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Elena Smith is new BNTU President

By Benjamin Flowers

Staff Reporter

Elena Smith is the new President of the Belize National Teachers Union (BNTU) following elections on Thursday afternoon, despite allegations that government tried to influence union voting against Smith.

Smith won the election by a landslide on Thursday, April 20, beating out BNTU Corozal President, Mario Mesh and Stann Creek member, Troy Coleman. Of the total 636 votes cast at the Escuela Secundaria Técnica México in Corozal, some 349 teachers voted for Smith, while 147 voted for Coleman, and 140 voted for Mesh.

Following the victory, Smith said that she would carry out the mandate given by the members without fear of becoming unpopular in the public domain.

“My plan is to continue to work with our members and to do what it is that our members want. It’s about our members and they will tell us how to go about doing their business,” Smith said.

She added that during her presidency, she will place special emphasis on communication with, and education of the Union’s teachers. She also commented that there were apparent election tampering efforts, but did not get into any specific details.

During the days leading up to the election, social media was abuzz with chatter that the GOB was making an effort to support a particular candidate. Several persons shared screen shots of an alleged letter sent out by GOB, offering teachers a free trip to the Corozal Free Zone if they went out to vote.

During the election itself, outgoing president, Luke Palacio called on the membership to take a vote on whether or not to postpone the elections, due to the allegations of political interference.

The members voted by majority to proceed with the elections as planned. Sources told the Reporter that some teachers were dropped off at the venue by government vehicles.

Elena Smith assumed the role of Senator for the unions in January 2016, as a temporary measure, but has remained in the capacity since. Smith has represented the unions in the Senate inquiry into the Immigration and Nationality Department since its inception, and played a key role in the BNTU’s Stand up for Belize campaign, which led to the October 2016 strike.

 

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