Musa comes clean; missing millions went to pay for U.H.S.

[Linked Image] It had been rumoured ever since the new government released a letter from the Venezuelan government asking what happened to a ten million U.S. dollar gift given to Belize just prior to the February seventh election. Today, under increasing pressure to account for the funds, former Prime Minister Said Musa finally came clean and admitted that the money went to help bail out his administration from its controversial guarantee of the Universal Health Services debt to the Belize Bank. What follows is the former P.M.’s full statement.

Said Musa, Leader of the Opposition

“My fellow Belizeans, after many months of discussion and negotiations on December the twenty-eight, 2007 the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela and the Government of Belize entered into an economic cooperation agreement for a non-reimbursable grant—gift—of U.S. twenty million. Initially, the discussion centered on a U.S. ten million dollars grant. It was agreed between the two governments that U.S. nine million was designated for housing and U.S. one million would be put towards a sports facility. It was later agreed to increase the grant by U.S. ten million dollars. Based on this agreement, U.S. ten million dollars only was transferred from the Venezuelan Development Bank, Bandes, to the Central Bank’s account for the government of Belize to assist with housing, home improvement and the sports facility respectively. U.S. ten million dollars was transferred from Bandes to the Belize Bank which settled G.O.B. debt obligations with the Belize Bank. Our understanding with the Venezuelan government was that only the housing/sports facility grant—the U.S. ten million—received by the Central Bank was to be announced until further notice.

We have been waiting for clarification from the Venezuelan government. The irrefutable facts remain: one, the Central Bank of Belize received U.S. ten million dollars for housing and the sports facility; two, thousands of needy Belizeans benefited from the housing assistance; three, the previous government secured millions of dollars to assist Belizean families to build their homes and improve their living conditions; four, the transfer of U.S. ten million dollars to the Belize Bank was to settle a controversial debt obligation. This debt obligation arose out of a government guarantee of a loan made by U.H.S. It was the subject of litigation in Belize and London that could have resulted in the Belize government having to pay the entire sum due from tax payers funds. Through this gift from Venezuela, Belizeans were relieved of this debt burden and the doors to this tertiary care facility remained open. As a result of clearing this debt, thanks to this gift by Venezuela, the people of Belize own forty-nine percent of the U.H.S. assets held in a charitable trust, The Belize Health Care Charitable Trust, for the development and provision of medical and health care services in Belize for the benefit of the people of Belize.

It is the philosophy of the People’s United Party to promote and provide equal health care for all Belizeans. The U.H.S. assets are today being managed by a private sector group which is taking the risk to invest in this medical facility. The goal is to expand the live saving services, including an oncology center to treat cancer patients.

Before making this statement I met with Prime Minister Barrow and briefed him. we both agreed that Belize and Venezuela should maintain good relations."

Prime Minister Dean Barrow is expected to comment on the matter at an airport press conference tomorrow.

Live and let live