On Wednesday, February 15th, 2012, the first ever Belize Rural South Standard Bearers debate was held in San Pedro at the Sunbreeze Hotel Conference Room. Candidates Mike Campbell, Patty Arceo, Bobby Lopez and Manuel Heredia Jr. squared off on topics ranging from crime and corruption to education and tourism. Over the next few days we will be presenting a verbatim transcript of all the questions, answers and rebuttals by each candidate for you to view, read and discuss in detail. We now get to our second topic… Campaigning
The Topic is Campaigning
Every election season politicians promise land, citizenship, cash and other favors to their constituents in exchange for votes. What are your thoughts on this practice and have you, as a candidate ever made such promises?
Thank you very much. This is an extremely sensitive issue. Promising anything in exchange for a vote is a form of corruption. Patronage is what we’re talking about. Politicians act like they’re giving you a favor but in reality you’re entitled to what it is that they’re giving to you. And so all of these promises on land and citizenship and these sorts of things are things that you’re actually entitled to. And politicians use this as a way of getting out of performance. Ok. They do a whole lot of favors, and they think that that is going to get them by, but they haven’t actually done anything for the community, and it’s because they are so busy trying to please individual people by giving this and that. The Rural South office should definitely have a department that deals with all of these things. So you can go in there and have land, service on your land or citizenship, or your business, without even talking to the representative, maybe you don’t like them right, but you’re still entitled to the very same services and you shouldn’t feel afraid to go in there. So this is just should just be part of the business function of the office, and the area rep. should be doing things more like planning for the future and solving problems rather than troubling himself with individual pieces of paperwork which is only a clerical function in reality. But we must get out of the habit of asking for favors because it put tremendous pressure on politicians who wants to help everyone, as soon as you help one the next one wants more, at the end of the day there’s more people that you haven’t been able to give favors to than you have as the population grows. So it’s just a habit that we have to have to get out of. Thank you.
Robert “Bobby” Lopez:
The 32 years of empty promises and cash, I think, has come to an end. People are demanding and expecting more. A true representative first listens carefully to the issues, identifies them, then he collectively plans with those persons moving forward on how to find the solutions to the problem and issues that they face. He then speaks and acts on those issues and always making sure the he is delivering what the people want and not what he wants. I believe what we have fostered in 32 years is a culture of instant gratification, meaning that we want to enjoy it now and not worry about it later on. The electorate in Belize is no longer being fooled by that, and so I bring no promises other than to work hard, because vision without action is only an illusion, Thank you.
Every day that you go out campaigning you listen to the peoples cries, and their cries are different, and one person might be telling you that , you know, that they have a problem in trying to get their lease or their title, you have to listen to them. Many instances we have our Belizeans who are married to foreigners and they’re telling you that they would like to get their citizenship for their spouses. As a representative, you know you have access to certain offices, and you have access to serve the people, and these are some of the things that do fall in there. As for the campaigning goes for Belize Rural South under us, we have a manifesto, and we are guided by that manifesto, and that manifesto is to serve the people with the issues, burning issues right here on the island. And yes there are some of them that say land will be allocated for locals, and why not! Why not has a part of Belize for us, but these will come through planned subdivisions.
