Rene Montero's Family Collected Over $3 Million Dollars In Compensations, Documents Show
PUP Leader John Briceno showed the media nine land compensation agreements whereby friends and relatives of UDP Ministers were highly compensated by the Government of Belize. According to Briceno, in one year alone the then Minister of Natural Resources, Gaspar Vega, paid out over seventy million dollars as land compensation. He says that at least three point one million dollars went to the Montero family. The documents that Briceno shared with the media show that the agreements were signed between July and August of 2011. These persons reportedly purchased the land back in 1998 but were compensated for it 13 years later at an exorbitant price.
John Briceno PUP Leader
“Yvette Montero got several acres of land six miles north of Ambergris Caye and she paid $3,080 for it. Minister Vega, the Deputy Prime Minister and approved by the Ministry of Finance agreed to compensate Yvette Montero $245,000. Miguel Montero got ten acres- again north west of San Pedro for $4,400, four acres f land four miles northwest of San Pedro for $1,760 and .13 acres of land at Privacion Enclave area in the Mountain Pine Ridge for $4,428- for those three parcels land Miguel Montero was compensated $721,000. Ismael Montero got 10.2 acres in Privacion Enclave Mountain Pine Ridge for $2,220 and he was compensated $82,352 for that parcel of land. Yvette Montero again got ten acres of land in the Privacion Enclave Mountain Pine Ridge from $2,204 and was compensated $80,000 for that land. Jaime Montero got five acres of land six miles south west of San Pedro for $2,200 and he was compensated $175,00 for that land. Alejandro Montero got ten acres in the Privacion Enclave I haven’t found the grant number for that yet but he was given $80,000 as per the agreement that we have right here. And then Alejandro Montero got another four acres north west of San Pedro for $1,760 and then got another five acres of land in the same area for $2,200 and was compensated for these two parcels of land for $395,000. The Montero family collected $1,778,352 and to add salt to injury as they say, they were given 7% interest from the date of acquisition so when you combine everything the interest was approximately $1,369,331. The Montero family have been compensated by we the taxpayers of this country a grand total of $3,147,683 dollars give or take a few dollars. I think it’s unconscionable that a person like Minister Montero could still be in the cabinet and one of the most powerful Ministers. Prime Minister needs to get rid of Montero, he needs to do something because if he doesn’t do anything then the Belizean people are going to start to say ‘maybe you are directly responsible for what has been taking place under your watch and the actions that your minister have been taking. It’s systemic.”
Briceno is calling on the Prime Minister to order an immediate investigation into the matter.
Briceño, himself a former Lands Minister, says the seventy-one million figure paid out for land compensation is more than three times the amount paid out under his Ministry in eight years in charge. As for why the land was taken back, Briceño says there were separate issues at play. But he notes that none of the affected landowners came to him seeking compensation during his tenure. The delay appeared to have paid significant dividends.
John Briceño, P.U.P. Leader
“These lands were given two months before the general elections. For instance, Jaime Montero got his land the twenty-sixth of May, 1998. Just before the election, remember, there was this fleecing where they were giving out land and we had elections in August; just hurry giving out. And then the one in Privassion – again, these lands were acquired back by the Government because it was a Cabinet decision, that these lands needed to be taken back by the hands of Government for two reasons. One, is that the Privassion Enclave was an important watershed, and the Forestry Department was against it from day one, that it shouldn’t have been given out. And they were asking that it be taken back and closed off for watershed protection. And the other one was that this land had not been settled, on northern Ambergris Caye. I’m trying to remember the gentleman – he is living in San Antonio, married to a lady Perera. We acquired, I’m sure you remember, about nine thousand acres of land that was bought from the estate, and we had not settled yet, we hadn’t paid for it. And then the Cabinet said we need to take that back so that we can try to settle with the family [owners] of that land.”
“Were there any efforts by the Monteros to claim compensation for these lands and were they resisted?”
“I couldn’t answer because they never asked me for a meeting. Maybe they met with the C.E.O. or the Commissioner of Lands, I don’t know. But they never requested a meeting with me. Because if they had requested, I would have met with them and yes, we’d have tried to work out a reasonable compensation – nowhere close to what is up there. And for them, it was an investment. Imagine, you invested three thousand and eighty dollars in 1998, and you figure, ‘my Government the U.D.P. will get in there and when they get in we’ll settle it,’ so like you put that money in the bank; it’s not a lot of money.”
“With how the U.D.P. was in ’98, you’d have to be a heck of an optimist.”
“They knew eventually they were going to get there.”
