UDP Representative for Belize Rural North Edmund Castro remains under attack from Alvorine Burgess – who says that between 2012 and 2013 she paid him hundreds of thousands of dollars in bribes to facilitate Belizean visas for Chinese nationals.  On Monday, she gave an extended interview on the Dickie Bradley Show on Channel 5.  The most eyebrow raising disclosure coming out of the show was that she went to the US Embassy where she was taken into a room and an Embassy staffer played back for her conversations she’d had with Edmund Castro and another person.  Burgess says that startled her so deeply that she felt pressured to immediately sign a four-page affidavit presented to her by the US Official.  In that affidavit she is believed to have attested to certain dealings with Castro in the acquisition of visas.

That is very heavy stuff – and not for the allegations against Castro, we’ve heard those before - but because, if Burgess really did hear such a recording, it would mean that the US Government is listening to and recording the conversations of public officials and private persons in Belize.  Before Eric Snowden appeared that might have seemed far-fetched, but the former National Security Agency employee turned international whistleblower has uncovered a vast international web of US surveillance including monitoring the cell phones of European leaders.  The allegation made by news outlets in Germany is that the spying on Chancellor Angela Merkel was carried out by the NSA and CIA working in the US Embassy in the heart of Berlin.  So, in the current climate it’s not implausible that the same kind of thing could have happened in Belize.  But today Edmund Castro seemed unfazed.  We heard on WAVE Radio that he would be at his Sandhill political Clinic today so we went there and waited a few hours for him to grant us an interview.  He obliged and told us that he doesn’t believed anything Alvorine Burgess says:

Jules Vasquez
"Have you seen Alvorine Burgess' appearance on the Dickey Bradley Show on Channel 5?"

Hon. Edmund Castro - Denies All Allegations Brought Against Him
"No, I haven't, not really interested either."

Jules Vasquez
"But she is making wholesale accusations against you. Aren't you interested to know what she's saying about you?"

Hon. Edmund Castro
"Not really, what she needs to do is to go to court, and take all her evidence to court, and then let the court decide."

Jules Vasquez
"She said that in the US Embassy, she had a 3-hour sit-down, and they played her - off of a laptop computer - a recording of a conversation she had with you and another person. Are you concerned, she claims, the US Embassy - or the State Department - is recording your conversations?"

Hon. Edmund Castro
"I believe nothing that lady says. Everything she says must be taken with a block of salt, a bigger block than we give our cattle."

Jules Vasquez
"However, she said - I mean - who would make up such a thing, that she signed an affidavit - they presented a 4-page affidavit."

Hon. Edmund Castro
"I don't believe a damn thing that lady says."

Jules Vasquez
"However, this is someone you've known for a very long time."

Hon. Edmund Castro
"For many years, yes."

Jules Vasquez
"So, obviously, you're revising your opinion of her."

Hon. Edmund Castro
"No, I always knew that she had been a hard core PUP, and - but Jules, I don't want to get into that. I think that whatever she is saying, she needs to take to the court, and go tell her story there."

Jules Vasquez
"Immediately though, when one hears, if you're entertained for 10 seconds, a possibility that what she says could be right, are you concerned about any conversation you have had with her on the phone? Is there anything you've pulled up from memory and say, 'Oh mein, I had told her x,y and z on the phone.'"

Hon. Edmund Castro
"None at all, I don't talk business over the phone, and I don't talk about anything that relates to - if somebody wants to talk to me, I would tell them to meet me at such a place, and we can talk. I don't discuss any business over the phone. So, I don't have any grey hairs to get by she talking foolishness, none at all."

Jules Vasquez
"But are you concerned that the US, if they have all this evidence, they will revoke your visa?"

Hon. Edmund Castro
"None at all, I spend enough years in the US. I enjoyed that then, and I had the opportunity to have received US Citizenship. I knew that wouldn't have worked for me for what I wanted to do, politically here in my country. And, even with the green card, when I came home. It wasn't working for me. So, I decided to go them and tell them, 'Thank you.' And I turned that in to them."

Jules Vasquez
"So are you concerned that - do you think it might happen."

Hon. Edmund Castro
“None at all.”

Jules Vasquez
"Have they notified you to come in so that they can cancel your visa?"

Hon. Edmund Castro 
"None at all, and that is for them, and their right."

