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UDP protest at San Pedro Summit backfires

by Kristen Ku

SAN PEDRO, Ambergris Caye, Mon. Sept. 4, 2023

The United Democratic Party (UDP) is currently facing an internal division in the aftermath of the recent protest outside the Investment Summit 2023 at Ambergris Caye over the weekend. The primary objective of the protest was to demand the removal of a People’s United Party (PUP) Minister. However, this event has led to the surprising removal of Jazelie Azueta, the Standard Bearer for Belize Rural South, from her position.

Ambergris Caye was abuzz with activity during the weekend, with an array of government officials, international delegates, business personalities, and investors attending the 3-day Investment Summit from August 30 to September 1.

While many were on the island with business on their minds, the Belize City Central Headquarters of the UDP arrived with a more political agenda. Their grievance was aimed at the supposed transgressions emerging from PUP leaders, especially Hon. Andre Perez, Area Representative for Belize Rural South (BRS).

Contrary to this protest, leaders of the UDP BRS were swift and transparent in distancing themselves. A public statement from the UDP San Pedro on Facebook read, “While the BRS UDP Executive does believe that the actions of Minister Andre Perez and his loss of integrity as our Area Representative are in shambles, we strongly believe in due process. Both the Mayoral candidate and the Belize Rural South Executive and Standard Bearer are in disagreement of such plans that are not in accordance with our island’s culture. As such, we will not be participating in any protest.”

The protest, sanctioned by the Opposition Leader, Hon. Shyne Barrow, went on as planned despite opposition from several party members. This reportedly led to the Party Secretariat’s emergency meeting where Azueta and several other BRS executive members who publicly opposed the protest were expelled and prohibited from participating in the upcoming general elections.

This, according to Barrow, was due to their violation of the Constitution and the NPC Resolution of August 2022 and May 2023.

In light of these events, Azueta voiced her concerns on social media: “I must say that the recent events including my expulsion as Standard Bearer has brought the United Democratic Party to an all-time low. It has eroded the most basic core value of the party which is the democratic process. When the decision was made by the Party Leader, and the central executive to carry out a demonstration during the Investment Summit, the majority of our executive committee in the Belize Rural South decided that it was not a wise decision to do so. However, the Party Leader showed what has been clearly his modus operandi which is a high-handed approach to running the party. It was the usual his way or the highway. I will always fight for the welfare and rights of the people of Belize Rural South. I remain a UDP member but will not work for the party under the leadership of Shyne Barrow unless he humbles himself and mends his ways.”

Backing Azueta’s sentiments, UDP enthusiast, Jorge Aldana stated, “To expel members for standing up for the island will only bring about unnecessary division for our UDP. Our Leader has gone too far, to allow the internal fight of the PUP to divide us within our party. He has now sought to use a resolution that infringes on the constitutional rights of all mankind – free speech.”

In a quick interaction with the press, Prime Minister Hon. John Briceño also expressed his astonishment: “It is only the misguided ideas of the Leader of the Opposition, trying to make himself relevant, have to import protestors from Belize to come and try to create an issue… a protest that I think there is less than ninety people that came. It is important to point out that the UDP executive from Belize Rural South has condemned the actions of their leader.”

It is yet unclear who will take up Azueta’s position, but it’s worth mentioning that Barrow was abroad during the time of the protest, yet he took swift actions against his party members.