The United Democratic Party (UDP) has made much recent use of the press to announce major party news such as the candidacies of Tracey Taegar-Panton and Dr. Carla Barnett in the Albert and Freetown divisions in the next general election. Today it called the press to its headquarters to announce another confirmed candidate: Belize City Mayor Darrell Bradley. Bradley was slated to contest the Caribbean Shores electoral division against incumbent Minister of State Hon. Santiago “Santino” Castillo Jr on June 7 in an open convention, but today the one-term representative threw in the towel, explaining that he did not want to put the party through what he is still sure would be a bruising internal fight.
“I had long and hard nights thinking about this decision – Something I discussed with my family in detail especially over this past weekend, and it is a decision that took me a long time to make. In fact, as the Prime Minister has stated, it was solely my decision. I called the Prime Minister on Tuesday afternoon to tell him of my decision. And when I looked at everything that was on the board the main reason I made this decision is because as he said, a convention in Caribbean Shores, and I had a personal meeting with the Mayor this morning, and I feel, and I still feel that that would have been like a Manny Pacquiao/Mayweather fight. I told him that, speaking of boxing. But I was not prepared to put my Party through that situation, giving the People’s United Party the edge, so to speak, in that regard. That would have divided the Party and it would have taken a long time to heal the wounds, and so after discussing it with my family I felt that the noble thing to do was to in fact step down and give the seat to Darrell.”
Party Leader and Prime Minister Dean Barrow appeared rather less upbeat than his previous appearances in support of Taegar-Panton and Dr. Barnett, presumably because he backed Castillo from the beginning only to see him give in. Nonetheless, the UDP leader put a brave face on the decision.
“We are in fact please that there is not any longer the need for a contested elections because inevitably these conventions are divisive. They are a very necessary part of our democratic process and certainly this party has made it plan… I won’t in contrast to which other party, that nobody in the UDP, no Minister or no current area representative is immune from challenge. It is within that context that Mayor Bradley wished to challenge Minister Castillo and in fact Dwight Tillet, whom I see here this morning, has mounted a challenge with respect to Minister Edmond Castro in the Belize Rural North Constituency, but we are very pleased that in this case there is no need for a contested convention.”
“This is a reflective day. accept the words of the Honorable Castillo with a great degree of humility, with a great degree of pride, with a great degree of knowing the burden that being an area representative would bring with it. He has shared with me in a couple of our discussions some of his experiences. I have learnt that since being mayor, and since campaigning on the street … it has been a great burden that some of our elected officials bare. I want to recognize and acknowledge him. I heard in his comments a lot of his contemplation and his thinking had to do with other people; his family, he thought about the best interest of the United Democratic Party. In his sharing he thought about Caribbean Shores and that is something that is noble, that is something that is very honorable and I would dare that is something that comes uniquely from a UDP representative – that the people in our party has always placed people and Party first.”
As Castillo’s immediate boss the Prime Minister paid tribute to his stewardship of economic development, including developed relationships with the Central American Bank of Economic Integration (CABEI) and other lending institutions as well as the restructuring of the Social Investment Fund (SIF) following the Dangriga Market scandal. After paying tribute to his own family and that of Castillo’s, the new candidate said he looked forward to the hard work of representing the residents of the division.