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Minister Manuel Heredia answer questions from Senate Committee

Minister of Tourism and Civil Aviation and Area Representative for Belize Rural South, Manuel Heredia Junior, appeared this morning before the Special Senate Select Committee. Heredia’s name appears in the visa immigration audit report on page 12. According to the Auditor General, stated that Minister Heredia received 52 visa tickets on September 7, 2012. Those visa stickers were for the Officer in Charge of the San Pedro Immigration Office. The auditor General noted that there was no authorization was found for Minister Heredia to transport the visa stickers to the island.

Manuel Heredia – Minister of Tourism
“But it was just more a service to the constituency because San Pedro is isolated and then officers in charge will usually come only just once a month and then those applications are delayed in San Pedro. It takes three weeks to a month before it is authorized in Belmopan then it takes another two to three months before it goes back to the island so that is the reason why they had asked me if I can provide that. But there is nothing individually, it was a sealed manila envelope addressed to the officer in charge, San Pedro and addressed to the Officer in Charge, Belmopan and I believe that my job as the area representative at the time as the Mayor is to provide services to my constituency. The best services as possible to the constituency and that is exactly what I tried to do. It is not something that I, on my own went over there and said give me this or demand. It was something that I was asked to do. If it is illegal then I was not aware of that. I believed that it was just a service that I was providing.

Senator Elena Smith
“Did you ever ask what am I taking to the …

Manuel Heredia – Minister of Tourism
“Not really because it is sealed. It was a sealed… I believe that if there is a trust between…if they feel that I am honest enough to do so, I particularly feel that officers in charge are supposed to be honest also and if they trust me why should I be asking as to what is in the envelope. It is sealed and I am asked deliver this to the officer in charge.

Senator Michel Chebat
“So in providing these services you had no idea what were in these envelopes?

Manuel Heredia – Minister of Tourism
“Well I will be honest and say definitely not because they were sealed.”

Senator Mark Lizarraga
“Here you have a government asset that is being handed to somebody without that person signing for it when he received it and when he delivered it. There’s no tracking in place. There were no aspersions cast in reference to the visa matter that you did not deliver any visas. That was not the point. The point was that you did not sign for having received it and you did not sign as having delivered it. Do you agree with that?

Manuel Heredia – Minister of Tourism
“Well probably, I think I mentioned before that probably there should have been check and balance different.

Senator Mark Lizarraga
“Right and I think that’s…

Manuel Heredia – Minister of Tourism
‘ Like I said, I was like a messenger for them so if there was anything different that could have been done then probably yes.

Senator Mark Lizarraga
“She was just addressing the issue of good practices for accountability. I think you can appreciate that.

Manuel Heredia – Minister of Tourism

“I will agree with you on that part.