United Democratic Party at 40 Print E-mail
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Thursday, 26 September 2013 00:00

Hon. Dean BarrowThe birth of the United Democratic Party on the 27th September, 1973 was the result of a merger of three parties involved back then in the gargantuan task of opposing the seemingly unbeatable and powerful People’s United Party – ruling party of the day. For 23 years before that, the PUP had dominated Belize’s political scene virtually unopposed. 

The opposition consisted of The Liberal Party, led by Harry Lawrence, and members Curl Thompson, Paul Rodriguez, Nestor Vasquez, Henry Young and Manuel Esquivel; The People’s Development Movement, headed by Dean Lindo and members Collet Gill, Ken Tillett and Charles Wagner; and The National Independence Party led by Phillip Goldson and members Herbert ‘Buntin’ Fuller, Henry Fairweather, Joe Andrews and Jorge Guerra Mena. This amalgamation was born out of concern that the PUP performance to date was on its way to consolidate itself as the sole ruling party in Belize. During this same time in Corozal, a new group was emerging, the Corozal United Front (CUF), formed by Israel Alpuche, Andres Campos, Edmond Longsworth and Maria Reyes. The time was ripe for tangible and active opposition to the People’s United Party.

It is at this point that a dynamic Reverend by the name of Gerald Fairweather with visionary initiative organized these rather ineffective opposition groups and united them into what would become the great party that is the United Democratic Party.

With the return of Philip Goldson who had been away pursuing his Legal Career in London and the newly forged unity among all opposition forces under the interim chairmanship of Rev. Fairweather, the UDP in 1974 launched an aggressive general election campaign countrywide, in every district except in Corozal where it threw its support behind the emerging CUF, which had just won a stunning victory in the Town Board election there.

The UDP captured an amazing 6 out of 18 seats countrywide. With two narrow losses by the UDP in Belize City and one by the CUF in Corozal, the Opposition had come within 17 votes of forcing a 9-9 tie in the House of Representatives. The PUP was stunned and Belizeans viewed the elections as a major victory for the Opposition and a welcoming signal that Democracy was alive.

Another victory followed in December of that year when the UDP, for the first time, gained control of the Belize City Council, winning 6 of 9 seats. Dean Lindo became the new leader of the UDP, being chosen by a majority of elected parliamentarians in the party in accordance with its newly approved party constitution. By 1977, the UDP had won all 9 seats in the Belize City Council. Major strides were made as by this time the UDP council had a well organized garbage disposal system, repaired most of the streets which had been neglected and afforded Citco workers three salary increases in addition to honoring the debts that the previous PUP council owed to central government.

By that time also, a new emerging group in Orange Walk called the Voice of the Silent Majority, led by Elodio Aragon, Ruben Campos and Fred Martinez, had teamed up with the UDP to take control of the Town Board there with Elodio Aragon being elected Mayor. The CUF of Corozal also joined up fully with the UDP, and in the 1979 National Elections, the UDP for the first time contested all divisions as a single opposition party.

Confidence was high going into the elections, but hopes were dashed when the PUP, having altered the entire electoral system, requiring all voters to re-register and obtain new ID cards, won yet another victory at the national level.

Frustration took over, courage wavered, and discontent crept in over the election of new leadership in the UDP. With Lindo having lost his seat in 1979, elected Dangriga Representative Theodore Aranda, a relative newcomer to politics, had become the new Party Leader; something that angered supporters of Goldson who felt the veteran politician was more deserving and qualified for the position.

With discontent and disunity inside the party, the UDP lost control of the Belize City Council one year later, Paul Rodriquez having resigned as Mayor even prior to the loss. Then came the upheaval over the Heads of Agreement, in which the PUP brutally quelled the forces of dissent. One such example was the armed invasion of Corozal Town on the 2nd April, 1981 by a PUP mob led by Florencio Marin himself in which Sylvino Riverol was murdered and other UDP supporters shot in front of the then UDP mayor, Israel “Rally” Alpuche. Although there was strong opposition from several factions, Belize went into Independence on the 21st September 1981.