La Pregunta ere de la campaña y las promesas que se hacen. Durante la campaña, vamos en las diferentes casas y encontramos gente que tienen ciertos problemas. Nosotros como representantes, adentro o afuera del gobierno, estamos allá para darle acceso a esas gentes. Por eso estamos allá para servir a la gente. Nuestra campaña que está llevando ahorita con el Partido Unido del Pueblo con nuestro manifiesto, es para el bienestar para los pueblos de San Pedro y Cayo Hicaco. Los invitamos a ustedes para leerlo y ustedes deciden. Gracias
Manuel Heredia Jr.:
Well as a politician and, as a representative, I have always thought that after elections are over, we forget about colors and serve the people and that is exactly the way I handle it. We identified 50 acres of land in San Pedro and I didn’t ask who is PUP who is UDP? All the youths within 18 and 25 years old were asked if they were interested in a piece of land and every single one of them that went over there was given a piece of land of 210 lots and almost all of them have gotten their leases. I believe that land is something precious. In San Pedro it is extremely difficult now to get land, Caye Caulker likewise because almost everything was sold and or given away. I believe that it is a right, a birthright, to have a piece of land. And as the people from the districts move over here, the rent is killing. So it is my job as the representative to see where I can get a piece of land. And then with the nationalities; nationalities it’s not only elections time that I try to help these people. These people that have been living five years and more over here deserve to be, if they want to be Belizean, they deserve to have it. And I have been helping them ever since I was Mayor of San Pedro; I have been helping these people to get their nationalities. I believe that during these four years that I was in government, from the first year I started work on nationalities up to now I think it’s probably 200 or more than 200 nationalities that I have gotten for people. And people that have qualified within the five years, either by marriage, by decent or by the normal five years; it is not like people will be getting like what use to happen before. That people even before their five years do not qualify were given passports and so I do not believe in that system. I believe in the system and once you qualify then you need to have it.
Thank you very much. We’re touching on a very sensitive issue here which is land and land reform and we’re having a lot of problems with this, as I speak to people I meet people who have not gotten their lots who have applied for years, I meet other people who are afraid to openly support me because they feel they’re going to be discriminated against and not get their lot which is then held up, and a whole variety of things. I find out all sorts of things that this land being offered out and this land and most people don’t really get those kinds of opportunities. I respect Mr. Heredia and what he has said but any government land needs to be advertised publicly so everyone knows that it’s there and we all have a chance to take advantage of that. No one should be able to get a piece of government land and then hold it and resell it, which is what happens a lot now. We need to really address this land reform issue and it does, people even though the politicians may not promise it people fell that it’s promised and they feel the pressure from it and they do let the pressure of the land influence their politics and that is a form of corruption and I don’t think that all of the candidates properly addressed the question.
Robert “Bobby” Lopez:
My pledge is simple. The lord says that you commit your ways to him and your plans will be established. I have practiced this is my business every single day in the last 25 years. Whether I’m in Belmopan or not, my 50-add workers pray each day and we give God thanks for the blessings of life and the opportunity to have a job. And so my pledge is this, to lay before the Lord each day the needs and goals and desires the people of Belize Rural South and then I promise to humbly serve them without fear or favour, affection of ill will.
Going back into promises, it’s a commitment that all of us sitting down here, despite our difference of political ideology, that’s what we’re setting all of ourselves out there to the public. It’s a promise, it’s a commitment and the public is the one who will be deciding when it comes on March 7th, regardless of which way we’re going to put it. We can stay here the whole night and define what promise is. It’s a promise that we have for the people and coming March 7th, they will decide
Manuel Heredia Jr.:
Yo solo quiero decir que yo no creo en esas cosas de promesas de campaña con tierra. Todo ciudadano beliceño tiene el derecho de tener un pedazo de tierra y debemos olvidar de qué color pertenecen y servir a todos iguales. Mi tema ha sido para los menos afortunados, a la juventud y aquellos que anos que vienen hace y todos los centroamericanos que quiere volverse beliceño, también lo tenemos que dar oportunidades una vez que califiquen. Eso es algo que yo hago, no solo cuando viene tiempo de elección, si no desde que estado entrando en puesto, estado ayudando a la gente.
All I want to say is that I don’t believe in promising land during my campaign. Every Belizean has the right to a piece of land and we must forget which color the people belong and serve everyone equally. My goal has been to serve the less fortunate, the youth and those who have been coming to live on the island and the Central Americans who want to become Belizeans. That is something I have been doing, not only during election time, but ever since I have taken office.
What is your opinion on the answers given? Do you agree/disagree with what was said? What do you feel about the idea of using land and nationalities as tools when campaigning? Give us your opinions and let’s here what you think…
Also we invite everyone to take part in our poll to find out who you think answered each of these questions the best.