Belize goes to the polls on March 3

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Wellington C Ramos is an Adjunct Professor History and Political Science, Educator and Columnist

By Wellington C. Ramos

Every three years Belizeans go to the polls to vote for their Mayors and Councilors to represent them in all their cities and towns nationwide. Currently, the United Democratic Party (UDP) who lost the general election in November last year, controls six out of the nine municipalities and the People’s United Party (PUP) who won, controls Belize City, Orange Walk and Corozal Town.

The Belize People’s Front (BPF) a new political party, is competing in this election for the first time in Dangriga town. Their candidates are Rodney Nunez for Mayor, Dwayne Sampson and Stephen Laurie for Town Councilors. Nominations were held on Monday, February 15, 2021.

“For nomination day we received a total of one hundred and sixty nominations for all nine municipalities. We also received nominations from two candidates for the Corozal Bay bi-election. So, those were the nominations we received. We have nominations from the People’s United Party; the United Democratic Party; the Belize Progressive Party; the Belize People’s Front; we also have some independent candidates, twelve independent and we also have one person from Dangriga for the United Upliftment Party and so that made up a total of one hundred and sixty persons across the municipalities that will be having municipal elections come March third,” Josephine Tamai, chief elections officer.

Shortly after the general election was held in November last year, a PUP representative who was elected from the Corozal Bay division by the name of David “Dido” Vega, apparently died from the COVID-19 virus. Due to this unfortunate incident, the people in that division will be voting for a new representative. The PUP candidate who is replacing him is his sister Elvia Vega-Samos. She is being challenged by the UDP candidate Hilberto Campus the former four term Mayor of Corozal Town.

The People’s United Party is hoping that since Samos was her brother’s campaign manager during the election, the people will vote for her. While, the United Democratic Party is hoping that the people in the division will vote for Hilberto Campus because he was a popular four term Mayor and was well liked and known by most people in Corozal town. The UDP have also won by-elections in several divisions that were held in the past.

This is the first time that Belize is having a by-election in a municipal election, to replace a member of the House of Representative as far as I can recall.

The People’s United Party is hoping to build on its momentum after winning the general elections in November with a landslide of 26-5 out of a total of 31 seats. However, during the general election campaign, they promised many things to the voters and after they were elected, they are now saying to the people that the government is broke and cannot deliver on their promises. Most Belizeans are not prepared to hear that same excuse over and over again. They are struggling to find money to pay their workers monthly and revenues are not coming in to maintain their current expenditures.

Plus, Belize loan/debts are increasing at a rapid rate and is now estimated to be about $4 billion. Due to the coronavirus pandemic, the economic situation in Belize has gotten worse and Belizeans are suffering economically. The Inter-American Development Bank has given Belize about $36 million since June of last year, to deal with the economic problems as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. The poor and working class people in Belize, are still waiting for this money to be given to them to ease their financial burdens.

In Belize the two major political parties PUP and UDP, have been telling the voters that it is beneficial for the voters to elect members from their party when they are controlling the Central government. However, historically Belizeans have been doing that for decades and it does not result in better services for their cities and towns. Most Belizeans who live in the towns and the cities have never had their streets maintained or paved. Another bigger issue is that the subvention issued by the Central government in Belmopan to the cities and towns are too low to match the cities and town’s monthly expenditures.

The cities and towns need more money, autonomy and ways and means to generate funds to govern their municipalities. UDP and PUP have been talking consistently about local government reforms to deal with these issues but they have done nothing to introduce any new reforms in the National Assembly. When Councilors get elected in Belize, in most cases, the citizens of the cities and towns do not know who they are and what they are doing to improve their cities, towns and their living conditions. In most cases they get to them when election time comes around after three years in office.

This election is very difficult to predict because Belizeans love to split their votes in city and town board elections. The PUP claims that they are broke, therefore, “if they give the people money to vote for them” then the people will ask; how come they found money to pay for their votes but have no money to provide them with their basic services and needs? If the PUP wins the majority of city and town boards seats, they will say that their momentum is continuing. But if the UDP win, they will say that the people are dissatisfied with the PUP.

If the Belize People’s Front (BPF) Mayoral candidate Rodney Nunez and Councilors, Dwayne Sampson and Stephen Lourie win in Dangriga for which there is a strong possibility, that will send a shockwave throughout the entire country of Belize.

Belizeans are tired of the two major parties UDP and PUP, making false promises which have not resulted in benefits for their people, their cities and towns since Independence was granted to Belize on September 21, 1981.

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