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Mar 25, 2008

Briceño re-enters race for P.U.P. leadership

Story PictureJust when you thought that this Sunday’s P.U.P. convention was going to be a boring coronation of Francis Fonseca, along comes a suddenly awakened Johnny Briceño to rekindle his campaign for party leader. News Five’s Stewart Krohn was on hand for the re-launching in Orange Walk.

John Briceño, Re-launches Candidacy
“Ladies and gentlemen, I am back.”

That’s right, the man who two weeks ago told News Five that he could not run for his party’s leadership because it would only legitimise “a flawed process” … is right back in the middle of that process. What changed his mind?

John Briceño
“People have been coming to see me, begging me to please stay in this fight, to stay in this race because this election now is beyond just a party leader, but it is more about taking back our party, to go back to its core values of service to the people.”

And while the people of Belize are at the heart of his campaign, those people most recognisable to voters nationwide were conspicuously absent at this morning’s spirited launch rally. Yes, there were two defeated standard bearers from Orange Walk East and South, a campaigner from Collet and from the West a newly aroused Daniel Silva set the tone for Johnny’s campaign.

Daniel Silva, Former P.U.P. Minister
“Some people are still living in denial and if we don’t make a change then we’re gonna be a long time in opposition.”

But the big names, including his two reformist colleagues in the House, were elsewhere.

Stewart Krohn
“Where was Mark Espat? Where was Cordel Hyde? Where were the people whom one would have thought would have stood up for you today?”

John Briceño
“Well, what happened also Stewart, is that this is something that happened very quickly over these past few days and we’ve been talking to most of them and a lot of them are prepared to support. But as I mentioned before, as Dan Silva mentioned also in his speech, that for instance three of the ex standard bearers are not prepared to support me but their delegates are supporting me. This is beyond the standard bearers, this is about the delegates. People like Mark Espat and Cordel Hyde have already expressed support and they will be working with us, I mean they will be working with the Belize City delegates and pretty soon we will also be expecting them that they will also be a part of this movement.”

And if that movement is to be successful Briceño will have to bypass the defeated standard bearers and go directly to the delegates.

John Briceño
“We have leaders in all of these constituencies that want change, leaders that know personally the delegates and they are the ones that have been calling me and asking me to please stay because they have been talking to the delegates and the delegates are telling them that despite the fact that these ex standard bearers have been appointing them, they want change and that they are begging me to please stay because they want to support. I have support from all of the constituencies from across this country.”

And while there is no doubt of the support Briceño enjoys in Orange Walk, the reception he’ll receive in Belmopan on March thirtieth may not be as warm as the one that greeted him this morning. With only four days to go, every minute … and every delegate will count. Reporting from the Banquitas House of Culture, Stewart Krohn for News Five.

While spot checks with delegates around the country confirm that there is little overt enthusiasm for the candidacy of Francis Fonseca, most of the six hundred or so who will vote are playing their cards very close to the chest. Mark Espat, who dropped out of the race shortly after Briceño, told News Five that while Johnny has his full support, he is consulting with his committee to see if they will even participate in what he still considers to be an illegitimate process. Meanwhile, a public statement released tonight by former Prime Minister George Price in support of Fonseca may earn Francis a few votes, despite Price’s clumsy attempt to have Espat expelled from the party. That effort is stalled—at least for now—as the P.U.P. National Executive failed to consider the matter at its meeting this morning.

In yet another bizarre twist in the P.U.P. meltdown, attorney Eamon Courtenay, representing Mark Espat, wrote Price today threatening to sue him for libel in connection with his letter alleging that Espat was conspiring with the U.D.P. to have former Prime Minister Said Musa arrested.

And while we’re on that subject, Prime Minister Dean Barrow appears content to let the P.U.P. drama play out a little bit longer. The smart money is saying that he’ll wait for the convention to run its course, with a Fonseca victory the preferred outcome. Come next week it will be the new P.U.P. leader’s responsibility to deal with soon-to-be-announced revelations concerning what happened to millions of dollars of public funds that never made it to the treasury.

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Viewers please note: This Internet newscast is a verbatim transcript of our evening television newscast. Where speakers use Kriol, we attempt to faithfully reproduce the quotes using a standard spelling system.

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