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Mar 21, 2016

U.D.P. Holds Biennial Convention – Gapi is a No-Show!

The United Democratic Party held its National Convention in Dangriga over the weekend. The biennial event should have been held in 2015, but that turned out to be a banner year for elections – two bye-elections, one municipal and one general – which caused the official party function to be pushed back. On Sunday, all roads for the U.D.P. led south for the endorsement of the top spots in the party – leader, second deputy leader, chair and vice-chair. You’ll notice that there was no endorsement for first deputy leader since northern political powerhouse Gaspar Vega threw a wrench in those works with a late and unexpected announcement of his resignation from that post. News Five’s Mike Rudon was in Dangriga for the all-day event and has the story.


Mike Rudon, Reporting

The U.D.P.’s national convention in Dangriga had all the bells and whistles of a well-funded political event, with the usual feel-good speeches, flags, entertainment and even an impromptu dance. Supporters and delegates from across the country came out to show their love for the ruling Party and there were political shirts aplenty – emblazoned with the slogan one team, one dream. But this team was missing one very key player on Sunday. On March eighth, via letter to the Party’s Chairman Alberto August, first Deputy Leader Gaspar Vega resigned his political post and confirmed that he would not be a candidate in the next general elections. It’s a move which caught his colleagues, even those at the highest levels of the Party, by surprise.


Dean Barrow

Prime Minister Dean Barrow

“He had indicated the day before that he wanted a special meeting of the Central Executive Council. We weren’t able to get that done in time and in fact he had wanted it for the Wednesday evening and when he realized we wouldn’t be able to do it he sent out his release. By that time we’d suspected that something was wrong but indeed it did come as a surprise to me.”


John Saldivar, Candidate, U.D.P. Deputy Party Leader

“I think the whole country was surprised but we respect his decision as I have said before and we have to move on and we have to live with that. Minister Vega has contributed quite a bit to this party. It is going to leave a gaping hole which we will try to fill. But he has made his decision and we’ve got to live with that.”


In his very diplomatically worded letter, there is no visibly smoking gun in fact, no gun in sight. Vega is the second most powerful man in the country and had indicated that he would vie for the top spot in the next general elections. Then…the announcement! Could it be as simple as payback for or frustration at the Prime Minister taking away the Ministry of Natural Resources after general elections in November 2015?


Prime Minister Dean Barrow

“I’m not going to speculate. I’m sure the media is going to catch up to him at some point and he is the person to ask. No doubt there is more to it than meets the eye but personally I am very happy that that the release, his letter, was as you say extremely correct indicating no more than that he is not contesting again and that in consequence he doesn’t think that it’s right for him to go forward as first Deputy Leader since based on the amendment to the Constitution those that will be elected today won’t have to face a convention again for four years and of course he pledged his continuing loyalty and support to the Party. I am grateful for that and I leave it there.”


Pablo Marin

While supporters made merry at the Convention – certainly one thing on the minds of U.D.P. leaders is Vega’s absence and its impact – especially in the North where he is the acknowledged financier and power-broker.


Pablo Marin, Representative, Corozal Bay

“The deputy has always brought the finance, like you mentioned. He has been one that campaigns along with us. That will be the two things that will affect us. But like I mentioned to my colleagues each one of us has to walk our constituency and work hard as every before for us to win the fourth term.”


John Saldivar

And then there’s the vacant seat at the number two spot, which two representatives are all too ready to fill.


John Saldivar

“At this point it appears that we have a vacancy for First Deputy Leader. It will not be resolved today but I believe there will be a special convention a few months from now and I believe I’ll be putting my name in there to contest.”


Prime Minister Dean Barrow

“At some point there has to be some sort of a contest. It’s no secret I am going. I am going a year or so before this current term expires. There would have been a contest for leadership then. If Gapi’s departure now fast-forwards that in the sense that while it’s for deputy there is no doubt a perception that whoever wins now is likely to have a lock on the leadership at the end of 2019-2020.”


John Saldivar

“I think first of all we need to clarify and I’m sure Minister Contreras will be making an announcement shortly that he is withdrawing his name from contention and so it’s going to be a straight up battle between myself and my good friend Patrick Faber and may the best man win.”


That promises to be an interesting battle with senior representatives already choosing sides.


Michael Finnegan

Michael Finnegan, Area Representative, Mesopotamia

“Both people are competent people. John is extremely competent, Faber is extremely competent. But publicly if you ask me who I will choose, I will choose Faber.”



“And in terms of the seat for leader…when that time comes around in 2020, who do you see in the U.D.P. who could take that top spot?”


Michael Finnegan

“I would like to see Faber lead this party. He has some shortcomings like all of us. But he will develop and he will improve along the road. But I would love to see Faber lead this beloved party.”


Pablo Marin

“Both of them are good. Both of them are my colleagues. We will decide when the time comes. The race is not open yet, so as soon as they declare when the Convention will be then we will decide.”


Manuel Heredia Jr.

Manuel Heredia Jr., Area Representative, Belize Rural South

“At this point, I must say that until it is formally announced, both of them are my friends. I have right now one that I believe that I will support, but until they make it formal that they are vying for this position then I will make it public.”


Anthony “Boots” Martinez

Anthony “Boots” Martinez, Area Representative, Port Loyola

“I don’t know who all are putting in applications. Remember it’s an application process and the time for application has not even begun. I understand that other people are very interested too so it will be an interesting race.”


The Prime Minister has indicated that the executive will be meeting just after Easter to decide on a date for the special convention. Mike Rudon for News Five.

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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