By Benjamin Flowers
Deputy Prime Minister Gaspar Vega announced on Thursday that he has resigned as the First Deputy Leader of the United Democratic Party (UDP). He will serve out his term in the House but will not compete in general elections again.
He said that in view of his decision not to run again, he thought he should also step down as First Deputy Party Leader.
His resignation, tendered in a letter dated March 8, comes just before the UDP’s March 20th convention, where he was sure to receive a four year endorsement to continue as First Deputy.
In his letter, Vega said he would “faithfully serve the United Democratic Party”, and work with his successor to “ensure another victory for the great constituency of Orange Walk North.”
The UDP secretariat issued a statement following Vega’s resignation explaining some of the short and medium term adjustments the party would make in light of the new development.
The party said the March 20 Convention would proceed, but only to endorse the Party Leader, Dean Barrow; the Second Deputy Leader, Erwin Contreras; Party Chairman, Alberto August; and Deputy Party Chair, Fern Gutierrez.
It said the National Party Council would meet “shortly” after the March 20 Convention to decide on the procedure and timing for a special election to choose a new First Deputy Party Leader to succeed Vega.
The UDP pointed out that Vega’s decision regarding his tenure as First Deputy Party Leader, has nothing to do with his position as a Minister of Government. “He therefore remains in the Cabinet of Belize,” the UDP said.
In last November’s general election, Vega won his seat in Orange Walk North handily with 3,551 votes (53.08 percent of cast votes), beating his opponent, Ramon Cervantes Jr. by more than 500 votes.
Though it was a convincing win, it showed that Vega had lost ground. After the elections, Prime Minister Dean Barrow transferred the Natural Resources portfolio, which includes the Ministry of Lands from Vega, saying that the change in portfolio was made at Vega’s request. Vega told the media that the portfolio had taken too much of his time.
The Ministry of Natural Resources was given to Senator Godwin Hulse, who became the first non-elected Minister of government to hold this portfolio. Later, Vega and Hulse were reportedly involved in a conflict over office space at the ministry. When pressed on the matter, Hulse said that there was no conflict between himself and Vega personally, but there had been logistical issues in terms of equipment and personnel.
The Reporter has been reliably informed, from sources close to the Vega camp, that Gapi was unhappy about losing the Natural Resources portfolio to Hulse, and had lobbied members of Cabinet to seek a reversal.
Other reports suggest that questionable transactions unearthed at the Ministry of Lands Department, may have played a role in his decision. Minister Vega has been unavailable for comment and party officials have indicated that the release from the UDP Secretariat is the party’s official position on the matter.
Vega, a successful businessman and farmer, was born in San Estevan, Orange Walk. He attended Muffles College in Orange Walk town, and spent much of his working life in the insurance business, until he founded Vega’s Imports Ltd. in 1988. He entered the world of politics in 2006 and in 2008 became the duly elected UDP representative for the Orange Walk North division.