Tourism Minister Manuel Heredia Junior and his colleague Rene Montero appear on Wednesday before the Senate Special Select Committee on Immigration. The Belize Rural South area representative is expected to be questioned about his role as a recommender for a particular family on Ambergris Caye, the Harmouch family. It is also known that he acted as a courier for the department, bringing packages of immigration documents and completed applications to the island even as an Opposition area representative. While Heredia complained to a reporter that the committee’s questioning is bordering on the political, he maintains that he has done nothing wrong.
Manuel Heredia Jr., Minister of Tourism and Civil Aviation
“Unfortunately, yesterday evening I received the summons to appear Wednesday over there. Honestly I believe that this has turned to be something more political than the reality, because as far as I am concerned, the Auditor General had already said that what had appeared about myself, Minister Montero and a few others, that after her findings it became clear that there was nothing wrong as to what we were doing. Our job was to recommend; if there is anything faulty in the application it is the job of the personnel of the Immigration to [check]. So hopefully this will give me a chance to be able to [show] the public, to convey the image that I have had that I always had from when I was a child until now, that I still maintain that same image, and all that I have done then, now and in the future is to serve the people of my constituency and the entire country of Belize.
It is not only the Harmouch family that I have assisted in making sure that recommending or probably checking to see the status of their application; I have done it for hundreds of Central Americans from every part of Central America – expats that are living over here and they qualify, they asked me for recommendations and I will do it. And then the one that I believe they were speaking about with visas – in reality, taking an open visa like that to an applicant, if I did one or two that did not really apply – but to check out one or two. But these ones, from Opposition days when I was in Opposition, the now-Opposition Government used to allow me to bring packages from Belmopan, sealed packages, delivered to Immigration over here; whatever Immigration San Pedro had, I would take it either on a Monday or Tuesday when I go.”
“But Minister, why would such – they turned you into a general courier; didn’t they have other people, specifically from the Immigration Department, who could have done that?”
Manuel Heredia Jr.
“Not really; these people go once a month, because remember they’re based over here – if you want to travel and it’s not official, you have to pay out of your pocket.”
Heredia also noted that he was a last resort; the Department also used Tropic Air at times to fly packages to the island. He also complained that since the practice was stopped, service to the island has slowed down.