US Capital energy has come under sustained criticism in southern Belize – where the oil company has been harshly criticized by community groups such as SATIIM, the Maya Leaders Alliance and the Toledo Alcalde’s Association. But, the reality on the ground is not as simple as a press release; poverty is widespread in Toledo and US capital energy has lots of money to go around, both in terms of the jobs they create and the hearts and minds they can win over with donations. Yesterday, Monica Bodden went south to find out about how they’re generating goodwill and bi-partisan political clout inside the communities, even as community leaders try to fend them off at the official level.

Monica Bodden reporting
For over 6 years USCapital Energy Belize Limited has been working in a number of communities in the Toledo District. The company is trying to show the communities how the Petroleum industry brings the promise of development.

Nial Gillett - PR Consultant, Us Capital Energy
"What the US Capital is doing is that they have been in these communities for over six years and they've invested a lot of money in these communities to show that the petroleum industry can bring development to these communities. Behind us right here we have the Roman Catholic School that was start by SIF - the downstairs and it was completed by US Capital so the entire upstairs was done by US Capital. This is just one of the various places that we're demonstrating our commitment to development in Toledo. Even before the company has even found a drop of oil. So we're doing this as far as a partnership with the communities, partnerships with the people who are working here providing jobs and employment and mostly showing what development can do."

As a part of the Education week observances, USCapital Energy Belize Ltd teamed up with the Minister of Education presenting education projects in the Toledo District. The 2 day tour kicked off yesterday at 9am and our team tagged along for a part of it. After a 30 minute drive from out of Punta Gorda Town, we arrived in the village of Santa Anna and stopped in at their Government School. 16 brand-new computers with internet were donated to the 84 primary school students.

George Tillett - School Principal
"This is going to be a great contribution to the academy for the students and also for their development because it's going to go far beyond just the primary school. We're already seeing progress in mathematics and in English and Science. So the students are making good use of the computers and they are using it from infant 1 to standard 6. It is quite interesting because we might make the assumption that these students may not know but when they get on the computer there's a switch in them that just turns on. They are amazing me of something the things they are doing on the computers. These children are programmed for these type of things and they are using it well. In fact every time they have a break they come and use the computer and they're doing well with it."

Nial Gillett - PR Consultant, Us Capital Energy
"Rather than do the opening on our own - most of the projects are all education based so we've partnered with the Ministry of Education to have the Hon. Patrick Faber come along and do the official presentation of these projects as part of education week. Even on the drive here you noticed that a lot of the roads there's a lot of improvements and a lot of bridges because it doesn't make sense to have a good school and you can't get to it so the company has also invested hundreds of thousands of dollars to make those things possible as well."

And the tour continued to 6 other villages. 3 of those were St John’s Baptist R.C School in Conejo Village where the 71 students all benefit from the 14 brand-new computers with internet, a generator and fuel support. Next was Sundaywood primary school in Sunday Wood village. The 115 students received a brand-new library and 16 computers with internet. Next stop was Crique Sarco High School who benefited from a school building upgrade, and a set of brand-new computers with internet. Within the last 6 years, the petroleum company has donated over 400 hundred computers.

Nial Gillett - PR Consultant, Us Capital Energy
"It's a really really wonderful computer program we've installed 400 or more computers in many of these different schools and it's not just giving a computer it's actually a lot more than that. It's about creating a program which is approved by the Ministry of Education and the students are individually tracked and they're all individually have demonstrated over the last few years that they're grades have skyrocketed especially in the PSE. This is just another way of US Capital to show let's provide education to our children."

Minister of Education, Patrick Faber explained to us how this initiative ties in with the theme for Education week which is 'Working Together'.

Hon. Patrick Faber - Minister of Education
"It's not just a handing over of the computers as we know that could be dangerous to children in fact there's also an accompanying software that helps them in the curriculum that is being donated so the ministry puts it stamp of approval on such a project and that is the reason that I am here and I’m absolutely happy to be a part of this initiative to bring this kind of development to the schools here in Toledo which by extension of course develop Belize. This is an initiative by one of our partners, US Capital Energy and of course we have many great partners in education that help us on a daily basis to make sure we execute in this ministry. When you have an event like this and you have everybody from the village coming out and you have our other partners and stake holders being a part of the initiative - it sends the right signal for efforts in education to bring everybody on board and I’m very happy about that."

The tour continued today.

Channel 7