Statement by Hon. John Saldivar
In a Special Cabinet meeting today I informed the Prime Minister and colleagues of my decision to resign as the Leader-elect of the United Democratic Party. I have come to this decision after careful consideration and consultation with colleagues. While I maintain my innocence of any wrongdoing, bribery, or corruption and the testimony in Utah has confirmed that their was no bribery, I feel that the negative attention being generated by this trial is overtaking my Party and can hurt our chances in the upcoming general elections. I have therefore stepped aside to allow a new leader to be chosen. I thank all those who supported me during the recently concluded Leadership Convention. It is unfortunate but life is real. Once my name is properly cleared I will resume the work that I love so dearly. I will continue to work with colleagues to ensure victory for our UDP later this year. I am also happy to continue to serving as Minister of National Security.
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Saldivar Gets the Executive Axe, Steps Down As Leader-Elect
Tonight, Belize's political landscape has been completely re-mapped: John Saldivar has stepped down as UDP Party Leader Elect - less than 72 hours after he was elected by a large margin in a lavish national convention. And, he has been suspended indefinitely from Cabinet.
It is a stunning reversal of fortune and a precipitous fall from grace; two days ago he had reached the political pinnacle, sworn in as party leader, and said he would be in discussions to take over as Prime Minister after the budget presentation in March.
But, tonight, Saldivar is on the political equivalent of life support after a meeting in the Cabinet room where Prime Minister Dean Barrow used the full weight of his office to force him to step down.
PM On Why He Moved Against Saldivar
And an hour later we learned what that tightly guarded decision was. The Prime Minister issued a statement which laid out the penalties for Saldivar, who he concluded had misled him and the Cabinet.
The PM referred to Jacob Kingston's testimony in a Utah Federal Courthouse. As we told you testified on Monday that he saw John Saldivar receive packs of cash valuing $10,000 dollars each from Lev Dermen at a Turkish businessman's residence in Belize.
And yesterday, he also testified that in 2014 he sat in a meeting with Saldivar and Lev Dermen who promised to pay for John Saldivar's re-election campaign in cash disbursements. Kingston also discussed text messages he exchanged with Saldivar a 50 thousand US dollar donation in cash which was to be picked up in Miami.
Hon. Hugo Will Lead UDP?
In a statement published on his Facebook page this afternoon, Saldivar says, quote:
"I informed the Prime Minister and colleagues of my decision to resign as the Leader-elect of the United Democratic Party. I have come to this decision after careful consideration and consultation with colleagues. While I maintain my innocence of any wrongdoing, bribery, or corruption and the testimony in Utah has confirmed that their was no bribery, I feel that the negative attention being generated by this trial is overtaking my Party and can hurt our chances in the upcoming general elections. I have therefore stepped aside to allow a new leader to be chosen. I thank all those who supported me during the recently concluded Leadership Convention..."
Patt Cautious On Leadership
So, thanks for that insight Jules. The days ahead are sure to be interesting. And much of the talk will focus on Hugo Patt, the humble and soft spoken representative from Corozal North. Right now, he's looking like the man who would be the UDP's next leader - and, yesterday at his swearing in as Deputy Prime Minister, having a sense of how things were heading, Jules Vasquez asked him if he's ready to lead. We wouldn't say he was chomping at the bit:
"Is it unforeseeable that you may have to for whatever period assume the leadership of the UDP."
PUP Says It's A Slap On the Wrist
Before our commercial break, we gave you a blow-by-blow account of the current crisis that Barrow Government and the UDP face, following this week's big reveals in the Lev Dermen Trial in Utah.
Jacob Kingston has testified under oath that he sent $50,000 US dollars in cash to John Saldivar in Miami, back in early 2014. The context of this evidence is that the prosecution in that US court is attempting to show that Lev Dermen had an "umbrella" of powerful people in Belize, the US, and Turkey, who would protect him from the scrutiny of law enforcement.
PUP Distances Itself From Ralph's 1.5M Wire Transfer
So, while the PUP stands to gain some political mileage out of the Lev Dermen scandal, observers have not missed the fact that they could take some blows because of it. As we told you, Ralph Fonseca's name has also been called, as one of Dermen's business associates, while he was in Belize.
As we told you, Kingston has testified that back in 2013, he and Dermen were looking at properties for a casino, which was to be named Lion's Casino. According to the evidence, Dermen and another Turkish businessman were in talks with Ralph Fonseca, known him as the minister of finance. They settled on a property and instructed Kingston to buy it. Kingston said that on June 24, 2013, he wired 1.5 million Belize dollars to Fonseca to purchase the property. Kingston said, quote, "He was the minister I was working with," he said. "He got the license for the casino business."
PUP. In No Mood To Compromise With PM
And, the PUP is asserting that the Prime Minister is avoiding a conversation about the Supreme Court judgment which says that he did not get prior parliamentary approval to spend over a billion dollars in public funds.
You'll remember that case where the PUP's John Briceno and Julius Espat insisted to Chief Justice Kenneth Benjamin that the Prime Minister violated the constitution when he was spending these public monies. And after deliberations, the Chief Justice agreed. He has ordered the government to amend the constitution to retroactively approve 1.5 billion dollars in unauthorized spending.
The Streets Say On Saldivar
And while the PUP is using the UDP situation to leverage for position, what are the streets saying? This morning, while that fateful UDP conclave was happening in Belmopan, we took to the Alberts to ask regular folks what they think Saldivar should have done in light of the Salt Lake City revelations. Some of them were right on the money with what was about to happen, others not so much.
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