Greek mythology tells us that Helen of Troy had the face that launched a thousand ships...,well our question to the Prime Minister at the end of August about Petrocaribe spending may be the question that sent a few thousand protestors to Belmopan today. At that time, we asked why hadn't the Petrocaribe indebtedness gone to the House as is required by the Finance and Audit act?

And, since then, so much has happened as a result of that single question….and it culminated today in a massive show of support for Government's Petrocaribe spending programme in Belmopan. The event was timed by the ruling party to coincide with the debate and passage of the loan motion in the House of Representatives.

But, a strange thing happened: the UDP rally became the first every mass protest against the opposition in the House: the PUP opposes the motion, and are at the Supreme Court trying to freeze the Petrocaribe funds.

That's unthinkable to the UDP who hope to ride the wave of Petrocaribe-funded public spending on infrastructure to victory in the upcoming municipal election. So today's mass mobilization of party muscle was in fact the start of that campaign - and it was calculated to be sufficiently large to dominate the PUP - and put them on notice for the municipals.

Was it big enough to work? We had two teams in Belmopan, and Daniel Ortiz reports on the UDP rally - slash - opposition protest:..

Daniel Ortiz reporting
The journey for today's rally supporters started with a ride on chartered buses from all over the country.

UDP Party Flags were flow out of the windows, in dozens of buses along the Western Highway. By the time we arrived, there were already over a thousand supporters in place.

But, the center of the action was a greeting party of about almost 200 supporters at the Sir Edney Cain Building, Garifuna drummers at the ready, waiting for the Prime Minister to come out.

The UDP Secretariat had 2 drones flying around, eager for the opportunity - basically to capture it for history - and get their money's worth - to show the UDP at its most muscular.

When the Prime Minister Dean Barrow and his Area Representatives exited, this advance group became very animated. He took the opportunity to press flesh with UDP loyalists.

When the Prime Minister headed over to the National Assembly Building, this 200+ followed him over, and eventually, the two crowds merged. As soon as their leader came into view, Barrow was almost knocked over by this supporter, and the crowd of thousands erupted into a tumultuous roar.

Barrow headed into the heart of group waiting in front of the National Assembly.

When Barrow and the other parliamentarians finally ascended to the House Stairs, the supporters made sure to show him a last bit of affection. That crowd was massive - well into the thousands, but what are the numbers.

Alberto August - Party Chairman, UDP
"Right now we are still bringing in people, but at the end of the day we are going to have 10,000 or more than 10,000 people gathered here this morning."

Reporter
"How many people do you think are out here now?"

Alberto August - Party Chairman, UDP
"Right now we have about half that amount."

August was perhaps being a bit generous with his estimation, but that's similar to the police count which put it at 5,000 - 6,000. Our count puts it at over 4,000. But as is usual for these types of events, the suspicion was that the UDP party rented this crowd. The Chairman denied that.

Alberto August - Party Chairman, UDP
"People of this nation are seeing the national development happening countrywide. All we need to do was to sound the trumpet and they began to gravitate towards the sound of the trumpet."

Reporter
"Sir, how would you answer the criticism that some of these people are being paid to be out here today?"

Alberto August - Party Chairman, UDP
"Well I will not go down to the position as propaganda, that's propaganda and I will not go down that avenue, but every single person who is out here either has a job or is realizing and sees the development that is going across this country."

Daniel Ortiz
"But were there any sort of inducements in terms of take a day off and come out here? Was there any sort things done to get these people out here?"

Alberto August - Party Chairman, UDP
"Well of course today is a working day. Most of these people are working because they have jobs now. The government is providing them with jobs. Of course some of them have taken the time off from their jobs to come out here to show that support for the government."

Reporter
"Sir, a lot of the people out here doesn't even know about the Petrocaribe fund. What do you have to say in relation to that?"

Alberto August - Party Chairman, UDP
"Probably, they might not know it, but they are feeling it."

Alberto August - Party Chairman, UDP
"You are taking advantage of these peoples lack of knowledge."

Alberto August - Party Chairman, UDP
"You are going to criticize us for mobilizing the people like this?"

We also went to the crowd ourselves to see if these people knew why they were out in these numbers. Those we spoke to gave intelligent answers.

Daniel Ortiz
"Why have you chosen to come out here today?"

Mario Chavarria - PG Resident
"Because I am a supporter of the UDP and because I think the Prime Minister is doing the right thing."

Daniel Ortiz
"Do you have any idea what the Petrocaribe dispute is about?"

Mario Chavarria - PG Resident
"There is no dispute with the Petrocaribe. It was introduced while PUP was in power, they abused the money and now the Prime Minister is setting that right and using it for development projects in our country."

Wilson Hernandez - Roaring Creek, Resident
"I came out because I am in favor of the spending of the money because they are doing good for our country. I travel a lot, I live in San Pedro, Corozal, Belize City, Stann Creek and you know you see where the little money is trickling - to the poorer folks like us. We see at least a little trickling is dropping down there for us. So I will not tell you that I am full in favor, but I am seeing a little head way where the money is spending."

