Hon. Gaspar Vega: No Apologies For "Giving" Land To Family


Thu, August 2, 2012
Last night on the news, you heard the PUP making the case that two UDP Ministers, Gaspar Vega and Rene Montero had given their family members lavish parcels of land easily and inexpensively. Today, we caught up with Deputy Prime Minister Gaspar Vega in his role as Minister of Agriculture. He was in Blue Creek for a Cattle Sweep – and, thus, had the misfortune of being the first public official to stage an impromptu press conference under a cattle shed. But no matter the circumstance, he was obliging, and remarkably candid about land that he “gave” his relatives. It’s a little long, but bear with us, it’s worth it – here’s how his exchange with Jules Vasquez went:…

Jules Vasquez
“You have set up what they called a friends and family program to bestow your friends and family with pieces of land. How do you respond to that?”

Hon. Gaspar Vega, Minister of Natural Resources
“Jules, I don’t know if you have the list.”

Jules Vasquez
“I do.”

Hon. Gaspar Vega, Minister of Lands
“Maybe we can work with the list.”

Jules Vasquez
“Let’s go to the list. Diana Rosado who they say is your daughter.”

Hon. Gaspar Vega
“Yes she is my daughter.”

Jules Vasquez
“We see 3 pieces for her.”

Hon. Gaspar Vega
“I gave her a piece in Mountain Pine Ridge, 10 acres of land. I gave her a house lot in Corozal and one in Belmopan. And Jules I don’t see anything wrong with that. I gave my daughter 2 house lots and 10 acres piece of farm land. I don’t think there is anything wrong. I myself don’t see anything wrong with that. It’s not like I am giving her land to sell so she could have a party or whatever the case may be. I think she can build a house and I think eventually she can have a little farm. Nothing wrong with that.”

Jules Vasquez
“Then we go on to Zamir Vega your brother, which is in San Pedro Town.”

Hon. Gaspar Vega
“That’s a house lot. Yes I gave him a house lot in San Pedro.”

Jules Vasquez
“But as you know land in San Pedro is very expensive and we see the purchase cost here is $2,000.”

Hon. Gaspar Vega
“All house lots we selling in San Pedro is between $2,000 – $2,500. All caye land, once it’s a house lot. So that is the going price.”

Jules Vasquez
“Then we have 3 parcels for Omir Vega; San Estevan, Burton Canal and Mount Pleasant, that’s Belmopan again.”

Hon. Gaspar Vega
“San Estevan, thats a land that he had a long time ago. All he did was push it through and finalize the thing. In Burton Canal – I gave him a lot in Burton Canal and one in Mount Pleasant. He lives in Belmopan.”

Jules Vasquez
“Leticia Vega, that’s 2 lots. Leticia is your?”

Hon. Gaspar Vega
“Yes Leticia Vega, that’s 30 acres in San Estevan if I am not mistaken. Its cane fields Jules. I mean they are getting so petty. I wanted to go to German Vega because that’s the main focus.”

Jules Vasquez
“Ok, lets jump ahead. We have Eduardo, Karen…..”

Hon. Gaspar Vega
“Karen is German Vega and Ignacio. Karen has 2 house lots that they say she got for $300. These 2 house lots that they are talking about Jules are 2 house lots that he bought right behind his present house. Everybody in Orange Walk knows that those lands belong to BSI from in the 1950s when they built the factory. He bought the 2 lots from someone who had bought it from BSI. They had a little alley in between the two lots that ended right behind his present house lot where he lives. Under the PUP, German Vega/Ignacio Vega started the process of acquiring that little alley. It was the PUP mayor at the time that approved it. Johnny Briceno was the minister of lands. All I did was finalize the process and for that little alley is what he paid $300.”

Jules Vasquez
“Then we see that Ignacio Vega has another 7 holdings here in Indian Hill East Progresso registration.”

Hon. Gaspar Vega
“Indian Hill; that’s a cane field that my father, since he was the youngest of all nine of us. All the cane fields that my father owned were left to him. That’s a cane field. The 3 or 4 lots in Progesso that had come up in the news when we had just gotten in office in 2008 and you can check with Mr. Albert Burns who my brother bought these lots from because they are all lagoon frontage and he bought the land from Albert Burns.”

Jules Vasquez
“So you are saying that’s a private transaction?”

Hon. Gaspar Vega
“I guess that’s what I am saying.”

Jules Vasquez
“They have a purchase price here for $800. That Progresso registration section .026 acres.”

Hon. Gaspar Vega
“I don’t know what the $800 is for. That must be wrong.”

Jules Vasquez
“Maybe it’s the tax arising.”

