UDP convenes Special Committee to review allegations against Saldivar

The content originally appeared on: News Americas Now

Black Immigrant Daily News

The content originally appeared on: Amandala Newspaper

Photo: John Saldivar

John Saldivar will appear before the UDP’s Special Committee on December 2, and a decision will be handed down as early as December 9, says the Leader of the Opposition, Hon. Moses “Shyne” Barrow.  

BELIZE CITY. Wed. Nov. 23, 2022 

Yesterday, the Leader of the Opposition, Hon. Moses “Shyne” Barrow, told reporters that the United Democratic Party has set up a Special Committee that will determine the standing of John Saldivar within the party. The former UDP minister was last week designated as “significantly corrupt” by the US State Department (USSD), and he and his immediate family are now barred from entering the United States. The reason for the designation, according to a written statement issued a day after US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken announced the designation, is the US government’s belief that Saldivar “accepted bribes in exchange for improperly facilitating the acquisition of Belizean immigration documents” and “interfered in public processes for personal gain”. Those claims, according to Barrow, will be reviewed by a committee that will include the chairman of the party, Michael Peyrefitte; and the chairpersons of the UDP’s ethics committee (Aldo Salazar), rules committee (Ashton McKenzie), and nominations committee, as well as the party’s legal advisor, which prior to the announcement of the formation of the Special Committee was attorney Estevan Perrera.

Barrow reportedly informed his executive of the formation of the committee via a text message which stated that it was a “Special Committee to allow for due process and swift conclusion of the matter considering…the extremely serious allegations being made by our greatest bilateral partner.”. He had further noted in his message to the UDP executive, “it is not just legal innocence or guilt. We are a mass Party and we must take into consideration public sentiments as relates to key issues such as corruption, personal misconduct and any other actions that exposes the UDP institution to a breach of public trust and lack of confidence which will have damning ramifications…in the next General Elections.”

Notably, however, Perrera sent a text message to a local television station (Channel 7) shortly after an announcement of the formation of the committee was made on that station’s morning show, to indicate that he would not be sitting on that body. According to 7News, he stated in that message, “The US State Department made a decision, and that fact remains. I am not going to be a part of a committee that will speak against or possibly challenge that decision whether directly or indirectly.” The response by the UDP leader to Perrera’s stance was swift. According to 7News’ Jules Vasquez, just a few minutes after Perrera announced that he would not be serving as legal advisor, Barrow “sent out [a] party notice” of the removal of Perrera from that post.

When questioned about that prompt move, Barrow, who has referred to Perrera’s decision to avoid what Vasquez referred to as running “afoul of the State Department” as “selfish”, told local media, “He’s no longer the legal advisor because you don’t have an option in a matter like this. This is not about Steve Perrera, this is about the institution of the UDP, and when you take on the responsibility of being the legal advisor, that is a hefty burden to carry, so when the burden becomes overwhelming you don’t say ‘I di take this off, unu deh pan unu own’.” 

“We are a sovereign nation; we are the constitutional Opposition, and no personal consideration should be made when dealing with such a weighty matter. We have to deal with it. That is what transparent good governance is; we just don’t say yea or nay; we deliberate, we consider,” Barrow went on to say. 

He added, “The fact that he does not want to face this serious matter is unacceptable to me. “  

The Special Committee was officially convened on Tuesday, November 22. By next Friday, December 2, that committee will hear testimony from Saldivar.

“This is not an occasion of legal guilt or innocence; that is one of the considerations. What we have to consider is what is in the best interest of the party, what is in the best interest of public confidence, and if someone is being accused or in the proximity of corruption repeatedly will not render public confidence, that is something that we have to look at. You can’t expect that a designation will be made and I will say ‘okay, that’s it. Off with his head’,” Barrow remarked.

Whether or not Saldivar will remain a viable candidate for the UDP’s Belmopan division following the decision of the Special Committee is still uncertain.

“Whether or not these accusations, these allegations, that have dogged him, since he was a minister, since he was expelled from the Cabinet, since he had to resign as party leader. If now, with a designation from the (US) Secretary of State, have we reached that point — that enough is enough, is a very valid question, that I don’t want to prejudice the deliberation of the Special Committee, but that is the question that they will have to ask themselves, “ Barrow said.

In his latest social media post, Saldivar wrote, “Just because the mighty United States has said what it has said does not make it the truth, does not mean it should not be tested in a court of law. They are humans just like us. They are not infallible. They are gullible, they can be wrong, and they have been wrong before, sometimes intentionally so. Someone could have lied to them. Someone has lied to them. Their evidence must be tested in a court of law. Anything else would be unfair and unjust and a dangerous precedent to set for our young and fragile democracy.” 

Reports are that he has activated his political machinery to begin campaigning in Belmopan as scheduled. And on Thursday afternoon, he maintained his innocence throughout an hour-long press conference, during which he called the US State Department’s designation of him an attempt to thwart his political career.

“Whether it be on behalf of the United States government, or whether it be on behalf of the Belize government, or whether it be on behalf of the enemies within my own party, I cannot tell you,” he said.

During the press conference, Saldivar also said that he is planning to have his attorney write to the media to warn them against repeating any allegations that cannot be proven in a court of law, adding that he intends to take legal action against any media house that does so.

“Let me state, therefore, for the record, as I have stated many times: I am innocent of any allegations that have been made against me. At no time have I participated in any corruption at the Immigration Department while I was the minister or even before or after,” he stated.

Saldivar said that his attorney has written to the United States Embassy, the Government of Belize, and the US State Department on his behalf, inquiring about the evidence that was used against him.

“There is a talk—because I know you will ask—about a boat ride on the Coast Guard boat, and I would like, if you will permit me, to dismiss that out of hand. Because I cannot for the life of me see how the United States government would want to declare me the first designation in this country because I took a businessman on a boat ride to visit installations of the Coast Guard,” he stated.

According to the former Belmopan area representative, no mention was made of the “tranches” of cash he received from Lev Dermen in the US State Department’s designation, and this, he feels, exonerates him of any wrongdoing in regard to the campaign contributions he received from the convicted US fraudster.

“I have never used my office for personal gain,” Saldivar said.