Demoralization and the lack of leadership from the political centre drove the party to amend its constitution to elect a leader every two years, opening up the process to the general party membership through an electoral college represented by delegates mandated to vote according to the membership-voting in each division.

Aranda, upset with the change, broke away from the UDP. He would later join the PUP. On the 16th January, 1983 at a Special Party Conference held at the Bird’s Isle in Belize City, Manuel Esquivel was voted in as the new Party Leader garnering 23 of the 25 votes defeating Philip Goldson.  Curl Thompson was confirmed as Leader of the opposition and Deputy Party Leader, and   Dean Lindo won as party Chairman over Elodio Aragon (73 votes to Senators Aragon’s 46) Goldson endorsed Esquivel’s leadership and in a letter published on January 22nd he congratulated the new party leader and recommitted himself to the party.

With new leadership and renewed determination, the party re-organized itself and re-captured the Belize City Council in December of 1983 in landslide fashion with an impressive slate featuring Dean Barrow, Philip Goldson, Derek Aikman, Hubert Elrington, Frank Lizama, Samuel Rhaburn, Gustavo Bautista, Carlos Castillo and Rodwell Pinks. In an article titled ‘Victory Leads to Victory’ in the November 12th, 1983 issue of the Beacon newspaper, one month before the CITCO elections, Michael Finnegan wrote in a prophetic manner “A victory for the United Democratic Party in the Belize City Council elections this year will most likely lead to a victory for the party in the 1984 General Elections”.  On the 1st February, 1984 Manuel Esquivel was once again re-elected as party leader and Curl Thompson as deputy leader. And as predicted, on the 14th December of 1984, the once invincible PUP machine came tumbling down, with the UDP scoring a landslide victory in the national elections by a margin of 21-7. On that day 34 years of PUP rule came to an end. The UDP had finally done what was first thought impossible.

With no previous experience in government, the UDP made major accomplishments in its first term, including a miraculous turn-around of the economy from the brink of devaluation and standby arrangements with the IMF to an unprecedented and still unmatched growth rate of 10 percent; the five day work week became law for government workers countrywide; the establishment of the Tourism Industry as a major revenue-earner; the construction of a new airport meeting international standards; the creation of the University College of Belize and the first Center for Employment Training; the stabilization of the Electricity Board and implementation of the Rural Electrification Project countrywide; the modernization and nationalization of Telecommunications with the Government retaining majority shares in the newly created corporation (Belize Telecommunications Limited); the transfer of 81% ownership of the Belize Sugar Industry to local stakeholders; significant increases in salaries for public servants; abolition of income tax for low income-workers and  tax reduction for all other workers; opening up of the Stann Creek Coastal Road and commencement of paving on the Hummingbird Highway. In an article to the People’s Pulse dated 26th June, 1988, the accomplished writer, Zee Edgell wrote: “In spite of any mistakes that may have been made by the present government, it must be credited with having accomplished a tremendous amount of improvements in the space of three years. No other Belizean government has done as much for Belize and Belizeans during a corresponding period of time.”

Despite all these accomplishments and more, the lack of cohesion within the party resulted in a marginal 15-13 defeat in 1989. Although defeated, the UDP, under the leadership of Manuel Esquivel and Dean Barrow, as early as 1991, began a series of visits and meetings with UDP leaders countrywide gearing up for possible early elections. In the March 26th municipal elections the UDP lost in Belize City, Corozal, Punta Gorda, San Pedro A.C. and Benque Viejo but toppled the PUP in Orange Walk and retained control of the council in San Ignacio/Santa Elena. Conventions were held in all constituencies and by May of 1991 the UDP officially launched its nationwide campaign.  In 1993, the party’s fate was reversed even in the face of overwhelming odds, as the UDP’s re-unification with breakaway elements including Philip Goldson and Hubert Elrington, resulted in an unexpected 16-13 victory over an overconfident PUP. The then Prime Minister, the late Rt. Hon. George Cadle Price amidst chaos within his party had called elections one year before the due date and on the 30th June 1993, the United Democratic Party was once again chosen by the people to run the jewel. The successful UDP candidates were: Hon. Manuel Esquivel, Hon. Dean Barrow, Hon. Phillip Goldson, Hon. Salvador Fernandez, Hon. Edwardo Juan, Hon. Russell Garcia, Hon. Melvin Hulse, Hon. Michael Finnegan, Hon. Faith Babb, Hon. Elito Urbina, Hon. Elodio Aragon, Hon. Ruben Campos, Hon. Henry Young, Hon. Hubert Elrington, Hon. Joseph Cayetano and Hon. Dennis Usher.

