United Democratic Party protests without police authorization

The United Democratic Party took to the streets of Belize City today in protest. After failing to acquire the necessary permits from the Belize Police Department to demonstrate, the U.D.P. still went ahead and executed its plan to march against the cost of fuel. However, protestors were brought together at a time when the party's leadership is divided. So, there were a few senior members who were noticeably absent from the frontlines today, including Patrick Faber and Tracy Panton. Notwithstanding their nonappearance, the demonstration was carried out without incident. Police officers were stationed at various points along the route, but they were only there to maintain the peace and not to put a stop to the march. News Five's Paul Lopez reports on what was the first organized U.D.P. rally since they were voted out of office in November 2020.

Paul Lopez, Reporting

Today's protest, organized by the U.D.P., began at their headquarters on Youth for the Future Drive. Protestors made their way unto to Vernon Street and then unto Central American Boulevard. There, they made a brief stop in front of a Shell gas station, purportedly owned by Prime Minister John Brice�o, to protest against the current fuel prices. U.D.P. Party Leader Moses "Shyne" Barrow was among those leading the protest.

Moses "Shyne" Barrow, U.D.P. Party Leader

"It is time for action. Lower the gas prices, lower the cost of living, bring relief to the people. We are tired of Johnny Brice�o going into the House of Representatives, telling us that he understand and is doing nothing. People are suffering."

Barrow was flanked by former Belize City Councilor Phillip Willoughby, his Second Deputy Beverly Williams, the former Area Representative for Belize Rural North Edmond Castro, and the former Belmopan Area Representative John Saldivar.

John Saldivar, Former Belmopan Area Rep.

"Well I am here to support the party and my party leader to let the world and country know that we are behind the honorable Shyne as our party leader. We are united. We are definitely fighting against the situation in the country right now with respect to cost of living. We have to, this is intolerable and it is unnecessary. All the other countries of the world, in fact in our region, are coming up with some kind of package to help to relief poor people from these prices. Not here in Belize, instead we keep the price of gas elevated, why because they want to get back revenues, while these people suffer."

From the Shell gas station, the procession made its way down Cemetery Road and unto Youth for the Future Drive at U.D.P. Headquarters where the protest came to an end.� Party Leader Barrow says the U.D.P. will continue to take action until the Brice�o Administration lowers the cost of fuel.

Moses "Shyne" Barrow, U.D.P. Party Leader

"We are bringing attention to the problems of this nation and we will continue to take action until we see measurable responses from the government and ultimately these results will be that we will form the next government because people are tired of the pain and suffering. This is not about me. This is about the Belizean people who are suffering. You are suffering, everyone is suffering. The business community is suffering, the poor people are suffering.� The gas prices need to come down."

And, while there was skepticism on Monday as to whether or not the U.D.P. would receive support for its protest, the party was able to draw a gathering. Party Chairman Michael Peyrefitte spoke with reporters about the turnout and questions about whether any promises of handouts were made to protestors.

Michael Peyrefitte, Chairman, U.D.P.

"Promises, promises of a better Belize, we don't pay people to demonstrate. So, like I told people on the radio yesterday, if dah mih just me one ih mih wah alright. With tell people that this is what we are going doing and people choose to join. We don't organize it to an extent like that. We say we will meet here. We will move off from here, walk to the gas station and come back."

Paul Lopez

"But sir, you know how these things work. Some people will expect a fifty dollars or something like that after the protest."

Michael Peyrefitte, Chairman, U.D.P.

"And, I did not expect Ben Affleck to marry Jennifer Lopez again, but that is my disappointment. You can expect anything you want. But, what I am saying, that is not our plan. That is not what we did. That is not what you do when you are trying to rebuild organically a mass party like the U.D.P. You cannot pay people to be a part of a movement. You cannot pay people to be a part of a party. They have to believe in you. And, we have to demonstrate we believe in them and the nation, and that is what brought out everybody here today."

Leonardo Samos, Protestor

"My name is Leonardo Samos. As a delegate of the U.D.P., I am proud to say this that I believe it is time for Johnny to move from here."

Harry Longsworth, Protestor

"It is the best protest we have had since Pup took over. Prices are too high. I gawn buy a cup of coffee this morning and they raise it to fifty cents. What you think of the gas?"

Steven Buckley, Protestor

"Bredrig, right now I not even got a job. That's the first thing with me; I not even got a job. I guh try sih my politicians them fih get a job and deh not even want give me a job. You understand weh I the come from king. I need a help."

Channel 5

UDP Flexes, Stages Defiant, Illegal Protest

The UDP's took it to the streets today - for the first time in YEARS. It was - as they say - a heat check, or maybe a cold one - the determine if the UDP - whose power and popularity base has always been in the city - still had the political muscle to flex.

Cherisse Halsall found them not exactly muscular, but definitely lean and hungry. Did that mean a clash with police. Thankfully, not today. Here's her report from the streets:

The UDP left its Belize City headquarters at least 200 strong this morning. It was a promised yet illegal protest that went down Vernon street, all the way to the Shell One stop, which they call the Prime Minister's gas station and then back to headquarters. Police presence was minimal, and they did not interfere with the crowd.

"Sir will you resist arrest if the police make an arrest?"

Shyne Barrow, Leader Of the Opposition
"No I will not, this is a peaceful demonstration, the police have a job to do and I have a job to do as the leader of the opposition I have to stand up for the Belizean people and enough talking enough is enough."

