Thursday, October 8, 2015. BMG: Last week saw the launch of the Belize Progressive Party (BPP), an amalgation of two smaller political parties and former members of a third. They introduced the first eleven candidates to contest the 2015 general elections. Today they announced the addition of seven more. They are housewife and mother of six Elizabeth Dena for Freetown; Dr. Jose Luis Espat for Albert; educator Milton Palacio for Stann Creek West; Estevan Assi for Toledo West; dock worker Raymond Rivers for Collet; Onofre Vellos for Orange Walk North; and Gary Matus for Queen’s Square.
The candidates presented themselves today at the Belize Institute of Management, pledging to declare their income and assets in accordance with the Prevention of Corruption in Public Life Act. Each spoke of the need for change and to eliminate corruption in Belizean politics, but some already have big plans for after the election. One of them is Rivers, who spoke of arming the people of his division with skills to make them the envy of the rest of the nation
Rivers’ plans include more sporting programs and a sewing factory to employ 800 women in the division.
According to BPP National Campaign Manager and candidate for Belize Rural South Bobby Lopez, the party actually has as many as 23 candidates, however only 18 have publicly declared their candidacies and the remainder are expected to declare themselves publicly in the next week. Candidate Elizabeth Dena of Freetown says she entered politics because she wanted to show that change is possible if people have had enough. She says that not only women, but all Belizeans must take politics more seriously and not just as a game or circus.
The party’s political leader, Patrick Rogers, is now running in the Pickstock division after announced aspirant Ian Cacho stepped aside. He said in response to a question from reporters that he erred in deciding to step aside for Cacho last week, but that the matter has been resolved and the party has its strongest candidate now in place.
Rogers also told us he supports COLA’s plans to campaign against Wilfred Elrington in Pickstock to ensure that he is not re-elected.
As for the BPP’s plans following the general elections, Rogers says that the party is not going to fold up after November 4 if things do not go their way. They want to establish a foothold across the country in anticipation of future campaigns in the villages and later the towns.
In related news, the BPP has had some strange adventures in political campaign financing. With eighteen candidates now running and plans to fill all remaining vacancies, the new party needs money, and fast. Fortunately, according to its national campaign manager and candidate for Belize Rural South Robert “Bobby” Lopez, that money is trickling in – about $44,000 so far from across the country to reach a target of $500,000 or about $14,000 per constituency.
Lopez says that the money is coming mostly from donors in the productive sector, particularly agriculture. However, that money, it has been made clear to donors, comes with no strings or anything else attached, as if the BPP gets to Government it will be beholden to no one. According to Lopez the party is saving money to ensure its candidates are nominated on Friday next; he says he is even using his own money to keep the party afloat. But with all that money, the BPP is not yet solvent.
The reason for that, says Lopez, is a little-known quirk of the banking system, which the BPP says it plans to change. Lopez told us that when the party tried to open an account using an Atlantic Bank cheque, it was told it needed a trade license to do so.
Lopez said the BPP will introduce major legislation regulating political parties and place all audit departments including the Integrity Commission under a State Department in the Office of the Governor General.
The party says it will open its account at Scotia Bank pending approval there.
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