In its second term, the UDP continued its work of transformation and development despite major setbacks caused by the wasteful spending of the outgoing PUP government. This time the UDP established the Corozal Commercial Free Zone; introduced Cruise Ship Tourism to Belize; constructed a sturdy, secure Central Bank Building; built the Karl Heusner Memorial Hospital and the new Southern Regional Hospital in Dangriga, while upgrading other district hospitals; increased Social Security benefits without increasing workers’ contributions; introduced Free Education in High School and Sixth Form; modernized Belize City with a massive infrastructure project; created the Conscious Youth Development Program and the Youth Start Fund, started housing programs in district towns; completed the re-paving of the Hummingbird Highway and commenced the paving of the Southern Highway. As was the case with its first term in office, these accomplishments were not enough to appease an increasingly informed and involved electorate and then came the 1997 pre-Christmas retrenchment of 800 public officers which proved to be the Achilles Heel of the UDP government.

After a stunning defeat in 1998, Hon. Manuel Esquivel stepped down as leader and the UDP, under the leadership of Hon. Dean Barrow and Deputy Leader Oscar Ayuso, reorganized once again and made significant gains in the 2003 general elections, retaining the 3 seats won in 1998, regaining 4 additional seats and increasing its overall support from 39% to 46% of the popular vote.

But, as has been proven so many times in the past, and more recently borne out in the 2003 elections by the independent candidacy of Wilfred Elrington in Pickstock and the disassociation from the UDP of other discontented elements, the forces of democratic resistance could not attain full success when they were divided. As occurred in the early days of the opposition movement, the lack of unity among opposition elements in 2003 had once again helped to keep the PUP in power. The kind of change initiated by those who in the early 1970's forged a merger among opposition elements giving birth to the UDP was clearly needed once again.

And, indeed, the UDP is the true party of change, of tolerance for opposing views and values. Yet, it’s a party that is planted on a firm foundation. Candidates will come and go. Leaders will emerge and descend. Moves and counter-moves will be made. Strategies will be adopted and abandoned. That is the nature of change. But, the resolve to defend democracy remains constant. It is the solid rock upon which the UDP is founded, the firm foundation upon which we stand, and the unshakable faith that enables us to overcome setbacks, rebound from defeat, and face the future as daunting as it often is. It is this unshakeable faith that enabled the UDP to continue and to intensify the fight for freedom, justice and democracy in the wake of its disappointing defeat in 2003.

And as the proverbial Phoenix which rises from the ashes, following the loss in the 2003 General Elections, the United Democratic Party under the leadership of Hon. Dean Barrow, after much re-evaluation and soul-searching, re-committed itself to the core principles of the party, a commitment to the people rather than self-interest, to the ideals of patriotism rather than party idealism, to good and open government as opposed to the corrupt and secretive practices that had become the order of the day under the Musa/Fonseca Administration.

Wherever shady actions and backroom deals were perpetrated, the United Democratic Party called them out, shone the light on them, alerted the Belizean People, and either led or threw its full support behind the obligatory efforts of peaceful democratic resistance.

Steadfast members of the UDP had their motivation rekindled, disaffected members of the party returned to the fold as was the case of Wilfred ‘Sedi’ Elrington in February of 2004, independent-minded Belizeans joined forces; even traditional supporters of the PUP, concerned for the wellbeing of their country, closed ranks with the United Democratic Party all because they realized the country’s only hope rested with the UDP which had rededicated itself with renewed vigor to the values of patriotism and good stewardship that are its very foundation.

