By Lisa Shoman: The US Embassy says it is aware of reports of inappropriate use of the Coast Guard boats, gifted to Belize by the US government, and that it is gathering additional information in response to the allegations.
The embassy’s statement was in direct response to questions that the Reporter raised over the alleged use of Coast Guard vessels by the Belmopan Bandits organization (which comprises a football, basketball and softball team), for transportation to San Pedro when they have scheduled games on the island.
The US Embassy told this newspaper, “The U.S. government has provided training and equipment, including boats, to the Belize Coast Guard. The primary purpose of these vessels is to deter and interdict criminal activity, particularly in support of counter-narcotics efforts.”
The Reporter Newspaper on May 25, 2017 reported “that on several occasions Coast Guard boats, as many as three at a time (with fuel donated by the US), and their personnel have been used to escort the Belmopan Bandits, owned by Minister of Defence, John Saldivar, who is the Minister responsible for the Coast Guard.
The allegation is that in addition to team members, their family members, the management and friends are taken to San Pedro for games which the Bandits are scheduled to play on the island, which is not standard procedure, according to a source.”
Apparently, Minister Saldivar is involved with sports teams who are referred to collectively as “#BanditsNation“. The Minister has an active Facebook page on which he routinely and vigorously promotes the Belmopan Bandits teams.
As Area Representative of Belmopan, it is absolutely unremarkable that he should do so, and it is clear that the Belmopan Bandits are teams which are beloved by their community.
The recent imbroglio has nothing at all to do with the teams, their community service or presence, the ability of sports to uplift the community or the impact on sports on youth or the crime statistics in Belmopan.
Similarly it has nothing to do with “the success of Bandits Sports (is) irking some people”, haters of those teams, or, as also suggested by Saldivar himself, those who wish to find reason “to rain on this beautiful parade of bandits nation?”
All of that is beside the point. The issues are fairly simple and fairly clear – did John Saldivar, Minister, obtain the use of Coast Guard boats for the use of transporting any Bandits team, and if so, how often and on what basis? And has any other sports team received a similar benefit?
Throwing shade to duck these issues is standard fare for some politicians and Saldivar does not disappoint. Sunday’ s self serving post states in part : “Some times I wonder if the wannabe leaders understand what really is happening in our society and how to really address these problems, or is their concern only to attain and maintain power. Their ridiculous attacks reveal their true motive.” And the post ends with the hashtags – #BanditsNation #NoJoke#BelieveInTheDream#BigDeal
What Saldivar does not understand is that the current situation is no joke and it is a big deal.
His Cabinet colleague, Police Minister Elodio Aragon Jr. gets this, flatly and swiftly accepting that use of police resources for his supporters not only “should not happen” but committing that “under my watch we will ensure that such abuses are not and do not hamper the Belize Police Department.”
The implication in case you missed it is that such use is an abuse, it would hamper the Department and it won’t happen under his watch.
Saldivar in the face of allegations and accusations has, instead of explaining or making clarification is instead fighting on Facebook, trying to sound strong while wrong, and throwing “indirectas”.
Minister, you have some explaining to do. Belize is not a Bandit Nation, no matter your connection to the Bandits teams, and we await your responses amid an atmosphere in which the US has already announced steep cuts in narcotics and law enforcement spending, from which Belize benefits.
The Coast Guard Boats which were gifted to Belize by the US were meant for that purpose, and are funded by US taxpayers.
Beyond that, any Coast Guard resources which were or are used at the directive or by the request of Minister John Saldivar are supported by Belizean taxpayers.
Minister Saldivar’ latest FB blast last night confirms that he not only does not get it, but that he intends to take the wrong/strong road to the very end.
Using public resources to help “a basketball team” is wrong if : 1. the resources were never meant for that purpose, 2. no other teams gets such a benefit, and 3. your team benefits just because you are the Minister.
If the Minister is absolutely prepared to go down believing that, he may yet get his wish.
The views expressed in this article are those of the writer and not necessarily those of Breaking Belize News.
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