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#414867 - 08/26/11 10:32 PM Belize WikiLeaks
Marty Online   happy

#414881 - 08/27/11 09:01 AM Re: Belize WikiLeaks [Re: Marty]
Marty Online   happy
There is a real treasure trove of material on Wikileaks to look thru.

It's all unclassified (only up to "sensitive" so far but there is still serious analysis. As has been noted over the last year, these cables have been awesome for one reason, it's often the real deal going on in the countries in question. It's not U.S. spin for international consumption, it's what the U.S. really believes is going on and what they are making their decisions on.

Some very fascinating discussions of internal Belize politics.

09BELMOPAN407 "Shake Up In The People's United Party"

Gives a recent history of the PUP at the time (November 2009) Interesting section on the "Rise of John Briceno."

09BELMOPAN97 "Cabinet Reshuffle Or Political Payback"

A brief discussion of cabinet moves by the PM and some internal UDP politics.

09BELMOPAN299 "Supply of Electrical Power In Belize"

From July 31, 2009. Short but interesting.

09BELMOPAN411 "Financial Woes At Belize City Council"

From November 6, 2009, all that fun stuff with Mayor and the funny money.

#415449 - 09/04/11 11:38 AM Re: Belize WikiLeaks [Re: Marty]
Marty Online   happy
Comprehensive Crime & Safety Report March 2009



E.O. 12958: N/A

REF: A. (08) BELMOPAN 161
¶B. (07) BELMOPAN 643
¶C. (07) BELMOPAN 609
¶D. (07) BELMOPAN 179
¶E. (07) BELMOPAN 118

¶1. (U) Overall Crime and Safety Situation

Crime throughout Belize continues to remain a problem and has
steadily risen over the past two years. Major crimes in
Belize (defined as murder, rape, robbery, burglary, theft and
carnal knowledge) increased in 2008 by 8.1% from 2007. Most
disturbing is that the murder rate within Belize has
continued to increase on an annual basis by 5% since 2003.
The number of murders in 2008 ) 103 homicides ) has now
more than doubled those reported in 2000 (47 homicides) and
represents a nationwide murder rate of 34 per 100,000
persons. This, coupled with an understaffed and poorly
resourced police force, make the high crime threat in Belize
a primary concern of the government. The U.S. Department of
State's Consular Information Sheet for Belize
provides a current and accurate overview of the environment.

¶A. Crime Threats: vehicle thefts, personal robberies and
residential thefts.

Throughout Belize, the number of 2008 reported robberies
increased by 3.4%, burglaries by 3.6% and thefts by 12.7%
over their 2007 levels. Overall, the total number of
reported robberies, burglaries and thefts increased by 7.5%
in 2008 over the previous year,s reported numbers (3248 in
2008 vice 3003 in 2007). Criminal perpetrators are also more
regularly carrying firearms in the commission of a crime.
The number of firearms seized in gun-related crimes in 2008
increased by 33% over 2007 levels (194 in 2008 vice 129 in
2007). This number has steadily increased and returned to
the high previously experienced in 2003 (198 firearm

In years past, if victims cooperated during robberies they
were generally left unharmed. Unfortunately a trend of
violence has emerged where cooperation is no longer a
guarantee of safety. Residential theft can be deterred,
though not completely eliminated, with the addition of metal
grills on windows and doors and extensive exterior lighting
and perimeter fences and/or walls. Vehicle thefts,
especially involving new or expensive models, remain a
problem and caution must be exercised when leaving vehicles

¶B. Safety: Road conditions and road hazards

Road conditions are average to poor. The primary highways )
Northern, Western, Southern, and Hummingbird Highways are in
generally good condition once away from Belize City. Close
to Belize City the road conditions are very poor. There are
no lighted highways, no shoulder, and driving can be very
dangerous, especially after dusk and during the frequent

Hazards are many and frequent as pedestrians, bicycles, and
animals use the highways for traffic, and stopped or unlit
vehicles create a very real hazard. Heavy trucks and buses
make frequent and unexpected stops along the highway and poor
driving practices, to include vehicles passing on curves,
blind spots and hills contribute to a high vehicular accident

¶2. (U) Political Violence

¶A. Historical Perspective

Political violence is almost nonexistent in Belize. February
2008 Belize General Election marked a major turnover in
government. The transition from one party to another proved
very peaceful. Early 2007 saw several political protests,
and one that had begun peacefully turned violent when a
criminal element used the protest as an opportunity for
initiating a riot. The 2008 General Elections proved once
again that Belize adheres to democratic principles.

¶B. Regional Terrorism and Organized Crime

Organized crime still remains an issue with money laundering,
stolen vehicles, human smuggling and trafficking and the drug
trade beyond the ability of the police to address
effectively. There is some recent indication of a growing
presence of gangs in Belize. In November 2007, reports of
Mara Salvatrucha gangs (MS-13 and MS-18) indicate a stronger
base of operations than previously known.

¶C. International Terrorism and Transnational Terrorism

While there does not appear to be any links to Middle Eastern
terrorist groups currently active in Belize at this time,
minimal immigration controls, the theft of passports and the
ease with which documents can be obtained make the country a
potential transit point for transnational terrorists.