The first confirmation that the UDP had rebounded from the March 2003 general election defeat and was well on its way to becoming the next government, came in the October 29th 2003 with the by-elections in Cayo South, triggered by the death of the PUP Area Representative for that division. In that by-election the national party machineries of the PUP and the UDP faced off, and the UDP won its first ever victory in Cayo South as Hon. John Saldivar was elected.

In the subsequent municipal elections of 1st March, 2006, the masses were drawn to the UDP, re-inspired and re-energized by the party’s impassioned and unrelenting push for reform and good governance and its own dedication to those ideals. Those elections were preceded (mainly in 2005) by sustained people protest and acts of civil disobedience, the Belizean people having grown weary of the reckless and corrupt practices that seemed to have become the sole purpose for the existence of the party in power at the time, the PUP. The people overwhelmingly embraced the United Democratic Party as the party of change and the UDP devastated the PUP all across the country, winning 64 out of 67 seats (losing two seats in Punta Gorda and one in Benque Viejo) in those municipal elections.

The trend continued into the village council elections of 2007, when the UDP was victorious in almost 70 percent of the villages countrywide, winning in many villages that were traditional PUP strongholds and never before controlled by the UDP. The result of those village council elections, added to the results of the municipal elections just one year earlier, confirmed beyond a shadow of doubt that the UDP was enjoying tremendous popularity countrywide in both urban and rural areas and that the party was poised for a massive victory in the general elections due the following year.

By this time the United Democratic Party was attracting young, talented and hard working persons. In preparation for the elections the UDP held its first National Party Convention since 2001, in San Ignacio on the 28th May, 2006, where Gaspar Vega was elected first deputy leader, Erwin Contreras was endorsed as second deputy leader, Doug Singh re-elected as party chairman, Frank ‘Papa’ Mena- deputy Party Chairman and Hon. Dean Barrow was endorsed as Party Leader. On June 25th, a month later Rosendo ‘Chendo’ Urbina was endorsed as the standard bearer for Orange Walk Central to go up against PUP veteran John Briceno. The UDP presented a magnificent slate comprising of Hon. Dean Barrow, Gaspar Vega (who had won in the 29th August, 2005 Orange Walk North convention by a staggering 1,500 votes), Erwin Contreras, Michael Finnegan, Patrick Faber, Anthony “Boots” Martinez, Wlifred Elrington, Carlos Perdomo (who had unseated the then Deputy Party leader Oscar Ayuso in July of 2005 as standard bearer for the Caribbean Shores division), Manuel Herredia, George Gough, Michael Peyreffitte, Tom Morrison, Vandley Jenkins, Edmund Castro, Michael Hutchinson, Pablo Marin, Nemencio Acosta, Servando Samos, Gabriel Martinez, Marcel Cardona, Marco Pech, Salvador Fernandez, Rene Montero, Ramon Witz, Elvin Penner, John Saldivar, Arturo Roaches, Melvin Hulse, Peter Eden Martinez and Juan Coy.

In addition to its Reform Agenda, the UDP put forward a number of policy positions and plans of action to address pressing issues such as the economy, crime, healthcare, education, tourism, petroleum and cost of living which were ratified at its convention of 2006. Those were all embraced with much optimism by Belizeans around the country. Hope was rekindled, especially among those that had suffered most under the Musa/Fonseca PUP administration, the poor people.

In so many ways, the UDP was already proving itself as a party ready for office. When disaster struck (as in the case of Hurricane Dean in August 2007) the United Democratic Party reached out to the government of the day and to the affected citizens themselves , bringing immediate, direct, and much-need relief to hundreds of Belizeans families, even as the government itself was slow to respond. With just nine months prior to the general elections, the protests against the PUP administration’s mismanagement of public funds came to a head. On the 18th May, 2007, thousands of Belizeans tired of Governments’ abuse converged upon Belmopan and a violent showdown reminiscent of the 2005 manifestation ensued. Public discontent and displeasure was being expressed through outright challenges to the Government.

