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Saturday, September 23, 2023

Former Minister Erwin Contreras Had Authority To Sign Agreement With Port of Magical Belize

The Belizean government claims to be aware of “numerous defamatory video advertisements being broadcast by various media stations, regarding a contentious agreement signed with Portico Enterprises Limited, the parent company for Port of Magical Belize, by a senior government minister of the previous administration.

The deal, which purportedly was signed by the former minister of economic development, Erwin Contreras, without the knowledge of the Dean Barrow administration, was the focus of the cabinet, according to Prime Minister John Briceo in June, when he spoke to media.

The Ministry of Economic Development and Portico Enterprises signed the contract on October 1st, 2020.

The developer “has directly and indirectly invested considerable funds, time, and other resources in and for the conceptual design and preliminary business plan for the development, construction, operation, and management of a cruise ship docking facility, including access channel and other maritime and offshore structures,” according to the 31-page report.

The arrangement permits the corporation to “strategically” place its goods across the terminal and its surrounds, including duty-free shops, concession stalls, beaches, restaurants, bars, and a 300-room hotel with casinos.

Three miles south of the Sibun River in the Belize District, on the coast, lies where the project’s facility.

The government issued a statement claiming that while it is aware of the “numerous defamatory video ads,” “political operatives” of the opposition United Democratic Party (UDP) are also publishing articles “spreading gross misinformation and falsehoods concerning certain members of Cabinet and its deliberations on the matter of the Portico Agreement.”

The Trinidad-based Senior Counsel, Douglas Mendes, offered his legal opinion regarding the agreement on May 4 of this year, and the government claimed that as a result, it has been determined that it is preferable that it “be formally released to the public forthwith for its own perusal.”

To be clear, the Cabinet paper regarding the UDP Portico Agreement and the accompanying draft bill were developed and presented to Cabinet in the form that was submitted on the basis of Mr. Mendes’ advice.

According to the administration, Mr. Mendes claimed that “the Agreement plainly falls within the portfolio of the Minister [Erwin Contreras] who signed the Agreement,” in contrast to misleading claims made by UDP political operatives and propagated by some media outlets.

“This has two effects. First, it reinforces the idea that the Minister (Erwin Contreras) had both the apparent and implicit authority to enter into the Agreement on behalf of the Government.

The Minister (Erwin Contreras), according to Mendes, “did not have the authority to execute the Agreement on behalf of the Government,” hence that argument cannot be used to invalidate the agreement.

According to the government statement, the judgement also underlined several contractual clauses that shouldn’t have legal validity.

The statement continued, “As is already widely known, Cabinet nonetheless rejected the requests put forth in the paper in the public interest, notwithstanding the Mendes view.

The agreement was leaked to the media in May, and Prime Minister Briceo stated that the government is considering legislation that will grant Port Magical Belize the required development concessions despite his disappointment with the leak.



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