Habanero Press

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The Easy Button

Staples' Easy ButtonReports to the Habanero News desk indicate that the Government of Belize is in negotiations with Staples, the U.S. office supply giant, to lease their Easy Button for a minimum of three years, with an option to renew for another five in 2013. Inside sources say that the government feels that much can be achieved once they have the Easy Button in-country.

Crime. This is, for most, a priority issue, and the government appears to  recognize that fact. In an attempt to fight crime, they have introduced Restore Belize, a program drafted after local bureaucrats were introduced to a similar initiative in South America. Paradoxically, Restore Belize has been hailed as a success both by pro-government pundits and by the criminal element. The introduction of a new song, entitled ‘I Am Belize’ has not eased the crime situation and planners admit that stronger measures are required. They are therefore launching Phase Two, in which they will introduce a dance and a poem. This double-barrelled approach is expected to have a much stronger effect and crime numbers should drop radically post-introduction. The Easy Button will therefore be used to choreograph the dance steps and find words that rhyme.

Police Reform. Successive administrations have mishandled, mismanaged and missed every opportunity to develop a strong police force, and so today here we are. The current government senses the public’s displeasure and is working to introduce police reform. The department hopes to use the Easy Button to enable their officers to improve their aim, learn how to drive, and perhaps even detect when an impostor is passing himself off as one of them. However, it is as yet unknown whether the Easy button will be capable of such a tall task as improving the department’s PR image.

Corruption. Many government officials we spoke to conceded that this was the trickiest issue currently on their plate. They admitted that while political leaders insist that corruption was the only method by which they can achieve their goals of growing Belize’s economy one party supporter at a time, the numbers are not proving this out. Officials felt that a happy medium must be achieved whereby ministers can still collect generous bribes but the populace doesn’t have to pay higher taxes in order to finance the expensive vehicles and luxurious lifestyles to which the ministers have become openly accustomed. The Easy Button will, it is to be hoped, enable that solution to be found.

Customs and Lands Departments. Both departments have long been plagued with corruption allegations. At the last House meeting, a 400-page report was tabled which spoke to five months of crazy land transactions at the end of the last government’s term of office. And every so often media reports cover an episode of either Customs corruption or Customs brutality. Both departments therefore have chronic image problems. However, both departments have rejected the Easy Button, on the basis that officials within each department are making bucketloads of money on the corrupt transactions, and can build large houses and buy expensive, late-model vehicles without its help, but thanks all the same.

Poverty. Many area representatives have long argued that the best solution to eradicate poverty is to hand-feed destitute constituents so that they don’t have to waste valuable time going to work or school and can instead spend that time waiting in line at constituency offices for money to pay their light bills in exchange for promised votes. Area reps, when asked about it, state somewhat defensively that they will continue to give our tax dollars to their people, to stimulate their economy. The Easy Button will be used to more accurately identify party supporters so that only they get fed while the others starve.

Budget Reform. In recent years, both political parties have fallen into the habit of borrowing money in order to cover the budget deficit. This is a much more palatable  solution politically than is the idea of fiscal discipline, which might require politicians, every so often, to tell their party supporters ‘no.’ However, given the global financial crisis and Belize’s own heavy debt burden, sources of international loan funds have become hard to find. The Easy Button will assist the government’s fiscal planners to find new sources of funds to cover the deficit so that politicians can continue to accommodate their party supporters.

Education. Political leaders almost secretly believe that too much education can be dangerous and have therefore agreed that a primary school education is the best that anyone should work to achieve. Leaders have committed to making sure that education will be mostly free up to the end of primary school, but feel that secondary schools must be encouraged to introduce fees and charges and expense items in order to take their education above the reach of most. The Easy Button will be used to develop ideas for new fees.

The opposition, when asked about the intent to use the Easy Button to Restore Belize to…something, stated their unequivocal objection to the idea for two reasons: first, as the opposition, their job is to oppose, and they must carry out that duty zealously and without exception; second, they didn’t think of it first, which is proof positive that it’s a bad idea. However, they did ask whether they could borrow the Easy Button to help them decide who would lead the party.

Despite the opposition’s objections, the plan is going ahead. Officials admit that they are still refining and developing uses for the Easy Button, but that they feel it will make a comprehensive difference to the way they ‘run tings.’ If all works as planned, then by the time elections roll around in 2013 the incumbent government will be able to say “yeah, that was easy.”

Filed under: Belize, , , , ,

Off The Hook…And Disconnected

Image courtesy The Reporter newspaper

A quick perusal of today’s newspapers gave us the news that the PUC had gotten themselves a hot new toy. So we donned our ninja suits and climbed over their fence to take a look. Then we took off our ninja suits because they were hot and itchy and people passing on their way to lunch were giving us funny looks.

