Posted: Wednesday, November 6, 2019. 7:10 pm CST.
By Aaron Humes: If the evidence of Sunday’s campaign launch by Belmopan area representative and Minister John Saldivar to be the next leader of the United Democratic Party is any indication, then it will be a tough road to convention day on February 9 for his opponent, Patrick Faber. And if Faber’s response on Tuesday is any indication, he intends to make it very much a fight.
The two insist they have been friends for decades but the rhetoric among Saldivar’s supporters has taken a seemingly hostile tone as Mesopotamia standard-bearer “Shyne” Barrow posted to his page on Sunday, “No one is entitled to be the leader of the UDP. No one has the right to succession. The next leader of the UDP has to have humility and has to work arduously to build the trust and the confidence of the majority of us. Not head in the clouds foolishly convinced of some entitlement to lead as if ordained by some divine decree.”
Dangriga’s Frank “Pawpa” Mena, also chimed in: “We need a unifier. We have been divided on too many things, we are bitter because of this, we can’t agree because of religion, because of politics, because of color of skin, because of gender – we can’t agree because so many things and so this country yearns for a unifier. This country cannot deal with nobody who is petty and vindictive and personal and all of that…”?
Saldivar has courted the majority of his party’s standard-bearers – 22 at last count including current Mesopotamia leader, Michael Finnegan, the party leader’s sister, his son, the ex-deputy prime minister and many others. Still, Saldivar insists “Minister Faber is a formidable opponent. We certainly cannot take our eyes off him. He brings good quality to this party. He equally deserves, as me, to be the leader of this party and so it will be left to the delegates. We are both out there campaigning for the next three months but we will see what the results will be. I am very encouraged by today’s outcome.”
And, about a “gutter campaign” to convince delegates to come to his side, “Well, that might be his only hope, not too sure that that will work this time around. I think we have greater resolve among our cabinet colleagues and our constituency colleagues that we will be doing things differently this time to ensure that we remain united leaders with their constituencies.”
Faber, the multiple term Collet rep, however, is no shrinking violet.
He appealed to young people – both those at the UWI Belize country conference for which he skipped Cabinet and elsewhere – to be the change they sought, to register to vote (for any P, he insists, not just the U.D.P.) and make themselves heard, and in response to any kittens by the party caucus, “My friends we need to stop the talk and some of the things of what I might say to you today might not be compatible with what the wider government wants me to say. To hell with it.”
And he also called on youth to make their voices heard on increasing spending for youth and sports projects, noting that the bulk of his Ministries’ funds go to paying teachers’ salaries (which presumably will not sit well with the Belize National Teachers’ Union).
No wonder speakers at Saldivar’s event say the February 9 contest is a battle for the soul of the party and the chance to mold leadership after the Barrow epoch. But it is now clear that it will be as much about the two men wishing to succeed him and their respective faults and attributes.
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