Mon. March 3, 2014

Best description for Sunday’s UDP convention in Belize Rural Central is that it was an orgy. It was a festive atmosphere as the the Ladyville area was decked out in red, weather was great and convention goers were in a euphoric state all day, observers say. Only one candidate was responsible for the fanfare and she emerged the winner when the counting was done – but was it worth?

Voting started at 10:00 a.m. and finished at 5:00 p.m. When counting finished Beverly Castillo, former CEO in the Ministry of Natural Resources emerged as the winner. The convention was hotly contested by five candidates: Beverly Castillo, Dean Samuels, Michael Hutchinson, John Lizama and Emroy Castillo.

Beverly Castillo garnered 961 votes; Michael Hutchinson garnered 502 votes, Dean Samuels got 353 votes; Emroy Castillo got 152 votes and John Lizama got 19 votes.

Like any convention, Sunday’s convention had it’s fair share of drama. The campaign leading up to it had been a contentious one. Beverly Castillo was and still is embroiled in a land grab scandal in which she is accused of canceling a lease for a parcel of land in the Balama area held by Bernadette Pickwood and awarding it to her mother, Maude Williams and son, Marvin Castillo Jr. That made her easy picking for the other candidates. She was also the choice of the party hierarchy and was backed with lots of resources to run a successful campaign.

Prior to the convention, several infrastructure works were carried out in the Ladyville area which was attributed to the care and generosity of Beverly Castillo. Observers are still trying to figure where all the money came from for the rather expensive but unsophisticated campaign. In hindsight, one has to ask if it was all worth it for just 961 votes from a rather large constituency? But as the saying goes, “ugly win betta than pretty lose” and Beverly Castillo won so that’s it. Castillo had about eight tents on the convention site and an estimated 300 workers all dressed in her campaign shirts.

On Monday morning Castillo put the final punctuation on her campaign with a raffle on the UDP’s Wave Radio where supporters won refrigerators, television and phone.

According several sources, Castillo’s campaign had some heavy guns. One such was Port Loyola’s area representative, Anthony Boots who traditionally shows up to intimidate and bully non-supporters. As Boots did in 2011 when he parked himself across from the venue of the PUP convention in Port Loyola in the company of his goons, he showed up in La Democracia and Manatee villages to bully and bribe supporters of Dean Samuels into voting for Beverly Castillo, sources said.

Castillo has won and the hierarchy of the UDP are happy but by morning word went out that one casualty was not happy and has pledged to do all in his power to ensure that Castillo loses at the poll in the general elections. Michael Hutchinson had been under a lot of pressure from his party. Once appointed the “caretaker” for BRC, he was bypassed and the leverage the position would have given to bolster his campaign was evaporated. Hutchinson is not having anymore of it and openly said that he will work to ensure that Castillo loses, sources say.

Going forward the UDP will have to work to mend fences. Castillo faces off with Dolores Balderamos-Garcia when the elections are called. A few weeks ago Garcia announced during an appearance on the PUP’s Vibes Radio that she will not under estimate anyone that comes. Balderamos while a frugal spender is a talented attorney and an indefatigable campaigner and strategist who is also well backed financially. Castillo has her work cut out for her as she is up against members of her own party who simply don’t like her and her formidable opponent in Balderamos-Garcia.