As 2008 drew nearer, the momentum for change continued to build, and the Belizean people awaited with eager expectation the imminent General Elections. The announcement of the General elections date came on the 7th January; it had been set for Ash Wednesday, February 7th, 2008.

The United Democratic Party was as ready as ever and on the 8th of January Hon. Dean Barrow officially kicked off the campaign outlining 21 pledges amongst which were: the acquisition of a loan from the World Bank for a multi-million dollar infrastructure project; to create a healthier investment and economic development climate; lowering of electricity and telephone rates; reducing of income tax, grant a three hundred dollar subsidy to high school students, create a national primary school feeding program create a DNA testing facility, provide assistance to single mothers and create a new Development Finance Institution. The campaign leading up to those elections was particularly spirited, marked by almost unprecedented voter interest sparked by the glaring evidence of corruption under the incumbent PUP administration on one hand, and on the other hand the UDP’s compelling case for change and reform. The electorate was more educated than ever by an increasingly aggressive and unforgiving media which by this time was apprised of ‘up to the minute’ events, bringing all of the PUP’s ‘wheeling and dealing’ to the fore. The massive crowd that assembled in front of the United Democratic Party Headquarters on Youth for the Future Drive on the night of February 4th, three days before the election was to say the least overwhelming and a prognostication that change was imminent.  As was predicted by most political observers and independent polls carried out across the country, the United Democratic Party won those general elections by a massive margin, capturing 25 out of 31 seats. One of the biggest upsets of that election being the defeat of the PUP’s giant Ralph Fonseca by the newcomer Michael Hutchinson.

Following the overwhelming victory, the new Prime Minister of Belize, Hon. Dean O. Barrow, on February 11th, appointed his 16 member Cabinet and hit the ground running. In his Inaugural Address, he reiterated his administration’s commitment to restore honesty, transparency and fiscal-responsibility in the administration of the nation’s affairs.

True to its commitment and its pledge, the new UDP Dean Barrow Administration within its first year in office restored confidence in the Belize Government both at home and abroad, recovering millions of dollars in public funds diverted by the Musa PUP administration as was the case of the US ten million dollars from Belize Bank, virtually eliminating corruption at the highest level of government, as early as 25th April, 2008 introduced a number constitutional reforms to ensure transparency and accountability in the nation’s affairs, and willfully adopting a style of management characterized by fiscal responsibility and restraint, prudent and targeted spending, complete and systematic openness. By July, 2008 the UDP government had signed contracts for the improvements of 56 miles of sugar roads in the northern districts.  On the 22nd August the government passed the Sixth Amendment package in fulfillment of its reform agenda. Being one of the boldest amendments ever made by any government it sought to among other things, to vest petroleum rights in the hands of the people of Belize, enact a three term limit for Prime Ministers, allow for a recall mechanism for wayward representatives and give the Senate more oversight powers. The new UDP government would soon be forced to take on the challenges of two major flooding disasters in 2008, coupled with the already inherited man-made disasters of crumbling infrastructure and a despairing populace, a national Three Billion Dollars (Super bond) in debt with virtually nothing to show for it—the legacy of ten years of corruption under the Musa/Fonseca regime. In its first year in office the UDP administration implemented the education subsidies, assistance to the poor, tax breaks on medicines and medical services, infrastructural rehabilitation, took down the unemployment rate from 8.5 to 8.1%, banana and citrus production increased substantially and the Statistical Institute of Belize recorded a 3.8% economic growth. The 20 million dollars which were recovered from the Belize Bank were disbursed as a grant to the 31 constituencies for home improvements and building of new homes to deserving residents.

Enabled by its own good stewardship and the confidence restored both at home and abroad, the UDP quickly weathered the storm, and through a combination of local resources well targeted and external financing secured from bilateral and multilateral sources, the Dean Barrow Administration, going into its second year, was able to inject an economic stimulus package to the tune of over $200 Million (in addition to significant targeted increases in its recurrent expenditure) being spent on vital infrastructure and on the people in critical areas such as education, health, agriculture, food security, poverty alleviation and micro- enterprise.

