Deputy Prime Minister Denies Murder Conspiracy Allegation
Yesterday, an explosive and unprecedented allegation was made against the Deputy Prime Minister Gaspar Vega. We can say his name, because he has responded in a statement which will air tonight on 7News.
The statement says, quote, "I continue to sympathize with the tragedy of the Cervantes family. But their grief cannot entitle them to seek to wreck now me and my family. I was not and could not have been involved in any way with Mr Cervantes's death. All who know me know that I would be utterly incapable of such a horrible thing. It hurts and angers me that a recording from the person the police have stated to be the principal murderer, and who ran away to avoid justice, should be used now to endanger me and my family."
He goes unto say, quote, "I cannot understand how anyone could seek to place any reliance on what this Castillo supposedly says."
He concludes, quote,
"The fact is that as the murder mastermind, Castillo can have no credibility. This is also underlined by the huge holes and obvious lies in the story he tells on the recording.
At the end of it all, therefore, I have to feel that politics is involved here. It is a terrifying thought, but the facts are clear and I condemn what is being done." End quote. The text of that message is just in, and the full video statement will air as an ad later on in the news.
Two Sides Of The Vega AllegationAs we told you at the top of the news tonight - Deputy Prime Minister Gaspar Vega has issued a statement denying the allegations made against him. The explosive and unprecedented allegation that he orchestrated a hit on Ramon Cervantez Sr. have been in the public domain yesterday - and today Vega addressed them head on. As we close tonight - we've put together the allegations and counter allegations. Vega's name is blocked and beeped out of the transcript we edited this morning because we had not gotten a comment form him - but now that we have, it's fair to present both allegation and denial. We do so now, in brief:..
Manuel Castillo: That's why I tell you. They casted, they are casting the blame on me because they think that I was dead. But I am not dead. I am alive. Now yes I will take care of the problem, I will take care of it. Because even if I have to go back again, to do things that I should not do...because this minister paid a lot of money for, for the death of...It wasn't for your...that's why I tell you. The young men made a mistake. They went and grabbed your husband. It was your son that they wanted to kill. Him. It's him they wanted to kill. Monchi. It's Monchi that they wanted to kill. They made a mistake and they killed your, your, your, your husband.
Hon. Gaspar Vega: I was not and could not have been involved in any way with Mr Cervantes's death. All who know me know that I would be utterly incapable of such a horrible thing. It hurts and angers me that a recording from the person the police have stated to be the principal murderer, and who ran away to avoid justice, should be used now to endanger me and my family.
Manuel Castillo: And I will get the evidence. And I will tell you who he is. But please, don't say...because, you know why? Because the minister has contacts in Mexico. In Mexico, the mafia is big.
Hon. Gaspar Vega: I cannot understand how anyone could seek to place any reliance on what this Castillo supposedly says. His co-accused have confessed and detailed exactly how Castillo masterminded this and another murder. And everything has been confirmed by the evidence the police gathered.
The fact is that as the murder mastermind, Castillo can have no credibility. This is also underlined by the huge holes and obvious lies in the story he tells on the recording.
We'll keep following this developing story tomorrow.
Cervantez Family Claims Re-visited
And so, now that Deputy Vega has addressed burning hot public issue, we can speak more freely about the press conference held yesterday at the Ramon Cervantez family farm in Orange Walk.
The Cervantes family produced a recording which claims to show that Manuel Castillo - the alleged mastermind behind the Cervantez murder - is confessing that the entire hit was set up by Deputy Vega.
Now, it is hard for us to go on the basis of a voice recording - especially when we aren't familiar with the voice and cannot say definitively that it is Manuel Castillo's.
But, we can't disregard the story either; it is compelling and has some elements, which can't be ignored. Tonight Daniel Ortiz touches upon those elements as he looks at the outline of the story:..
Daniel Ortiz reporting
Several hundred residents from the north gathered under the shade of a few trees on Ramon Sr.'s Farm, the place he was taken from in late June.
At the head table, Ramon "Monchie" Cervantes sat with his mother, Vilma, and his sister, and on his far right, his Party Leader, Francis Fonseca.
In the crowd, there were other prominent PUP, Area Reps, Standard Bearers and caretakers.
Everyone congregated for a memorial ceremony, those in the audience were present to show solidarity. Everyone was in a solemn mood, to remember and mourn Ramon Sr's passing.
What they got instead, was a bombshell. the Cervantes Family released a recorded telephone call to Ramon Sr.'s wife, Vilma, from a man claiming to be Manuel Castillo.
Mom: I do not, I do not recognize your voice.
Manuel: I am Manuel.
Manuel Castillo has been the most wanted man in the north for months now - wanted for orchestrating the murder of Ramon Sr.
The Cervantez family says he called on October 8, 2014 at 8:23 p.m. and revealed a frightening political conspiracy
Mom: And why are they accusing you Manuel?
Manuel: Well, I don't know. I don't know. Well, I see...my friend showed me that on the internet, I am shown as if, if, if I am...
Mom: That it is you...
Manuel: What? What?
Mom: It is...Everyone says that it is you. Everyone that killed him...the three of them.
