By Alexis R. Milan
The Belize Progressive Party (BPP) produced another round of candidates who have offered themselves for various constituencies in the November 4th General Elections. The new entries bring the BPP’s total to 23 candidates. The party is looking to announce more next week.
BPP’s National Campaign Manager and Belize Rural South Candidate, Robert Lopez explained that since the party’s introduction last week, there has been an outpouring of support for the independent party. Numerous people have come forward and expressed their interest in running as candidates with the BPP, he said.
He added that by next week, the party will introduce another round of election hopefuls, which should round out its 31 candidates.
Lopez explained the party has a zero-tolerance policy for corruption and as such, every candidate is required to make a pledge to declare his or her assets and liabilities in accordance with the Prevention of Corruption Act 2007.
The candidates introduced on Thursday were Elizabeth Dina for Freetown, Dr. Jose Louis Espat for the Albert Division, Milton Palacio for Stann Creek West,
Estevan Assi for Toledo West, Raymond Rivers of the Christian Workers Union (CWU) for Collet, Onafri Vellos, former Belize Workers Union (BWU) member for Orange Walk North and Gary Matus for Queen Square. Lopez added that there were a few other candidates to be introduced who were not in attendance at the press conference.
Party Leader Patrick Rogers has removed himself from the ballot in Collet and will, instead, be offering himself as a candidate in Pickstock to run against current Foreign Affairs Minister, Wilfred Elrington.
Dr. Espat, who was introduced as a hopeful to occupy the post of Health Minister, said he has been a part of the system and has a first hand understanding of the obstacles in the health sector.
He said despite the labels that some may have placed on him, he is an independent free-thinker, committed to the improvement of the country and in particular, the health services.
He asked the Belizean public to consider him and offer their support for his candidacy on election day, saying his qualifications as a doctor will allow him to preside over the Ministry of Health efficiently.
Lopez added that another doctor has also come forward and expressed his interest in joining the party as a candidate.
Rivers, a well-known union figure, said that in Collet the BPP would build a sewing factory, which would employ up to 800 women in that constituency and would offer training to those interested to boost productivity and economic stimulation in a constituency that has seen very little.
He added that he would be donating the first industrial sewing machine to the factory if the BPP were to win, adding that there is no reason that good quality, less expensive clothes and uniforms can’t be produced in Belize by Belizeans.
Lopez, addressing the private sector said that as a labor party, the BPP supports businesses and recognizes the need to make doing business in Belize easier.
He added that a BPP government would ask businesses to be good corporate citizens and pay their fair share of taxes. From these taxes, he said, the government would then be able to provide free education.
He said the BPP’s policy is about facilitating productivity and believing that progress is possible. The BPP executive will meet with the Belize Chamber of Commerce and Industry (BCCI) next week to discuss its policies and plans in regards to tax reforms and other issues. Lopez said the business community has no reason to fear BPP and the party simply wants to level the playing field.
Lopez also outlined the financial support the party has been getting since its introduction last week.
So far the BPP has received cheques for $4,000; $9,500; $6,500; $5,000; and $10,000. According to Lopez, all the contributions come from business people who are happy to support the third party movement and all contributions come with no strings attached.