With two days to go before the election, the best advice to any incumbent politician with any kind of spots on their track record is to lay low, ride it out, and by all means avoid the media. But counter-intuitively San Pedro Mayor Elsa Paz did the opposite today: she invited the media, and the entire town to come and ask questions as she laid out the Auditor General’s queries about the San Pedro Town Council’s accounting for public monies spend. The Auditor General raised legitimate questions about the council’s conduct and performance and the Mayor sailed headlong into them – sounds like a Kamikaze mission right? Well it wasn’t – here’s what happened.

Jules Vasquez Reporting,
Flanked by Area Representative Junior Herredia Mayor Elsa Paz reviewed the Auditor General’s questions about irregularities that came up in their review of the accounts from 2001 to 2006.

Mayor Elsa Paz, San Pedro
“Kindly indicate why the Area Representative who is not an employee of the council is paid subsistence allowance. Answer: subsistence was paid to the Area Representative for Belize Rural South for trips made to Belmopan City to perform duties on behalf of the San Pedro Town Council.”

A bit tedious reading out all the queries a presentation that may have caused an accountant to nod off but the mayor proceeded and the hint of impropriety took it on the chin.

Mayor Elsa Paz,
“The minutes dated April 15th 2003 depicted that the council moved that a new golf cart be bought for Mayor Elsa Paz’s usage. The motion moved that the present golf cart be sold to the highest bidder. Former Councillor Valdemar Graniel purchased the golf cart from the San Pedro Town Council. Kindly inform how the cart could have been sold to the former councillor when the council had only just passed the motion on the aforementioned date that it would be sold to the highest bidder. It could not be traced where the amount was collected and accounted for in the council’s book of accounts. Answer: no deeds were taken for the purchase of the cart because the councillor in question was the only person on the island who owned a similar cart of the same make. No payments was removed for the sale of the golf cart.”

The cute part is that former councillor is now the PUP’s candidate for Mayor.

Valdemar Graniel, PUP Candidate
“That was a very old golf cart and it didn’t have a key, you just put it forward and it would go and it didn’t have a charger. So I asked for it, I asked to buy it, since they said it wasn’t feasible to repair it. So I asked for it and I offered them $300 for the golf cart and that was the transaction there.”

Jorge Aldana, San Pedro Sun
“The Mayor in her presentation said that you didn’t pay for it, there was no record that you paid for that golf cart.”

Valdemar Graniel,
“Well they don’t have records for anything according to her report today.”

And while this mayoral candidate got a post script, Mayor Elsa Paz had to go toe to toe and face to face with the PUP who who lined up to drill her with questions – but the Mayor remained cool.

Jorge Aldana,
“Mayor why was subsistence given to him knowing well that the Area Representative has a lot of money, is given a salary, and is given all allowances to carry out the duty of the people who elected him?”

Mayor Elsa Paz,
“Again that question has been answered very very clearly. It is not any salaries, it is a subsistence and it has been answered. It has been clearly answered.”

And the only time the temperature went up is when the Mayor went on the offensive.

Question: “In that report it states here that there was left behind for the Town Council for people of San Pedro 598 acres in North Ambergris. My question is does that land exist or has it been sold.”

Mayor Elsa Paz,
“Let me begin by saying that it was your PUP administration during 2000 to 2003 that started to sell this land. It was the same councillor Mel Spain and it was during that administration that that land was being sold and today I can say, yes, my administration has sold that land but ladies and gentlemen the monies are right here in front of your face. It covers Barrier Reef Drive with $1.7 million and then you have Pescador Drive with $1.3 million and also Angel Coral with $1.6 million. That is where the monies were spent, right there. It is in the eyes of the people and today your PUP administration, your PUP government cannot say where the monies from those lands that were sold by them, they didn’t give anything to our island.”

But in the end, there was equanimity

Mayor Elsa Paz,
“This was an audit general report from 2001 to 2006 which means from 2001 to 2003 it was under a PUP administration and from 2003 to 2006 it was during a UDP, under my administration. So both terms there were mistakes and today we are aware of the mistakes and we’re having the accountability to report to the people noh.”

Valdemar Graniel,
“Because everything was blaming and blaming the past administration so the way I see things is when you are elected, you are elected based on the promises to do better not to do the same or worse than the previous administration.”

And while the town PUP’s had hyped it as some sort of Political Waterloo for the Mayor, it was hardly that. First, attendance was sparse; in fact most of the people there were politically affiliated and second, the mayor was mostly unscathed by the repeated and insistent attacks. That sets the stage for Wednesday’s election where the PUP is hoping for what would be a massive upset and the UDP led by Mayor Paz hopes to get elected for a third straight term.

Channel 7