The party's newly installed Secretary-General expressed that this movement was one that the police would have been unwise to try and stop.

Juliet Thimbrel, Secretary General, UDP
"It's well overdue that is the bottom line it is well overdue. We didn't get permission but we didn't have to get permission to express our dissatisfaction with what is happening in the country."

Cherisse Halsall:
"Are you surprised that the police are not trying to break up this protest right now?"

Juliet Thimbrel, Secretary General, UDP
"I'm not surprised because they know the anger of the people and when they try to do something like that they will expect a reaction that they don't want."

And the leader of the opposition - heading his first demonstration as party leader - was in fine form chanting energetically all the way there and stopping briefly in front of the Shell One Stop to address the press.

Shyne Barrow, Leader Of the Opposition
"We need relief. When you have the Prime Minister that owns a gas station and the gas keeps going up. It keeps going up, bring down the gas prices! bring down the cost of living! stop the corruption!, the Belizean people need relief!"

"We believe that it is a conflict of interest to have a Prime Minister that has vested interest in a gas station and now we have the highest, the highest gas prices ever, that is problematic and we need action. We want action."

Cherisse Halsall:
"Sir, your people are blocking the street without police permission?"

Shyne Barrow, Leader Of the Opposition
"Lower the gas prices, focus, lower the cost of living this is about higher gas prices than we have ever seen, this is about the highest cost of living that we have ever seen in this country and we need relief that is what this is all about."

And while Patrick Faber - whose division the protest was held in - and Tracy Taegar Panton were not there, we did see a few former UDP reps. People like former minister Edmond Castro and the once scandalized but still relevant former John Saldivar.

Edmond Castro, Former Area Rep
"I think it's a good start and I believe that for two long they thought we were dead and nobody is satisfied with the way this PUP government is running the country. Especially the gas pain, the gas pain seems to be crippling everybody, the entire economy, how they used them but now they don't know it now? So, even if for nothing else I came out because I can't stand the high cost of fuel."

"Like all new birth or re-birth we go through that kind of a thing and for sure that the UDP will come back again and form the next government in the next 18 months or so. We will get our act together."

John Saldivar, Member UDP
"Well, anytime gas goes up everything else goes up. Gas has been unbearably high for several months now and we have seen prices come down everywhere else in the world except for Belize. The Prime Minister says he is trying to recover his revenues but meantime the people are suffering. So we have to demonstrate against this."

Phillip Willoughby, UDP Port Loyola
"I won't go farther than to say that he, as the leader of this nation has the prerogative to lower the cost of fuel and he has denied the Belizean people this. He has denied us long enough and it is high time that the opposition takes to the floor, and start leading, the bottom line. If he cannot lead then it is time for us to take back the leadership of this country and lower the cost of gas for the Belizean people and for the sake and the health of the economy."

"Thanks to the people from Port Loyola who is out here supporting me and the party leader and the UDP today. I am much much grateful and I'm glad and I'm happy."

Second Deputy Leader Beverly Castillo poked some fun at our news director's crowd predictions and shared what it is about the PUP that brought the crowd out today.

Beverley Castillo, Second Deputy Party Leader
"It's a start it's not as small as Jules said it would be, but it is a start, right? The Belizean people have to know that as leaders we are prepared to defend them, defend their rights, defend the social net and bring it back for the Belizean people."

"Corruption the finances just doing what they want, interfering with the social security money, those things that are built on the safety net for our country. They are just wrong, just going off doing whatever they want that is what the Belizean people are saying right, so we have to be the defenders of the Belizean people as the loyal opposition."

Diane Finnegan, Member of the UDP
"We voted so that they can come in and make, put in place the solutions for crime and violence for the minimum wage all the promises that they said todos ganamos, what are we really winning? Some families are mourning the loss of their children at the hands of the very law that should be protecting us. So, we are saying enough is enough and the people must come out this is not about politics this is about survival."

But survival for the UDP may be hard-won if rumblings of internal division refuse to cease. Notable this morning was Patrick Faber's absence and the absence of his core group of loyalists. We asked some in the crowd about his whereabouts.

Cherisse Halsall:
"Sir what about the health of the UDP how do you see that right now?"

Phillip Willoughby, UDP Port Loyola
"Well, you are seeing it here, Belize city is represented here. If at any time, any individual cannot reconcile to the party then it is time for he or she to go, let's part ways and let the way of the party forge forward with the support of the people."

John Saldivar, Member UDP
"I am very pleased by the turnout, almost a spontaneous protest. We only announced it a few days ago. So, I am very satisfied with the turnout."

Cherisse Halsall:
"Sir this protest is primarily taking place in Collett and yet Patrick Faber is not here why is that?"

John Saldivar, Member UDP
"I think he's out of the country as far as I know."

Cherisse Halsall:
"Sir are any of Patrick Fabers supporters out here?"

Phillip Willougby
"Yes, yes, Yes."

But the leader of the opposition spent the morning dodging any and all questions about Faber, and staying on message.

"Who is your leadership team out here?"

Shyne Barrow, Leader of The Opposition
"That is the very crux of this matter, the Prime Minister and the Minister of finance needs to lower the gas prices and lower the cost of living. The delegates are my leadership."

"Lower the cost of living, lower the gas prices."

Channel 7