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Feb 16, 2005

Ground broken on new U.S. Embassy

Story PictureAt fifty million U.S. dollars it’s cost may exceed that of all our government buildings in Belmopan…but, as we’ve all heard, it’s a new world out there and a new U.S. Embassy is not just any building. News 5′s Patrick Jones reports on this morning’s ground breaking.

Patrick Jones, Reporting
The new U.S. Embassy will replace the cramped quarters on Gabourel Lane and transfer George W Bush?s representative in Belize to the nation?s capital. Outgoing Ambassador Russel Freeman says the relocation is an indication that the American presence in Belize is for the long haul.

Russel Freeman, U.S. Ambassador in Belize
?This building represents a large investment in the country and in the people of Belize. It reflects the friendship enjoyed between Belize and the United States. With the completion of this new embassy, the United States government, through its representatives in Belize will be able not only to provide more efficient services, to the citizens of the United States, but to better continue the work of diplomacy between our two countries.?

The sprawling facility located on ten acres of land on the north-eastern end of Belmopan will house all U.S. consular and diplomatic services. It will also include staff amenities such as swimming pool, fitness centre, warehouse, grocery store and utility buildings. It?s a substantial investment and one which the State Department?s chief operating officer in the bureau of overseas buildings operations Major General Charles Williams says will benefit both Belize and the United States.

Maj. Gen. Charles Williams, U.S. State Department
?This will be a state of the art building designed with a combination of lots of steel and concrete. It will have a facade or an exterior treatment that will blend in with your architectural and geographical side in. It will be landscaped it will have great presentation. It will accommodate all of the activities that are needed for our embassy.?

Patrick Jones
?Fifty million dollars being spent on this facility, how will that impact the economy here in Belize? How much of that money is going to actually stay here??

Maj. Gen. Charles Williams
?That?s a good question because it will have a tremendous impact on this economy. We know today based on our analysis over ten million dollars will be directly infused into the economy through a combination of buying supplies, materials and also machinery and employing people. As I mentioned in my presentation, we expect to have over three hundred persons working. These are Belizeans who otherwise may be employed today, but they will be employed as a function of this project.?

Deputy Prime Minister Johnny Briceño says the project is an indication of the ever-strengthening ties between Belize and the U.S.A.

Johnny Briceño, Deputy Prime Minister
?This project is a good example of the state/state cooperation. The Government of Belize is proud to have contributed the land on which the U.S. will house its embassy. And we look forward to the new U.S. Embassy compound contributing to the beauty of the landscape of Belmopan, the Garden City. The relocation of the embassy within a stone?s throw of our government?s executive and administrative offices will ease the accessibility with which the embassy of the U.S. can dialogue and consult with government officials on issues of importance ranging from emerging trans national threats like trafficking in persons, to unconventional threats like HIV/AIDS pandemic as well as the other matters of national, bi-national and international interests that engage our two governments.?

When completed, the new U.S. Embassy will take the American presence in Belize from one of the least secure to one of the most security conscious in the world. Williams says it?s a result of the changing global environment.

Maj. Gen. Charles Williams
?Well the world has changed as we all know. We would like to think otherwise, but the world is different and we have to change with that. So we are doing nothing out of the ordinary other than being very sensitive to our people and when we say our people we do not just focus on U.S. government employees. We have over one hundred Belizeans who work and benefit and live in this facility. So it?s about protecting people today and our world is different.?

Russel Freeman
?Well we are very proud of the fact that it is the largest project that has ever been built in Belize. I believe fifty million dollars. And you get sort of mixed emotions about leaving at a time like this when the new things are happening. But I have been here three and a half years and I certainly am going to come back to Belize to visit. Not in an official capacity but as a visitor and I am going to come and see the new building when it?s finished and also go out to the Cayes.?

Patrick Jones, for News 5.

Contractor for the embassy project is L.A. Jones International of the United States. Major local sub contractors include CISCO Construction and JEBCO Construction of Belmopan. Major General Williams says construction of the new embassy will be completed in time for Christmas of 2006.

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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