Just when you think things couldn’t get any worse for the Barrow administration and the United Democratic Party text messages emerged as evidence today in Utah. According to the Salt Lake Tribune publication, a series of text messages were presented as evidence showing that John Saldivar requested as much as fifty thousand dollars on one occasion from Lev Dermen. It was only 27 days ago that the allegations against Saldivar surfaced. Kingston continued his testimony saying that he recalls a meeting with Saldivar in 2014 and 2015 to talk about money for political campaigns. Kingston says Dermen had agreed to finance Saldivar’s campaigns. Dermen, however, wasn’t treating the transaction with urgency and that was when Saldivar reportedly reached out to Kingston telling him that Dermen was not paying the twenty-five thousand US dollars monthly as he said he would. Among those series of text messages which began on February 11, 2014, exactly 5 years ago today, Saldivar texted, quote, “really need the February tranche”. End of quote. Kingston went on to tell the court that Saldivar had indicated to him that he had three or four individuals from his party who were intent on getting re-elected. Kingston testified that he then agreed to give Saldivar fifty thousand US Dollars to cover two months. Now, apparently Kingston wanted to wire the money but Saldivar told him to hold up, that’s not a good idea. And so it was agreed that Saldivar would travel to Miami and Kingston would have one of his businessmen deliver the money to him. Now, if we go back to mid-January when all these were mere allegations and the trial was yet to begin, the Prime Minister refused to take any action against John Saldivar. For context, we take you back to January 15, 2020, where the Prime Minister announced that all his Cabinet members indicated to him that they did not get any money from Dermen.
Rt.Hon Dean Barrow, Prime Minister of Belize: “Look, the allegations contained in that statement lodged before the court by the prosecutor indeed is extremely concerning that is why I’m here and that is why I am seeking to reassure you and the public that once those allegations mature and once evidence would be led, anybody who in fact is shown to have accepted monies from this gentleman will be dealt with. I can’t go beyond that. You see the question is not whether you knew the gentleman you know. The question is whether you accepted any money from the gentlemen or what was the nature of your relationship, it’s not a crime to know the man. The man, if what they’re telling me is true, was an investor in Belize, was a co-owner of the Kazi shrimp farm that’s not the crime, that’s not the issue. The issue is did you accept money from this gentleman and in what circumstances. I have asked ministers squarely ‘did you get any money from this gentleman ?’ they have told me no. I am saying that I must accept that because there is not a shred of evidence to the contrary but we also know that in the states it is being alleged that the situation is far different and I am telling you ultimately once there is a trial we will know if anyone was lying and who in such a circumstance is the liar and I will deal with that person or those persons. This is not a matter of trying to not wanting to do more, it is a matter of not being able to do more in the circumstances. It is a matter of biding our time, I must bide my time, cabinet must bide its time, the media must bide its time, the public must bide its time because ultimately there will be a case and evidence will be led and then depending on that evidence all hell will break loose.“
Up to news time tonight, we still don’t know what ‘hell will be breaking loose in the UDP’. While Jacob Kingston was on the witness stand this morning in Salt Lake City, Utah, Belize’s Cabinet was in session. With the evidence presented today, our news team went to Belmopan today with the hopes of getting the Prime Minister to comment on the matter. As the media camped out on the front steps of the Administration Building, the Prime Minister took the back door and left. What the PM also noted in his last press conference was that it was only a matter of time before the evidence is presented if such evidence exists.
Rt.Hon Dean Barrow, Prime Minister of Belize: “The truth will out you know? And clearly the evidence in this trial will be forthcoming and what I am here to also tell you is this- if it turns out that indeed there is evidence to show that a member or two members of my cabinet received funds from Mr.Lev there will be hell to pay. I’m not even going to — I want there to be no misunderstanding, I’m not even going to get into the fact that well even if somebody is shown to have received let’s say the $25,000 a month but there is no allegation that the monies were given to the Minister in return for, that it constituted in that latin term now made famous by the one and only President Trump, in return for a quid pro quo – that would not and could not let the Minister off the hook. Might be that the Minister could make a hell of a case saying “where is the proof that this was other than a campaign contribution from someone that I knew who supported me”, and there are no laws in Belize much to my chagrin that regulate campaign finance contributions. But I wouldn’t need to get into that sort of an argument with the Minister would I?, because even if that could be shown to be true you lied to me and you lied to the Cabinet in saying that you did not receive any money; Q.E.D that in itself is a basis for me to say “Sir/Madam, you cannot stay in any cabinet that I lead.”
It is quite a quandary for the UDP especially when it comes to John Saldivar. He ran for Party Leader and won the seat and so the question on everyone’s mind is, ‘what now?’ While it was merely a hypothetical question on January 15 as to what would happen if evidence emerges and Saldivar is elected as the new Party Leader, the PM’s response is very fitting today.
Rt.Hon Dean Barrow, Prime Minister of Belize: “If the trial is postponed and we have the leadership convention and a victor emerges and the new trial date is fixed and it is not six months from now, it is a month or two after the convention I ain’t going no place until I see what the results of the trial will be in terms of the evidence led you know ? Or alternatively I would have to get a solemn sacred promise from the leader elect made in front of the Cabinet and backed up in a way that I will explain, by the cabinet, that if evidence emerged that he was the recipient of funds that he will resign and I would say to the cabinet ‘I couldn’t force it.’ but I would expect that you would oblige him to resign for your own sakes otherwise just pack your bags leave and hand over the government to the PUP.”
Information reaching our newsroom is that the plan was for the Prime Minister to step down right after the budget reading on March 5. It was reportedly discussed in Cabinet meeting today but with all that has happened today, it is anybody’s guess how the PM will respond. Love News did speak with Belize’s New Deputy Prime Minister, Hugo Patt on the issue as he made his way out of today’s Cabinet meeting.
Hon. Hugo Patt, Deputy Prime Minister, United Democratic Party: “As I indicated it is of concern what is happening I will have to admit but I think John will provide a press conference tomorrow and so if any questions might arise then I think that is the occasion for us to answer that.”
Reporter: Would you agree that it’s politically risky to say the least to go into a general election with John Saldivar as your leader because of all these things that are being said in the Utah courtroom? Now they’re saying that a February 11th text exchange he said ‘I need x amount of money.’?
Hon. Hugo Patt, Deputy Prime Minister, United Democratic Party: “Well I haven’t seen any text message Jules and until then I can just say that everything is under speculation and there is a circus in all of this, let us wait it out and see what is actually transpires after this.”
Reporter: But you will see the text in a few hours.
Hon. Hugo Patt, Deputy Prime Minister, United Democratic Party: “Until then I will be able to tell you.”
As for the press conference that was slated for tomorrow by the UDP, we were informed that it has been canceled until further notice. We’ll keep you posted.