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09BELMOPAN25 2009-01-21 22:38:00 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Belmopan
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1. (C) Summary. During a candid farewell call with the
Ambassador, the Foreign Minister/Attorney General (FM) stated
that both he and the Prime Minister (PM) were unhappy with
the performance of the Chief Justice (CJ). The FM also
mentioned that he was certain the former Prime Minister and
former Minister of Home Affairs would not be convicted on
their pending theft charges because they would buy,
intimidate or otherwise taint the jury (reftel). In the
Ambassador,s farewell call to the PM, the PM reaffirmed his
commitment to put an end to corruption and &the excesses of
the past.8 End Summary.

2. (C) The Foreign Minister/Attorney General was more candid
than usual during his January 8 farewell call with the
Ambassador. Among topics discussed, the Ambassador raised
the shortcomings of the justice system. FM stated that both
he and the Prime Minister were unhappy with the CJ,s
performance as an administrator. He stated twice that he
thought the Chief Justice often made decisions based on
favoritism to certain counsel rather than strictly legal
considerations. In some instances, he felt the CJ had even
ignored the factual record. He suggested that the CJ,s
Cambridge University education did not translate into his
being an efficient or effective manager of the judicial
process. He noted the wasted time taken up by justices
reading their decisions from the bench rather than simply
issuing published opinions. He cited a recent case where
the judge took some four hours to read the decision to the
attorneys. &We can certainly read a decision ourselves8
without having to personally appear in court and sit through
this process.

3. (C) The FM remarked that the CJ is constantly requesting
additional resources, especially additional judges, despite
Belize having the highest ratio of judges to population in
the Caribbean. He stated that the court,s problems were not
due to under-staffing, but were due to judges having a poor
work ethic and, in some instances, a lack of intellectual
capacity. Nevertheless, he noted that he has made multiple
efforts to support the CJ,s requests for additional
resources, and that the FM fully expects to add a ninth judge
to the Supreme Court this year.

4. (C) The FM briefly discussed the trial of the former Prime
Minister and former Minister of Home Affairs who are both
charged with theft of ten million dollars, grant proceeds
from the Venezuelan government (reftel). He stated he was
100 percent certain the defendants would walk away from the
charges despite his confidence that the Director of
Prosecutions (DPP) has sufficient evidence to support the
case and has sufficient resources to prepare the case for
trial. &They (the former PM and former Minister of Home
Affairs) will buy or intimidate the jurors.8

5. (C) After the FM listed several other judges and CEOs that
he believed were &hopeless and dumb,8 the Ambassador
offered several suggestions to improve the judicial system,
including publishing statistics on the number of cases
assigned to each judge each term of court and the
dispositions to show the public which judges are working and
which are not. The Ambassador also emphasized that a
modernized, effective court system is a prerequisite for
attracting foreign investors. The FM agreed and said he
would recommend some changes to the CJ.

6. (C) The farewell call to the Prime Minister on January 9
was casual and cordial. When discussing the crime situation
in Belize, the PM said he &mourns the fact that children in
his country are killing people so senselessly.8 He stated
he had great confidence in his economic and finance teams.
He indicated he is trying to lead by example and intimated
that he is aware of &little things8 (i.e., corruption), but
that if anyone in his cabinet is proven to have committed any
&big8 transgressions, he would show them the door. He said
he almost wished that this would happen so that he could
demonstrate his commitment to eliminate the &excesses of the

7. (U) The Ambassador thanked both the FM and PM for their
cooperation, candor, and availability during his tenure.
Both the Foreign Minister and the Prime Minister expressed
their gratitude for the cooperation of the USG and of the
Ambassador,s personal commitment and interest in the people
of Belize during his tenure.

8. (C) Comment: The FM/AG has shared some candid and
sometimes offbeat opinions of his colleagues in the past but
has never shown such disdain for the Chief Justice. He
demonstrated a marked shift of complaining about limited
resources to complaining about the management of the justice
system and the level of competence of some of the actors.
The Prime Minister was warm and seemed very genuine about his
commitment to reform and to put an end to corruption in the
GOB. Both were clearly appreciative of USG efforts in
Belize. End Comment.