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International Anti-Corruption Day: What will Belizeans do differently?

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Posted: Tuesday, December 10, 2019. 9:53 am CST.

By Aaron Humes: More Belizeans are aware of, and condemning, various forms of corruption in Government and the formal sector, but it continues unabated.

So what will citizens do differently?

The Belize PEACE Movement (Patriots Engaged Against Corruption and Exploitation) is only recently formed but its members have been active for many years. Yesterday it marched in the Battlefield Park on International Anti-Corruption Day and challenged Belizeans to do more than just talk.

Robert Lopez, chairperson, said that the various safeguards put in place to remove incentives for corruption – the Prevention of Corruption in Public Life Act of 1994 and the Integrity Commission, a Caribbean Community (CARICOM) initiative; the Organization of American States (OAS) Inter-American Convention on Corruption in 2002, and most recently the United Nations Convention Against Corruption (UNCAC) in 2016 – have largely been ignored and not implemented.

Moreover, that, he said, is because the politicians know they will go to jail as a result.

However, the recent dictum of Ministers Patrick Faber and Hugo Patt are also true: that politicians are corrupt because Belizeans are corrupt, and that no government can stop corruption on its own.

So, Lopez said, Belizeans must stand up: “It’s the people who have to make a conscious decision today that ‘I, today, am no longer going to take bribes; I’m no longer going to give bribes; I’m no longer to sell my vote for a measly hundred [dollars] or whatever you take on election day. This is the path we will have to take to stop corruption. ‘I will not support any candidate seeking office who will not abide fully by the Prevention of Corruption Act.’”

Lopez accused the current ruling class of enriching themselves in office by penning bloated contracts and taking kickbacks, citing the Haulover Bridge, for which the budget is allegedly bloated by $15 million – but Belizeans will have to pay it all back and no development will take place without a stop to corruption.

However, he also called for the political will of countries such as Trinidad and Tobago and authorities such as the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) in the U.S. to rid Belize of corruption, instead of trying to benefit from it. That must be supported by the will of Belizeans to refuse to take part in corruption and report it where it rears its head.

Lopez called for an autonomous body or expanded powers for the Integrity Commission, supported by more financial resources to bring about awareness.

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