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Government challenged in court over supplementary spending
November 21, 2019
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November 21, 2019

People’s United Party vows not to repeat financial mistakes; says cost of Petrocaribe continues to rise

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Posted: Thursday, November 21, 2019. 9:04 am CST.

By Aaron Humes: For the leader of the Opposition, John Briceño, the court case he is currently fighting concerning the Government of Prime Minister Dean Barrow’s alleged misspending of more than a billion dollars from outside financial sources is both chastening déjà vu and political opportunity.

Briceño told reporters after court concluded this afternoon that he was reminded of Barrow’s statements in Opposition, criticizing the Said Musa administration for spending without getting National Assembly approval, “and now here he comes doing that and even worse; because one, he has spent over $1.3 billion without the necessary approvals from the National Assembly. But secondly, he passes a special law, the Petrocaribe Law, where he is trying to legalize an illegal act when he spent the monies from Petrocaribe.”

Briceno added that the Government failed, as provided for in the law, to report to the House of Representatives every three months on the monies spent from those funds.

Anticipating a future P.U.P. Government, the Opposition Leader said it was important to set a precedent with this case, that the Government cannot flout established law on its whim.

Answering a challenge that the motion is belated and the monies have already been spent, Briceño pointed out that it is not just Petrocaribe money – the majority of what the Government appropriated by supplement was spent poorly, alleging “bad workmanship” and “bloated contracts.”

Attorney Eamon Courtenay said they were “trivializing” the question of the Petrocaribe funds, he warned: “Don’t forget, it’s a loan. You, I, have to pay back that loan. Hundreds of millions of dollars remain unpaid. The Government of Belize has used that money without accountability. And we Belizean taxpayers have to pay it back. This case sets the basis for further inquiry and to find out where all this money went.”

Later, Courtenay noted that Belize is not making payments on the loans to Venezuela because of the sanctions from the United States, but the interest, though low, continues to accumulate.

Julius Espat said he considers the explanations in court yesterday “disrespect” to the nation from a man, the Prime Minister, who should more closely follow the law than anyone, and that Government knew exactly how much they were using when they dipped into the accounts at Central Bank, and that the Government has no respect for the law.

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