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Joined: Oct 1999
Posts: 84,400
Marty Offline OP
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Barred from the USA

Tonight the UDP may be at its lowest low - its former party leader and former Minister of National Security John Saldivar has been designated by the US State Department as involved in "significant corruption" while he was in office.

In an extraordinary public declaration issued this afternoon, Saldivar becomes the first Belizean official to be named as "significantly corrupt" by the US. As a consequence of this he and his immediate family have been barred entry to the United States indefinitely.

What triggered it? Well, Saldivar has a well publicized history of relationships with criminal characters - principally Danny Mason and Lev Dermen. The US says he abused Coast Guard vessels and took bribes for the improper acquisition of Belizean Immigration documents - which may go way back to the immigration scandal of 2013 when UDP Ministers were found to be making recommendations for Asians seeking visas.

Tonight to re-visit the Lev Dermen angle of the Saldivar saga and its consequences - Jules Vasquez updates the story he first did in February of 2020 - after the Dermen revelations forced Saldivar to step down as UDP Leader:

Throughout the Lev Dermen ordeal, perhaps what has been the most amazing is John Saldivar's insistence that he did nothing wrong with Jacob Kingston or Lev Dermen.

Jules Vasquez, reporter
"Do you look to Utah next week with anxiety?"

Hon. John Saldivar, UDP Leader Elect - Feb 09
"No, not at all, I know that there's nothing that's gonna come form that that's gonna affect me in any negative way."

How wrong he knew he was - in less than 72 hours, John Saldivar went from the political pinnacle to the political dumpster.

And his demise was cemented with the release of these text messages with Jacob Kingston. Saldivar - on his known cell phone number - is seen to ask Jacob Kingston to send 50 thousand US dollars to Miami for him to pick up. Saldivar tells Kingston he is, quote "out of cash" and, quote, "Really need(s) the February tranche". He declined a wire transfer - which leaves a paper trail, saying, "Hmmm. Not sure that's a good idea." Saldivar says he could fly to Miami to pick it up. How much? Well "the usual" as he refers to it is 25k monthly, but Saldivar asked for the March disbursement at the same time. One has to ask, with such regular monthly payments, what was Lev Dermen and his associate buying or paying for? Saldivar says nothing.

For sure the business they were doing needed no invoice and no receipt, just a casual "Nuff thanks," for a hundred grand delivered to Miami, with love from Utah. Perhaps that casual rejoinder is an illustration of how commonplace it was, perhaps not.

Hon. Patrick Faber, UDP Area Rep
"Saldivar is a fighter and is one who keeps coming back."

But, to come back from this, cash money political fundraising in plain view, and possibly money laundering laid bare, will be difficult, if not impossible. But he came back from a convention defeat in 2010, and 2016, still to gain the greatest heights in the UDP political pantheon - even with a very dark cloud directly above his head - a feat of unmatched daring, not to be underestimated. But now that he has gone from victor to vapor in less than 72 hours, it will be interesting to see if Saldivar stages another comeback.

The man of many comebacks - probably can't come back from this one.

His designation as a "significantly corrupt" public official now seems to resolutely end any possibility that he can be viewed as a politically viable candidate.

The fact sheet on his designation says it is "due to his involvement in significant corruption. This designation renders Saldivar and his immediate family members generally ineligible for entry into the United States." The document later adds the names of these family members - and includes his child who is just a minor.

The opening paragraph says, bluntly, "Saldivar accepted bribes in exchange for improperly facilitating the acquisition of Belizean immigration documents and interfered in public processes for personal gain."

Later on it adds that he "misused a U.S.-donated Coast Guard boat for his personal gain." That, of course, was his famous boat ride with Lev Dermen - which in an audio clip ascribed to Saldivar, he is heard to refer to it casually:

John Saldivar
"Now I understand why when Lev mi come da Belize, when I take Lev on the Coast Guard Boat, I take Lev and all of these Mormons pan wa fishing trip out deh eena the coast guard boast and so... that is how he was, according to Jacob, asserting that, hey, yuh listen to me or else you could get F*** because I have friends all over the world, my network of F**** powerful people... That's how my name come to be mentioned. Da soh I di get the 25 thousand dollars every month. That's how my name come into it. Me get lotta F**** money from Lev."

Of course, there was also the time Saldivar used a coast Gard vessel to transport his football team:

News Anchor
"The US Government donated the vessels under very strict terms and sources tell us that the Americans have complained to Foreign Affairs about the alleged abuses.

The allegation, made first in the Belize Times last week is that the Coast Guard vessels were used to transport team members, management, family members and friends to San Pedro, whenever the Bandits have games scheduled on the island.

