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Mike Campbell is writing for the Independent Newspaper. I will be posting his articles here.....

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San Pedro Beat

Town Clock�. The San Pedro Town Clock and Jumbotron electronic billboard was inaugurated Friday the 6th of January accompanied by heated controversy and a gigantic fireworks display. The controversy concerns the location of the clock tower in the middle of Barrier Reef Drive and the fact that it is a commercial advertising medium operated by the owners of Ramon's Village. The contract to build the tower was signed by the lame duck Mayor Elsa Paz and the owner of Ramon's without public consultation or a Town Council resolution. The fireworks display sparked fresh controversy as it appears that the fireworks were held back from an exceptionally lackluster New Year's celebration to be used for the clock inauguration which, "by coincidence", was held on Elsa Paz's birthday. The fireworks were truly spectacular.

DFC Fire� a fire consumed a residence located behind Bessie's store in the DFC area. The blaze broke out around 11:00am and was extinguished by the Faire Department with assistance from a bucket brigade in traditional San Pedro fashion. Fortunately there were no injuries. Donations for the family are being accepted by the Lions Club.

Caye Caulker� Caye Caulker is scheduled for a beach reclamation project. It will entail restoring some 1000' of beach as announced by Hon. Manuel Heredia Jr. The project is aimed at restoring Caye Caulker beaches and will be done by dredging.

San Pedro Politics�Belize Rural South and San Pedro politics is heating up as elections seem imminent. San Pedro candidates for mayor are Danny Guerro for the UDP, Conchita Flota for the PUP and Melanie Paz as an Independent candidate. For Area Representative the race is hotly contested between the incumbent Hon. Manuel Heredia Jr. for the UDP, Patty Arceo, for the PUP and Mike Campbell as an Independent candidate. These races are extremely close but the momentum seems to be shifting toward an Independent position for San Pedro. Belize Rural South is regarded as a watershed district and there is an increasing likelihood that BRS could go completely Independent with an Independent Village Chairman in Caye Caulker, an Independent Mayor for San Pedro and an Independent Area Rep for BRS. All eyes are on San Pedro in this very important race.



S. P. AIDS COMMISSION�The San Pedro AIDS Commission recently completed the painting of the wall at the back entrance to San Juan. The wall had previously been dedicated to graffiti and is now an enhancement of the community. The AIDS awareness murals were painted by Pablo Guerro. Pete Salazar of Caribena Enterprises donated the paint and many others also participated in this successful community project. Their effort has beautified the area and called attention to a very important topic.

CROC PROBLEMS�Crocodile problems persist in the low-lying residential areas of DFC and San Pablo with an unhealthy mix of crocs and children and pets. Previously, residents attempted to kill or capture the crocs after they would take up residence under their homes, with mixed results. New San Pedro residents Vince and Cheri Rose have dedicated their life in Belize to protecting this endangered species and now frequently assist in capturing these problem crocs. They currently operate American Crocodile Education Sanctuary (ACES) located at the Caribbean Shrimp Farm in Ladyville where Charlie McIntosh has given them sanctuary. They are licensed by the Forest Department and they currently care for 22 Morelet's and 4 American Crocs. The Morelets' were rescued from the collapse of Crocland. It is hoped that problem crocs from San Pedro can be relocated to the sanctuary in Ladyville as local relocation efforts have failed. Problem crocs nationwide can be reported to Cherie or Vince Rose at 666-3871 or 631-6366

DECISION 2012�Reef Radio/TV has announced a new program titled Decision 2012.The program is dedicated to providing a free media outlet for all political candidates and is aired between 7pm and 9pm. This is the first program of its kind in the country of Belize. The program was inaugurated Monday night with a two-hour interview with Mike Campbell, Independent candidate for Area Rep for BRS. The program will be rebroadcast throughout the week and weekend. Tuesday night was dedicated to Mel Paz, Independent candidate for mayor of San Pedro.

