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Bye-Election for Cayo North Set for January 2015
Nov 25, 2014

Joseph Mahmud

Joseph Mahmud handed in his resignation to the offices of the Speaker of the House on Monday indicating that with immediate effect, he was stepping down as P.U.P. Area Representative for the Cayo North Division. It means that the unprecedented resignation has left the division without an elected representative. Hours later, the government announced there will be bye-elections and just as swiftly, in fact within twenty-four hours of the resignation, the Governor General has issued a writ of election paving the way for bye-elections in Cayo North. From the look of things, it is going to be a short, but intense campaign for the seat that is held by the P.U.P. and for which the governing party is prepared to outspend the opposition to retake the division. The government has ninety days to call bye-elections but it is opting to do so in forty days, because there are three holidays over the Christmas and New Year. Monday, December fifteenth, is set as Nomination Day at the administration Building in San Ignacio. This will be followed by bye-elections on January fifth, 2015.  The opposition says it will be fast tracking elections for a standard bearer for which businessman Richard Harrison and attorney Michel Chebat are both contesting, but the government has a clear edge because it has already installed its standard bearer in the person of Doctor Omar Figueroa. Before they head to the polls, however, the Cayo voters will be feted with ham and turkey under the government’s annual Christmas Cheer program.

P.U.P. Leader Says Joe Mahmud Disrespected the Party
Nov 25, 2014

Francis Fonseca

The People’s United Party is still reeling from the devastating blow it has suffered in the wake of that announcement.  Party Leader Francis Fonseca has gone on record to express dissatisfaction with the manner in which Mahmud went about his abrupt departure.  The bitter pill succeeds all previous indications by Mahmud in October that he would remain an elected official under the P.U.P., despite announcing that he would not be contesting his seat in the 2017 general elections.  This morning, Fonseca convened a press conference at Independence Hall where he informed the media that the party will be expediting the process of finding a new standard bearer to run in the upcoming bye-election.

Francis Fonseca, Party Leader, P.U.P.

“Yes, [I’m] disappointed that Mr. Mahmud has resigned from the National Assembly, you know, and I think, you know his decision to do so, let me say this, let me make it clear.  I think his decision to do so without consulting the party, without informing the party, without informing his executive in Cayo North, I think, reflects poorly on him and I view that as disrespectful to the party.  We all won under a party banner and people vote for us as representatives of a party and not just as individuals.  So, I like Joseph Mahmud, I have regard for him but I certainly think that was a very poor decision on his part.  Moving forward, the party has to fast-track, as you know, I said this earlier, we have a process in place where we are inviting candidates.  In fact, we have already set a date, we’ve already put out an application deadline.  We’ve received two applications, one from Mr. Richard Harrison, a businessman, and one from Mr. Michel Chebat, attorney at law, and the party will now fast-track that process of selecting a candidate.  Later this week we will have a national executive meeting of the People’s United Party and how we proceed in Cayo North will be a major topic for discussion, deliberation and decision at that meeting.  So coming out of that meeting would be an opportunity to say to the Belizean people, through the media, exactly how we will proceed.  But we are preparing for and anticipating obviously a very early election that is to the advantage of the United Democratic Party.  True to form, they will obviously exploit every advantage that they have.  So we have to look forward to a very early election, probably very early in January.”

 

Late this evening, News Five obtained a copy of a letter from Mahmud to the Cayo North constituents. Mahmud says he is humbled and touched over their support and he is deeply sorry to have to resign due to personal reasons.  He says he has worked hard, on his own and from his heart. But he makes no mention of his future with the P.U.P. 

Francis Fonseca Says P.U.P. Cayo North Campaign will be Spirited
Nov 25, 2014

Richard Morrison & Michel Chebat

While the date for the upcoming bye-election has been set for January fifth, 2015, opposition leader Francis Fonseca says that the P.U.P. will lead a spirited campaign in Cayo North, despite not having overflowing coffers like the United Democratic Party.  Fonseca says he is confident in the credibility of both prospective candidates who have offered themselves for the constituency.