Hon. Gaspar Vega
“All the Progresso lands that he has he bought from Albert Burns. Albert Burns is a gentleman that is not in politics so he wouldn’t lie. I’ll tell you what I gave German/Ignacio Vega. I gave him 65 acres to Karen Vega, I still say German Vega because that’s his wife and I gave him 135 acres of land in the Carmelita area. Out of those 135 acres – 50 acres was his that the PUP had cancel in 1998.”

Jules Vasquez
“Is that lot 01574?”

Hon. Gaspar Vega
“Yes this one is it. All the rest of lands that he has were bought through the private sector. What I want to say is that these people know about it – like the lots they say that I sold for $300. They know that those lands were for BSI I guess from just around when I was born.”

Jules Vasquez
“Now are these lands – from your defense of it – are they fair market value?”

Hon. Gaspar Vega
“Yes, you think I should charge my brother more than the rest?”

Jules Vasquez
“Cosme Hernandez has 8 as well. Without tediously going through the entire list – would you accept that 11 people in your family circle…..”

Hon. Gaspar Vega
“Jules, my family are the biggest cane farmers in San Estevan. San Estevan is the biggest sugar cane branch in the whole country. My family doesn’t sit down and gossip around the corners. We work ever since. That’s why we are successful – we work hard you know Jules – my family, I have like Cosme Hernandez delivered more than 2,000 tons of cane. You know how much land have to be cultivated for you to deliver that amount of cane and I am talking about one member. This is what people must understand and he did not start to produce that type of cane 2 years ago since I became minister of lands and I think that is what the people must try and acquire the proper information. You are a cane farmer that delivered 3,000 tons of cane – more or less how much acres of land you need to develop.”

“So how come now that they realize that they this now it’s me who gave it to them.”

Jules Vasquez
“Would you accept the characterization that – this is what the PUP said; normal people have to wait in line, have to jump through hoops for years to get a piece of land.”

Hon. Gaspar Vega
“Jules I am not a normal person in Belize. I work much harder than a lot of other people.”

Jules Vasquez
“Yes but your family is normal people.”

Hon. Gaspar Vega
“My family is as hard working as me.”

Jules Vasquez
“But they are getting preferential treatment.”

Hon. Gaspar Vega
“They are not getting preferential treatment from me. They’ve been able to do this ever since Jules. It’s not now that they acquiring it. That’s what I am trying to tell you. He is not a cane farmer of 2,000 plus tons of cane today. He has been a cane farmer. Every single Hernandez in San Estevan is a cane farmer and they are the biggest cane farmers of that village ever since, not since in the last 2 or 4 years.”

Jules Vasquez
“Now, Florencio Marin Jr. says he has – they are in his name apparently 128 parcels in San Jose Palmar. The chairman came and said that that can’t be. My point is he says that there is no way that’s really his name in the lands registry.”

Hon. Gaspar Vega
“Jules I would have to check that. I have not checked that yet to tell you the truth. I don’t watch CTV3. I don’t watch Channel 5 and I don’t read the Belize Times. I can look into that to tell you the truth.”

Jules Vasquez
“It would be very irregular if 128 parcels are for him?”

Hon. Gaspar Vega
“He didn’t deny the ones in Sarteneja that in his company.”

Jules Vasquez
“He did, he said that he is not a director. I ask him is his father was and he also denied that.”

Hon. Gaspar Vega
“I could deny anything. But people like yourself, if you really want to do a documentary since this is going back and forth, go to San Estevan and visit the parcel numbers then you will see the cane fields, then you will decide – then you will be able to figure – they just plant this cane today or you can get some advice or somebody to guide you or can say if this cane field is 10 years old and 15 years old – just so that you can make your math.”

Marion Ali, reported
“How about the allegations against the lands that have been allocated for Rene Montero? Part of the Elijio Panti Reserve being de-reserve to allocate lands.”

Jules Vasquez
“Block E13601 Mountain Pine Ridge.”

Hon. Gaspar Vega
“Like I say that I would have to look into. I would deny if I did it Jules like I clearly came out and told you I gave my brother that 100 plus acres, I gave my sister in law 65 acres and if that is the case with Montero I will assume responsibility. But I have to look into it.”

Jules Vasquez
“Looking at this, do you think this will deal you a fatal blow from a political perspective or even within your own party?”

Hon. Gaspar Vega
“I have faith in God. I only fear him because I can’t hide from him, the rest, future will tell. I am not scared.”

We’ll have more form Vega and many others later as we discuss the Cattle Sweep – which is finally making it possible for Belizean cows to be exported to Mexico.

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