MAYORAL DEBATE�San Pedro Sun in conjunction with Reef Radio/TV have co-sponsored the first ever, mayoral debate in San Pedro which was held Wednesday 18 January at the Lion's Den from 7pm until 9pm. Mayoral candidates for San Pedro are Danny Guerro, UDP, Conchita Flota, PUP and Melanie Paz running as an Independent. The debate was broadcast live. Attendance was by invitation only and no applause was allowed during the course of the debate. During the debate the surrounding streets were closed to vehicular traffic and no political demonstrations of any type were allowed in the area or inside the venue. The final debate is scheduled for Monday 13 February.

HILBERTO SANCHEZ�Wednesday morning 18 January, on Good Morning San Pedro, Hilberto Sanchez tossed his hat in the ring as an Independent candidate for Town Council. Hilberto, who is originally from the Punta Gorda area, was accompanied by Booby Lopez of the V.I.P. Mr. Sanchez is the first Independent candidate to announce for the Town Council race.

SLIP AND FALL�Thomas Kimbrell, San Pedro resident and employee of Fido's was killed instantly in the early morning hours of 2 January as a result of Slip and fall. Mr. Kimbrell slipped on wet steps outside his 3rd floor apartment fell and broke his neck dying instantly.

TRAFFIC ACCIDENT�Jose Roberto Lazo, a 48 year old Honduran national, is in a coma after a collision between the bicycle he was riding and a Jeep Liberty driven by Maribel Marin. The accident occurred Monday, January 16th, at around 7:30pm on Seagrape Drive near the entrance to Escalante Subdivision.

CAYE CAULKER�Caye Caulker was saddened by the death of Mrs. Petrona Joseph nee Palacio, one of the matriarchs of Caye Caulker on Wednesday January 4th, 2012. Know as Mrs. Petty to local residents she was recently recognized by the community when she given a Lifetime Achievement Award. Caye Caulker, her family and friends, will all miss Mrs. Petty.

by Mike Campbell

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The Independent Movement

There has been much discussion about the new phenomenon in Belize politics called the "Independent Movement". The "Independent Movement" is best defined as the sharing of a grass roots feeling and belief that both parties are corrupt and have let us all down. This common feeling found throughout the country has grown to the point that it is referred to as a "movement". We have realized that the inefficient and corrupt government we struggle under is exactly as the parties want it to be. The constitution places all the authority for the government in the hands of the political party that wins the election and, as both parties have had multiple terms in office, is a fair assumption that the government is just as the parties want it to be.

Independents believe that corruption has become institutionalized to the point that it has lost it's definition. Many or most on the street believe that being in public office means you are corrupt and sadly many think it's ok so long as they can personally benefit from it. It is so ingrained in political life that many do not even realize that massive give-a-ways, be it turkeys or toys, is corruption and both parties are guilty. They will no doubt quickly defend themselves as being Christmas spirited when in fact, it is, in the simplest terms, a politician giving gifts to constituents. Only an Independent can hold such views, the parties simply do not allow that type of thinking.

Independents believe that the "controlled democracy" that the parties pass off on us is a farce and contrary to the public good and certainly does not represent the people as was intended in our constitution. When elected as an Area Representative, any party member becomes obligated to support his party regardless of anything. Incredibly he looses the right to represent his constituents and becomes a representative of the party/government instead of a representative of his constituents. Hon. Marcel Cardona spoke out about the unequal treatment his constituency was receiving and was subjected to every form of humiliation the government could offer. As an elected UDP representative the most he can do is abstain from voting as voting against a party proposal would cause him to loose his seat EVEN THOUGH HE WAS DULY ELECTED BY HIS CONSTITUENTS. If Hon. Heredia were to oppose offshore drilling the same would happen to him, regardless of the views of his constituents. An Independent believes that it is the responsibility of the Representative to work first and foremost for the good of his constituents trying at all times to represent their wishes and needs.

