Belize was placed on the European Union List of Non-Cooperative Jurisdictions for Tax Purposes. The appearance on the blacklist was one of the instances that the Prime Minister went at great lengths to discuss and explain to parliament why, in his opinion, we did not deserve that international black eye. Prime Minister Barrow tabled amendments to the legislation to bring Belize back into EU harmony. It was a rare occurrence during which the Leader of the Opposition uncharacteristically agreed with the PM’s sentiments on the E.U. The other international black eye came from a U.S. State Department report about Belize. The report covered various topics from safety to crime and human rights. At Friday’s Sitting of the House, Cayo South Area Representative Julius Espat decided to read from the document which discussed human rights issues in Belize at length. It pointed out that from the 3,000 individuals who applied for asylum in 2018, only 28 persons were granted the status. It further noted that the laws of Belize did not distinguish between refugees and asylum seekers. Nonetheless, Espat particularly upset the Prime Minister by repeating the U.S. talking points which he believed showed Espat’s lack of national spirit.
Julius Espat PUP: “Now we are having the United States Department making a report requesting absolutely the same thing Madam Speaker. I see no reason why these issues cannot be brought up to the House Madam Speaker so that they can be addressed. These are public officials and in this case these are elected officials who are being paid by the people and therefore we deserve that these investigations be carried out. We cannot continue acting in a corrupt manner in Government Madam Speaker and expect that the people of Belize follow the law when the leaders of this country refuse to follow the law.”
Honorable Dean Barrow: “Don’t you come here and peddle what the Americans are saying to blacken the name of Belize. If you are the nationalist you claim to be you would refrain from doing that and I say shame on you. The United States will accuse us as if it were not treating fairly with asylum seekers and with those that apply for refugee status. That is the central charge currently against the Trump Administration in the United States. You listen to the news, you watch the international media and everyday you have politicians and activists talking about the fact. Now do you know what they have done? When you come to their borders and we know what is happening in some of our countries: Honduras and Salvador, no disrespect to them in terms of the way people are in fear for their lives because they go to the United States and they reach the border as asylum seekers. Do you know that with the Americans before, you had to be let in while your application was being processed. Not anymore, they turned them back and told them to arrange with Mexico for them to be held in Mexico while their applications are being processed in Mexico where again the people are subject to the same sorts of dangers that caused them in first place to come to the United States to try to seek asylum and you just take what they say about us and peddle that as though it is gospel for your own partisan, narrow political interest, shame on you, shame on you. You must know to stand up for Belize when the circumstances demand it and when you want to talk about corruption talk about St. George’s Caye and the lots, talk about the compound on Forest Drive, that is the corruption you must talk about.”