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Jan 23, 2008

It’s Castro versus Rancho in Rural North

Story PictureIt’s a constituency rich in history, encompassing a major city of the ancient Maya as well as the prime logwood swamps so favoured by the early Baymen. But tonight Belize Rural North is in the news, not because of its past, but because of its future. Ann-Marie Williams reports from the campaign trail.

Ann-Marie Williams, Reporting
In the Belize Rural North division the gloves are off. Both candidates contesting this seat are new and they’re sons of the soil; the P.U.P.’s Earl “Bob Rancho” Perez and the U.D.P.’s Edmond “Clear the Land” Castro.

Earl “Bob Rancho” Perez, P.U.P. Candidate, Bze. Rural North
“We’re pressing forward house to house, knocking on everybody door. We know them and we keeping our own in our pockets. Our machinery is well oiled and our people know what to do so we get them out early and everything is place. We have all our plans, everything is already in place, set for that morning.”

Edmond “Clear the Land” Castro, U.D.P. Candidate, Bze. Rural North
“The choice is clear. You do not need to ask whether we will win. You just go to the—people will just go to the poll and do what they need to do because the person they know that has been working for them for over five years is “Clear the Land”.”

Both candidates say that they have put in the work in a constituency comprised of twenty-three villages and close to five thousand voters. Perez has the backing of an incumbent government while Castro is enterprising.

Earl Perez
“The people in Maskall; the farmers needed road, I got their road for them. The Police Station needed repairs, I got that done. They needed land, I was right there fighting for them. You know, and come down they wanted water in Rock Stone Pond and Lucky Strike, I was there for them, we got that. Just over the weekend we started paving the road to Rancho Dolores. I have been fighting tooth and nail ever since to work in the area after the people get to know me.”

Edmond Castro
“We have provided over a hundred tour guide scholarships in Rural North. We had received funding from the British High and we had graduated over a hundred tour guides throughout Belize Rural North. We also had the land clearing programme where we provide a subsidized class bulldozer land clearing service for the residents and farmers of Belize Rural North. We run done that for couple years. We also provide approximately twenty to twenty-two scholarships for the people, for the students of Belize Rural North; tuition scholarships which we fund through my dump truck service.”

The P.U.P. has won the Belize Rural North seat in every election, save one. With P.U.P. incumbent Maxwell Samuels choosing to retire, the race has become wide open.

Earl Perez
“When I win, the water for River Valley is essential. We gonna get that water for River Valley. There’s the old northern road, that old northern highway that leads to Maskall; that needs to be completely paved. I’ve been working on it. I’ve been just fix the real bad areas but I need to do that completely and all the areas in my constituents needs to have electricity. There’s also a project that I have been working on in Crooked Tree that we going to take a thousand acres of land and have it all chopped up into twenty acre plots for the youths and first time land owners, to develop that land for them so that they can plant cashew and blackberry. It’s a new industry and I see potential in it.”

Castro contends that he too has a cottage industry to benefit his voters.

Edmond Castro
“It’s to provide a tilapia pond for those single mothers, head of household in the area so that our people can make, not a hundred and fifteen dollars a week or a hundred and fifty dollars a week, but rather this programme will help them to make approximately a thousand dollars a week per family. So I think within the next—by next year this time we will transform the Belize Rural North area into an economic giant in this country. And those are some of the things that we plan to do immediately after we get into power while we straighten out the cash crunch or the government finances. All we need in Belize Rural North right now is equipment so we can empower our people to move on.”

And it’s difficult to move in an area where basic water and electricity, to many villages, remain just a promise after many years. Case in point is Bomba village where the electricity stops next door.

Edmond Castro
“They will not get electricity until they turn out in record numbers and vote for me and electricity will come to Bomba. Bomba is a key port of entry for tourism in our area. But yet the people of Bomba do not having running water, the people of Bomba do not have electricity. I remember a older gentleman when I declare my candidacy back in 2003, he said if we do not get electricity by the Christmas that they promised them, ih seh “Mr. Castro I dah P.U.P. but I will vote for you”. That man went ahead and buy his television and his VCR and he died and left the television and VCR and never had electricity to use his television.”

On February seventh voters in Belize Rural North will have a choice between two men who feel that party philosophy matters. Castro, by his own admission, learnt to be a U.D.P. from his father.

Edmond Castro
“I learn because I didn’t like to see him walking five miles to deliver information out. So I used to go on my bicycle and then I seh “pa or daddy you noh have to go yaanda yo noh have to go da Corozalito yo noh have to walk deh today because I done do dat fi yo. All the information weh yo have yah, I done deliva dah Corozalito, I done do Bomba fi yo, I done do St. Ann’s.” as a way to tell him to slow down. I don’t want him to be out on the road by himself campaigning. He still go.”

“Politician come in and promised him—back then the big thing was community center, community center. So we would get maybe a half truck load of cement and some cement blocks. Community center wah build today, ih wah start today, ground breaking and after election for another five years, nothing else. They come with T-shirt, they come with some food, they come with some rum. I told my father, I told my mother, I said “one of these days I will grow up and I will do better than them”.”

Earl Perez
“I have admired the leadership of George Cadle Price and now Said Musa. So I’ve joined up and P.U.P. is a party for the people.”

Ann-Marie Williams
“It’s anybody’s guess who’s gonna win and both sides are already claiming victory. But in a battle ground division like Belize Rural North where both candidates are new, any number can play.”

Carmen Flores
“We wah win man, atta we dah P.U.P. But I noh boast bout it but I know that.”

Ann-Marie Williams
“Why you seh dat? Just because it use to be, use to be a P.U.P. that had the division?”

Carmen Flores
“Look ya, Mr. Price dah di man weh bring Belize to weh ih deh.”

Matilda Gillett
“I believe he have a big chance. You know, it’s not the crowd; it’s the vote that counts. What he done to see that he do things in the area and he’s a hard working man so I don’t know what will stop him from win.”

Ann-Marie Williams 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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