Our Meet the Mayoral Candidate series takes us tonight south, to the banana and citrus belts. In Dangriga, the mayoral seat is between two educators—one is in the classrooms and the other has retired from teaching. Both also face the same challenges to create jobs for the area which has a significantly high unemployment rate. News Five’s Isani Cayetano sat down with both candidates and files the following report.
Isani Cayetano, Reporting
Dangriga, despite the annual influx of hundreds of out-of-towners during the month of November, is a relatively sleepy community. Along with its leisurely pace is an equally sluggish local economy, a reality that isn’t lost on either of the mayoral candidates running for the upcoming municipals. Their respective challenge, should they be voted into office, is to generate business and create jobs for residents of the Culture Capital.
Gregory Ovado, P.U.P. Mayoral Candidate, Dangriga
“One of the things that we intend to do is to make sure that we bring tourism to this community and we want to develop this tourism package because we believe that that is the way that we need to go in order to be able to find lasting solutions for our joblessness. It has been said that at this moment in time the country has gone ahead to put together a fifteen-year tourism plan of which Dangriga is not involved.”
“For the type of work that residents of Dangriga can expect should you be elected to office, I know you’re mentioning economic stimulus by way of tourism and what have you, can you expand on that?”
Francis Humphreys, U.D.P. Mayoral Candidate, Dangriga
“Certainly. There are in fact three major projects that will target developing the infrastructure in the Culture Capital. One of them is the Carl Ramos Stadium, that will be upgraded to FIFA standards, no question about it and in fact the preliminary groundwork for that has been put in place. For many, many years Culture Capital has been denied having a multipurpose complex for indoor activities, be it cultural or sports. We are going to deliver that complex.”
“The existing town council is functioning under a U.D.P. central government and there have been complaints in the past from the current mayor that there is a lack of assistance in terms of driving some of the municipal projects to develop Dangriga. Do you have any plans or any projections to see where or what can be done seeing as though there is a minimum of two more years under the U.D.P. government and should you be elected to office you would also be functioning under that regime?”
“Very good question Isani. In fact, this happens to be one of those questions that a lot of our residents keep asking. But we have also sat down to talk about this and to discuss it thoroughly and in our manifesto we are saying to our people that the time has come for us to begin to develop our own independence so there is a line item there that speaks about partnership, partnership with the business community and the residents of Dangriga; partnership with non-governmental organizations, those in town and those that are in the region. We also believe that we should develop sister city relationships and these are some things that are going to help us to be able to be less dependent on the central government.”
For Francis Humphreys, a retired high school principal who served as mayor of Dangriga back in 1997, his calling to return to electoral politics came shortly after leaving the classroom two years ago. His opponent is presently a teacher at Stann Creek Ecumenical College.
“At that time I was asked if I would consider reigniting my old ties with the United Democratic Party and once again step up into the electoral arena and after looking at my town and discussing it with my family and close friends and advisors, I was pretty much compelled to take up the challenge after seeing the condition of my town following almost three years of P.U.P. misrule in Culture Capital. Once I had made that decision and became a part of the U.D.P. team here, our campaign has been focused on restoring culture capital.”
“I must say that it has been some time now that I have had political aspirations and I do believe that there is always a moment in time when you want to enter electoral politics and as a regular citizen I recognized that our people in this town have been suffering for a very long time now and I realized that I have the ability and the capacity to offer something good to my community. And as a result of that, I decide to enter the electoral race.”
The campaign trail for both candidates has been an experience which sees them covering much ground in the days leading up to Election Day.
“I can assure you that we started our canvassing way back in October which is very, very good because it gives us an opportunity to be able to sit down, talk with the residents of the town and to be able to come up with the manifesto that we have circulated around town by this time. I must say the people were very, very open and receptive to our canvassing, they opened their doors to us and we were able to sit down, talk with them, reason with them and give them the hope that the next P.U.P. government is going to do well for this community.”
“We started our campaign not a few weeks ago but last year. Prior to our, that is the team’s nomination convention, we started to hit the streets to invite people out to our convention and to get a formal sense of what we need to do to galvanize not just the party’s base but the undecided and even the P.U.P.s because we are all suffering the same neglect and abuse wherever we might be and whichever party we subscribe to and from August when we hit the streets running it has been a continuous drive that has been energized by the responses of the people.”
Incumbent Mayor Gilbert Suazo, who leads a P.U.P. Dangriga Town Council, is not seeking re-election. Reporting for News Five, I am Isani Cayetano.