Francis Fonseca, Party Leader, P.U.P.

“There will be a bye-election, there’s no question about that.  As I said, my view is that we have to be prepared for a bye-election in early January and yes we have no choice but to be prepared.  We have to be prepared, as I said, we, I’m very optimistic, I’m very hopeful because we have very good candidates, we lost a candidate but out of crisis, out of challenge comes opportunity sometimes and this is how I view it, we have an opportunity now to replace Mr. Mahmud with candidates who are certainly, equally good.  Some would say better candidates but we have an opportunity to do that, to offer to the people of Cayo North very good, credible, quality candidates who can represent the people of Cayo North.  So we have to have, we have to make that decision first, find the candidate quickly and then we have to engage in a very intensive four, five, six-week campaign in Cayo North.  We will never be able to challenge the U.D.P. when it comes to money.  They are rolling in serious money, as you know, but we have to put up a very strong, spirited campaign with the resources we have and we believe we can do that.  We believe we can do that, we have every confidence that we can do that especially if we offer the people a very strong, credible candidate which I believe the two options we have are both strong, credible candidates.  So I feel very good, feel very optimistic.  We have to move forward now and we are committed to doing so very quickly and aggressively.”

Did Wilser Chavarria Kill Panamanian Diplomat?
Nov 25, 2014

Wilser Chavarria

Tonight, eighteen year old San Martin resident Wilser Chavarria is being held by Belmopan Police, and we are told he will be charged for murder by Wednesday. Chavarria is the only suspect in the murder of Panamanian diplomat, Jose Rodrigo de la Rosa Stanford, whose body was found on Sunday, with cut wounds on his neck, face and head. It was discovered by a farmer on his way from church, about one mile off the Hummingbird Highway in a remote location behind La Choza Bar. The murder spawned an intensive investigation, but even as Police search for a motive, they must deal with serious and very disturbing allegations being made against the murdered diplomat by Chavarria’s family. Mike Rudon was in Belmopan today and has the story.

Mike Rudon, Reporting

Sixty-four year old Jose Rodrigo de la Rosa Stanford was a career diplomat in his home country of Panama, and served as Chargé de Affaires in the mission in Belize. On Sunday at around four in the afternoon his body was discovered in this remote location, with cut wounds to his neck, and that day and the next Police investigators combed the area for evidence. By Monday evening Belmopan Police had made significant progress in the case, and relayed a primary report to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, involved because of the status of the murder victim.

Wilfred Elrington

Wilfred Elrington, Minister of Foreign Affairs

“When they discovered the body, they realized that there were two items that were missing. There was a cell phone and the Nissan vehicle that he was driving in. Both of those were missing. Before I left for home yesterday evening, we had been informed that they had recovered the cell phone, and that they should shortly be recovering the vehicle…that they had one person in custody and were looking for another person. And by early this morning, we were informed that they had in fact recovered the vehicle…they had recovered the cell phone as I said before, and they had one person in custody that they intended to charge.”

Wilser Chavarria is in custody, but at news time he has not been charged. Police are still seeking to record additional statements and to connect the dots. This morning the young man was in handcuffs and crying openly as he was allowed one minute to speak to his family inside the Police station. Outside, his girlfriend made a startling and disturbing allegation, one which took the Ministry of Foreign Affairs by surprise.

Voice of: Girlfriend of Wilser Chavarria

“He was defending himself because that man, diplomat or whatever, was a pervert. He wanted to rape him. He wanted to take advantage of him, so that’s why he defended himself. He had no choice.”

Wilfred Elrington

“This is the first time I am hearing any such allegations and I am particularly careful not to repeat allegations and not to speculate. It’s one of the things that I don’t like to do at all. I will never speculate, and I will not repeat allegations that are not substantiated by facts. I have not heard any of those allegations.”