¶D. Civil Unrest

Demonstrations in Belize are generally peaceful. However for
a week in late January and early February 2009, a protest by
cane farmers against Belize Sugar Industries in Orange Walk
(approximately 120 miles north of Belmopan) turned violent.
Approximately 1000 protesters successfully shut down the
Northern Highway, effectively severing the northern districts
from the remainder of the country and disrupting the main
artery of vehicular traffic, commerce and trade with Mexico.
On 02/02/2009, the demonstration culminated in a violent
clash between Belize Police Department (BPD) units and
protestors resulted in the death of one protester and
injuries to two BPD officers and eight protesters.

¶3. (U) Post-Specific Concerns

¶A. Environmental, such as earthquakes and floods

The most likely and most feared natural disaster is a
hurricane. Between the months of June and November, it is
hurricane season in the Western Caribbean, with the September
and October period as the most likely time for tropical
storms and hurricanes. Belize has almost no capability to
respond to such a disaster, and the vulnerability is well
known. Although the Belize National Emergency Management
Office (NEMO) has analyzed the country,s vulnerability to a
hurricane, no systemic actions have been taken in response to
these reports. Hurricane shelters exist along the coast
line, but food and water supplies are either non-existent or
inadequate. Waterways require dredging, so flooding will be
exacerbated. Belize has no evacuation plan.

In 1961, damage from the Category 5 Hurricane Hattie
precipitated the inland of Belize,s capital from vulnerable
Belize City to Belmopan. The continuous threat of tropical
storms and hurricanes was a primary reason for the move of
the U.S. Embassy into a new facility in November 2006.

While Belize is tropical and has regular rainfall, clogged
drainage and waterways combined with urban growth lead to
frequent flooding of roadways, even during the &dry8
season. The rainy season typically last from June to
November and heavy rains can cause flooding at any time
during this period. Hurricanes and tropical depressions can
and do cause severe flooding throughout Belize. In June
2008, Tropical Depression Arthur caused severe flooding
resulting in 10 deaths, total destruction to the Kendall
Bridge in Stann Creek District, and effectively severing
access to Southern portions of the country. Tropical
Depression 16 in October 2008 resulted in over 30 villages
countrywide being declared disaster areas and millions of
dollars of crop damage. Moreover, extensive road damage is
still evident in places on all the major highways and in some
areas is still under repair.

Two category 5 hurricanes ) Felix (September 2007) and Dean
(August 2007) ) caused extensive damage throughout the
entire country, although a greater humanitarian disaster was
averted as Belize City was spared from a direct hit. These
major storms have resulted in extensive U.S. Government and
international assistance rendered aid to assist the
Government of Belize in recovery efforts.

Minor earthquakes have occurred in Belize, notably in
Southern portion of the country. There is no record of a
sever earthquake in modern times. There are no active
volcanoes in Belize. There is a risk for forest fires at the
end of the dry season, Typically around April and May.

¶B. Industrial and Transportation Accidents


¶C. Kidnappings

To date, Belize is the only country in Central America to
have no kidnapping of tourists or foreigners for ransom.

¶D. Drugs and Narco-terrorism

The porous borders with Mexico and Guatemala contribute to
Belize,s status as a transit point for the continued
trafficking of narcotics and money laundering. Recent events
in Mexico are worth monitoring to determine what impact, if
any, law enforcement activity will have on the cartels and
the potential ramifications for narcotics related criminal
activity in Belize.

¶4. (U) Police Response

While the Belize Police Department remains supportive and
responsive to requests for security assistance and
investigations, their ability to respond and deter crimes is
very limited. Unfortunately chronic staffing, equipment and
administrative deficiencies undermine the ability of BPD to
quickly respond and provide a comprehensive investigation.
For example issues such as vehicle shortages or continuously
busy general police and emergency telephone lines, make even
the timely resolution of routine issues problematic.

¶A. How to handle incidents of police harassment or detention

Police are very cooperative with the Embassy regarding
Americans who are arrested or detained, and always inform the
Embassy. Any American citizen who feels he is being harassed
should contact the Consular Section at the U.S. Embassy in
Belmopan. The Consular Section and Consular Wardens maintain
a list of attorneys in their respective areas. Local
attorneys will charge based upon the magnitude of the case.

¶B. Where to turn for assistance if you become a victim of a

Belize City Police Department tel: 227-2222,
San Pedro Police Station tel: 226-2022,
San Ignacio Police Station tel: 824-2022,
Punta Gorda Police Station tel: 722-2022
Orange Walk Police Station tel: 223-2022
Independence Police Station tel: 523-2022
Dangriga Police Station tel: 522-2022
Corozal Police Station tel: 422-2022
Caye Caulker Police Station tel: 226-2022
Benque Viejo Police Station tel: 823-2038
Belmopan Police Station tel: 822-2222

¶5. (U) Medical Emergencies

¶A. Contact information for local hospitals and clinics

There are 10 hospitals located in Belize. All medical clinics
see only outpatient cases and are not staffed to handle
emergencies. Therefore there are no organized medical
"clinics" within Belize. Belize City is the center for
medical care in Belize. The two major hospitals equipped to
handle serious medical problems are located in Belize City:
Belize Medical Associates and Karl Heusner Memorial Hospital
in Belize City. Karl Heusner Memorial Hospital is adequate
for many serious problems, but the blood supply is not
screened for Hepatitis C. On two separate occasions,
infected blood is known to have caused Hepatitis C
infections. Medical facilities outside Belize City, even in
Belmopan, are not adequate to handle serious medical
conditions, such as cardiac problems, and often fail to meet
basic standards.