The new UDP government also quickly secured funds to resuscitate the DFC, an institution whose bankruptcy was emblematic of all that had gone so horribly wrong under the PUP. The Social Security fund was made more secure than ever with infallible mechanisms put in place by the UDP administration to ensure that the indiscretions of the past are not repeated. In keeping with its promise to the Belizean people, corruption and abuse were dealt with swift castigation sending the message that tactless lack of judgment will not be tolerated.

Belizeans gave the new UDP Administration its first vote of confidence in the March 2009 Municipal Elections when the Party again won 64 out of 67 seats, this time taking control of the mayoral seat in all nine municipalities. But not all was smooth sailing as on the 2nd October, 2009, at a National Party Council Belize City Mayor Zenaida Moya was expelled from the UDP’s national party council as a result of her public behavior towards Hon. Dean Barrow after being criminally charged for wrongdoings at city hall. This process, though unsavory, was in the spirit of accountability upon which the UDP had campaigned in 2007. Three months earlier the UDP recorded a great loss in the death of its former UDP senator and former Deputy Party Leader, Oscar Ayuso, which left the rank and file of the party in shock. On October 3rd of that same year another loss was recorded for the UDP as well respected teacher and former Corozal Town UDP councilor Javier Castillo was murdered inside his home. December 19th  was yet another sad day in the history of the UDP as the death was announced of former UDP minister of Agriculture Russell ‘Chiste’ Garcia. He died three days after his 59th birthday of kidney complications.

On August 24th 2009 P.M. Barrow, in response to protracted litigation against the government, introduced and passed a bill for the government to take control of Belize Telemedia Ltd. Also introduced in December of 2009 was the Belize Teaching Services Commission after countrywide consultations were done. In February 2010 the Seventh Amendment to the constitution which removed the Privy Council and replaced it with the Caribbean Court of Justice as the final appellate court for Belize was introduced and ratified. The government was making great strides in its commitment to good governance and although Belize and indeed the world were still reeling from the effects of the global economic meltdown, the UDP government’s fiscal policies and prudent administration managed to stabilize our economy. And while Belize didn’t come out of the recession unscathed, there were no layoffs in the public sector, no increase in taxes nor any new taxes introduced-Belize was doing well. Belize Sugar Industries was given a 10 million dollar bailout which saved the ailing sugar industry in the North, ensuring that the livelihood of thousands of Belizeans was preserved.

On the 1st August, 2010 at its National Convention held in Orange Walk Town, the United Democratic Party once again endorsed Hon. Dean Barrow as the leader and Hon. Gaspar Vega as Deputy leader while Hon. Patrick Faber was elected over Hon. John Saldivar (422 to 122 votes) for the post of party chairman after it was vacated by Doug Singh who had served in that capacity for eleven years. And as the UDP moved from strength to strength the saga of two dissidents continued unfolding in the fringes. In July of 2010 Zenaida Moya was causing quite a stir in the media about her expulsion from the party and Marcel Cardona was publicly demonstrating against the UDP. On October 17th 2010 the bitter news was received, that stalwart UDP activist and prominent attorney Richard Stuart was stabbed to death along with his wife Maria inside their home in Belize City.
On December 5th conventions started with Roger Espejo challenging and losing to Hon. Carlos Perdomo in Caribbean Shores. On December 13th the convention in Orange Walk East saw the unseating of Marcel Cardona by Landy Burns.

2011 was the year for conventions for the United Democratic Party. Most of the challengers were unsuccessful in their bid except for those in Corozal and Orange Walk where the most incumbents were bested by their challengers. In Corozal, Hon. Pablo Marin and Gabriel Martinez retained their mandate while Nemencio Acosta was replaced by Hugo Patt, and Servando Samos was replaced by Raul Rosado. In Orange Walk, Marco Pech was replaced by Rosendo Urbina while Marcel Cardona had been replaced by Orlando ‘Landy’ Burns in December of 2010. These political moves would prove detrimental to the UDP in the next general elections. On the 23rd of March 2011, a young attorney by the name of Darrell Bradley came forth to offer himself as Mayor in the next Municipal Elections. While at the National Level the Party was dealing with the Issue of Marcel Cardona’s ‘Constructive Resignation’ after his outburst against the UDP government in the National Assembly and his eventual expulsion in April, 2011. By this time Zenaida Moya had already made amends and was back in the fray.

