The responsibilities of a good area representative are many, especially at a time when the nation is faced with crippling issues piled up like hurdles. So imagine the case of an area representative turned leader of the PUP, who is suddenly faced with new challenges and the new responsibility of charting the path to electoral viability in the near future. Its a daunting job, but Orange Walk Central Area Representative and leader of the Peoples United Party John Briceno seems unfazed, as he remains committed to his constituents. Every month he heads out to another area of the division to meet with the residents, update them on Party issues and address their concerns. Last night our news team was on San Victor Street for the monthly Orange Walk Central neighbourhood meeting.

Carmelita Perez- Reporting

After just a few moments in his presence, it is easy to see why John Briceno is perhaps the most popular and successful politician in Belize today, and is poised to take over as Prime Minister whenever General Elections are called.

But his accessibility and genuine compassion for people aside, Briceno must be prepared to deal with the challenges facing Belize today, and last night he took the opportunity to update residents on major issues like unemployment.

john-1John Briceno – PUP Leader

“When we look at what Belize has gone through for the past three years I don’t think I need to tell you that you are living through it. It has been three of the toughest years that Belize has experienced since Independence. When the P.U.P was in government unemployment was eight and half percent. A few months ago in the National Assembly the former Party Leader the Honourable Said Musa asked a question about what is the official unemployment rate and Mr. Barrow decided not to answer the question they disallowed the question and refused to give an answer and now that the statistics of the census are in we know why Mr. barrow did not want to say what is the unemployment rate in Belize. Twenty three percent of Belizeans are unemployed they cannot find a job and it is true because they come to my house, they go to my office, they send me emails and people are desperately trying to find a job. Cuando nosotros salimos en el 2008 el desempleo estaba en ocho y medio por ciento.”

And a lot of the unemployment woes stem from the lack of development which is the result of a lack of investor confidence. According to Briceno, nobody wants to invest in Belize under the Barrow administration.

John Briceno – PUP Leader

“En el 2008 las inversiones por fuera que se hicieron en Belice estaban a dos cientos treinta millones de dólares. El año pasado fue trece millones. From 230 million to 13 million. Y eso está pasando porque los extranjeros ya no están confiando al gobierno de hoy y no tienen confianza en lo que está haciendo Mr. Barrow y sus ministros.”

And if the economic crisis wasn’t bad enough, there’s the fact that crime has spiraled out of control under the UDP.

John Briceno – PUP Leader

“Just over this weekend nine people got shot and two got killed. We already have forty eight murders this year. Last year alone at this time we were already at forty but this year it seems it is going to get even worse.”

Briceno also took the time to speak on an issue with which residents are well aware – the onion crisis facing farmers in Corozal and Orange Walk.

john_interviewJohn Briceno – PUP Leader

“Here we have hard working poor Belizeans they barrowed five thousand and ten thousand dollars to plant the onions and the Ministry of Agriculture knew that they were planting these onions, they knew when these onions would have been ready for harvesting but what did they do them through the Marketing Board imported hundreds and hundreds of sacks of imported onions from Holland they brought in the onions and then our poor onion producers can’t sell their onion. But we know what is going on when they import these things somebody get a cut and that is what is happening they hustle with the permits that they give. So whilst the minister or the minister’s friends are out there making money because they imported onions our poor farmers are throwing away their onions.”

In addition to national issues, residents are plagued by municipal concerns like the condition of streets and drains and broken and missing streetlights. Last night they engaged in an active question and answer session, and some of their concerns were addressed by PUP Town Councilors Kevin Bernard and Rozel Arana who have remained committed to resident despite being outnumbered in the Town Council.

During the meeting, the Area Representative and Party Leader reminded residents that his office remains open and he and his team are prepared to assist as much as they can and in any way possible.

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