Belize Medical Associates (5791 St. Thomas Street, Kings
Park, tel. 223-0303)

Karl Heusner Memorial Hospital in Belize City (Princess
Margaret Dr., tel. 223-1548).

¶B. Air ambulance services

Those with serious or life-threatening problems who need
medevac should contact Air Ambulance. Medical expenses in
Belize can become costly. It is important a few weeks prior
to traveling to Belize to check that you have sufficient
coverage with your insurance company. You should bring
prescription drugs you will need with you. There are
reasonably well-stocked pharmacies in most major towns and
tourist destinations.

Air Ambulance Professionals (Ft. Lauderdale Executive
Airport, Hanger 36B 1535 S. Perimeter Rd., Ft. Lauderdale, FL
33309, tel: 800-752-4195; 954-491-0555,

¶6. (U) Travel precautions: Tips on how to avoid becoming a

¶A. Alert our constituents to any crimes/scams that are unique
or especially frequent in your region.

There are no crimes/scams that are unique to Belize. Caution
should be exercised, as always, when using ATM machines or in
the use of credit cards.

¶B. Include any area of town to be avoided and best security

Areas to Avoid

Almost half the murders in Belize in 2008 occurred in Belize
City, with the overwhelming majority of those occurring in
the south/west side of Belize City. Overall, crime in Belize
City is at a substantially higher rate than the rest of the
country. The city itself is relatively small and
neighborhoods of different qualities are close to each other
without the buffer zones typically found in larger cities
that might separate higher crime areas from others.
Generally speaking, it is strongly recommended that the area
of Belize City south/west of the Belize River should not be
visited, particularly at night or while alone.

Best Security Practices - Personal Security

Maintain a low profile - Do not advertise the fact that you
are American. Dress casually, keep valuables out of sight,
and do not draw attention to yourself with your actions.

Vary your routine - Be unpredictable in your movements; vary
your routes from home to the office as well as your departure
and arrival times.

Be alert to possible surveillance - Note any individual who
appears out of place along your routes to regularly scheduled
activities, such as going from home to office.

Be alert to your surroundings - Minimize valuables and do not
carry large sums of money. Be aware of potential scams and
robbery tactics used to distract your attention.

Avoid wearing jewelry and carry a clutch purse or a neck
purse instead of a shoulder bag. Carry a wallet in the front
trouser pocket or front jacket pocket.

Never leave shopping bags or merchandise unattended.

When hiring domestic help, thoroughly check their references
to the greatest extent that you can. Ensure that they are
trained not to volunteer information to strangers or to allow
access of workers without prior authorization.

Best Security Practices - Protecting Your Vehicle

Spare tire - If your tire is mounted on the outside of the
vehicle, secure it in place with chain and padlock, or
similar device. If this is not possible, remove the spare
tire and keep it at home, reinstalling it only for extended
trips outside the city.

Items inside the vehicle - Theft of small, easily pilfered
items is a common crime, as is the theft of car sound
systems. The installation of a car alarm is strongly
recommended. If you purchase a car radio, look for models
that can be removed from the dash and locked in the trunk.
Also, keep your vehicle sterile, storing anything that would
entice a thief out of plain view.

Locking hubs - Replace one lug nut on each wheel with a
specially keyed bolt that locks or can only be removed with a
special attachment to the tire iron.

Parking - Parking on the street can rarely be avoided. If
left overnight, ensure you park in a well lit area, with
security guards (most hotels have security guards). At the
very least, attempt to park within view of the location of
your visit.

Car Alarm - As previously mentioned, installation of a car
alarm is a necessary precaution in deterring vehicle thefts
and thefts of interior contents.

Best Security Practices - Road Travel Precautions

Prior to road travel, ensure that your vehicle is good
operating condition, paying particular attention to the
engine, tires, brakes, head and tail lights, spare tire and
jack, horn, seat belts and fluid levels. Particularly on
trips to remote areas, try to travel in tandem with other
vehicles, and advise someone of your travel plans, including
anticipated arrival and departure times and contact numbers.

The following items are recommended for extended road trips:

- Cellular telephone with charger (although some areas
between cities lack coverage);
- A spare tire;
- Potable water;
- Non-perishable food items;
- First Aid kit;
- Fire extinguisher;
- Emergency tool kit with the following:
- Flashlight and additional batteries;
- Battery operated radio;
- Extra fan belt/drive belt;
- Extra fuses, spark plugs, and light bulbs;
- Duplicate ignition key;
- Screw driver (regular and Phillips head);
- Socket wrench set;
- Pliers;
- Wire;
- Electrical tape;
- Jumper cables;
- Compressed air tire pump;
- Flares/reflectors

¶7. (U) Further information: How to Contact the U.S. Embassy

The Embassy is located at 4 Floral Park Road, Belmopan, Cayo,
Belize; the Embassy is open for regular business Monday
through Friday, 8:00 am to 12:00 pm and 1:00 pm to 5:00 pm.
The Embassy is closed on American and Belizean holidays.
Americans are encouraged to register with the American
Citizens Service Office.

