the great bulk of the population.”

Barrow predicts that the same combination of factors that worked in their favor, will in the long run come back to bite the P.U.P.

Dean Barrow

“Those huge expectations are going to have to be fulfilled. This is a country in difficult circumstance, it doesn’t matter who is running the country, given what is happening internationally, this is a small, poor country in difficult circumstances. So it’s going to be impossible to cater to all those demands. I don’t know whether the money is unlimited but eventually I figure it’s going to run out and that is also going to play a role. And as the government is forced, as it will be, to adopt some of the very policies that made us unpopular, that too is going to contribute to, I think, the quick unpopularity of the new government.”

As Barrow and Esquivel stood shoulder to shoulder at this morning’s press conference, the other members of team twenty-nine, minus the Elrington brothers, witnessed the closing of one chapter and the beginning of what may be a new political book. The author: Dean Barrow. Patrick Jones for News Five.

The formal election of a U.D.P. leader is the responsibility of the party’s biennial conference. Mr. Barrow did not name a date for that gathering but it is expected that with Manuel Esquivel’s blessing, his election should be assured. In related news the party’s first substantive announcement under Barrow’s leadership was to denounce the P.U.P.’s Cabinet selections as too numerous and more indicative of internal politics than sensible governance.

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