PUP Protesters teargassed!

By Marion Ali, Assistant Editor

Party supporters of both the United Democratic Party (PUP) and the People’s United Party (PUP) made political statements on Wednesday when they staged rallies in support of the two political figures in Orange Walk North, Gaspar Vega for the UDP and Ramon Cervantes for the PUP.

The Police Department’s Riot Squad unleashed tear gas on the PUP gathering when the supporters, and their Orange Walk area representatives refused to take police instructions to move their vehicles from where they had parked to block the approaches to the Toll Bridge.

On Thursday, the Minister responsible for Police, Elodio Aragon told the media that the police eventually cleared the highway after numerous orders to the PUP crowd to move the vehicles. During the process, Aragon said the police launched tear gas to disperse the politically charged crowd.

Assistant Commissioner of Police, Edward Broaster later told the media that the police did not have to read the Riot Act before launching the tear gas because that is only done when the crowd is hurling missiles. The gathering at the Toll Bridge was merely an illegal gathering, he said.

Aragon apologized to motorists who were indirectly involved and who suffered discomfort by the tear gas as they passed the area on Wednesday. He also apologized to members of the media who were affected by the measures which the police used to restore law and order.

Aragon was making reference to an incident when a policeman lifted and then dragged Krem’s News Director, Marisol Amaya, who was conducting an interview, when she and others did not promptly move away upon the order.

Cervantes’ supporters, who had taken out permits to protest, had requested to pass in front of Vega’s house, but the police denied them to prevent a possible feud with Vega’s supporters, who did not have any permits to gather.

Broaster told reporters that he warned Vega’s supporters that they were gathered illegally, but they were allowed to remain where they were, provided they did not cause any trouble.

Vega’s supporters assembled in front of his house from as early as 8:00 a.m., an hour before the PUP’s almost 2,000 supporters gathered at the San Lorenzo Road junction and marched to the Central Park, calling on Prime Minister Dean Barrow to force Vega to resign as Area Representative for the division following a series of land scandals involving his family members.

Cervantes told reporters that they planned the event to send a message to the Prime Minister that people have gotten enough of the allegations of corruption against Vega.

“He has not done service to his job as an area representative and today we are protesting that. We know this government is the most corrupt in the history of Belize and this is the start of this movement against corruption the people want their lands back, the people want their monies back the people want their country back.”

PUP Leader, John Briceno was demanding that Vega leaves political office permanently.

“We want to see him out and if he has any decency left in him he should do the right thing, he should resign and he should hide in a hole where nobody is going to see him for the rest of his life,” Briceno uttered.

Vega resigned as Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Natural Resources after the first scandal broke involving his son Andre. He told reporters that his gathering, which was noticeably smaller than his opponent’s was probably because he had announced that he was not going to contest the next general elections. Thereafter, he said he would run again.

The PUP’s Orange Walk North Committee, which organized the protest over the weekend, felt that if there was more time, an even bigger crowd would have turned out for Cervantes.

Meanwhile, the complainant who came forward last week to say she had no knowledge or involvement in the land transactions with the Vega family has still not given a written report to the police to allow for the investigation to proceed.

Amy Forte, the Belmopan resident who had her attorney fire off a letter to the Office of the Prime Minister after her name was called as one of the persons who sold land already owned by someone else to Andre Vega, has not come forth to say why she has not given a statement or whether or not she has had a change of heart.

Darlene Padron, the Justice of the Peace (JP) whose signature appears on the invalid land documents bearing the Vega’s names, has also written to the Attorney General, maintaining that Forte presented her with an identification card in February of 2010 and signed the conveyance to Andre Vega.

Attorney General Michael Peyrefitte told the media earlier in the week that until Forte comes forth and makes a formal complaint to the police, there is nothing that can be done. Both Forte and her attorney, Deshawn Arzu have not made any effort to provide the police with the information they need for an investigation to proceed.

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