Jose Rodrigo De La Rosa Stanford

Chavarria lives in San Martin with his girlfriend and two month old baby. She has her version of the events which led to murder in this remote location, a version told to her, she claims, by the eighteen year old when he came home on Sunday.

 

Voice of: Girlfriend of Murder Suspect

“He told me that he knew the man, he knows him from where he used to work, and so he meet him by the terminal. He was doing some shopping and the man offered him a ride and a drink. And then the man told him that he knew a nice place to take a drink and he took him to this place, like an isolated place where he didn’t know, and then he gave him another beer…then the man tried to touch him in his private parts, and then the man took out his gun when he didn’t want it…and then he like tried to rape him. And that’s when he saw a blade in his car and he cut him. He didn’t know where but he had to do it to defend himself because it was his life or the man’s life.”

The family claims they have no knowledge about the diplomat’s white Nissan Xtrail. They also say he is a good boy who has never been in any trouble with the Police, and only dropped out of fourth form because his girlfriend got pregnant. We reiterate that these are only the allegations of the family. Police have not spoken officially on the incident, and won’t until the investigation is complete and charges are laid. But the family, not surprisingly, maintains that it was self-defence, and wants the charges to reflect that.

Voice of: Girlfriend of Murder Suspect

“He reached home…like he didn’t tell me in the first minute, but I saw him weird, but he was shy to tell me what’s going on. He was confused because he is not like that. It is the first time he has done something like that. When the Police reached for him, he was getting ready to come to the station by his own self…when the Police arrive at home.”

We haven’t been able to confirm pertinent facts with the Police – like if the diplomat had a weapon, and if he does – was it found on him. We do know that Police say they have critical statements which still need to be taken, and charges will only be laid at that point. Mike Rudon for News Five.

Panamanian Officials Arrive in Belize
Nov 25, 2014

This afternoon, high level representatives from the Panamanian government landed at the P.G.I.A. to deal with the gruesome murder of one of their own.  While they declined an interview, News Five is reliably informed that a meeting between them and the government is set for Wednesday.  All indications are however, that it will not be a pleasant one given the very serious allegations being made by the girlfriend of the suspect in the murder of the outstanding career diplomat. Before they depart with the ashes of Jose Rodrigo De la Rosa Stanford, a memorial service is being planned to celebrate the life of the diplomat.

Francis Says Mahmud’s Abrupt Resignation was a Poor Decision
Nov 25, 2014

Joseph Mahmud

The unceremonious stepping down of Joseph Mahmud on Monday as a duly elected area representative for Cayo North is raising serious concerns about the integrity and unity of the P.U.P.  He is the second elected representative to bow out of electoral politics; weeks ago Orange Walk East area representative Marco Tulio Mendez announced his withdrawal. But unlike Mahmud, he will serve the rest of his term.  Their successive departures have led to wild speculation that the P.U.P. is in chaos. This morning, Fonseca dispelled the notion that Mahmud’s resignation is a reflection of his ability to steer the party in the right direction.

Francis Fonseca, Party Leader, P.U.P.

Francis Fonseca

“Everything that happens in the People’s United Party reflects on the leader and reflects on the state of the party.  So, yes we would not have wanted Mr. Mahmud to resign.  I wanted him to serve out his term with integrity and dignity and working on behalf of the people of Cayo North as best as possible given the challenges but he made a decision.  I’ve already said that I feel that that decision he made reflects poorly on him and that’s where I think it stands.  It reflects poorly on him.  I don’t think it reflects poorly on us as a party.  I believe, as I said earlier, in response to Jules’ question that we did everything, we did everything possible to support Mr. Mahmud, to encourage him in the right direction, to provide guidance to him as a new, young representative but, you know, he made a different decision and that is life.  That is life and that is politics and in politics you have to roll with the punches and we gotta move on and that’s what we are doing, [what] we intend to do.  The people of Cayo North will then determine who will replace Mr. Mahmud.  So that’s really my position.”