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PSU president says Farias is out of line

Belize Reporter, 20 February 2000

A top Public Service Union executive who stepped up to defend his expelled colleague, was himself on the brink of expulsion, PSU president Margaret Ventura said this week.

Ventura said that first vice president Antonio Farias was out of line this week when he issued a public statement dissociating himself from the union's decision to expel Secretary-General Hubert Enriquez.

Enriquez, a former PSU president, had been expelled this week for offering himself as a councillor candidate in Belmopan's city council elections - a move that violates the union's constitution, Ventura said.

According to Ventura, Farias is on leave from the union and had been given specific instructions not to speak on union business.

Farias had asked for leave after he was himself facing expulsion for being absent from eight PSU monthly meetings, without giving any reason, she said.

With regard to Enriquez, Ventura said PSU's management had no choice but to expel him. Nine of 10 members of the Union's council of management, in a special meeting, voted to expel him, she said. Five members were absent.

"The union has a peculiar role to play and Mr. Enriquez's choice to take part in party politics and still be a member of the union defeats the purpose of the union's commitment to its membership," Ventura said. "It was a tough decision, but it was a necessary one."

Ventura pointed to the union's constitution, clause 18 (1) and (2), which disallows any of its members from participating in party politics.

Although Enriquez is running as an independent candidate, she said he has became a politician and will be involved with political parties, which subverts the union's goals and constitution.

Enriquez, meanwhile, who says he has worked with the union for over 10 years helping public officers fight victimization, feels now that he is being victimized himself.

Accusing the union of launching a dirty-tricks campaign, he said: "It is indeed scandalous that the leadership of the PSU would quickly think up, plan and execute an orchestrated campaign to expel one of its own."

He added: "My campaign as councillor of the Belmopan City council election continues." Enriquez said he has appealed the decision of the council of management and has asked the union to set a date for a general membership meeting, for members to decide his fate.

President of the National Trade Union Congress of Belize Edwardo Melendez disagrees with Enriquez's stance saying that he should have resigned from his full-time post as secretary-general and then announced his candidacy for political office.

"The union serves a cross-section of people who are or may be affiliated in some way with a political party," Melendez said. "The union itself is not about party politics and while I have no fuss over Mr. Enriquez's constitutional right to run for politics, the union itself has its own constitution to which its member must abide."

He says that NTUCB stands ready to help iron out this dispute.