¶A. Embassy contact numbers

Embassy Main phone number: 501-822-4011
Regional Security Office: 501-822-4011 ext 4105/4007
Political/Economic Section: 501-822-4011 ext 4197
Embassy Nurse: 501-822-4011 ext 4286
Consular Section: 501-822-4011 ext 4219/4209

¶8. (U) OSAC Country Council

OSAC had its first meeting July 2007. Interested parties can
visit the Belize Country Council website at belize.osac.gov.

¶A. Point of contact

Robert F. Kelty, Regional Security Officer at 501-822-4011
ext 4105/4007 or email DS RSO Belmopan@state.gov.


#415495 - 09/05/11 09:19 AM Re: Belize WikiLeaks [Re: Marty]
Marty Online   happy
WIKILEAKS: GREAT READ: Ambassador speaks with GOB re BTL




E.O. 12958: DECL: 12/22/2019


Classified By: DCM Diffily for reason 1.4(b) (d)

¶1. (C) Summary: On December 15 the Ambassador, DCM, and
Econoff met with Financial Secretary Joseph Waight and Belize
Telemedia Limited (BTL) board member Alan Slusher. Waight
and Slusher provided valuable information about the state of
the economy, as well as information about the lead up to the
nationalization of BTL, the GOB,s projections for the future
of the company, and the likely outcome of possible
arbitration: Belize will not pay. They also reaffirmed that
this takeover was a unique, one-time phenomenon. In a later
meeting with the American Chamber of Commerce, businesses
highlighted their growing concerns. End summary.

¶2. (C) When the Ambassador, DCM, and Econoff met with
Financial Secretary Joseph Waight and BTL board member Alan
Slusher on December 15, the GOB representatives began by
describing the downturn the Belize economy has taken over the
past year. The Prime Minister formally announced that the
country was in a recession on October 29. One of Belize,s
primary revenue sources, tourism, has taken a hit, with the
number of overnight visitors down by 5-8% from 2008. The
number of cruise ship visitors is actually on the rise, as
they cash in on inexpensive deals from carriers; however, the
spending by both groups in Belize is less than in previous
years. Commodity prices are down for some of Belize,s main
exports; at the same time, imports are down, resulting in
less revenue from duties and taxes. One bright spot for the
budget is that tax revenue from oil companies is up, but this
is a consequence of less investment in exploration, which oil
companies were able to write-off in previous years. Reduced
investment in exploration now could translate into reductions
in production and revenue in the coming years.

¶3. (C) Waight also confirmed that foreign direct investment
(FDI) was at a standstill, not only as a result of the global
recession, but also because of investors, concerns regarding
the GOB,s nationalization of BTL, the largest company in
Belize and a monopoly telecoms provider (ref A). The GOB
reps spoke very candidly about the takeover and its
aftermath, and provided insight into the GOB,s rationale for
the nationalization. While Slusher stated that it is the
intent of the GOB to reprivatize the company at the
&earliest opportunity,8 and that the original timeline was
one year, he admitted that this will take longer than
expected due to forthcoming litigation that will be lengthy.
They believe that until this litigation is complete, the
chances of selling BTL are slim.

¶4. (C) Slusher also expressed that one of the main
complications that the GOB encountered during the takeover
was that all of the files and correspondence had been removed
from BTL offices. As a result, the GOB was not aware of many
of the contracts and loans outstanding until they were
contacted by various contractors looking for payment. Prior
to the takeover the GOB also did not realize the full extent
of Michael Ashcroft,s network of interconnected companies,
or how money from BTL was being siphoned into them (ref B).
Slusher was disgusted with how BTL was being used to finance
other enterprises. One example he cited was the relationship
of BTL and Speednet, owner of Smart, a rival, telecom
provider also controlled by Ashcroft. BTL paid for much of
the technology owned and operated by Speednet, and signed
agreements for the provision of services with the company
which were not subject to oversight by the Public Utilities
Commission (PUC). A cell phone tower that cost BTL one
million dollars to erect and $10,000.00 annually to maintain
was leased to Speednet for $500 a month. Slusher claims that
these agreements were written for the benefit of Speednet,
since BTL,s Accommodation Agreement with the GOB already
guaranteed it a 15 percent rate of return per year.

¶5. (C) Because BTL was just one element of Ashcroft,s
intricate web of companies, Slusher maintained that it could
not be governed as one would a regular company. He believes
that BTL was just part of Ashcroft,s larger conglomerate,
where every unit serves the overall goal, which he believes
is to &extract as much money as possible from Belize.8
Slusher pointed to the Accommodation Agreement, signed under
the previous PUP administration, as one of the means by which
BTL extracted money from Belize. He also stated that certain
taxable revenues for BTL were never declared and the previous
Prime Minister and Minister of Finance, Said Musa, prevented
anyone in his administration from doing an audit of BTL. In
the days leading up to the nationalization, BTL gave away,
to other Ashcroft interests the items it had purchased for
them, and moved $70 million worth of dividends in three days.

