John Saldivar’s name has been written in Belize’s annals of history as the shortest serving UDP leader elect. Saldivar’s name is now associated with the Lev Dermen and William Mason saga that unfolded right before the eyes of the Belizean people. So, how did this man who managed to claim victory back in February 2020 lose the support of the UDP delegates? Perhaps most importantly, is how was he able to re-enter the leadership race. According to the Prime Minister no one objected to his candidacy.
Rt.Hon Dean Barrow, Prime Minister of Belize: “I do not run a dictatorship. I might be Primus Interpares, first among equals, but we’re all equal and there’s a procedure and there is an organ of the party called the Ethics Committee. Nobody made any complaint about any of the candidates to the Ethics Committee. All candidates had already run for the party and there’s a presumption in those circumstances that you’re fine so the onus would have been on whoever wished to challenge the eligibility of any of the candidates to make a complaint and nobody did.”
In speaking with the Chairman of the UDP Ethics Committee, Senator Aldo Salazar, he confirmed that the matter was never brought to them and that their sole mandate is to investigate complaints brought to them.
Aldo Salazar, Chairman, UDP Ethics Committee: “The issue surrounding Mr.Saldivar, what transpired a couple months ago, to say that that is not a sort of elephant in the room would be to stick your head in the sand like an ostrich and I think that this is something that the party will have to confront and I mean the people who are in charge of strategy will have to look at that I think.”
Jules Vasquez, 7News: So then should he have even been allowed to run sir ?
Aldo Salazar, Chairman, UDP Ethics Committee: “I mean that’s something you’d have to ask him.”
Yeah but I’m saying you know should the UDP have said “Hey, this is untenable.”
Aldo Salazar, Chairman, UDP Ethics Committee: “Well to be honest the UDP’s constitution does not allow for anybody to simply refuse a person from running, if you are in good standing in the party meaning you have paid you dues you are then allowed to run for any position in the party. There is no sort of vetting committee -“
Isani Cayetano, 5 News: So what is the true weight of the ethics committee if that were the case?
Aldo Salazar, Chairman, UDP Ethics Committee: “No you see you need to read the constitution of the United Democratic Party before you make those comments. The Ethics Committee has nothing to do with deciding whether a candidate can run. I am in fact the chairman of that committee and the Ethics Committee has to do with whether a complaint is made before that committee and dealing with that complaint. If there is no complaint made before that committee then there’s nothing to be done and the Ethics Committee has nothing to do with deciding whether a candidate can run. The party is really a democratic party and anybody who is in good standing can run for any office in that party and that’s the bottom line. In terms of what the constitution says, no. The constitution is clear. What you would need is to have a change in the constitution to have some sort of midway where there’s the sort of vetting for the party and you can then create a sort of a mechanism where there’s that to determine whether a person should run for the party but that doesn’t exist within the party. The mechanism right now is simply if you are in good standing you can then run for any office in the party and if you’re not in good standing – sorry the Ethics Committee simply deals with complaints if it’s a complaint then the Ethics Committee deals with it and you can basically be suspended there’s a lot of repercussions before the Ethics Committee but if there’s no complaint before the committee the committee has no standing to deal with it.”