“I’m sure many P.U.P.’s have felt the same way since 2008.”
“Right, but now they feel different. We’ll get there. The point is, it was a good investment. From three thousand and eighty to two hundred and forty-five thousand dollars – my boy, I would wait ten years.”
The P.U.P. is poring over documents for other well-connected U.D.P.’s who got land during that pre-general election spree in 1998, including former Lands Minister Edwardo “Dito” Juan and Rene Montero himself. In the meantime, Briceño called on the Prime Minister, substantive Minister of Natural Resources, to take action and fire Montero.
PUP Attacks UDP Minister Rene Montero’s Family For Land Compensation Payouts
It’s only days to go before the municipal elections, and the PUP has been trying to rock - and hopefully turnover the UDP’s boat - by releasing information pointing to UDP ministerial corruption. Last night you Minister Boots Martinez defend himself against the claims of contractor - slash- front man - Kirk Lamb.
Tonight, it’s Rene Montero who’s in the PUP’s targets. The opposition leader held a press conference to detail 9 compensation agreements his family members got from the Ministry of Natural Resources between August of 2009 and 2011. This is for land they first acquired at the end of the 1998 Esquivel Administration - which the PUP then took away from them. Briceno claims the compensation was disproportionate and the product of insider trading:…
Hon. John Briceno - Leader of the Opposition "Here we managed to get a few copies like this, there are many more in the Ministry of Natural Resources of the agreement that was signed by the family of Minister Montero. Yvette Montero got 7 acres of land 6 miles north of Ambergris Caye, she paid 3,080 dollars. Minister Vega the deputy prime minister and approved by the Ministry of Finance agreed to compensate Yvette Montero 245 thousand dollars. Miguel Montero got 10 acres again northwest of San Pedro for 4,400. 4 acres of land 4 miles northwest of San Pedro for 1,760 dollars and 20.13 acres of land at Prevassion Enclave in the Mountain Pine Ridge for 4,428 dollars. For those 3 parcells of land Miguel Montero was compensated 721 thousand dollars. The Montero family collection 1 million 778 thousand 352 dollars and to add salt to injury as you would say they were given 7 percent interest from the date of acquisition. So when you combine everything the interest is approximately 1 million 369 thousand 331 dollars. The Montero family have been compensated by we the taxpayers of this country a grand total of 3 million 147 thousand 383 dollars. This is a direct indictment of cabinet and the prime minster, the minister of finance. The Cabinet knew from day one what they were doing that is why the prime minister needs to get rid of Montero, he's to do something because if he doesn't do anything then the Belizean people are going to start to say maybe you are directly responsible for what has been taking place under your watch."
Briceno is central to the compensation case because he was the Minister of Natural Resources who took the lands away from the Montero family. He said the Musa Administration had to take back the lands for a public purpose:
Hon. John Briceno - Leader of the Opposition "These lands were given 2 months before the general elections. For instance Jaime Montero got his land the 26th of May 1998 just before remember there was this fleecing of them giving away land before the general elections and then these lands were acquired back by the government and was a cabinet decision that these lands needed to be taken back into the hands of government for two reasons. One is that the Prevassion Enclave was an important watershed and the forestry department was against it from day one that it should have never been given out and they were asking that it be taken back and closed off for watershed protection. And the other one was this land on northern Ambergris Caye was not settled yet and you could have never worked out a compensation but they waited their time, they wanted to wait until their government go in then who do we have there Gaspar Vega and Montero."
Jules Vasquez "Sir when you were the minister of natural resources where they any efforts by the Monteros to claim compensation for lands and were those resisted?"
Hon. John Briceno "I could not answer because they never asked me for a meeting. Maybe they met with the CEO or the commissioner of lands I don't know but they never requested a meeting with me because if they would have requested I would have met with them and try to work out a reasonable compensation nowhere close to what is up there and for them it was an investment. Imagine you invest 3 thousand and 80 dollars in 1998 and you figure my government the UDP will go in and when they go in we will settle it so it’s like you put that in the bank."
Jules Vasquez "In 1998 you had to be a heck of an optimist."
Hon. John Briceno "They knew eventually they were going to get there. 3 thousand and 80 dollars to 245 thousand dollars my boy I would have waited 10 years."
A Montero family representative told us that the lands which Briceno as Minster took back for a public purpose - he turned around and transferred to PUP cronies - including 75 acres in Pine Ridge and all the land in San Pedro. They say that is illegal because it was acquired for a public purpose. They add that a portion of the same compensation he is complaining about was given during his administration. They also add these are old issues which have been well ventilated many years ago.