¶6. (C) Slusher confided that PM Barrow was personally
opposed to the nationalization because he knew it would send
the wrong signal to investors; however, neither he, not his
advisors, could see another way to stop BTL and Ashcroft from
continuing to fleece the country. Reflecting on the role of
the previous PUP administration, he then posed the questions,
&How do you protect a country from a rogue government? --
its own government, that turns bad?8 Taking this idea
further, he stated that all of the suspicious deals and money
siphoning that took place with Ashcroft and BTL prior to the
nationalization, could not have occurred without the &active
encouragement and participation of the previous Government.8
He and Waight stressed that the nationalization was in the
national interest, and that nothing similar would take place
in the future.

¶7. (C) Despite all of the allegations that were made against
BTL and Ashcroft, the GOB reps stated that the company is
sufficiently profitable to continue running. They also made
a point of informing the Ambassador that in the aftermath of
the takeover, several rating agencies, including Moody,s and
Standard and Poor,s, contacted the GOB to express concern;
however, Slusher said that after explaining the background
and reasoning of the takeover to these companies, Belize,s
credit ratings were not negatively affected. He used as
evidence the fact that strong local support demonstrated that
the nationalization was in the national interest. Even so,
he said he understands why the idea of a government taking
over a major telecommunications provider is not likely to be
met with much support internationally.

¶8. (C) In spite of all of their promotion of BTL and framing
the takeover in moral terms, the GOB reps did inform the
Embassy of some news that may be of further concern to
investors. In contrast to what the Prime Minister has
expressed to local media, they admitted their belief that the
GOB does not want to go to international arbitration, but
wants the matter resolved in local courts. They explained
that all arbitration awards would have to be confirmed by
national courts, which have been uncomfortable confirming any
awards relating to the Accommodation Agreement, since it is
seen as unlawful. They believe that the issue of
compensation should be decided by the process of negotiation
provided for by the nationalization.

¶9. (C) Econoff met with the Board of Directors of the
American Chamber of Commerce later in the week, and they
continue to express their concerns about the takeover. While
there is no love lost between Ashcroft and the Board, the
majority view the GOB,s actions as more personal than
business. While items such as the Accommodation Agreement
may have given him an unfair advantage, they pointed out that
Ashcroft has contributed a lot of money to Belize, some in

the form of loans to the Government, they say. Meanwhile,
there are other individuals who have taken out loans with the
GOB, many of which have never been repaid. AmCham pointed
out that recovering these funds would be in the national
interest, yet the GOB has not gone after them. They also
point to the fact that since the nationalization, internet
service quality has not improved, access to voice-over
internet protocol (VOIP) has not been unblocked, rates remain
the same, and the GOB is reducing competition and alienating
supporters by blocking SMART,s access to international trunk
lines and removing their equipment from towers.

¶10. (C) Comment: Politics in Belize are personal.
Targeting Ashcroft is an easy way to rally public support,
and so is reversing some of the secret deals carried out
under the previous administration. Yet, the promises the GOB
made during the takeover, including increasing competition,
lowering rates, and improving quality, have yet to be
fulfilled and the business community is becoming ever more
anxious. While the GOB reps were adamant that the
nationalization was in the best interest of Belize, it is
difficult to believe that that was the administration,s only
motive for the takeover. The distinction between an
expropriation and nationalization in the public interest is a
very important issue, as this will be a key factor in
determining the GOB,s obligations under international
investment treaties. In addition, while the reps were aware
that the takeover is already having negative effects on
investment, they did not seem willing to recognize the total
effect that the nationalization and pending litigation would
have on an already fragile economy.

¶11. (C) Comment continued. The processes of arbitration and
litigation will most certainly continue for several years.
The Prime Minister said in March 2009 that the GOB will not
honor decisions by international courts or tribunals where
that ruling conflicts with the position of local Belizean
courts. His reversal of stance in this case has taken many
by surprise. It may be an attempt to confer legitimacy on
the nationalization, by appearing to comply with
international procedures. However, even if the GOB agrees to
take the case to an international level, which is unlikely,
they will be unable to pay out on any decision which comes
down against them. Waight confided that his office is
struggling to come up with the cash to give all GOB employees
the final check of the year one week early, a Belize
tradition. If the GOB barely has the ability to pay its own
employees, it certainly does not have the money to honor any
rulings which require a payout. The GOB cannot afford to hold
on to the company and pay legal fees. In 2005 Ashcroft
bought back BTL at a profit, a year after the GOB had paid
him a lower value for his shares. At the time, the GOB was
forced to absorb the difference. Speculation has already
begun that the company will be back in Ashcroft,s hands
shortly. End comment.


#415496 - 09/05/11 09:20 AM Re: Belize WikiLeaks [Re: Marty]
Marty Online   happy
WIKILEAKS: Is Galen University laundering money?





