In the March 7 general elections, the ruling United Democratic Party (UDP) polled roughly 5,200 more votes in Belize City than the Opposition People’s United Party (PUP) did. In the three Belize District Rural constituencies, the UDP polled more than 750 more votes than the PUP did. Overall, however, the UDP only defeated the PUP by some 3,000 plus votes nationwide, so that means the PUP defeated the UDP by roughly 3,000 votes in the so-called Out-Districts – Toledo, Stann Creek, Cayo, Orange Walk and Corozal. (The UDP did narrowly defeat the PUP in the Cayo District’s six constituencies, by a total of 14,521 votes to 14,247.)
The most plausible explanation to account for the unprecedented size of the discrepancy in the voting in Belize City and Belize District, as opposed to the so-called Out-Districts, is the more than three and a half years of Johnny Briceño leadership of the PUP – from March of 2008 to October of 2011. Johnny was not comfortable in Belize City, and spent most of his time and money working in the Districts.
In the PUP’s glory days under the new constitution in the 1960’s and 1970’s, there were 18 seats in the House of Representatives, of which 6 were in Belize City. PUP would routinely win 5 of the 6 Belize City seats, with Albert voting for the NIP/UDP’s Philip Goldson from 1965 onwards. But the PUP won the other two Southside seats – Mesopotamia and Collet, from 1961 until 1974, finally losing Mesop in 1979, while holding on to Collet. In the City’s Northside, the PUP won all three sets from 1961 to 1979, except for losing Fort George in 1974. These Northside seats were Freetown, Pickstock and Fort George.
Johnny Briceño was being “played” by the PUP’s old guard, who would not help to finance the party during Johnny’s run. Briceño felt that he would need the two Southside Belize City seats held by Mark Espat and Cordel Hyde. That is why he never disrespected these two outright. By October of 2011, however, Johnny realized that the old guard was bleeding him dry. He had borrowed millions and spent millions, but the PUP’s old guard, expressing their venom and contempt weekly in their own newspaper – The National Perspective, refused to raise money to help him. Briceño’s financial hemorrhaging was out of control when he snapped at the old guard multimillionaires in a national executive meeting which was being broadcast live on the PUP radio station. It was at this point, in late October 2011, that Briceño decided to resign from leadership of the PUP.
The 11-day interregnum during which Mark Espat was Interim Leader, until he realized that the old guard had their own plans to “play” him the way they had played Johnny, was an incredible episode. The upshot of it was that three PUP national executive members – Arthur Saldivar, Mike Espat and Julius Espat, were fighting for leadership until the old guard stepped in and installed the man who had been their choice from February of 2008 - Francis Fonseca.
Francis then gambled on disrespecting Mark and Cordel, and it was not as if everybody and his brother could not see that this was a huge gamble. When his new Lake Independence candidate, the charismatic Yolanda Schakron, ran into citizenship and passport issues, the man whom Cordel Hyde had replaced in 1994, Carlos Diaz, stepped forward, for the second time, to offer himself as the PUP’s 2012 Lake I candidate. In fact, Carlos had stepped forward immediately Cordel announced his withdrawal. Somebody at the top snubbed Carlos and pushed for Yolanda. Will Francis take responsibility for this?
That was bad enough. Worse was to come. On the Friday when Yolanda was legally disqualified hours before the nomination, several Ralph Fonseca loyalists were seen going to Carlos’ house early the Friday afternoon and accompanying him to the nomination building. Later that dramatic Friday afternoon, somebody big at Independence Hall again snubbed Carlos. Independence Hall decided if it wasn’t going to be Yolanda, then it would be Yolanda’s brother – Martin Galvez. ??? There were no “people” in People’s United Party at this stage. It was all “big boys.”
Martin Galvez ended up losing to the UDP’s Mark King by 172 votes. Carlos Diaz, who had insisted on running after being embarrassed twice by the PUP leadership, polled 223 votes. These were all PUP votes. Carlos Diaz is dyed-in-the wool PUP.
The spin doctors at Independence Hall, nevertheless, have “feelings” only for Mark Espat and Cordel Hyde. The fact of the matter is that the PUP, despite everything, could have still won Lake. That’s what the arithmetic shows. Somebody at Independence Hall made a big blunder, and they are trying to cover it up with the two scapegoats. Stats don’t lie.