Meet your Belize Rural South Standard Bearer Candidates!
Thursday, October 22nd, 2015
Scheduled for Wednesday, November 4th, General Elections are less than two weeks away. As such, The San Pedro Sun has taken the opportunity to present the Standard Bearers candidates seeking votes from the Belize Rural South Constituency. The candidates were asked to answer a series of questions in an effort to learn more about them and their political perspective. In this issue, we feature the responses from the three candidates representing the People’s United Party (PUP), United Democratic Party (UDP) and the Belize Progressive Party (BPP).
Name: Jose “Elito” Arceo
Representing Party: PUP
Educational Background: I attended San Pedro Primary School, San Pedro High and St. Johns College in Belize City. Unfortunately I did not formally finish my education. Though I have been successful as a business owner, I have also realized the advantages furthering my education could have given me. For that reason, I have spoken time and time again to the youth of our islands about the importance of completing their education and broadening their horizons. Further, I have made sure that my children not only completed their education but are currently in Universities in the United States
What is your Political Experience? I was elected and served under a PUP town council as deputy mayor and councilor. I served in this capacity for one term.
What is your personal understanding of the term “Representation” and how do you intend to be a good representative for Belize Rural South, should you be elected? My personal understanding of the term is to act and lobby for the people of Belize Rural South so that all of their needs are addressed in a timely manner and to the highest of standards.
I intend to be a good representative by listening to the people of Belize Rural South and working for a sustainable future for our islands. This means balancing development and environment and balancing growth and infrastructure. This has to be done in a spirit of cooperation and in a transparent manner so that public can see exactly how tax dollars and government finance is being managed.
What is your vision for Belize Rural South? My vision for this area is to make it an area of opportunity and growth that will have long term sustainability. Caye Caulker and San Pedro are two of the most popular destinations in not only the country but in the world. We will insure this continued popularity and also grow them as destinations by doing our best to promote and protect our two most valuable resources, our environment and our people. These elements are what bring people to our islands so we must protect the environment that attracts visitors and at the same time provide adequate support to our people who welcome the world to their islands with open arms. The other part of my vision has to do with creating the proper infrastructure on our islands to guarantee long term sustainability of our communities.
This means creating and making into law Master Plans for San Pedro and Caye Caulker. The master plan will include zoning areas for residential and commercial development. The master plan will also include roads, drainage and public utility plans for all areas so that as we grow we can actually provide the basic necessities to all families and business owners.
There will be a fully staffed 24-hour hospital in San Pedro and PolyClinic for Caye Caulker. Further we will build a government Primary School in San Pedro, as well as new classrooms in Caye Caulker.
Finally, it is very important for the public to know that a PUP government will provide a free education for all students from preschool through sixth form.
If your party does not form the majority in the House of Representatives, how would you work to assure that your constituency’s issues are addressed? For the last 15 years I have served this community without a political affiliation. I have chaired the San Pedro Business Association and the Ambergris Caye Citizens for Sustainable Development. I have organized the Ambergris Caye Eco Challenge, beach clean ups, softball tournaments and football marathons. I have helped with the Lobster Festival and Lighted boat Parade. I have helped organize the vote for the offshore oil referendum, volunteered for evacuations for NEMO, and raised funds for housing the BDF and coast guard….each and every one of these things took bipartisan cooperation. My record shows that I am committed to doing what is needed for our island regardless of politics and my record shows that I know how to cooperate and work with everyone in order to accomplish what is best for San Pedro, Caye Caulker and Belize.
What do you see as the four most critical issues in Belize Rural South; how do you propose to address them and in what time frame? There are four critical issues. First we need a plan for our future. As I said earlier we need a master plan that takes into account the needs of our people as we grow. We need infrastructure that grows with us. We cannot give people land that does not have roads or access to basic utilities.
Two; we need to have more of our tax dollars put back into San Pedro and Caye Caulker. By returning more of the tax dollars that are earned in San Pedro and Caye Caulker to our islands we can develop the infrastructure, school, roads, police and medical care that we need to ensure long term sustainable development for our citizens and a safe desirable destination for our visitors.