Independents believe that the politics of fear keep many from running for office and openly supporting such Independents regardless of their inner acknowledgement of the validity of the Independent position. Indeed the tactics of fear are alive and well in our politics. They range from instilling fear of reprisal from government-controlled agencies, lack of "cronyism benefits" such as land and jobs, withholding of funding for constituencies and threats of violence against candidates. This is a fact of life for the Independent.

The only way to combat this fear is to confront it head on. It is time to confront the bully. From what I can gather most people are totally fed up with both parties and would vote for a viable Independent candidate if given the chance. If we can get enough Independents elected we can force transparency and accountability and adherence to existing anti corruption laws that have been totally ignored by both parties. We must restore integrity to our government if we are ever going to attract the foreign investment we need to fuel private sector growth.

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A cogent commentary

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Marlon Castro �died January 27th after a bout with cancer. Marlon was born September20th 1980 and was 31 at the time of his death. He is survived by his wife and two children. Runway lights at the San Pedro Airport�were recently vandalized. The wire was stolen in the latest case of unknown persons stealing copper wire. The runway lights were donated to San Pedro by Wings of Hope.

Jerry Jeff Walker �will be appearing at Wet Willie's this weekend.

Kelly McGuire �will be playing at Fido's this week with a pre-Super Bowl Bash starting at 3pm.

Road repair �has begun with hard core being dumped in the biggest holes in a never ending cycle of filling and grading the sand/dirt streets.

First Ever Area Representative debates �are tentatively scheduled for February 17th between incumbent Hon. Manuel Heredia Jr., PUP Standard Bearer Patty Arceo and Independent candidate Mike Campbell. The second round of the mayoral debates will be cancelled to allow the Area Representative candidates to debate the issues on live TV.

Mayor Elsa Paz�has released her end of term report. This is the first financial report in three years and gave rise to more questions than answers. On Good Morning San Pedro co-host David Marin suggested that it would be good if future financial reports were issued in writing a week before the public presentation so the documented could be examined and meaningful questions asked and hopefully answered. The finances of the Town Council are being brought under scrutiny with two of the three mayoral candidates promising forensic audits if elected. The Town Council Act requires financial reports from the Town Council quarterly.

Business climate �is depressed after a very slow start to the year. Many businesses are reporting worst ever for this period with no real hope until mid-February when bookings start to increase. The strength of the season remains in doubt.

Caye Caulker �water rates will remain unchanged as the nationwide rate reduction will not be applied to Caye Caulker.

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Two year deficit �was reported by the San Pedro Town Council. The amounts are in question as the report was not audited and did not seem to add up. The two year deficit was reported to be in excess $800,000. Lame duck Mayor Elsa Paz continues erecting monuments around town commemorating the accomplishments of her administration while not explaining the deficit. There was also no mention of her personal vehicle which she reportedly sold to the Town Council for the same price she paid for it two years previously. This was the first report of her administration even though the law calls for quarterly reports. The town awaits a new mayor and promises of a forensic audit.

North Ambergris Caye �has had another rash of burglaries. The remoteness of the area makes police protection and response very difficult with an understaffed and under equipped police force.

Politics �dominated San Pedro life this week with a carnival atmosphere on the streets with all the colorful banners.

The Independent

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Land Fraud�allegations have been leveled at San Pedro Town Council employees and elected officials in collusion with those in higher offices. The primary instance involves the sale of Lot 12 in Mata Grande. This lot and all of the coast of North Ambergris Caye has been in private ownership for generations. The property in question, which is legally owned by foreigners and is valued at around US$500,000 was transferred by the GOB with the recommendation of Manuel Heredia into the name of a Town Council employee for BZ$6,500.

Police Brutality�allegations have been leveled by the parent of a 13 year old child allegedly detained and beaten by San Pedro Police. An investigation is underway. All parents are advised they should know the whereabouts of their children at all times.