Anyway, the ‘toy’ is an expensive new vehicle that, in theory, will “provide technical Frequency Spectrum Monitoring and Analysis.” In layman’s terms, the vehicle will be spying on us. Well, the people in it will be spying on us, not the vehicle itself; it wasn’t that fancy.

We are, quite understandably, concerned about this. Some of the questions that come to mind are:

  • Will they be able to read our emails? If so, will the really dirty jokes that my cousin from Chicago always sends be censored?
  • What about pirate downloads? Will they stop Ron G? I’d better see if he has Book of Eli before they do. I mean, Denzel’s still man candy, even if he’s getting older!
  • Internet porn…no way they can stop that…right?
  • If the vehicle falls into a Belize City pothole, does anyone have a strong enough crane to lift it out?

Ostensibly the people who should worry the most are the radio stations, who may be forced to comply with broadcast frequency requirements, i.e. broadcast only on the frequency mentioned in their license instead of all over the general neighborhood of that frequency. According to a quick survey we took (of PUC management) no one thinks that Smart or Channel 5 have anything to worry about. Nor did they feel that Krem ought to be concerned just because it had cancelled the Attorney General’s show. Such a concern is, they felt, artificial at best.

However, as taxpayers we were most of all concerned about the cost of the vehicle, so we asked the PUC about that. The person we spoke to, who talked on condition of anonymity (we didn’t get his name anyway, so we figured it seemed really professional to agree to this condition), said that they calculated the cost of the vehicle against the fines and penalties they’d be able to levy against offenders they catch, and found that the vehicle would “pretty much pay for itself within 23 years, 7 months and 18 days or so.”

However, we were later told that the most critical factor in the purchase decision was that [John Avery] felt that “this vehicle is ‘off the hook’ and sexy mamas be diggin’ [his] action.”

Filed under: Belize, , , ,

US Donates Crimefighting Equipment -Crimefighters Still Needed

Weapons that need replacing...

Last week, the United States government, represented locally by H.E. Vinai Thummalapally, donated crime fighting equipment to the Belize Government, in this instance represented by National Security Minister, Hon. Carlos Perdomo.

According to Channel 7 News, “the package include [sic] bullet proof vests, handcuffs, cameras, binoculars, night vision equipment, heavy duty flashlights, metal detectors, metal scanners, video projectors, computers, global positioning receivers and anti contraband equipment.” Upon closer questioning, we discovered that the video projectors were of highest priority to the Belize Police Department because there are times they want to, but cannot, make Powerpoint presentations to alleged criminals while chasing them down the street on foot because their patrol vehicle broke down for lack of parts.

Ambassador Thummalapally also explained that this is just the first stage of funding for the Merida Initiative. This initiative is a US attempt to strengthen law enforcement in the countries surrounding its borders in an effort to fight drug trafficking and reduce the instances in which LA cops get in trouble for beating and/or shooting suspects in front of video cameras.

The ambassador also mentioned that in the coming months Belize would receive vehicles for the Police Department (rumor has it that some will even have fuel); a new communications system for the prison (prisoners weren’t able to plan escapes efficiently using the old one); and an expansion of Belize’s automated fingerprint system. This last one surprised us, and we asked many in-depth technical questions about it, such as:

“You mean, Belize has an automated fingerprint system?”

“How will it be expanded? Will it now handle all ten fingers instead of just one little one?”

“Will it be sensitive enough to detect politicians’ fingerprints on the people’s wallets?”

The National Security spokesman we interviewed responded by shoving his hands in his pockets.

In the spirit of giving the public something to look forward to, Minister Perdomo advised the media that “we are on the road now to see the physical assistance so that maybe three or four years from now when we are better and more fully equipped, our law enforcement can’t say I nuh have this and I nuh have that.”

We have since verified for the purposes of accuracy that the timeline of ‘three or four years’ does take into account stolen weapons and misplaced equipment.

Filed under: Belize, , , ,

New Tax May Yet Cure City’s Financial Ills

City Council brokeToday the City Council held a press conference to discuss the city’s precarious financial situation and to unveil the latest strategy for addressing it.

Apparently the city is insolvent to the point that the Council can no longer afford the cost of mismanagement. One councilor commented that no matter how they scoured the books, they haven’t been able to find any money to set aside for squandering and wasteful spending. City administrators also reported that property and other taxes have been discounted down to the point that the council now actually owes  several property owners and businesses.

In discussing the provision of essential services, city officials advised that while they have not been picking up garbage, fixing streets or enforcing basic laws that allow city residents to peacefully coexist with one another, this inaction was not officially sanctioned. By way of a corrective measure, the non-provision of these and other services will now be made official by way of new legislation which will require all residents to fend for themselves.