Samuel Daniels - Corozal Resident
"I come to support my party, the UDP party."

Emanuel Barrow - Belize City Resident
"I come out here because at the end of the day this government is showing whereby - you always say politics is evil, but at the end of the day, it's a necessary evil whereby we the people have to still embrace in our life because at the end of the day they decide the future. I've been under the PUP government over 30 years, UDP 3 terms and you could basically put your hand and see what the UDP is doing."

Elbert Fuller - Belize City Resident
"I came up here to listen and understand both sides of the story and then I will pass my comments."

Nelson Ayuso - Orange Walk Resident
"I am out here to support a good cause to support the United Democratic Party and the Prime Minister of Belize."

Elbert Fuller - Belize City Resident
"I believe I know to a certain extent and that is one side is spending the money and the other side is saying that they don't have the authority to spend the money. But then how I see it, the side that is saying that they don't have the authority to spend the money, they haven't done anything and this government is spending the money wisely."

Wilson Hernandez - Roaring Creek, Resident
"As far as I understand that the money by law it should have gone through the House to make everybody agree or disagree on it, how they could spend it. But then this party take the money and spend it and then they are worrying about it. When the Opposition came now talking about the money, the right way how to do things, then they decide to bring out all the crowd out here."

Daniel Ortiz
"Do you know anything about the dispute that's happening in the House right now over the Petrocaribe money?"

Samuel Daniels - Corozal Resident
"Well in the House today the PUP is fighting against the project that's happening in Corozal right now; the drainage and street project."

Daniel Ortiz
"Are you sure that's what happening?"

Samuel Daniels - Corozal Resident
"Well they are fighting about the money problem. I am happy because I am working from the project right now and I think there are so many years that nothing is happening in Corozal up to right now and not only Corozal, countrywide the jobs are going on."

Emanuel Barrow - Belize City Resident
"You notice crime went down because the guys that lives in my neighborhood use to pop the ladies chains, steal they cell phones and I haven't heard when last a woman got rob because the guys are busy and the hard work that Mr. Woods are giving to them with maul instead of a jack hammer - they have to get tired. So its positive progress that you have to support if you are functional literate then."

As is standard with such gatherings, the majority of the crowd dispersed at a little after midday.

As we said in the story, the figures vary - but, from our vantage point, it seems safe to round it off at between four and five thousand persons who were gathered in front of the Assembly building at the peak of the event. But not everyone who gets on the bus gathers for the rally; many take it as a free trip to the capital to do some shopping and walking around.

That is why it is of note that there were an impressive number of buses: police counted 183 - and UDP Headquarters says it paid for 145 - which, at the police figure of 40 persons per bus would put the figure between 5,700 and 7,320 persons - that is minus the Belmopan area which brought its own large crowd.

But whether using that count of total persons, or our count of four to five thousand in front of the assembly - it is still, to our knowledge the largest political gathering we have seen in Belmopan at a House Meeting in the last two decades. Both mass parties have drawn comparable crowds before but usually only at National Conventions.


Opp. Leader To PM: “Roll The Election!”

So, it's an enormous outlay of party funds and organizational resources for what would have to be considered the political pre-season; municipals are, after all, months away - and any momentum gathered here will have long faded by the time those roll around.

But, as we said at the top of the story, for the UDP, the crowd which stood, and sang, and danced and honked horns were unleashed as a strategic maneuver: to bolster the Barrow Administration in its embrace of the Petrocaribe money as an article of faith, and to intimidate the PUP leadership - which has proven unable to roll out that kind of a crowd since 2010.

But in the House Chamber - the roar of the crowd was only a faraway din - and on the House floor, the PUP went shoulder to shoulder with their UDP colleagues - even employing the UDP slogan of "roll It" - here's the exchange on that:..

Hon. Dean Barrow, Prime Minister
"We are back now for the final authorization. We are back now for the formal passage. We are back now to do what the thousands of Belizeans outside this National Assembly building, what the hundreds of thousands of Belizeans across this land want us to do. We are back to say once and for all, we are back to sing and shout, Petrocaribe roll it!"

Hon. Francis Fonseca, Leader of the Opposition
"We say to him and the Belizean people are saying to him; if you think sir that you have the support of the Belizean people, there is only one thing for you to do, call the general elections and the people will deal with you. The people are ready for you. The people are ready for change. So, let's get it on, you are talking about Petrocaribe roll. Election roll - roll the election. That is what you need to do - roll the election and the people will roll you and the UDP out of Belmopan."


Shyne Put In Work For UDP

One face that almost got lost in the crowd is Shyne Barrow. Minus the "Payot" he was there front and center, handing out noisemakers and t-shirts to the supporters, and generally joining in the show of support for his father.

And one more small note - we saw the contractors working on Petrocaribe projects also rolled out their own buses filled with their workers in support of the spending.

Channel 7