The U.S. Ambassador's outreach dinner was held at Rasta Pasta Pizza Amor at the SunBreeze Hotel, on March 27th, 1998, at 7:00 p.m. The purpose of the dinner was to allow United States citizens residing in Belize to meet the newly appointed U.S. Ambassador to Belize, her Excellency Ms. Carolyn Curiel.
Ambassador Curiel greeted the evening's attendees and after dinner was served, the ambassador and other embassy representatives addressed the gathering. Master of ceremonies was Dr. Wil Lala of Caribbean Villas. Ms. Valerie Belon, Economic and Political Officer at the embassy, was first to speak. Ms. Belon has been with the embassy in Belize for three years. She briefly went over the services and projects she is responsible for, such as, being the embassy liaison person to several American agencies including, USAID, Custom services and other Federal Government agencies. Ms. Belon also mentioned that the embassy puts out a commercial newsletter on a regular basis and is working on extending their research library.
Mr. Mike Plowey, President of the American Business Council (ABC), was next to speak and explained what the American Business Council is. "It's basically an American Chamber of Commerce. People often ask, ‘What can ABC do for me and my business?' What it does is provide setting to talk about the different problems you encounter and difference is culture..." He announced that the ABC was hoping to increase their membership by including the business people of San Pedro. Mr. Plowey spoke about a library that the ABC is presently establishing which will house a complete directory of every business in America. Another new project being developed is a magazine. Seminars and meetings to educate American business people are also being established.
Mrs. Ann Gordon, Consul at the U.S. Embassy, opened her address to the gathering by thanking people who contributed to the organization of the evening's events. "I'd like to thank the two U.S. wardens, Niesje Province and Dr. Wil Lala, for all their help. Rasta Pasta for providing a wonderful dinner and to the Collins for providing the publicity..." Mrs. Gordon spoke of the importance of having wardens to assist American citizens. She said that there are about 17 or 18 wardens in Belize. She encouraged Americans to register with the embassy. She ensured those present that they wanted the information in case of an emergency the embassy will know where to contact them, not to spy on them. Mrs. Gordon reviewed the different services and ways in which the embassy assists Americans in Belize. If an American citizen is arrested the police should inform the embassy and the embassy will do their best to help; they also visit Americans that are serving sentences at Her Majesty's Prison in Hattieville, to check up on them and to see if they can be of assistance. The embassy lends assistance to Americans that are injured or are in need of medical attention and also assists people who may need emergency services such as getting a new passport. Those who wish to register for elections in the states can do so by visiting the embassy or by obtaining application forms from the two U.S. wardens in San Pedro , Niesje Province and Dr. Wil Lala. Other services provided by the embassy are: distribution of Social Security cheques, assisting with Internal Revenue Services (IRS), and helping with Judicial matters. Mrs. Gordon concluded her speech by encouraging people to visit the embassy early to obtain visas and not to wait until the summer rush.
Ambassador Curiel spoke to the gathering briefly and thanked everyone present for coming and for those who organized the event. She encouraged Americans to register with the embassy. "We only have an estimation. It's estimated that 1000 to 5000 Americans are residing in Belize but we are not certain." As an incentive to register the ambassador promised to send a Christmas card to those who registered during the course of the evening. She concluded by saying, "...what makes you all unique is that you want your business to do its best. If you've put your heart and soul into making your business work and it's not working then maybe we can help."
After the ambassador's address a question and answer session was held. A member of the audience asked if the U.S. would be undertaking any new projects in the upcoming year. The ambassador replied that a project similar to the New Horizons Project would be taking place soon. The New Horizon Project was a U.S. military project. The major focus of the project was to renovate and construct school buildings. Another member of the audience said that there were rumours circulating that a military base would be established in San Pedro to replace the one in Panama. Ambassador Curiel replied, "I am aware of no such arrangement or future plans." It was asked what process an American citizen must carry out in order to be registered to vote in the U.S. elections. The ambassador encouraged those interested to obtain registration forms from the two U.S. wardens.
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