Manuel: That's why I tell you, yes. That's why I tell you. They casted, they are casting the blame on me because they think that I was dead. But I am not dead. I am alive. Now yes I will take care of the problem, I will take care of it. Because even if I have to go back again, to do things that I should not do...because this minister paid a lot of money for, for the death of...It wasn't for your...that's why I tell you. The young men made a mistake. They went and grabbed your husband. It was your son that they wanted to kill. Him. It's him they wanted to kill. Monchi. It's Monchi that they wanted to kill. They made a mistake and they killed your, your, your, your husband.
A conspiracy that seems unfathomable - and the Cervantes family also wishes they could write this off as pure fiction. Monchie says, however, that the family just can't do that.
And that's because they believe it is Manuel Castillo - based on the familiarity with which he addressed Ramon Sr.'s wife:
Mom: I was dismayed that you are the one that is responsible Manuel, for this because, you know, you were our neighbours. Your mother, your father and us, we were good friends...for you to be...
Manuel: Yes, I know. That's why, that's why I did not accept. When they came to tell me about that, I told them, "Are you crazy?". I told them Mrs. Vim. I told those boys. Don't play with fire. You will get burnt.
And Mr. Ramon you will see and Mr. Ramon never disrespected me and neither did I ever disrespect him. Neither did I disrespect him Mrs. Vilma for this to happen. Seriously, never, never, never, never, never, would I do something like this to you all...because I know you from I was a little boy.
Mom: Well yes, that's why I, I , it really hurt me when they told me that you did it, Manuel because...
Manuel: No Mrs. Vilmi, That's why I am calling you. If I would have done something, I would have hidden, I would have hidden, never to be found. I tell you. I tell you. I have nothing to do with this.
Mike Rudon, CH5
"After listening to that recording, are you convinced absolutely beyond any shadow of a doubt that the person who you were speaking was Manuel Castillo and what he was telling you was real?"
Vilma Cervantes - Widow of Deceased
"I am convinced that it was Manuel Castillo."
Ramon "Monchie" Cervantes - Son of Deceased
"It's not only sad for me, it's sad for the country, to the point where we have gotten as a nation. It's very worrying as a nation. My life, I am only one person, you know. I think the whole country is in danger - our whole tradition of supposed peace and cooperation with one another. I think our whole social fabric is in danger."
"The family has decided to come forth with this conversation and in the recording he begged you not to go to the police because of the allegation that he is making. Do you feel this puts his life further in danger and that as a result you may not get that evidence which he says he has or do you feel that this conversation itself is enough indictment of the people he names or calls out?"
Ramon "Monchie" Cervantes - Son of Deceased
"The question is how long to wait and this case is very important for the nation itself and as to the evidence, I don't know, if he has it and he wants to clear his name I think it's in his interest to produce it whether we disclose this or not. It's in his interest to produce the evidence."
"A political conspiracy is kind of hard to stomach, kind of hard to believe or to accept. How do you go about convincing those that you aren't raising alarm falsely? You aren't trying to excite without reason, you don't want to sensationalize, but this is what you truly believe in."
Ramon "Monchie" Cervantes - Son of Deceased
"Firstly, it is Manuel Castillo that called, so we had no control over that. He is the one that said all what he said. He is the one that mentioned all those names. He is the one that mentioned that I was the target. Frankly I don't see anything political about that. My father is dead, that's a reality - they killed him. It was a hit. It wasn't just a kidnapping for money. I mean its reality. Frankly I wish this would just be a dream and a nightmare and that i would wake right away or tomorrow and find out that all this is just a bad dream, but no, it's a reality and again I had always maintain, if you all check your archives, I told the media as times goes by we will keep the public informed."
Hon. Francis Fonseca - Leader of the Opposition
"I am not in a position to determine the truth about what was said. It's a tape recording. I was here to give my support to the Cervantes family. Obviously what we heard on the tape is very disturbing, is very shocking, is very alarming and I don't believe any citizen of Belize would want to believe that our country is headed in that direction. That would be a very, very sad and tragic day for all of us as Belizean citizens."
But, what boggles the mind is why would the family reveal this when Manuel Castillo begged them not to:
Manuel: Please do not tell the police that I am calling you. I will gather the evidence and I will send it to you.
The fact that the family is now revealing it one month later might suggest that they already have that evidence - which could mean that what was today taken for an earthquake might only be a tremor.
Again, the story has changed significantly since we put that story together this morning. Principally, Deputy Prime Minister Gaspar Vega has issued a statement addressing the allegations head on and denying them. The Video version of his statement airs in our next commercial break.
As we noted yesterday, the family had not handed the alleged Castillo recording over to police. But, today, the Police Department sent out a curious press release. It says, quote, "With regards to the murders of 71-year-old Ramon Cervantes Sr. and 46-year-old Sonia Maribel Abac Menchu…Police investigation has proven so far that no other party apart from wanted person Manuel Castillo and his accomplices are responsible for both murders." End quote.
And then, the release goes on to make a curious admission: that, quote, "Additionally, P.C. 743 Javier Alvarez who apparently sold a Police Service handcuff to…Manuel Castillo has been placed on disciplinary charges…and has been interdicted from duty since 26th September, 2014." End quote. That's the very first we are hearing of that - despite the fact that we've been asking about it since July.
Police end the release by re-stating that Castillo is wanted.