E.O. 12958: DECL: 12/21/2019
Classified By: DCM Diffily for reason 1.4(b) and (d)

¶1. (C) SUMMARY: In December 2009, Dr. Louis Zabaneh
stunned the Belizean education community with his surprise
acquisition of Galen University. The Zabaneh family is
purportedly involved in a number of illicit activities
including money laundering and drug smuggling. Over the last
year, the family has made several large purchases including a
regional airline (Maya Air), while allowing other businesses
to fall into bankruptcy or foreclosure. The Zabanehs are
rumored to have used family money, rather than only Dr.
Zabaneh,s money for the purchase, thus tainting the
transaction. END SUMMARY

¶2. (C) On December 16, 2009, the new Chairman and new Board
of Trustees held a press conference in Belize City to
officially announce the transfer of the university to Dr.
Zabaneh. The first portion of the press conference included
descriptions of Galen University,s programming and degrees
followed by a question and answer period for the local media.

¶3. (C) The first reporter to ask a question was Jules
Vasquez of Channel 7, Belize. Vasquez is known to the Embassy
as an outspoken reporter who likes to ask challenging and
controversial questions. Vasquez asked Dr. Zabaneh to
&dispel rumors8 that Zabaneh was &fronting8 for someone.
Dr. Zabaneh attempted to dismiss the question by joking that
he was only &fronting8 for his wife, whom he then
introduced. The reporter followed-up; however, by asking Dr.
Zabaneh to describe the transactions that took place that
would allow him to buy a university since it was ¬ every
day that one hears that an individual buys a university.8
According to Embassy staff who attended the event, Dr.
Zabaneh was visibly shaken by the questioning and tried to
open the floor to other reporters. No other reporter present
asked any further questions and the press conference abruptly
ended with Dr. Zabaneh leaving early and not making any
additional comments. Curiously, Vasquez, report of the
press conference on Channel 7 was bland.

¶4. (C) Galen University is a private university founded by a
team of foreign medical doctors in 2003. Located in the Cayo
District of Belize, it has been growing its reputation as a
solid research institution and has built successful academic
partnerships with Indianapolis University. Galen University
has many foreign faculty and often hosts U.S. students for
study abroad while steadily expanding its student population
base among Belizean students. There was no indication that
the University was seeking a buyer or that it was in a
position to need a buyer.

¶5. (C) Comment. Rumors of the Zabaneh family activities are
unconfirmed by Post; however, most Belizean staff readily
comment that the family is known as &drug runners8 who
&have their hands in everything8 and allege that they buy
businesses only to &run them into the ground.8 Embassy
local staff question how an individual could receive funding
to buy a university when he is the owner of one bankrupt
business (DNL a fruit processing plant) and another
undergoing foreclosure (Maya Food, a papaya export company).
Post wonders if the University could be used to launder money
or perhaps to move people into the U.S. on J and F visas.
Post is informed that Dr. Zabaneh is the &outside child8 of
Eugene Joseph Zabaneh (DOB 18MAY1945) and that his biological
mother lives in the United States. Dr. Zabaneh was raised by
his grandparents and did not become close to his father until
he completed his studies in applied economics at Clemson
University and returned to Belize to work with his father.
End comment.

#415627 - 09/07/11 08:49 AM Re: Belize WikiLeaks [Re: Marty]
Marty Online   happy

WIKLEAKS Hits Belize: US Cable Reported On Allegation of Briceno Corruption

If you follow international news at all, you'll probably know what the WIKILEAKS files are. They're a bunch of about a quarter million diplomatic cables sent to and from US embassies all over the world - copied en masse by a whistleblower and released on the internet - much to the dismay, consternation and embarrassment of the US Government. Well, last week , cables originating from Belize were posted on the WIKILEAKS website. They're about 250 in total sent from the US Embassy in Belmopan to the State Department in Washington between 2006 and 2010.

Overall, the diplomatic notes aren't that exciting, mostly they show an unhealthy obsession with the Venezuelan and Cuban government's assistance programs in Belize. You can read them for yourself through a link at 7newsbelize.com (http://wikileaks.org/origin/168_0.html) - but one of them does stand out - and it was brought to public attention this morning on WAVE Radio's Fus Ting Da Mawnin.

The cable dates back to 2007, when a US Oil company called Lagoon Resources applied for a Production Sharing Agreement. The October 2007 cable, which was, classified as confidential states that Lagoon Resources did everything necessary to get the PSA, including offering the government higher royalty and production sharing rates - but the PSA went instead to, quote, "a politically connected local company." And while that is one thing, Lagoon's people made the allegations that - and we quote from the cable here:

"that the Minister of Natural Resources accepted a bribe of USD 1.5 million from the company that was awarded the contract. Lagoon claimed that the money was routed to the Minister through the purchase of a cable television business in northern Belize." The minister at that time is now the leader of the opposition, John Briceno and today he readily agreed to comment on the diplomatic cable.

Here's what he had to say about the allegations:

Jules Vasquez
"Lagoon Resources is claiming that you accepted a bribe of 1.5 million US dollars from the company that was awarded the contract. Lagoon claims the money was routed to the Minister through the purchase of a cable television business in northern Belize. Is this allegation true?"