Third; we need a comprehensive plan for the youth of our islands. We need regular organized sports activities but we need clubs and organizations that will help our youth develop skills and interests that will help direct their future. We need to create a mentorship program where our high school students can shadow leaders in our community to learn firsthand about different career paths.
Finally we need a government that will be transparent, accountable and cooperative. The people of San Pedro and Caye Caulker deserve to know and see how their tax dollars are working for them. In terms of time frame, some issues will take longer to address than others, but there will be public presentations and consultations on these issues within the first 60 days in office.
With elections less than two weeks away, what would you like to say to your voters? I would ask voters to be part of the change we need and be a part of the voice we deserve by coming out on November 4th and voting for me. I have always had the best interest and intentions for San Pedro and Caye Caulker at heart. I have demonstrated this over and over again in all of the things I have done throughout my life and will continue to do so. I sincerely want the very best for my area. I am the change that these islands need and the voice that they deserve. My love, dedication and admiration for my people, community and our environment is genuine. So I ask you to come join me and be part of this change because you deserve nothing less.
YOUTH – What are your views on underage drinking and illegal drug use among our youth? What are your plans in reducing this problem and what positive activities such as sports will you promote to keep our young people busy and out of trouble? I strongly believe that first the legal drinking age of 18 needs be enforced. Having said that, that is just one small part of the problem. I believe that we need to begin educating our kids at a young age about how drugs and alcohol can negatively impact their lives. Next I believe we need to give healthy alternatives to our young people. I think that we should hold activities that are alcohol and drug free and give our kids a safe drug and alcohol free way to socialize. Then I believe we need more organized sports for both boys and girls. We also need other alternatives like clubs and activities for the youth of the island to participate in. We need things like educational presentations, debate competitions and church organized activities to engage our youth in their community. We need to encourage our local and national NGO’s to engage the young people of our communities so that they can participate in the causes that steer the future of our country. Finally I believe we need to engage the parents and families in organizing and participating in all of these activities so that these activities become community activities that engage and intergrade all ages.
POLITICAL UNITY – If elected, how do you plan to work with peers who may be of a different party? What efforts will you take to unify the House into an effective, cooperative team? Throughout the last 15 years, most, if not all of the organizations I have chaired, and activities I have participated in, have involved getting opposing sides to compromise and cooperate. Sometimes it was opposing political parties and other times is was conflicts between things like development and conservation. Through those experiences I have learned it is important to listen to all sides and then evaluate what is best for the community as a whole. I have learned that often, a little compromise goes a long way. I am sure I will not always see eye to eye with all people I have to work with but as long as the betterment of our islands is the end result, I am willing to work with anyone and everyone as I always have.
Name: Jose Manuel Heredia Jr.
Representing Party: UDP
Educational Background: Certificate Courses completed during the years of 1970-1975 at St. Francis Xavier University, Antagonish, Canada (Major: Mechanics, Navigation and Cooperative Movement), St. John’s College, Belize City (1966-1970)
What is your Political Experience? Became a member of, and advisor to, the United Democratic Party in 1982; Elected Mayor of San Pedro Ambergris Caye from 1994 to 1997; Served as Councilor from 1997 to 2000; Elected as Area Representative of Belize Rural South in 2003 and again in 2008 when appointed Minister of Tourism, Civil Aviation and Culture; Elected as Area Representative of Belize Rural South in 2012 and appointed as Minister of Tourism & Culture; Re-appointed as Minister of Tourism, Culture and Civil Aviation in 2014.
What is your personal understanding of the term “Representation” and how do you intend to be a good representative for Belize Rural South, should you be elected? A good representation is listening to your constituency of their concerns and fighting for them at Cabinet level as a Minister and in the House of Representative.
What is your vision for Belize Rural South? My vision for Belize Rural South is for every child to be educated and that all housing and health needs are met. And for our island to continue to provide jobs and prosperity for all its residents.