So, what is the US Embassy's specific interest? Well, the Boston Whalers which the US Embassy donated to the Coast Guard from as early as 2012 are allegedly among these vessels being used for the football friends and family ferry service."

But that was back in 2017, so, why now? The Fact Sheet from the State Department says it, quote, "obtained credible information regarding Saldivar's involvement in significant corruption while serving as a Belizean minister. "

In any rational political landscape, this would immediately force Saldivar to retreat indefinitely from the political foreground and any hope of offering himself as a candidate. But in the upside down world of the UDP - the rules of political logic do not apply. Fact is, Saldivar is Shyne Barrow's principal political ally, and in some sense, his protector.

Shyne Barrow, UDP Leader
"And this man right here is a man of the people, is a man of utmost humility, is a dedicated servant."

So now we have to wait and see where Barrow goes next, whether he will distance himself and force Saldivar to stand down from offering himself as candidate, or if he will keep him around and himself risk angering the US State Department.

Saldivar Defiant, Rejects and Will Fight US Designation

And while that is Jules Vasquez's political commentary on the options for Saldivar, tonight it looks like he isn't going anywhere.

In a Facebook post he says, quote, "The actions of the United States Department of State to today designate me as a corrupt official due to bribery in immigration matters is completely out of left field, baseless, and malicious. As a minister of government I have conducted myself with absolute probity and integrity. I am at a loss as to why the State Department would want to target me and my family and without providing absolutely any evidence to explain their conclusion. No due process has been observed, no contact has been made with me, no evidence has been provided to me, but the mighty United States has chosen to impugn my character and malign my reputation. I cannot begin to guess what or who may be behind these malicious allegations and who could be so powerful to get the State Department to invoke such a declaration. I am consulting with local attorneys fully cognizant that I will need a US attorney to fight this the United States if I so wish. I am also consulting regarding recourse for my wife and children who have been maliciously persecuted by this action. Some person or persons want me out of Belizean politics and they seem to have powerful allies in the United States State Department. There will be those who will rejoice at this without any regard to the fact that absolutely no evidence has been presented. But, I will not allow these unfounded and malicious allegations to drive me out of politics. My resolve is even stronger now." End quote.

So, there you heard it, Saldivar is going to fight the designation and he is remaining in politics - where he has again offered himself as a candidate for the UDP in Belmopan. And, his leader Shyne Barrow is holding the line for him. He issued a statement a short time ago, saying:

"We treat very seriously the allegations of corruption being made by the U.S. State Department against former Minister John Saldivar.

Notwithstanding our zero tolerance of corruption by public officials we must be guided by the fundamental principles of due process and in the Belize Judicial system all are innocent until proven guilty.

The Opposition will take steps to gather all the facts presented by the U.S. State Department and the accused as we determine the way forward to implement our anti corruption policy in a fair and just manner demonstrating to the Nation we have zero tolerance for corruption."

We take that to mean, Saldivar remains in good standing as a potential candidate until the party, quote, "gathers all the facts." Of course, those facts are very well known in both the public domain and within the UDP - so it's another wait and see for the opposition as pressure will surely mount on the party leader to act decisively in the face of the unprecedented US designation.

Channel 7

Joined: Oct 1999
Posts: 84,400
Marty Offline OP
OP Offline
Saldivar Holds Press Conference, Professes Total Innocence of US Charges

He's one of the most controversial figures in all of politics, and one of the most sought after for interviews, but John Saldivar hasn't held a press conference in about four years. But this afternoon - when his name is most scandalized - he ended his long absence from the media frontlines with a bold press conference inside a BIM conference room in Belize City. Saldivar pulled in about 5 standard bearers and other UDP personalities to his press conference, proving he still has some inter party clout as the leader of the party's Caucus for Change. And more than just bold, Saldivar was unapologetic. He opened up by declaring that the US State Department's designation of him as, quote, "significantly corrupt" is not only an assertion without proof, but also - as he put it, a concoction:

John Saldivar, Rejects US Designation

"I am innocent of any allegations that have been made against me. At no time have I participated in any corruption at the immigration department while I was the minister of even before or after. There can never be any proof brought out against me in that respect. I challenge the United States government to provide that proof. I have no difficulty in facing a trial whether here in Belize or abroad in the US once those evidence are presented to me so that I may answer properly. I am not a corrupt person; I can only believe that the United States embassy and up the chain all the way to the state department have been misled purposefully mislead. The allegations against me, I don't know what they are but because I know I have not been involved in corruption, I have to say whatever it is, it has to have been concocted."

Channel 7

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