Hon. John Briceno
"It's a lie. As the Wikileaks said they are all allegations and there was nothing to prove is. What the fact of the matter is that, yes, my family at that time did buy 2 cable companies and to this date they are still paying the bank and there is not a person that can come and offer any sort of proof to point out that myself or any member of my family have benefitted from any of those decisions that I did with the Ministry of Geology."

Jules Vasquez
"You had told me at the time - I guess you were aware that Lagoon was making those allegations at that time - and you had told me that you would sue them and a further cable avers to that as well: that someone from the embassy had discussed it with you and you said you would sue them. Why haven't you sued them if they have made such a slanderous allegation against you?"

Hon. John Briceno
"Well that's a very good question Jules. What happened is, if you look it was 2007, going on to the 2008 elections and during that time we got caught up into the heat of the elections but if they were to come back to Belize and make those allegations, I will definitely take them to court."

Jules Vasquez
"Do you wish that you would have done what you said you would have and sought redress in the courts insofar as, then you would have been exonerated and exculpated beyond a reasonable doubt - beyond any doubt, and you would have also - one presumes - that if you had been slandered - make some money off them for the damage to your reputation which continues, to some extent."

Hon. John Briceno
"With 20/20 hindsight you could always look back and say that you could have done things better and certainly at that time probably it would have been better if I had taken it at court, but as I said we got into the middle of a campaign and that became a non-issue because the Belizean people never did take up to it and (never) felt that there was any credibility in what was said. That's why I am saying right now that I am repeating and I am challenging the investors from Lagoon Resources for them to come back to Belize and make those allegations and to see if I would not take them to court."

Jules Vasquez
"Now, as you know, I know a little bit about the cable business because our company has involvement it, and I know that one of the principals of ZMT in fact sold you one of those cable companies in Corozal. Is that in any way a related transaction?"

Hon. John Briceno
"Absolutely not. As I said we paid fair market value for that company and we continue to pay for it."

Jules Vasquez
"You as Leader of the Opposition - this is a very serious slander against your reputation. I know that the United States Embassy did not publish it or did not wish it to be published. But it has been published - it's out there on the internet. We know that the US State Department thinks that there was credible information..."

Hon. John Briceno
"That's not true. If you look what the US Department said "allegations." At no time in their cables did they say that they would have believed about the issue of the bribe of the 1.5 million dollars that was made during that time. They just made the point that we, at that time, my family bought 2 cable companies. But as I pointed out, Jules, you can check at the bank, you can check how much money we had to borrow to acquire these companies and we are still paying to this day."

Jules Vasquez
"The fact is that we can't check at the bank because your banking records or your family's banking records are private."

Hon. John Briceno
"I could take you to check it. I have absolutely no problem. I have nothing to hide."

Jules Vasquez
"Will you, at your next meeting with officials of the US Embassy reiterate your denial or your rejection of this characterization?"

Hon. John Briceno
"I am confident that it will have no effect on what I represent and the work that I have done and continue to do and certainly whenever I have the opportunity to meet the Ambassador or any of their officials I am prepared to go through everything that happened during that time - that I can remember - and to assure them that there was absolutely no back handed deal and there was absolutely no issue of any sort of bribes or anything. It was handled all above board. You can check with Mr. Cho right now and he can tell that when I was the Minister we used to do everything through the Department of Geology. I hardly met any of these investors."

Jules Vasquez
"The US - the cable also quotes separately "the Belizean Director of Geology and Petroleum a non-political bureaucrat confirms to us that the decisions made at the department were made not for business reasons but were pre-determined at a higher level for political reasons" and it said "the local company whose shareholders are strong supporters of the PUP."

Hon. John Briceno
"I think that if you look at the date that when that purported quote was given it was certainly long after I had left the ministry."

We await that offered opportunity to review the party leader's family's loan disbursement schedule.

Very important background to all this is that indeed Block 15 was awarded to ZMT international a local, well connected company for terms below what Lagoon was offering.

But Briceno went on record at the time to say that the final terms agreed to for ZMT had been changed after he resigned from Cabinet on June 4, 2007. That means he had proposed a more advantageous set of terms but the minute - of actually the day after he left Cabinet - a new set of terms more favorable to ZMT were agreed upon.

Channel 7

#415628 - 09/07/11 08:50 AM Re: Belize WikiLeaks [Re: Marty]
Marty Online   happy

More WIKILEAKS Fallout: Galen U. Refutes Cable Characterization

And one other confidential US Embassy cable that has raised a few eyebrows is one titled, quote: "ZABANEH FAMILY PURCHASES PRIVATE UNIVERSITY." It discusses the launch of Galen University under its new owner Dr. Louis Zabaneh in December of 2009. It then makes a generalized, unsubstantiated reference to purported illicit activities.

Well, today Galen issued a statement saying that - after becoming aware of the cable - its Chairman and President Dr. Louis Zabaneh immediately set a meeting with the US Embassy to correct what the university calls "false and unfounded statements". That meeting was held this afternoon and the Galen statement says that Dr. Zabaneh expressed the university's concern about the potential negative impact on his institution's reputation.

