Land grab scandals

Corozal South East area representative Florencio Marin Jr, charged that Prime Minister Dean Barrow was “deceitful”, when Barrow, addressing the special sitting of the House last Friday,  accused Marin of owning 150 parcels of land, with 128 of such lots in San Jose Palmar Village alone.

Marin denied Barrow’s charges when the  Opposition People’s United Party called a press conference at Independence Hall in Belize City on Wednesday, August 1st. 

Marin declared that  “the PM was deceitful in his statement last Friday in the House, which was an attempt to cover up what has been happening in the Lands Department under his watch.”

On the House floor  P.M. Barrow accused the younger Marin  and his father, Florencio Marin Sr, (who was Minister of Natural Resources from 2007-2008) of being involved in a company called Belcor Industrial Limited, which had acquired 195 acres  of coastal lands  in Sarteneja for the price of $17,794.00.

The Prime Minister also alleged that the Marins were the owners of CoroBel.

On Wednesday, Marin denied that he or any member of his family had ever had  any interest in Belcor  or CoroBel.

Barrow had also  charged  that the Marins were the owners of CoroBel, a company which had acquired 852.89 acres – 10.5 acres along the Consejo Road, 178.4  in Consejo and 496.09 in Santa Elena.

Marin called upon Orlando Balam, the Village Chairman of San Jose Palmar, to explain that all Crown lands in San Jose Palmar are held in trust by the government of Belize, and only direct descendants of the original founding settlers who had been re-located by the British from San Jose in the Yalbac area, could obtain a piece of land in Palmar.

Balam said he had reviewed the list of all residents who own land in  San Jose Palmar, and no Marin appears on that list.

Prime Minister Barrow also referred to other lands in San Andres, Ranchito and Belmopan which he said Marin owned.

The younger Marin  explained that he had inherited the family home from his father, but that most of Barrow’s allegations are untrue.

At this point  a member of the media presented Marin  with a computer printout of all the lands Marin allegedly owned in San Jose Palmar and other parts of the country.

Marin denied that he was the owner of these lands, insisting there was no way he could ever own lands in Palmar. He declared the document to be  a “complete fabrication”.

Barrow’s accusations in the House may have been a response to an article published in The Belize Times, which revealed documents of land transactions from government by several prominent members of the ruling United Democratic Party.

Some of those mentioned have sought legal recourse by suing The Belize Times for libel, but PUP Senator Collet Montejo produced a Power Point  documentary showing prime parcels of land acquired by family members close to  Deputy Prime Minister, Gaspar Vega and Minister René Montero.

Senator Montejo presented members of  the media with hard copies of the document, which provided a list of land parcels allegedly acquired by Ministers Anthony (Boots) Martinez, John Saldivar and Pablo Marin, Minister of State Edmund Castro, CEO Audrey Wallace and Senator Juliet Thimbrel.

Opposition leader Francis Fonseca weighed in at this point to say that Belize has not had an Integrity Commission for a number of years.

He said he has always urged the PUP elected representatives to file a report of all their assets, as required by law, to ensure transparency.

He pledged that when the PUP is next re-elected to office, it would completely clean up the Ministry of Lands to make it impossible for what he described as “this sort of nepotism and land-grabbing” to occur.

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