More than 200 PUP supporters marched for over an hour on the highway in front of the Belize Biltmore Plaza on Wednesday, April 29.
Led by Garifuna drummers, protesters chanted condemnations of Prime Minister Dean Barrow, who was holding a press conference inside the hotel.
They were there to protest against the Petrocaribe Bill 2015, recently passed into law. That Bill allows the government to use Petrocaribe monies without going to the House for approval, in whatever quantities they want and whatever purpose they want. “It is a good law for Mr. Barrow, but it is a very bad and dangerous law for Belize. It is a law that strikes at the very heart of governance in Belize. It is a law that strikes at the democracy of Belize,” PUP leader Francis Fonseca told the Reporter, as he marched at the head of his supporters. He says they learned about the press conference on Tuesday and made the decision to protest.
“Mr. Barrow’s actions and this law are a betrayal of the very people who helped him to form the government and to become the Prime Minister of Belize. Now that he is rolling in Petrocaribe money, in his usual arrogance he says I don’t need any of¡ them,” Fonseca said, referring to the fact that the Church, the unions and the business sector have gone on the record to reject the Petrocaribe Bill.
There was heavy Police presence at the Biltmore in anticipation of the protest. In fact, Police personnel were on station as early as 7:00 am. Sections of the hotel were cordoned off with heavy rope, while metal blockades were erected for crowd control, along with a police checkpoint and the GSU on standby.
Across the street about 30 UDP supporters stood with shirts and flags, but at least on this one occasion, and for the first time in years, they were outmuscled by the PUP supporters who were spirited and featured representation, even if only a few persons, from across the country. One of the UDP supporters told the Reporter, as they looked on, that they got the call to come out last night and the notice was too short so they couldn’t get the numbers together.
“The Churches have said it. The Chamber of Commerce has said it. Civil society has said it…the National Trade Union Congress of Belize has said it. All of us are saying that this is a bad law for Belize. It must be repealed,” said Fonseca.
But it won’t be, according to Prime Minister Dean Barrow, who has stated before, and reiterated during his press conference on Wednesday, that there is nothing and nobody who can stop Petrocaribe.
So where does that leave the Opposition People’s United Party? For their leader, the road ahead is clearer than it has been for some time, as he claimed emphatically – “This will continue. This will continue and lead up to wider, larger more national protests across the country because we believe that the Belizean people want this bad law to go.”