The discussion then moved to the Prime Minister’s recent suggestion that councilors take a pay cut. The Mayor spoke to this issue, observing that the Council had been having trouble meeting mayoral salary and expenses, so after much brainstorming it was determined that councilors would indeed take a pay cut in order to allow the city to reserve funds to pay these costs.

Finally, since the other sources of tax revenue are underperforming, the council unveiled a radical new tax measure: the plan to begin taxing residents by road condition. Studies have apparently determined that streets with potholes have less [vehicular] accident injuries than smooth streets, and this information has led the council to implement a ‘safety tax.’ Streets with more and/or deeper potholes will be regarded as safer streets and residents of those streets will pay a proportionately higher tax.

The press conference concluded on a positive note, with city officials assuring members of the media that they will continue to work to solve the city’s problems. As one councilor put it, “we absolutely want this city to return to normal mismanagement and the usual political manipulation; the current situation which precludes such activity is untenable and we pledge to work to resolve the matter as quickly as is humanly possible.”

Filed under: Belize, , , , , ,

Major Political Parties Trade Accusations Over Ida

Hurr IdaIn a rare Sunday press conference, the Prime Minister announced that he was pleased to note another major accomplishment by the UDP government: “we are pleased to report that, owing to quick thinking on the part of NEMO, led by our own Minister Hulse, we were able to convince TD Ida not to come to our shores. While our Tourism Minister insisted that we cannot discriminate against potential visitors to Belize, Minister Hulse along with NEMO, were able to shore up the reefs and outer islands using garbage from Belize City. An emergency Cabinet meeting also generated enough hot air to create a front that prevented the storm from coming any closer.”

In response to a question from an Opposition-sponsored media outlet, the PM angrily denied that Ida had simply opted not to visit Belize because of the high crime. “I tell you this,” he stated angrily, “Minister Perdomo and his team have worked very hard to lower crime statistics, and they hope to soon begin reducing crime too. I will not credit your accusations as anything other than sour grapes for not being able to turn away all the storms that hit Belize during the ten years the PUP ruled this country.

In a subsequent news conference, the Opposition Leader commented that the PM should have recognized that all the previous storms brought foreign exchange to Belize and that therefore he and his Cabinet may have, as usual, acted too hastily in pushing Ida away, though he wasn’t giving them credit for doing so, just saying that if they had been capable of doing so, then they should have thought about it, but of course, they weren’t competent to do it, so it didn’t make sense to give them credit for doing it, so he wasn’t doing that by any means, but if they had…

Several reporters at this point reported feeling inexplicably dizzy and confused.

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517,823rd Ad Airs In Support of Returnable Containers Bill

propagandaTonight the Coalition With Tons Of Money To Burn (But In An Environmentally Sensitive Way) aired its 517,823rd ad in support of the Government’s proposed Returnable Containers Bill. In the ad, spokesman Jim McFadzean makes several new claims regarding the Bill’s virtues. “The Bill” he claims, “will cure cancer, reduce heart disease, and babysit your children when you want a night on the town. What this Bill will not do is fart in bed and then try to pretend it was someone else.”

Courts also issued a statement urging viewers not to throw out their TVs just because these ads air 17,000 times during the evening news and other local programming. “Please remember, if you throw out your TVs just because of the ad, it’s equivalent to shooting the messenger, and you’ll still have to pay us for it,” the release reminded consumers. Independent experts suggest that viewers can always resort to foreign TV or pirated DVD movies, and that tossing out the telly should be considered only as a last resort option.

Meanwhile, the Coalition of Mothers Who Only Give Responsible Advice has also issued a statement wherein they respond to the supporter’s assertion that other countries have Returnable Containers laws. In sum, the Coalition of Mothers’ response is “just because your friends jump off a cliff doesn’t mean you have to do it too.”

Responding to all the complaints, the proponent of the Bill insisted that this is a piece of legislation that is designed to stop crime, balance the government’s budget, eradicate the SuperBond debt, and pave all the streets of Belize. “So quit your whining,” he suggests.

In the latest Habanero Poll of 999.5 people trying to find the news between the commercials, estimates show overwhelming public apathy toward the Bill, broken down thus:

  • 900 opposed the Bill, mainly because it hadn’t picked up their kids from school on time;
  • 90 had no opinion, because they read the news online, so don’t see the ads;
  • 9.5 supported the Bill, because it cooked a really, really nice breakfast for them this morning.

The government is expected to pass the Bill soon, and then, maybe, get back to discussing the lesser issues of crime and what to do about Zenaida.