LEO's�of San Pedro have announced a Valentine Day's dance for teenagers at the Lion's Den. The LEO's youth group that is affiliated with the Lion's Club has been reborn in San Pedro. It is aimed at teenagers and teaches them leadership and organizational skills. LEO stands for Leadership, Experience, and Opportunity. This group is chaired by Ismael Kay. There are now 26 members and this is the only active LEO club in Belize.

Savadoranan community�celebrated the 11th anniversary of the founding of the Association of Salvadoranos. The Salvadoran community is very integrated into San Pedro society and economy and is a responsible part of our community.

Fundraisers� are a regular part of San Pedro life. We have recently had fundraisers for the San Pedro Diabetes Association. The San Pedro Cancer society had a blood drive, the Saga Society also had a fundraiser and Mama Vilma's women's shelter had a very successful fashion show which raised over $10,000 for their cause. The expat community is a strong supporter of all worthy causes in San Pedro and their generosity is always appreciated.

The Independent

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Harrison "Bin" Jacobs � has been charged with the murder of Francis Alexander Figuerroa Cardenas on November 28th of last year in the San Juan Area of San Pedro Town. "Sometime before 5:40AM on Sunday, November 28th, police were called to the corner of Seaweed and Sand Piper Streets in the San Juan area of San Pedro Town. There, Police observed a dark skinned person of Creole descent, leaning in a sitting position on a blue concrete fence with what appeared to be a single gunshot wound to the head. The man who was known to police as Bejon Wade was later identified as 20 year old Francis Alexander Figuerroa Cardenas. Mr. Cardenas is of a Belize City address, but was reportedly working on Ambergris Caye." Mr. Jacobs has been remanded until his next appearance scheduled for 19 April 2012.

Inter-American Development Bank� held its 26th annual Meeting of the Governors of the Central American Isthmus and the Dominican Republic at Coco Beach on North Ambergris Caye. President Mr. Luis Alberto Moreno and Acting Prime Minister Gaspar Vega gave opening statements stressing the region's vulnerability to the economic turmoil in Europe and the slower than expected US financial recovery. Mr. Moreno stressed the IDB's commitment to infrastructural and education projects that increase our growth capacities. Mr. Moreno stressed the need for planning in regards to climate change, as this region will be among the most affected areas in the world as the climate continues to change and its effects become more apparent. In an interview Mr. Moreno stated that Belize was paying 1.5% for 25 years on its loans but the technical services provided by the bank were more important than the cost of the loan.

Miguel Martinez� age 26 was found dead in his holding cell at the San Pedro Police Station Tuesday morning, 21 February 2012 after being detained by police earlier in the day for disorderly conduct in an intoxicated state. Mr. Martinez was found handcuffed and in his boxers. Reportedly his pants were found in front of the station. Relatives claim that witnesses saw the police beating Miguel in front of the station before taking him inside and that is why his pants were found outside. Word on the street is that the cell was emptied of other prisoners who were moved to a different cell and Miguel was placed in the cell and beaten to death. Police brutality charges are becoming the norm in San Pedro. Mr. Martinez had been detained about a week and a half previous to this incident after erratic behavior led to him being sedated at the Polyclinic. Police claim there were no signs of violence upon the body, which has been transported to KHMH. The police stated he was taken into custody and placed in the cell where he caused a disturbance, when they next checked on him he was found to be dead.

Caye Caulker News:

Melissa Chan� recently graduated from the University of Belize with a Bachelor's Degree in Education. Congratulations to Melissa Chan.

Eduardo Arceo� the owner of Rose's Grill and Bar in Caye Caulker has recently been awarded an International Catering Award from The Trade Leaders Club in Madrid Spain at the 37th International Award For Tourist, Hotel and Catering Industry. Rose's is an excellent seafood restaurant on Caye Caulker and certainly worth a try on your next visit.

Blayd Christopher Vernon� is the proud winner of the Zone 5 Spelling Bee. This is the first time in 17 years a Caye Caulker student has won the spelling bee. Chelsea Rodriguez took fourth place. Congratulations to Blayd and Chelsa.

The Independent

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