On July 4th, 2011, Hon. Dean Barrow, took the matter of nationalization of Public Utilities to the National Assembly followed by countrywide consultations on the 9th Amendment which started on 10th August, 2011 in Belize City and was eventually passed into law as the 8th Amendment on the 21st October, this after the original 8th Amendment which dealt with Preventive Detention was put to pasture. This was hailed by Belizeans as one of the greatest achievements by any modern day government witnessed by the overwhelming support it received.

Disaster struck again within the ranks of the UDP as on the 13th September 2011, sitting Belize City UDP councilor Andrew Faber, brother of Minister of Education Patrick Faber, met his untimely death in a road accident on the Placencia Road.

On the 5th October the United Democratic Party launched its slate for the next municipal elections. The slate comprised of young dynamic members including two lawyers and a doctor was led by the promising young attorney Darrel Bradley. On the 2nd November, Caribbean Shores area representative Hon. Carlos Perdomo stepped down as standard bearer due to health issues. In the subsequent convention on the 4th December, Santiago Castillo beat Chandra Nisbet Cansino and became the standard bearer for the area.

The multitude of achievements by the UDP government continued throughout its third term in office. Always forward and acting in the best interest of the people of Belize, policies were implemented to benefit all. With the enormous charge of stabilizing Belize’s economy which had been on life support by the PUP administration, Hon. Dean Barrow announced during his pre-election country tour that the first order of business after being re-elected would be the re-negotiation of the Superbond.

Then came 2012 and on the 8th of January, Hon. Dean Barrow launched his country wide pre-election tour. Chunox and Caledonia were the first villages to host the UDP party leader. Every one of the 31 constituencies was visited with the supporters swelling to a greater number at every venue. 780 homeowners will never forget that it was the UDP government that gave them a respite from their financial burdens on the 13th January, 2012 as their debt was written off as promised in the Prime Minister’s New Year’s Message. The pro-poor assistance programs continued providing much needed relief for the most deserving persons of this country as 50 thousand was earmarked for every constituency. January 17th was nomination day and the United Democratic Party in a sea of red marched through the old capital’s streets to the nomination venue on Mahogany Street. The scene was the same across the country as all candidates were nominated.

By February of 2012 one of the pillars of the governments economy-the tourism industry had recorded tourism arrivals in excess of a quarter million. The sugar Industry had performed exceptionally well, citrus and bananas were in their best performance. There was visible improvement everywhere.

On the 22nd February, the UDP launched its 2012-2017 manifesto to the press and on the 23rd to the masses at the UDP headquarters in Belize City. The UDP was ready for the double Municipal and General Elections which had been slated for Wednesday the 7th of March.  Hon. Dean Barrow’s country tour continued until the night before the election and judging by the throngs that showed up at every venue the UDP was enjoying huge popularity. In the case of Orange Walk Town a crowd in excess of 8 thousand stood in the pouring rain to hear presentations from the UDP leaders. Confidence was high and the UDP went into the election with the greatest of expectations.

The elections were not as the UDP had expected and predicted. Although it formed government it did so with a disappointing though comfortable margin of 17 to 14. It was a close call and the results are still the cause of much discussion and analysis by political pundits.  The successful candidates for the general election were: Dean Oliver Barrow, Gaspar “Gapi” Vega, Santino “Santi” Castillo, Wilfred “Sedi” Elrinton, Mark Anthony King, Herman R. Longsworth, Patrick Faber, Michael Finnegan, Anthony “Boots” Martinez, Edmond Castro, Manuel Heredia, Erwin Contreras, Rene Montero, Elvin Penner, John Saldivar, Hugo Patt, and Pablo Marin. The UDP also retained control of six municipalities including Belize City where all six councilors were elected with Darell Bradley as Mayor. In Corozal Hilberto Campos was elected as Mayor along with all six UDP councilors. San Ignacio incumbent mayor John August retained his seat an all six UDP councilors were elected. In Belmopan Simeon Lopez retained the Mayoral seat and only four UDP councilors were elected. And finally in Punta Gorda only one UDP councilor was elected.