Castro formerly held a US Green Card.  As we said we met him at his clinic in Sandhill – which is the recently refitted community center. He sitting behind an odd little children’s computer desk seeing constituents.  Today most of the business was about the Boost programme.  Belize Rural North has about 150 new Boost recipients – which will provide heads of household with an additional sixty or so dollars per month per child, depending on whether their children are in school and attending health clinics. For new subscribers, their first payment is due on December 17th, right in time for Christmas – but a few hundred dollars is small change compared to the hundreds of thousands of dollars Castro is accused of receiving in bribes.  As you know, he strongly denies those allegations and no proof of such substantial transactions has been offered, but we wondered if those types of figures play in the minds of voters.   We asked him if it comes up in his clinic meetings:


Jules Vasquez
"Is it something that voters say, 'Minister, they said you did this and that - that you made $400,000 in 6 months.' Is that something that comes up?"

Hon. Edmund Castro
"My people love their area representative, and they love for me to spend time with them, and do their work. I am here doing the work that I was here elected to do, assisting the people in my constituency."

Jules Vasquez
"But it certainly has to play on the mind of some, to think that, 'He might have made - or they are saying that he made $400,000 in 6 months.'"

Hon. Edmund Castro
"Jules, I have not even seen $100,000 yet in my life, in one place, had never seen $100,000 in my hand yet, never, much less of $400,000."

Jules Vasquez
"So, no voter, no constituent, who have these meetings with, has brought this up?"

Hon. Edmund Castro
"No, they don't have any concern about that."

Jules Vasquez
"If you were to see any of these 154 families, any members of those families, would you try and have them removed from the Boost Programme because -"

Hon. Edmund Castro
"Jules, we have on this 154 right here. I know some of them are hardcore PUP. I can't even pay them to vote for me. I wouldn't waste my time, but you know what, I won't prejudice them. I won't kick them off of this list."

Jules Vasquez
"Supposed someone on that list decide to say, 'Go home, Castro. We want a recall.' You must - your instinct has to be - man, let me put a proper UDP family on this.'”

Hon. Edmund Castro
"Put some breaks on that one, right? But, Jules, I doesn't work so because you have some of them who are close to you sometimes, who are wolf in sheep clothing, who will do you the same thing that the other  one will do to you. But, for me, as a politician, I prefer to deal with the ones who I know straight out will not vote for me, and I will assist them based on my humanitarian qualities." 

And, so as the PUP embark on a recall effort in Belize Rural North, does Castro feel threatened?  Of course, a politician never takes off their game face – but in his case, Castro says it’s not just proud talk – he’s got numbers on his side when it comes to his PUP opponent Arthur Saldivar who he beat handily in the last general election:

Hon. Edmund Castro
"He got about 29+% of the votes in the General Elections. How can he get 30 or 65% for any recall in Belize Rural North? It won't happen. It can't happen; it's impossible."

Jules Vasquez
"However, it will be an embarrassment for you if people sign up, if 30% of the constituency signs up, name and picture, we want to recall our Area Representative, Edmund Castro."

Hon. Edmund Castro
"I am sorry for him; it won't happen. In a General Election, he could barely get 30% of the votes. If in the General Elections, two parties going at it, can only get 68%, 70%, or 72% of the votes, 2 parties going at it, and sometimes a third party, and they can only bring out 68 or 72% of the votes, dead in the water. I will run again, Jules, and I will win. I will deliver this seat to the United Democratic Party. No Arthur Saldivar, or whoever else want to come, can run. All of them can run together on the same ticket, the same time, and I will beat all of them combined."

And while with two successive general election victories and two convention victories Castro can afford to be, well, “breggin”, can he still feel that way about the libel lawsuit he has taken out against Channel 5 and Alvorine Burgess?  Like we said, she still hasn’t offered proof of her claims, but credible reports tell us that documents do exist to demonstrate the names of persons who she helped get visas – supposedly in concert with Castro.  Again, he told us he’s unfazed; he says yesterday was the deadline for Channel 5 to apologize on air; they didn’t and so his attorney Rodwell Williams is proceeding with a lawsuit:…

Hon. Edmund Castro
"The deadline was November 12, which was yesterday, for them to apologize, and to offer reasonable compensation. So, with no apology and no compensation coming our way, I think that the lawyer is doing what he needs to do today to file the legal paper work, to take them to court, so that they will, and the must pay."

We are told that whatever documents Alvorine Burgess is holding as her proof has also been turned over to the US Embassy...

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