Posted: Thursday, September 17, 2020. 9:20 pm CST.
By Aaron Humes: Nestor Vasquez, 89, holds a special place in the annals of the United Democratic Party (UDP). He was a long-time right-hand man for former Prime Minister Sir Manuel Esquivel, and more recently has been a personal advisor to Esquivel’s successor, Dean Barrow.
Therefore, the news of his sudden departure from Belize Telemedia Limited, under a cloud of apparent scandal, hurts personally, professionally and politically, the P.M. said after Wednesday’s House meeting.
Barrow told reporters on Wednesday: “I repeat that Net Vasquez has been one of the persons I have most admired in my political life. He’s become, as you say, a very good friend of mine. I regret greatly that these allegations have been made and that there is some possible involvement in the supposed abuse of the company’s credit card.”
Even approaching his ninth decade, “the lion in winter” was of advanced age but not of diminished talent according to the P.M.: “…I don’t think in any way it interfered with his ability to discharge his duties as chair of the B.T.L. board. He’s an unusual man in so very many ways. He is an extremely special fellow, and I thought if you leave aside this question of the allegations that have surfaced, I thought that he continued to do a good job.”
Vasquez was chair of the Social Security Board’s Investment Committee; a member of the Integrity Commission as its accountant; and a director of Alba Petrocaribe Energy Belize Limited – positions that he told this reporter when he was appointed to the Integrity Commission were not advisory roles to the Government per se, but participation in largely independent bodies each governed by their own sets of rules.
Barrow said he and Vasquez, who was preparing to retire from public life next month, would discuss how those seats would be handled.
Should he be found culpable of the charges against him at BTL, the outgoing P.M. expects – and trusts the Net Vasquez he knows – to step forward and repay whatever he is liable for. Criminal charges, he said, would have to be determined by the result of the investigation.
But while he has not addressed the allegations publicly, a resignation looks like a sure sign of guilt. But the P.M. disagreed even as he said he doesn’t know Vasquez’s rationale: “in a situation like that, you can say you’ve done nothing wrong but that in order to deal with the issue of appearances, and in order for the investigation to proceed in a manner that, as Chairman, there can be no question of your trying to obstruct, that the best thing is to resign…”
However, he added: “…I believe that he feels that whatever occurred is not something that, in fact, fingers him as being dishonest. That’s a matter, it’s a position he is certainly entitled to take; and the question of the public opinion – already there are those who feel one way or another about what has happened, but in terms of an informed judgment, clearly that can only properly be made once the investigation is concluded.”
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