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One on one with the Mayor of Belmopan

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Posted: Tuesday, March 9, 2021. 8:58 am CST.

By Ruben Morales Iglesias, Belize City: Breaking Belize News’ Ruben Morales Iglesias got together with Sheran Sharon Palacio, the first woman mayor of Belmopan, on Saturday, March 6, 2021 and had an open and frank conversation with mayor Palacio, who said that Belmopan people need jobs and land.

They started out talking about the fight against Diabetes, which mayor Palacio said is a very important topic for her.

Here’s the conversation:

SP: One thing that represents me is my fight against diabetes. I’ve waged war against diabetes by having a diabetes run of 26 miles and it has been up and running for the past six years. This will be the 7th year. It’s from Belmopan to Palacio’s Retreat (on the Hummingbird Highway). It’s a marathon, it’s 26 miles and we do it in the form of a relathon whereby we get groups to run a mile and of course some people run the entire 26 miles because diabetes is an issue. We have young high school students and those are our target group participating in this diabetes run. We believe that, you know, having them on board we will be able to finally eliminate diabetes ’cause people can live without diabetes.”

RM: When do you normally have the Diabetes Run?

SP: It’s done in October, that holiday they have in October, it was the 12th of October, that weekend all the time, and recently I saw that the weekend was eliminated but it has been put back in place.

RM: This is women’s month, and it was very unique in that we had a total of 47 women running in both elections, the municipal and the Corozal Bay by-election, 23 women on each side. The 23 on your side got elected. I guess it is like a beginning of sorts for women in Belize because we never had so many women participating in elections in the country. What’s your take on that?

SP: Well, I believe there’s a time for everything and women normally participated as campaigners and as these area captains, but it’s the time, the timing is right. More women will understand that participation in politics is very important because there’s where you get a chance to decide how the country is going to operate and you get the chance to be a part of decision making. I think that it’s an awareness. I call it a movement. So, with time, we’ll have more women involved and I am very happy that on the slate that I represent, we women are the majority and that gives me great joy that other women in Belmopan will be able to see. It will be it will be continued. There’s no turning back.”

RM:  I guess one day we’ll have a woman Prime Minister.

SP: “Oh, definitely. Definitely. And it will happen out of Belmopan because my participation will ensure that, in that they come from the University that I was a Director of for all my 18 years. I have all these young people and as I speak, they are writing, they are calling, they are standing outside. They are powerful students coming out of the University of Belize and more so, these women.  So, my mission will be to continue working with them, now from a political standpoint and we will have more women involved , and a woman Prime Minister will emerge from Belmopan.

RM: That’s great. Now, Ms. Palacio, you’ve been known to promote Africanism and that certainly is a good move on your behalf but now as the mayor and you mentioned yesterday in your swearing-in, you’re going to be working for all of Belmopan. So, it means that you’re going to be promoting, if we may call it Belmopanism, Belizeanism, because you’re serving all the ethnic groups in the capital.

SP: Definitely. Africanism is not only… Africanism encompasses the world but, of course, I wouldn’t be using Africanism in Belize because that would take some time to be understood. But the same concept about all-inclusive, a movement, people movement. Those are the exact terms that I’ll be using whereby everybody will be involved. The one thing I stand for is unity in diversity whereby we all become world citizens, everybody. As you heard in our manifesto ‘Everybody fu win.’ I take that seriously and under my leadership as the mayor of Belmopan, everybody will win. Rest assured.

RM: OK, as you go in and you said you don’t know how the situation stands at this moment, but I guess you already have an idea of what the needs of the people of Belmopan are. What is in your mind and the other members of your slate when it comes to the next three years?

SP: Well, what we’ve seen on the campaign trail and we are all cognizant of what is happening is that people need jobs. People need to be able to support their families first and foremost. On the campaign trail, we met a lot of people who are not working and that’s something we need to look at immediately. And we have a plan for that. I need to say thanks to the world where I came from, the University of Belize I was exposed to becoming what I would say, I deal with international education and I’ve been named the Champion of the Americas that will allow me to send migrant workers from Belize to Canada. Precisely this morning I had a meeting on that, and we’ll be able to send hundreds of persons; the idea is to use the first world to empower the third world. And it’s going to happen fast.

So what I’ve been encouraging my Belmopanese people to have ready is their passports. Of course, to qualify for a visa there are some requirements you know. Police records become a part of that for sure. So, my people, my Belmopanese, they will really feel this ‘Change from the heart.’ We campaigned under ‘Change from the heart, changing the narrative.’ For the past 15 years, our People’s United Party was out of power and our PUP as such; a lot of things happen along the way. The feeling of exclusion dominates. So, here’s where that feeling will change and as the Mayor of Belmopan, we no longer see colors as such. Yes, we represent the People’s United Party but it’s going to be all-inclusive. It’s, as I say, it’s a movement. I’m very humane and remember it’s ‘Change from the heart’ and ‘changing the narrative’ from pessimism to optimism. There’s a lot of people in the upper room of lamentation. So, it begins with us and there has to be a change.

RM: But you know it’s easier said than done.

SP: Well, that’s the pessimism approach. That’s the pessimist approach. We need to see differently. We say ‘Change from the heart’ and we’re darn serious about it. We mean it.

RM: Ok.

SP: Everybody will come and tell you “Oh, it get’s hard, it’s this, it’s that.’ Even to smile. You go anywhere, you go to City Hall right now, you don’t have people smiling. We need to work on customer care. As a people, we don’t treat people right. The People’s United Party, I can tell you, we understand how to treat people. So, I fall under that party. I’m proud and I’m going to use every humane, what you expect from a human being. Basic ‘Good morning.’ People don’t even say ‘Good morning’ anymore. That’s more animalistic. We need to use our humaneness, humanism to be able to reach different goals that are necessary. Belize is not a poor country; Belize is a very rich country. And we’re small. So there are things that we’ll be able to get done both at home and abroad.

RM: When you go to government offices countrywide, that’s one of the biggest complaints, that you go there, and you get the feeling that you’re being ignored.

SP: Yes, as I always say you need to be the daughter of XYZ before they take you seriously. That’s wrong. The processes that are in place should be applicable to one and all. That if you’re coming to apply for land, that’s it. You apply and you get it, you know, as opposed to this one has to recommend you. No, no, no, no. That nonsense has to stop. Let’s get it done and treat people the way they deserve. But of course, it’s a revolution. It won’t happen tomorrow morning. But happen, it must. People like me who believe in people power, there’s where it begins from. I see myself as a pioneer to making that difference. Remember, we campaigned and the way we crafted it. A ‘change from the heart.’ It begins there. We have to change how we do things.

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