As explained previously Deputy Prime Minister Gaspar Vega is out as Minister of Natural Resources, responsible for the management of land in Belize. But according to Prime Minister Dean Barrow, after seven years in charge, he wanted out, even before the general elections, because of the toll the post took on him. Here is how he explained it at this morning’s press conference.
Dean O Barrow Prime Minister:From before the elections the deputy prime minister and i had spoken, he had actually asked me to be relieved of the lands ministry , maybe 6 months, 8 months or so before the last election and i asked him to stay on to see out the term (applause). You must recollect that that ministry, that department exacts quite a toll on those that have sought to discharge the duties of minister in that ministry. (pause) I think the DPM for that long spell during which he was the minister gave it his all but he paid a price. I don’t say that he complained but it was a fact that he had to spend late hours every day that he was in Belmopan, and i think he spent 3 or 4 days a week in Belmopan, late hours getting home 11 and 12 and 1 and 2 with all the signing that was necessary, the tremendous workload that was attached to that ministry. he would ot have been human if he did not reach a point at which he said, as he did to me, you know what let me stay with Agriculture and do something else, it is time for me to move on!
So then, this change is not a demotion, as Vega keeps his role as second-in-command and gains a Minister of State and two minor Ministries. Vega, for his part, conceded that while there has been much reform there, the Department, famously described by his boss as “a hot bed of corruption,” is not quite where he and the nation would like it to be. He also answers the question of whether he would like to succeed Dean Barrow as Prime Minister.
Gaspar Vega, Deputy Prime Minister: There was a time when the lands department was just getting to be too much. too much peer pressure, the public demanding for more. its a difficult department; it was one of the worse departments government had before 2008, and we have made substantial advance but i still dont think it is where all of us expect it to be and at times it is just overbearing.
Journalist: Sir do you feel, while the PM has said certainly it is no demotion, but do you feel that perhaps you may have gotten another powerful ministry because you gained ground in the north which is what you set out to do!
Gaspar Vega, Deputy Prime Minister:Yes I gained ground in the north and I think the PM realizes it and acknowledges it and the decision that he made was to the best of his ability, i am certain, and we all respect whatever decisions he makes.
Journalist: But the ministries you got were not by choice. You didn’t choose those ministries
Gaspar Vega, Deputy Prime Minister: No, no, no. I don’t think anyone got to choose their ministry.
Journalist: Sir could we ask you point blank… do you have aspirations to be PM of this country. This is the PM third term and he will have to step down some time in this term.
Gaspar Vega, Deputy Prime Minister: i think it is premature to answer that
And in a political question, Vega says he was surprised by political opponent Ramon Cervantes Jr.’s spending on the ground in the election.
Gaspar Vega, Deputy Prime Minister: I didn’t believe that the guy running against me was going to be spending that much money. to be sincere. I did not, he got me by surprise on the day of election when i began seeing the movement. Because, otherwise he would not have gotten that close. plus i invested a lot of time campaigning with some of my other colleagues, but that i would do no matter what. But i think the main surprise was the money that he invested.
Journalist: Would you say that he outmuscled in terms of money on the ground?
Gaspar Vega, Deputy Prime Minister: He outspent me, he did not out muscle me because had i wanted to spend i could have also.
Gaspar Vega, Deputy Prime Minister: of course, I think it shows that i am extremely strong because like i told everyone, i am probably one of the few representatives and candidates who does not pay for campaigners, i do not buy votes , i work every day for the four years every term and that s my strength.
Vega declined to comment on the rumors of violence against campaigners against Ramon Cervantes Jr. on Election Day, and insists he has always advocated peace and so would not have ordered the Gang Suppression Unit to raid opponents’ houses in San Jose village as happened a few days before Election Day.