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Aug 26, 1998

Profile of two leaders

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Barring some unlikely but interesting political possibilities, come Friday morning the Prime Minister of Belize will be named either Manuel Esquivel or Said Musa. News Five’s Patrick Jones takes a quick look at the two men who are asking us for our support.

The next Prime Minister of Belize will be one of these gentlemen.

They are no strangers to the country’s political landscape, both having made their debut in elective politics on opposing tickets in the 1974 Belize City Council Elections. While Esquivel was successful in his first attempt, Musa had to wait until 1979 before tasting victory at the polls, when he won his seat in the Fort George Division. Esquivel is a teacher by profession, while Musa is a lawyer by training. Esquivel was a founding member of the U.D.P. in 1973 and served as chairman from 1976 to 1982, when he became leader. Musa on the other hand, gained leadership of the P.U.P. in 1996 following the retirement of George Price. Musa says the transition went well.

Said Musa, Leader, P.U.P.

“It has worked very smoothly and the party has clearly renewed itself and we’re moving forward now, as a united party.”

Thursday’s poll will be the first time in its history that the P.U.P. will contest an election with a new leader. While for the U.D.P., it will be their fourth election under the leadership of Esquivel, who was upbeat about his chances of taking them into another victory at the polls.

P.J.

“I notice you haven’t lost your confidence since the campaign started.”

Manuel Esquivel, Leader, U.D.P.

“No because if anything it’s gotten better and as you go around meeting the people, you know, the support is kind of overwhelming. So it’s very, very encouraging.”

For Musa, if his party wins, the task of being Prime Minister will not be without its challenges; but the fifty four year old leader says he is ready and willing to follow in the footsteps of his predecessor.

Said Musa

“Continue with the good works started by George Price and the People’s United Party. We will also be offering fresh new ideas, young leadership, many new candidates, fresh blood, a party that has renewed itself, coming now to deal with the problems of the twenty first century. The Belize of today is a different Belize from the Belize 1950, and we’re dealing with many new complex problems, many new challenges. And I believe we are ready and up to the task.”

While it would be a first for Musa as P.M., Esquivel has ten years in that position under his belt and is confident he’ll add another five to that number after Thursday’s results are in.

Manuel Esquivel

“Oh yes, very definitely. As I told you the last time, we have a much cleaner list now. And you know, in past elections you would go through the streets and twenty five percent of the houses you stop at, the people are not there anymore, they’ve moved, they’ve gone to the states, you know. Now you don’t find that happening.”

While their backgrounds are pretty much alike, Esquivel and Musa’s approach to government is quite different. Esquivel says that he is prepared to take hard positions, even if unpopular, while for Musa, he prefers to put people first.

Said Musa

“We want now to create a government of compassion, a government that will bring the Belizean people together, to advance the cause of Belizean independence and to give people a stake in this country. Belize belongs to all the Belizean people.”

Q: “So you’ll continue along the lines of a social democrat?”

Said Musa

“That is so; you may call it so. It’s a party of parliamentary democracy with social justice.”

So when we go to the polls on Thursday, we are to be mindful that the vote we cast will decide, not only who will represent us in Belmopan, but who will be at the helm going into the new millennium. Patrick Jones for News Five.

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