As it entered into its fourth term of government in its relative short history the United Democratic Party picked up from where it left off. Hon Dean Oliver Barrow was sworn in as Prime Minister for a second term on the 9th October, 2012. And true to his pre-election promise Hon. Dean Barrow immediately set up a committee to deal with the Superbond. The pro-poor programs such as Boost and the food pantry were continued, the education subsidies saw more secondary students in school, a record number of land leases and titles were distributed to Belizean countrywide, more schools were being inaugurated; water systems and rural electrification had reached to areas of the country which were previously abandoned, the Belize City Southside Alleviation Project continued apace. While in Belize City, the UDP Council successfully executed a first of its kind Municipal Bond, which saw the cementing of a vast number of the city streets.

The UDP national convention was held in Corozal Town on the 17th February, 2013. Hon. Patrick Faber challenged Hon. Gaspar Vega in a heated contest which resulted in Hon Gaspar Vega being re-elected as the UDP’s Deputy Leader. Alberto August went up against Roosevelt Blades for the post of Party Chairman which was vacated by Hon. Patrick Faber. When the ballots were counted Alberto August was declared the winner. Fern Gutierrez was elected to the post of Deputy Party Chairman while all other positions were endorsed.

In March following the conventions the UDP’s Secretary General, Phillipa Bailey, resigned after holding that office for thirteen years. She was succeeded by Pearl Stuart who presently holds that post. The village council elections were held during the period from 12th May to June 16th 2013 and the UDP won in 131 seats out of the 191 contested showing that Belizeans were satisfied with the government’s performance to date. The UDP has positioned itself as the most popular party in history and is poised to become the first government to win general elections three times in a row.

The successful re-negotiation of the Superbond saving Belizeans almost 500 million dollars in the first 9 years, the creation of a national bank offering loans to first time homeowner at very low interest rates, unprecedented spending on infrastructure, writing off of 6.22 million dollars in DFC loans, the dramatic reduction of crime in Belize City and the creation of a stable investor climate which has attracted a number foreign investments are just a few of the countless achievements of the UDP government. This translates to savings and employment creation for thousands of Belizeans.

So as our National Anthem proclaims ‘From The proud Rio Hondo to old Sarstoon” the UDP beat goes on, and so does the work of national reconstruction. And that’s no idly drawn parallel, for as fate would have it, the challenges and victories of the UDP throughout its history are inextricably interwoven with the tribulations and triumphs of the original settlement in the Bay of Honduras which the world now knows as the nation state of Belize, and whose heritage the UDP has fought indefatigably to preserve, even as it has fought and eventually won its own political battles.

In the words of Hon. Dean Barrow, Prime Minister of Belize and Leader of the UDP: “Time and time again throughout our history, Belizeans have risen up to overcome adversity in a way that has stamped us as an uncommon people. Right from the start, the sanctity of that first settlement in the Bay of Honduras was only preserved by heroic resistance to overwhelming odds. That legacy has never left us and we remain proud inheritors of the Baymen’s Glory. And so it is that today I have no doubt that the overflow problems presented by a world crisis cannot defeat, or even long detain, the Belizean people. It is one of the wonderful truisms of human existence that there is hardly a challenge that does not bring with it an equal opportunity. Here on the Spanish Main, at the current crossroads of Central America and the Caribbean, let no one doubt that it continues to be our special destiny to vanquish challenges and take full advantage of opportunities. As it was in the beginning, so it is now for a nation marked by sinew and synapse as ultimately bound for glory.”

Long Live Belize! Long Live the UDP!

The above is a condensation of the colorful history of the United Democratic Party. There is so much more to tell making it a living document and work in progress.