Filed under: Belize, , , , ,

Major Political Parties Agree to Trade Members

PUDP flagIn a historic move, the leaders of the ruling United Democratic Party and the opposition People’s United Party have agreed to begin trading members under a formalized structure. It is anticipated that trading rules will be finalized shortly and that they will be based on the rules used in American athletic trades. Sources from both sides agree that this is a precedent-setting move, though no one we spoke to would confirm whether Zenaida or Ralph would be amongst the early trades.

One senior party member, who agreed to speak to us on condition of anonymity, stated that the ability to trade their members would strengthen both parties’ ability to compete against challenges from the so-called ‘third’ parties. He also observed that midseason trades would not truly hamper performance, since both parties’ philosophies are now so similar as to not require any significant retraining. Traded team members would of course have to agree to wear only the new team’s colours (even the underwear) and must spout their new party’s propaganda as though they had always been of that party. Our source theorized that this would not be difficult for traded members, since the trade really was about the money and the opportunity to form part of the winning team. The potential for financial gains to the individual, he asserted, was what mattered most. Both parties have agreed to continue paying lip service to the public’s need for transparency and corruption, but will not satisfy these needs more deeply than absolutely required by public pressure.

In related news, strong rumours indicate that Zenaida has hired an additional legal team to sue American sports organizations for even having trading rules.

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Crime Wave More Like Tsunami, Compol Concedes

handcuffsToday the Commissioner of Police gave a brief statement to the media, during which the podium he was using was stolen. When he called the police to report the theft, they told him that they would come as soon as they had a vehicle.

Speaking awkwardly without anything to lean on, the beleaguered police commissioner admitted that crime was out of control but maintained that the police were doing all they could to keep the country as safe as it is right now. He expressed confidence that things can’t get any worse because they’re “already really, really bad.”

Regarding his recent claims that crime had actually gone down, the Compol was asked why he was changing his tune now. He insisted that he had made those claims as a kind of positive reinforcement; if people heard crime was down, they might believe it and so the criminals would ease off. This “kind of backfired” as the criminals turned out to be overachievers, so this week’s approach would be under the motto ‘honesty is the best policy, especially from cops.’ He admitted that this concept would take some radical adjustment as it was unfamiliar to his personnel, but was optimistic that intensive training would help.

The Commissioner wrapped up the conference by saying that if this revised approach didn’t work, they’d go back to ‘reinterpreting the statistics’ next month.

To date, his podium has not been recovered, nor have the police arrived to investigate.

Filed under: Belize, , ,

National Party Council To Face Zenaida

25435Saturday, 3rd October 2009. Mayor Zenaida “Big Balls” Moya-Flowers will today meet with the UDP’s National Party Council. It is expected that the Party Council will have a lot to answer for based on the charges Zenaida listed in her media appearance after court this past Thursday.

Party insiders describe the Party Council members as being “very nervous” and “hopeful that they will be able to explain themselves satisfactorily to Zenaida.” Some of the things members expect to be challenged about include: whether or not any of them knows what it’s like to have to change diapers while people are talking about you, how many of them have ever gotten roundabouts with large phallic designs donated, who has the most minions, and who has the coolest sunglasses.

Several members have reputedly been seen standing nervously in front of their mirrors, pants down and rulers in hand, as rumours have leaked that Zenaida may also dare them to prove who has the bigger balls. Sources within her camp are loudly optimistic that the Mayor will win such a contest “hands down.”

Contacts close to Zenaida say that she is prepared to let the members of the National Party Council remain within the UDP, but that things will have to be different in the future. It is not clear whether she will allow Dean Barrow to remain in place as Party Leader.

Filed under: Belize, , , ,

City Garbage Crisis Over

P Willoughby Philip Willoughby, Councillor in charge of sanitation, has advised the media that the Council now has a solution for the garbage crisis. Willoughby, in a press conference today, told us that he had petitioned the courts to sentence all those accused in the current financial scandal as quickly as they could. In anticipation of a guilty verdict, “because we really need it to go down like this,” he has asked that the sentence be 1,000 hours of community service. The specific service assigned to those involved would be to clean up the city.

“Dwain is really speedy when he gets going, and Zenaida is a machine when it comes to chopping grass. I figure once they find their rhythm, the city should be spic and span in no time. Really, the only reason I asked for 1,000 hours is that the two Kirans might move a little slower.”

Willoughby added that any and all bottles found would be turned in to Bowen and the refund proceeds would go a long way towards repaying the $275,000 in under-deposits. “So really, it’s kinda like killing two birds with one stone.”

It is anticipated that any remaining time on the sentence would be spent painting City Hall to prepare it for the impending sale.

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