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Mar 21, 2018

Cotton Farmer Gustavo Cardenas Says New Civic Manager Can’t Be Trusted

The ink had not dried on a contract with businessman Chad Eckert for the management of the Civic Center when a small cotton farmer from the Orange Walk District reveals the details of a lawsuit against Eckert. According to Gustavo Cardenas, a producer of a high grade cotton, from very early in a venture, he detected that things were not going well. Eckert, he claims, breached their agreement, took the cotton and had him detained for a week. Cardenas believes the slick U.S. businessman is not to be trusted. News Five’s Isani Cayetano reports.


Isani Cayetano, Reporting

West Indian Sea Island Cotton; it’s a variety of extra-long staple cotton that is associated with the highest quality textile.  It is a tropical species of perennial that produces yellow flowers and has black seeds.  The woven fabric is advertised in the clothing industry as, quote, the ultimate choice for any suiting connoisseur due to its unrivalled softness and second skin-like feel.  That product, twelve thousand pounds of seed cotton, is at the heart of a legal dispute between Chad Eckert and Gustavo Cardenas.  Eckert is the recently-named contract holder for the management of the Civic Center.  Gustavo is a small farmer from Orange Walk District and is the proprietor of Sea Island Cotton Belize.


Gustavo Cardenas

Gustavo Cardenas, Cotton Farmer

“As pretty much a lot of people know us in Orange Walk, we’ve been in the business of farming West Indian Sea Island Cotton for many, many years and so I am the one who has personally been trying to source other markets, find other people to do, who would want to purchase our unique variety of cotton.  And so, really and truly, I came in contact with Chad back in 2016, about March 2016, thereabout, you know.  The gentleman, he showed a lot of interest in the, he showed a lot of interest that he would want to get into the farming business of West Indian Sea Island Cotton, you know.”


According to Cardenas, both men struck an agreement in September 2016.  Eckert would provide financing for the planting and cultivation of fifty acres of cotton trees in San Lorenzo, Orange Walk.  From the beginning of production they reportedly began experiencing difficulties.


Chad Eckert

Gustavo Cardenas

“October of 2016, that was when we started to do the planting for the agreement that we had in place and so from the very onset, from the very start of the business I started to have some difficulties with the gentleman.  The arrangement was very straightforward; I mean it wasn’t so complicated.  However, for some reason, for some part on his end we started to have difficulties with getting him to fulfill parts of his end of the bargain.  So yeah, that really put a very, it put me in a very difficult predicament to continue the farming part of the venture.”


The quagmire that Cardenas now finds himself in, is being boxed out of the industry altogether.


Gustavo Cardenas

“The gentleman was, like I said to you, he was interested in getting involved with the sea island cotton business.  He seemed to be very genuine, he came with a very nice proposal, you know, that he would want to develop the industry in Belize and that he wanted to get involved.  And so definitely we came into some agreement, arrangement.  So yes, indeed, that was one, actually it was supposed to be a three-year agreement, but then, sad to know that at the very end we came to find that there were some breaches in the agreement and so that is why I find myself here, you know.”


Cardenas says that when Eckert failed to honor his end of the financial commitment, he had to source the monies for the operation to continue.


Gustavo Cardenas

“From the beginning of the production, that was back in October 2016, from the very planting phase of the production I started to have some problems with the gentleman, however, you know, because in October it’s pretty much the last month to do planting.  So I decided to put monies of my own to get into the actual planting of the sea island cotton, even though he had already sent some monies for the land preparation and those types of things.  However, for the planting, I was having difficulties getting some monies to continue the farming, so I had to dig into my own pocket to get that going.  From then onwards, we were having difficulties back and forth with sticking to the actual agreement that we had in place.”


When it came time to reap, the problems that the business partners had been experiencing all along came to a head.  Twelve thousand pounds of seed cotton were harvested.


Gustavo Cardenas

“At no time he came to me and told me, “You know what, we’re having some problems, or you’re in breach of this or that, whatever the case might have been from his en, from his perspective.  He never came to me like that.  So when he came to me, he approached me at the end of the crop, he approached me in a sense that we would want to conclude the transaction.  So when he approached me, he said, “Mr. Cardenas, we’re going to move the cotton, we’re gonna go weigh it.” And I was pretty much in agreement with that, to move the cotton and take it to the scale.  But at the end of the day, the gentleman took the cotton under this guise of wanting to amicably conclude the transaction and he pretty much took it under his domain, took it under his domain and he took the cotton all the way to a warehouse up in Indian Church.  That is a Mennonite community in the Orange Walk District, when I get to discover, when I get to know what is pretty much his game plan, what he was trying to do, I went to see where the cotton was because, I mean, at the end of the day we hadn’t finalized the transaction.”


Cardenas goes on to say that he then visited the owner of the storage facility in Indian Church and agreed that he would return for the product.  When he finally did a week later, Orange Walk police got involved.


Gustavo Cardenas

“I went to see the Mennonite, I told him, look, this cotton belongs to me, we haven’t really concluded this transaction.  So I went, I told him I was going to come back and pick up my cotton and so I took almost a week to repair my warehouse up in Douglas Village and the following week I went to pick up the cotton along with the police, with Orange Walk police.  They came, we went to retrieve the cotton and take it down to Orange Walk.  On the way to Orange Walk, somebody called the chief of police and told him, “Look, detain Cardenas and his cotton.”  I guess Chad and his associates called police and they said, “Look, detain the guy.”  Anyway, we ended up at the police station and I brought my attorney, at that time it was Mr. Gonzalez.  He came along with me and he explained to the police chief that this matter is a civil matter, it’s a dispute between parties, it is not a criminal matter.  So at that point we were released and we delivered the cotton in Douglas.”


Cardenas was subsequently arrested and held in detention for a week.  The matter has since resulted in a lawsuit that remains before the Supreme Court.  He says he simply wants what rightfully his from the broken agreement with Eckert. Reporting for News Five, I am Isani Cayetano.

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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