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Feb 26, 2003

Electoral races are hot and heavy in Cayo

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Our coverage of divisional races has thus far focussed on hot contests in Belize City. But if history is any guide, some of most fiercely fought battles have taken place in the wild, wild west… and that’s were I was today.

The political climate in the Cayo District, like everywhere else in Belize this week, is hot.

Janelle Chanona

“In Cayo North, both the incumbent P.U.P. area representative Ainslie Leslie and the U.D.P.’s political newcomer, Dean Williams, are confident of victory…both counting on their past performances in the public eye.”

Ainslie Leslie, P.U.P. Candidate, Cayo North

“Most people see me as someone who tries to help everyone that is in need. And over the past five years I have been doing just that.”

The P.U.P. camp says re-election is a week away.

Ainslie Leslie

“The next five years should be much easier because I know now what to do to get everything done. And that for the next five years we will be working even harder to get even more things for my area, because I believe that San Ignacio is the most beautiful district in Belize and I think that my job as an area representative is to develop it, make it a better place to live. And that way we will be getting a lot of people coming in, especially tourists that will create more jobs and stuff like that.”

But while Leslie is using his track record as the ballast to keep him in office, Williams says youth will tip the scales in his favour.

Dean Williams, U.D.P. Candidate, Cayo North

“The Youths…I have a lot of youths, and we all know that the youths right now will make a strong decision in whatsoever will be coming up on the fifth of March. And I do have that percent of youths, which is the largest margin, from eighteen to thirty-five. And they have been with me all the way, not only on the youths, but because the cross section of people who are ready to develop are within that age group also of thirty-five, forty, which I am also of that age group, I am forty-three years old. But this is the class of people who see me as a person who can make that difference.”

Janelle Chanona

“In Cayo Central, the three main contenders are as different as their party colours, but there are a few similarities. They’re all men, they all used to work for government and they are all active in the community. But the most striking commonality of them all is that at some point during their political careers, all three men were affiliated with the United Democratic Party.”

Eduardo “Dito” Juan, Independent Candidate, Cayo Central

“The first thing that spurred me to run independent, when Dean Barrow kicked me out of his party.”

Janelle Chanona

“Why did he do that?”

Eduardo “Dito” Juan

“He did that to install Rene Montero in my place.”

Mario Castellanos, P.U.P. Candidate, Cayo Central

“If they calling me traitor, I’m not sure traitor to what, not traitor to the U.D.P., because I walked away from them, I told them I do not like what they are doing, I do not like the way they go about fighting and behaving in a manner, in a way that is not acceptable to the people. And I do not want to continue with them. I left them, I told them I won’t have anything more to do with the U.D.P. party.”

Rene Montero, U.D.P. Candidate Cayo Central

“I have no concern about them. I am very confident. I am very confident that we are going to bring victory for Cayo Central.”

U.D.P. Cayo Central standard-bearer Rene Montero is convinced…

Rene Montero

“Everybody is going to vote red, red, red! I have twenty-seven years of work experience with the government. I was a principal agriculture officer in the Department of Agriculture, so I understand how government business administrates, and I understand how projects are run. We are going to ensure that our manifesto promises become reality. We are going to work hand in hand with our leader the Honourable Dean Barrow who is going to be the next Prime Minister of Belize.”

“They have forfeited their contract with the people because we have four ministers that have resigned. The Minister of Agriculture resigned, he jumped ship because knew he was going to get a thrashing, and my opponent is going to get the same thrashing.”

P.U.P. candidate Mario Castellanos is taking over the spot vacated by incumbent representative Dan Silva.

Mario Castellanos

“What I have been getting back from the people is that of course they have seen progress, of course they want to continue that direction. We need to expand, provide better infrastructure, more paving of streets, better drainage, additional house lots so they can build their own homes. In terms of education we definitely need more classrooms, so we are prepared to work in that direction.”

“The record that the U.D.P. left behind is not one of confidence with the people, so we are far ahead of the game. The opponent does not even live in Santa Elena himself, he lives in San Ignacio he cannot even vote for himself. So we are pretty confident that we’ll win in Santa Elena, win big and the villages are well on their way to voting for a P.U.P. government and a P.U.P. representative.”

Independent, but by no means an outsider, Eduardo “Dito” Juan says his old stomping grounds will welcome back with open arms.

Eduardo “Dito” Juan, Independent, Cayo Central

“Refusing to go with the P.U.P. because I have been against their policies and principles and modus operandi of the P.U.P.’s I could go to the P.U.P. And I thought about it and say, well independent candidates could be something very good for Belize. It’s time to get out of that traditional voting; I am red or I am blue. I am trying to get people to understand, you vote for the person, for the man you think could represent you.”

Janelle Chanona

“You were one the U.D.P. Ministers that was accused of corruption. How will you handle this as you go to your voters before election day?”

Eduardo “Dito” Juan

“Because I would just explain to them what caused the perception out there that I was corrupted…They used to come and ask me to sign a document like a land title and go and sell it. And Esquivel and Barrow told me, you have any proof, I say I don’t have any proof in my hands, but I know it for a fact that’s what they’re doing most of them, almost all of them.”

Janelle Chanona

“So how do you deal with a voter in Cayo Central that says, the same this wah happen? What do you tell them when they say, but all politicians are corrupt?”

Eduardo “Dito” Juan

“I don’t think so, I have enough proof, enough evidence, enough everything that I was one of the very few clean ministers in the U.D.P. government…I have been the only representative in Cayo Central that has shown so much development in every inch of Cayo Central. In the town of Santa Elena, in San Antonio Village, Cristo Rey Village, Esperanza, Georgeville, every single village in my area has remembrance of what “Dito” Juan did.”

Janelle Chanona

“If there’s one thing all the political parties are in total agreement on, it’s to keep the battle on the ballot paper. Already campaigning on the ground here has been tainted by tame things like taking down opponents signs, but gunshots have already been fired, and an escalation in that kind of violence would be a loss for everyone.”

The other independent candidate in Cayo Central is Ivan Roberts. In the Cayo West constituency the incumbent U.D.P. representative Erwin Contreras faces the P.U.P.’s Kendal Mendez, while in Cayo South the P.U.P.’s incumbent Agripino Cawich goes up against U.D.P. John Saldivar.

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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