BELMOPAN, Belize – Former government minister, John Birchman Saldivar, has described as “left field, baseless, and malicious,” the arguments put forward by the United States government for imposing sanctions on him and members of his family amid allegations of his alleged involvement in “significant corruption”.
Washington late Tuesday announced that Saldivar “accepted bribes for the improper acquisition of Belizean immigration documents and interfered in public processes for his personal benefit during his tenure as a government official”.
The US Department of State said in a statement that section 7031(c) provides that officials of foreign governments and their immediate family members about whom the US Secretary of State has credible information of direct or indirect involvement in significant corruption, or a gross violation of human rights, are ineligible for entry into the United States.
“Corrupt acts such as these undermine the integrity of Belize’s democratic institutions, and fuel perceptions of corruption and impunity, diminishing confidence in governance,” the State Department said.
As part of this action, the department said it is also sanctioning Saldivar’s immediate family members, Darlene Karen Saldivar, Johnelle Saldivar, Jevoughn Saldivar, and his minor child.
“These designations reaffirm the commitment of the United States to combat corruption, which harms the public interest, hampers countries’ economic prosperity, and curtails the ability of governments to respond effectively to the needs of their people,” the State Department said.
It said the United States continues to stand with all Belizeans in support of democracy and the rule of law, “and will continue to promote accountability for those who abuse public power for personal gain, regardless of their position or political affiliation”.
But in a response, Saldivar, the former national security minister dismissed the Washington’s allegations, saying that as a minister of government he conducted himself with honesty and integrity. He said he is at a loss as to why the U.S. Department of State would want to target him and his family without providing absolutely any evidence to explain their conclusion.
Saldivar said he is consulting with local attorneys and is fully aware that he will need a US attorney to defend himself in America and would not allow these, “unfounded and malicious allegation to drive me out of politics”.
Meanwhile, Opposition Leader, Moses Shyne Barrow, said the opposition “denounces corruption by government officials in any form.
“We treat very serious the allegations of corruption being made by the US State Department against former minister John Saldivar. Notwithstanding our zero tolerance of corruption by public officials we must be guided by the fundamental principles of due process and in the Belize Judicial system all are innocent until proven guilty.
“The opposition will take steps to gather all the facts presented by the US State Department and the accused as we determine the way forward to implement our anti-corruption policy in a fair and just manner demonstrating to the nation we have zero tolerance for corruption,” he added.
Saldivar is the third Caribbean politician to face sanctions by the United States in recent weeks. Earlier this month, Washington and Canada imposed sanctions on the President of the Haitian Senate, Joseph Lambert, and the former Senate president, Youri Latortue, that they used their status as a public office holders to protect and enable the illegal activities of armed criminal gangs, including through money laundering and other acts of corruption.
Both men have denied the allegations and have vowed to clear their names.