On Monday, the People’s United Party (PUP) spoke out with regard to the ongoing crisis in the sugar industry in the North. The party has multiple representatives in the Corozal and Orange Walk Districts, and has a long affiliation with the industry in which some of its members make a living.
In opening the briefing, in addition to reiterating its support for the cane farmers, PUP leader Francis Fonseca attacked the stance of Prime Minister Dean Barrow as giving in to the quick deal over truly addressing the concerns on the table.
“The decision by Prime Minister Barrow and his UPD Government to destroy this long-established partnership in the industry. Barrow and the UDP have abandoned the caneros and the Belizean people’s interest, and have decidedly sided with the multi-national ASR.
Just as the UDP abandoned the Mayan people in favor of US Capital in the South, so too today they have turned their backs on the cane farmers.
When Mr Barrow and the UDP, under political pressure, finally engaged in this crisis, all they were interested in was getting a deal, signing an agreement. It didn’t matter how fair or unfair that deal was, that agreement was. Mr Barrow, as usual, just wanted to look good.
Well, Barrow has now forced that deal, forced that agreement. He has got his deal, and the farmers and all Belizeans now know that the agreement is one-sided and unfair.”
Francis Fonseca also had some choice words for BSI/ASR, saying that despite the need for foreign direct investment in Belize, respect matters more.
“The time comes when we must publically declare that we stand with our vane farmers. we stand with them now, we stand with them tomorrow, and we will always stand with our cane farmers.
Yes, we know well Belize needs foreign direct investment. We welcome investors. That is the long history of the Peoples’ United Party. We welcome investment into Belize. But I say today in no uncertain terms, very loudly and very clearly, if ASR / BSI, if they cannot value and respect our cane farmers, then let them go! Let them go!”
PUP area representative for Orange Walk South, Jose Abelardo Mai, further accused the Government of collaborating with BSI/ASR to cheat the farmers, and divide the Belize Sugar Cane Farmers Association (BSCFA) to push through the start of the crop season against the farmers’ wishes.
“As we speak, farmers are presently in a state of disarray and confusion, caused by no less than the trip issued by the Prime Minister on behalf of ASR, that sugar cane would be accepted only from farmers on their alliance, who were prepared to sign commercial agreements with the company.
This flies in the face of unanimous rejection of this agreement by cane farmers at the special general assembly of the Belize Sugar Cane Farmers Association held on Sunday, 4 January, 2015, when farmers became fully aware of the political manipulation of their Committee of Management, that had led to the weakening of the negotiation position mandated by the farmers.”
According to Jose Mai, if farmers signed the agreement they would do so under protest of what the agreement contains.
Deputy Leader and Corozal Southeast area representative, Florencio Marin Jr., said farmers recognize the level of debts they have at various financial institutions, and this is another factor in favor of signing the agreement, which would allow for immediate payments on milled sugar products to be made.
The PUP believes the crop should have been started with an Interim Agreement, to allow time to work on a fair Commercial Sugar Agreement.