The school's statement adds that Dr. Zabaneh's visa was recently extended for ten years only two months ago and his wife and four children also received ten year visas.

The release says the embassy reiterated the US government's no comment approach.

Channel 7

#415629 - 09/07/11 08:51 AM Re: Belize WikiLeaks [Re: Marty]
Marty Online   happy

Galen University has responded to media reports on a correspondence reportedly originating from the United States embassy. According to the University many false and unfounded statements were made about the Chairman and President of Galen University Dr. Louis Zabaneh. The release goes on to say that a meeting was held today with US Embassy officials. At the meeting Dr. Zabaneh expressed to Embassy officials the serious concern of the University and its many partners about the false and baseless content of the Wikileaks release and its potential negative impact on his and the University’s reputation. He was informed that the United States Government is most displeased with Wikileaks and has to deal with tens of thousands of cases all over the world. It has therefore adopted a “no comment” approach given the concerns for U.S. national security. With respect to the Embassy’s view of Dr. Zabaneh integrity, it was reiterated that Dr. Zabaneh’s visa was extended for ten years only two months ago, and his wife and four children also received ten year visas, a very strong indication of a clean record with the U.S. Embassy. The Embassy further recognized Dr. Zabaneh’s longstanding commitment to the development of education in Belize. According to the release Dr. Zabaneh shared with the Embassy the “Sale of Shares Agreement” he made with the original shareholders of Galen University for which payments are spread over a four-year period commencing December of this year, 2011; enrollment numbers from the inception of Galen to the present which shows increases during the time since the Agreement; a list of all present students; a list of present Faculty and Staff and the number of their dependents; and an email from the previous Chairman of Galen University in which he states that the U.S. Embassy was made aware of the transaction before the Agreement was signed. The Embassy was also informed that it was the original Galen shareholders who approached Dr. Zabaneh about their interest in selling Galen University. The release concludes by saying Dr. Zabaneh, the entire Faculty and Staff, and Galen partners will continue to work very hard to deliver excellence in Education in Belize and to serve the needs of Galen students and the country of Belize with the highest degree of integrity.


#415636 - 09/07/11 09:09 AM Re: Belize WikiLeaks [Re: Marty]
Marty Online   happy
How about the TV interview with Johnny Briceno, Leader of the PUP Opposition, in which he denied taking a big bribe from the oil company looking for a concession. He offered the US Embassy in a tv interview to come look at his bank records. I believe Johnny sort of? I´m sure he can pass a polygraph test, but I´ve known this bunch of PUP scoundrels all their careers, they have bribery down to a fine art. That is what the careful selection of a bag man is about, a cut out, the Chauffer driver paid for by the government taxes. Technically Johnny is truthful, to a point. Top level political crime NEVER gets proved or punished in Belize. Johnny of course is innocent until proven guilty.

Ray Auxillou, Western Belize Happenings

response from a friend...

The cable on Bricieno taking a bribe was one of the only direct pieces of dirt on an individual. I have no idea whether the gentleman took a bribe or not. However, we all know that bribes in Belize are rather common. So would I be shocked if it were true? No.

I agree that, frankly, there were few surprises in the cables and that has been the reaction in most countries over the last few months as this stuff has been made public.

Much of the material is, in fact, *local political talk* simply being reported to superiors by State duty officers that spend their days blabbing with Belizeans of all sorts, mostly political types.

Don't forget that certain outfits like the CIA and DEA also have paid informants in Belize and that material won't be in these sorts of cables. Any State officers that read such reports might not even be told the name of the source they are reading about although they might be well able to figure it out.

from another friend....

" rumor mongering, opinions, innuendos and slander" or as everybody else outside the circle of powers that be and their cronies calls it: "The truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth".

#415641 - 09/07/11 09:18 AM Re: Belize WikiLeaks [Re: Marty]
Marty Online   happy

WikiLeaks Cable tell all about Telemedia nationalization

In another cable, the US Embassy was briefed on the nationalization of B.T.L. The meeting was held on December fifteenth, between Financial Secretary Joseph Waight, B.T.L. board member Allan Slusher and the current US Ambassador Vinai Thummalapally as well as the Deputy Chief of Mission J.A. Diffily. According to the Wikileaks cable, Waight and Slusher confirmed that foreign direct investment was at a standstill, not only as a result of the global recession, but also because of investor’s concerns regarding the nationalization of B.T.L. The information is telling because Slusher reportedly told the US that it is the intent of the government to re-privatize the company at the earliest opportunity, giving a one year timeline. But Slusher admitted that it would take longer because of expected litigation which would also make the chances of selling B.T.L. slim. If what Slusher told the US is accurate, then that would expose the lie to the nationalization of B.T.L. since then it shows that government did not intend to keep the company in Belizean hands at all. In concluding, the US ambassador commented that Waight confided that his office is struggling to come up with the cash to give all GOB employees the final check of the year one week early and that if GOB barely had the ability to pay its own employees, it certainly does not have the money to honor any rulings which require a payout.

Channel 5

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