The controversy surrounding Belizean visa hustling continues and the situation only keeps getting interesting. While a national media house has taken upon itself to poke into the matter deeper and has come up with some compelling arguments, the Prime Minister defends his flock, in particular Minister Edmund Castro.
As viewers may recall, the controversy blew over in the immigration department when proof surfaced that Elvin Penner was involved in the illegal processing of Belizean passports. Although the Prime Minister insists that there is no illegality to Penner’s actions he still booted him out of the United Democratic Party.
An investigation into the immigration department was launched and as of yesterday, in the government press conference, Godwin Hulse says there was no update except to say that the investigation is ongoing. Another subsequent move is the restructuring of the immigration department for which three pieces of legislation have began its process in the House Of Representatives. Immediately following this scandal, Edmund Castro’s name was thrown into the mix as one of the government ministers who has been deeply and largely involved in visa hustling. First, a whistle blower surfaced but government gives her no credibility.
Castro has himself denied receiving payment for visa recommendations and has accepted to signing only five of an alleged two hundred recommendations. However, the media house continues to probe and new quote “evidence” have been slowly popping up showing that Castro has been signing recommendations for a total, so far of thirty eight Chinese nationals between May and July. A few weeks back, Prime Minister Dean Barrow stated that if he heard a minister in his government intervened ten to twenty times, they were likely involved in a visa hustle. In yesterday’s Press Conference, when asked for his response to alleged proof of obvious visa hustling on behalf of Castro, his stance had changed.
Barrow on Castro Visa
“In making her determination, where there is no suggestion that any minister, and in this case, Castro, trying to reach her man, if he signed quite frankly 200 visa recommendations, if he signed one thousand, I can do nothing. I can say to him boy, I have my own view and you must realize that out there, people won’t think that you’re signing one hundred visas or seventy-five visa applications just like that. But really and truly, practically speaking, Castro can't produce any visas. How will anyone pay you for letters of recommendation when you cannot guarantee that they will get visas? How many of them you must check and find out how many of those people that letters were written for actually did receive visas, go to the director and find out man because I am telling you, the director has been quite clear there has been no attempt at intervention on the part on Castro so on that he signed 20 recommendation letter or 25 sir, can’t take the matter no further.”
But while the Prime Minister insists that Castro has never personally solicited assistance from the Director, the proof presented last night on national TV shows that the visa recommendations from Ministers were compiled in the office of C.E.O. Candelaria Saldivar and then forwarded to Director Maria Marin. Furthermore, additional names were also called and included that of C.E.O. Candelaria Saldivar, Rene Montero, Minister of Works and Transport and Erwin Contreras, Minister of Trade. They are all also purported to be involved in the visa hustling.
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