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Campaign financing: John Saldivar maintains it costs a lot to help constituents, admits “error of judgment” in Coast Guard ride

Posted: Friday, November 25, 2022. 10:49 am CST.

By Aaron Humes: John Saldivar was willing to concede to one thing in terms of his actions while a Government Minister today: that it was “an error of judgment” to take convicted fraudsters Lev Dermen and Jacob Kingston on a Coast Guard boat to Hunting Caye, an event which Kingston stated at the trial was a catalyst for him to believe that in Dermen, he was dealing with someone with vast connections in terms of national security and foreign affairs – though, Saldivar alleged, Kingston had been previously involved in fraudulent activity before hooking up with Dermen and being introduced to him, Saldivar.

“I am prepared to concede that it was an error of judgment in terms of, only because we now know what was perhaps the reasoning behind it. But for me, there was nothing in it and I do apologize and I do take this opportunity to say that it was possibly an error of judgment. But I don’t know that it rises to the level of criminality and certainly does not rise to the level of corruption,” he told reporters during his Thursday press conference.

Saldivar also said he was not aware that Dermen had fraudulently obtained Belizean nationality and a Belizean passport – a year after he had left the post of Immigration Minister as he said – and that he made no personal intervention for him to get either, or to obtain diplomatic status, and learned of it in the subsequent Auditor General’s Report.

On the greater matter of constituency financing, Saldivar challenged the seeming double standard on solicitation of such funds: “What are we supposed to do when we are soliciting funds – yes, we must do a background check, that goes without question, and yes, I did my background check on both and all other individuals, especially foreigners, who have contributed to my politics and my community, I’ve done background checks – but what do we do when those background checks do not reveal anything adverse? Do I say to them, thanks but no thanks; I need some money to help my football team but I don’t know what you may have back in your closet somewhere, so I will say no? Is that what you want us to do?” He added that politicians get “screwed” if they are not able to help their people, but as in his case, the sins of the donors are held against the recipients.

Saldivar noted that he spent up to half a million dollars to outfit teams associated with the Belmopan Bandits organization, but refused to disclose how he got the campaign contributions from Lev Dermen into Belize from Miami where he collected it, except to say he spent it on obtaining sports equipment. He maintained that he did not know at the time that either man was into criminal activity and should not be held responsible for what happened to them afterwards.


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