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Jan 29, 2008

Nunez and Roches fight for seat in Culture Capital

Story PictureIn terms of Belizean municipal geography we have the new capital, the old capital … and the culture capital. And it’s in that southern town where we tonight find News Five’s Ann-Marie Williams on the campaign trail.

Cassian Nunez, P.U.P. Candidate, Dangriga
“The confidence is there definatley but elections are won on election day as you know and that is why we will continue to go door to door.”

Arthur Roches, U.D.P. Candidate, Dangriga
“Indubitably, I will be the next area representative for this constituency. Don’t call me cocky but it’s reality.”

Ann-Marie Williams, Reporting
The reality is that in this constituency of over five thousand voters, both the P.U.P.’s Cassian Nunez and the U.D.P.’s Arthur Roches who is nursing an injured knee can be seen stomping door to door for every last vote.

After five years of representing the southern town the sitting area representative Honourable Sylvia Flores is calling it quits. This creates a national space for Nunez, the former mayor who lost his position in 2006. He feels that his past service to the municipality has given him a foundation upon which to build.

Cassian Nunez
“Representation number one: it means that the area representative office must be functional here in the constituency. Number two: jobs, we have to reawaken Commerce Bite. That is a very—it’s been sitting there for years so whoever is going to dominate it we have to have a play in that because jobs are very important. We are already pledging jobs all over the country but we have to consider in Dangriga, very important for young people as well. The Cabio we need to hit that big time, you know training and getting involved in all that.”

Roches, a career public officer who rose through the through the ranks to become a finance officer and even acted as Auditor General, is a political novice. But Roches says he doesn’t’ have to be politically experienced to know the needs of his constituents.

Arthur Roches
“When it rains here in the Lakeland area, you find the first new site and the second new site and you find an area behind where I live—it’s the Benguche extension but we affectionately call it “Waguerale”—during the rainy season it’s like a swamp, the whole place is a swamp and during the dry season it’s a dust bowl.”

Ann-Marie Williams
“Are you concerned that people are too dependent on politicans?”

Arthur Roches
“I have been asked for handouts by virtue of being the standard bearer for the constituency and I try to do whatever I could within my little means to take care of their affairs. It’s not that I have it and I understand it and I try to help them because there’s nowhere they can go to for whatever.

My people live off monthly remittances from the U.S.A. You could find packed up at the Western Union and the post office. This is what my people live off and I, you know, it pains my heart.”

Much of the heartache, according to Roches, is because the town, which has voted for the U.D.P. only once since 1961, has a severe shortage of jobs. Something he says his party plans to address.

Ann-Marie Williams
“You find that some houses you go like Cassian Nunez the man but have problems reconciling with some of the things that have happened with the Peoples United Party?”

Cassian Nunez
“Yes, we get some of those and we have to respect people’s opinion, after all it’s the opinion that divides us. Well, we sit down and talk and sometimes they tell me what I have done and I try to remind them what we have done. But I tell them the past is the past. What is before us now is the important thing, the future is the important thing.”

Former U.D.P. mayor of Dangriga couldn’t agree more. Frances Benguche says she found it necessary to buy an airline ticket to Belize just to cast her vote.

Frances Benguche, Former U.D.P. Mayor, Dangriga
“I want a change of government. When I look at the internet, in America it’s embarrassing to know that Musa is still the prime minister here because of Dangriga. Ten years they haven’t done anything to Dangriga. We had two representatives and nothing has been done to Dangriga.”

Ann-Marie Williams
“And the P.U.P.—dnagriga has been good to the P.U.P.?”

Frances Benguche
“Dangriga has been so good to the P.U.P., finance and everything and they haven’t done anything to Dangriga. As a matter of fact, they closed a lot of things like Jetti Pier, they had closed that and that was the service the people were getting from the Jetti Pier. You would see a hundred, hundred and fifty men going to Jetti and they closed it. They took it to Big Creek.”

In the meantime, while both sides are already saying the election is with them, residents will have to hold their collective breaths a little longer.

Ann-Marie Williams
“I noticed a great part of your campaign team are young faces. You target them in particular?”

Cassian Nunez
“I would have to say, in a sense yes because we do have a youth arm for Peoples United Party. They have been very active, they have had some functions and we have met with them and spoken with them individually. I’ve gone to schools; elementary schools, I’ve spoken to teachers and heard from them their concerns about educating and that’s where you go. You got he source and try to listen to them so you can solve the problems.”

Robert Garcia, P.U.P. Campaigner
“We get back some good feedback why people will vote for the blue; because of the promises that the other party done for town board or city council election. So they are saying now because they promise us, they noh do nothing so they di come back. That is why we are getting good sounds from the areas I am campaigning.”

Marion Martinez, U.D.P. Campaigner
“I am a campaigner. I am campaigning in the Waguerale, Benguche area and I know the people will come out and support Mr. Roches. He lives in that are too, you know. The people of the town … I mean we deh pan the streets Ann-Marie. We hear they talk, we feel the pain, we feel the vibes. U.D.P. all the way fi Griga.

Ann-Marie Williams for News Five.

The Dangriga constituency is a crowded field as two third party candidates are also running. They are Quentin Mejia of the V.I.P. and Denton Castillo for the N.R.P.

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