If your party does not form the majority in the House of Representatives, how would you work to assure that your constituency’s issues are addressed? For many years, I sat at the House of Representatives when my party was not the majority. I have always fought to represent my constituency at the best of my ability and I have always succeeded at it.
What do you see as the four most critical issues in Belize Rural South; how do you propose to address them and in what time frame? With five years, traffic, continuous road completion, need for more schools and controlling effects of climate change will be addressed with consultancy and collaboration of the San Pedro Town Council and lobbying with Central Government. I will keep residents well informed of all developments.
With elections less than two weeks away, what would you like to say to your voters? I would like to thank them for my two terms of service and representation. We are a transformative government and hoping that the people would trust us to continue our good work for the progress of the development within our island.
YOUTH – What are your views on underage drinking and illegal drug use among our youth? What are your plans in reducing this problem and what positive activities such as sports will you promote to keep our young people busy and out of trouble? Firstly, underage drinking and drug use is affecting us in our community but we should engage parents and school to collaborate and assist creating such awareness. Our government has allocated funds and contracts are underway for the development of sporting facilities. The San Pedro Town Council and our offices are working together to coordinate sports competition and marathons to positively influence our youths.
POLITICAL UNITY – If elected, how do you plan to work with peers who may be of a different party? What efforts will you take to unify the house into an effective, cooperative team? Anybody who knows Manuel Heredia Jr. knows that I see no color or party. I work will with anyone. I respect the House of Representative of which I have been part of and always given the opportunity to work with all of us.
Name: Robert “Bobby” Lopez
Representing Party: BPP
Educational Background: Belmopan Comprehensive; University of Arkansas (Engineering); Galen University (Anthropology); Indiana Real Estate School (Realtor); North Carolina Auctioneering School (Auctioneer)
What is your Political Experience? Supported Campaign of NABR 1993, Supported Campaign of PDP 1998; Candidate in Municipal elections: 2003-2006-2009-2015; Candidate in General Elections 2012 and 2015; Completed a Seminar in Parliamentary Procedures
What is your personal understanding of the term “Representation” and how do you intend to be a good representative for Belize Rural South, should you be elected? I understand that the term “Representation”, is a way of establishing the legitimacy of our democratic institution. In order to function successfully, Representation must be Fair, Inclusive, participatory, responsive and accountable. In order to be successful, Representation must operate within the context of the following four components:
An entity/person that is authorized through an electoral process to represent. This can take place in the form of an individual or political party or both working in tandem.
The constituents that are being represented: This includes all persons residing within the electoral division irrespective of whether they are eligible to participate in an electoral process or not. Example: the needs of minors below the voting age and foreign residents not eligible to vote must also be represented.
Issues being represented: In order to fully represent, I must listen to the needs, opinions, aspirations, interests, discourses and goals of the persons. It is my intention that the mechanism of referendum will be employed between election cycles to create an inclusive and participatory process of representation.
The venues within which the process of Representation occur: Local; National and International. I will seek to first address and resolve the issues and needs of the people employing the resources and expertise available within the local constituency; When necessary, the issues will be taken to the Parliament to seek the resources at the National level; When necessary, the issues will be taken to the International level.
What is your vision for Belize Rural South? My vision is to establish Belize Rural South into the most vibrant, democratically managed, progress oriented and economically viable constituency in the entire country.
If your party does not form the majority in the House of Representatives, how would you work to assure that your constituency’s issues are addressed? The BPP is prepared to represent the needs of our constituents regardless if we win the seat or not. The time has come to raise the bar of electoral politics by holding our elected representatives accountable to the people.
What do you see as the four most critical issues in Belize Rural South; how do you propose to address them and in what time frame? Housing; Job creation, Education and Environment
1. Housing: Develop a long term housing master plan for the twin islands
Implement the BPP “Youth Connect” ensuring all 18 year old born Belizeans receive a house lot upon registering as an elector. Residents with 5 years’ continuous residence on the island will be issued one lot from Government at fair market value. Establish program that will facilitate finance for first time home owners. Provide adequate infrastructure for housing development
Enact and enforce strict standards for rental housing industry. Develop multi-family housing projects with strata ownership
2. Job Creation and Economic Stimulation: Establish a BRS Economic Development Council (EDC) will be tasked to create a comprehensive long term economic plan that will harness expertise available from within and outside our communities. BRS must diversify its economic base. To solely depend on tourism is not entirely sustainable or prudent. BRS constituency office must spearhead and nurture this positive relationship.
