Former Belize PM speaks on Venezuela controversy

BELMOPAN, Belize, July 28, 2008 – Former Belize Prime Minister Said Musa has defended himself against corruption allegations stemming from the use of Venezuela financial aid given to the country, claiming that neither he nor his People’s United Party (PUP) officials benefitted personally from the money.

Mr Musa used the wrap up in debate on Prime Minister Dean Barrow’s budget to clear the air in a situation that resulted in the Central Bank of Belize demanding the return of US$10 million which the administration received from Venezuela to repair and construct houses.

The amount was half of a US$20 million grant which the Venezuela government had given to the Belize government.

“These funds were secured because of the very good relations that our PUP government had with Venezuela and with its head of state, President Hugo Chavez…Not one cent of the generous gift from Venezuela benefited me personally or indeed any official of the Peoples’ United Party. None of us benefited personally. I can stand here in this House and before my God and say that truthfully.”

“What I can say is that trough out this matter (is that) I acted in good faith, with good intentions and I defy anyone of them to prove otherwise. I know that at the end of the day, with all their charges, innuendos and counter charges, I committed no criminal wrong doing and time will prove that,” he insisted, amidst charges that his administration, ousted in February, was corrupt.

Mr Musa also used the opportunity in Parliament to warn the government that getting rid of corruption, which was pervasive in the Belize society, was not as easy as the Barrow administration might think.

“This government will soon find out how difficult it is to deal with the contraband trade, how difficult it is to deal with the so called mordita and all these acts of corruption that exist in our society,” he said.

The former Belize leader also accused the United Democratic Party (UDP) of leading a strong, resilient economy which they inherited down the path of destruction.

“Less than six months after this government took office…the economy is coming to a screeching halt unless you do something about it quickly. Belize is now facing the economic phenomenon of an economic slow down, so called recession, compounded by an out of control high cost of living, inflation,” Mr Musa charged.

In his budget presentation earlier this month, Prime Minister Barrow said that an estimated BEL$824.8 million (US$419.2 million) would be spent for the fiscal year 2008-2009, with emphasis given to education, health, agriculture and tourism.