The office of the BRS Area Representative through the EDC will work to create the enabling environment to attract investments, create jobs and foster clean, safe and green development.
Initiate a housing project to promote job creation and enhance the quality and standard of life.
Develop a retirement and investment program that is geared at producing benefits for Belizeans and Foreign Retirees alike.
Create a BRS Mutual Fund Investment Company, whereby Belizeans and foreigners can invest in cash or kind, with matching funds from Central Government
Establish Duty Free Zones on both islands; this will attract both locals and foreign investment. Duty free fuel will be available for foreign visiting yachts. This will provide massive employment for island residents.
Offer incentives and soft loans for local residents to start their own business.
Establish an employment desk to assist in job placement and serve as a liaison between employers and employees.
Establish an island wild life safari/zoo, nature reserve and botanical garden on north Ambergris. This would serve as an educational and research facility, tourist attraction and preserve the islands flora and fauna.
Support fish and seaweed farms by organizing community cooperatives using the areas natural lagoons for cage/pond rearing of local fish species and seaweed.
Work closely with both Councils to construct a multi-purpose complex on each island that would accommodate GOB departments, council office, indoor sporting arena that can be used for concerts, cultural presentations, conventions and other functions.
We must establish model green communities, where all residents and visitors enjoy a safe, healthy and active lifestyle and memorable vacations.
Initiate a recycling program that will be the envy of the nation that will be able to cope with the congestion, environmental cost and pollution created by garbage.
Establish BRS as a sailing and yachting destination.
Creatively develop and reconstruct the San Marcos Maya Site as a model Mayan Fishing Village to serve as a tourist attraction and educational facility.
Develop the health and wellness tourism sector. This will help to offset the slow season.
Aggressively seek viable foreign investors who exercise respect for the environment to build a world class golf course.
Extend the Immigration entry period from 30 days to 90 days to encourage longer stays.
Reduce cost of living by reducing the General Sales Tax by 50% for BRS
Establish an offshore minimum wage rate that is 50% higher than the mainland.
3. Education: Improve educational infrastructure and facilities to accommodate all school age children. Establish programs that will make education accessible and affordable to all
Every student pursuing education on the mainland will be supported with a stipend. Secure overseas scholarships for BRS students. Establish an ITVET on Ambergris Caye with travel stipend for Caye Caulker students.
4. Environment: Preserve and protect the environment of BRS. Work in partnership with environmental protection and research groups. Develop programs for recycling garbage and ban harmful materials. Implement and enforce strict pollution reduction policies. Support and provide Incentives for renewable and sustainable energy projects.
With elections less than two weeks away, what would you like to say to your voters? The upcoming election is a historic juncture in our country’s history. With parties having served 4 terms and 17 years each, all we have to show in the words of the opposition leader are “failed systems and structures”. I therefore urge voters not to vote on emotion or instant monetary gratification or empty promises. Vote the Green party for real change that will bring a brighter future!
YOUTH – What are your views on underage drinking and illegal drug use among our youth? What are your plans in reducing this problem and what positive activities such as sports will you promote to keep our young people busy and out of trouble? Our young people need positive activities to counter the negative influence of drugs and alcohol. I will promote traditional and non-traditional sports to be available to students and the community at large year round with competitions within BRS and at the National and international level. Develop, construct, maintain and improve infrastructure and sporting facilities to attract international sporting events. Spearhead the design and construction of multi-level sporting complexes, especially for schools.
POLITICAL UNITY – If elected, how do you plan to work with peers who may be of a different party? What efforts will you take to unify the house into an effective, cooperative team? Setting aside partisan politics and presenting to the House of Representatives the projects with accompanying budget for Belize Rural South. Working and lobbying to accomplish these projects without favor.
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