United Democratic Party Co-founder And Former BTL Chair Nestor Vasquez Passes

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Nestor “Net” Vasquez, the longest-serving chairman of any Belizean institution’s board of directors, Belize Telemedia Limited (BTL), passed away on 19 April 2021 in Belize city age 89. The announcement was made in an official press release issued by Tropical Visition Ltd. “It is with heavy hearts tht Tropical Vision Ltd. announces that its founder and former owner Nestor Vasquez passed away today. He did so in the presence of his family at Belize Medical Associates earlier this afternoon.” His passing is attributed to a head fall on a stairway he suffered on Sunday. He is survived by his wife Hazel Vasquez and children Derek, Marydilene, Adriel and Jules. Net was born in 1931 in San Pedro Ambergris Caye.

Tropical Vision had its start in the 80’s when Mr. Vasquez partnered with his brother in law Emory King to bring into Belize the first satellite television dish and started the business of renting out VHS tapes of North American television programs. This led later to the establishment of Channel 7 in 1981 as an on air television and cable station. In 1994 Channel 7 launched its locally produced evening television program going toe to toe with Great Belize Television’s Channel 5. Interestingly Emory King was also an investor in GBT controlled by fellow U.S. national Stewart Krohn. GBT then fell into the hands of Belize Telemedia controlled at the time by the Ashcroft group.

Net Vasquez was thrice appointed to the powerful chair of BTL’s board, twice by the Sir Manuel Esquivel administration in 1984 and 1993, and again by the Dean Barrow administration in 2009. He was an avid sportsman, champion weightlifter and a Chartered Public Accountant by profession, and one of the founders of the Liberal Party in 1972 along with Manuel Esquivel, Paul Rodriquez, Curl Thompson Henry Young and Harry Lawrence. Vasquez guided the amalgamation of the Liberal Party with the Peoples Development Movement (PDM) lead by Dean Lindo and the National Independence Party (NIP) led by Philip Goldson to form the United Democratic Party in 1974. He was instrumental in secuiring financing for the UDP’s general elections win in 1984. Vasquez was financial advisor to Prime Minister Manuel Esquivel and the first UDP administration in 1984. He was instrumental in the creation of Belize Telecommunications Ltd. (BTL) which later became Belize Telemedia Ltd. and For well over a decade, his firm Vasquez & Company were exclusive accountants for multimillionaire businessman Santiago Castillo and the Castillo group of companies.

Left to right Net Vasquez, Manuel Esquivel and Dean Barrow.

Mr. Vasquez resigned from his post as chairman of Belize Telemedia Ltd. on 15 September 2020. His resignation followed media reports that he had abused BTL’s corporate credit card, allegedly to the amount of $400,000 over the past 5 years.Vasquez did not publicly refute the allegations or attempt to explain purchases in Miami, Florida, and in neighbouring Chetumal, Mexico, saying only in a brief statement that he was resigning after serving as “the company’s Chairman for twenty of the thirty-two years since the company was established.” The spending charges on the corporate credit card were alleged to have been done by or on behalf of one of Mr. Vasquez’s lady friends.

A the time of the BTL credit card spending scandal, former Prime Minister Dean Barrow described Mr. Vasquez thus “Net Vasquez was a lion in winter. The fact that he was of an advanced age did not diminish, certainly, my appreciation of his many talents, and I don’t think in any way it interfered with his ability to discharge his duties as chair of the BTL board. He’s an unusual man in so very many ways. I honestly don’t know what personal position Mr. Vasquez takes on these allegations. I believe that he feels that whatever occurred is not something that in fact fingers him as being dishonest. That’s a matter, it’s a position he is certainly entitled to take.”

At the time of his passing Mr. Nestor Vasquez had also stepped down from Tropical Vision Ltd. An announcement issued on 18 December 2020 stated “Tropical Vision Limited today settled all outstanding matters with BTL, including an advertising contract executed by Nestor Vasquez. The outstanding balance on that was today paid in full by Tropical Vision into BTL’s account.” The statement said that the station is making “a strategic pivot, with a change in leadership and parting of ways with its founder and former owner, Mr. Nestor A. Vasquez. “We thank Nestor Vasquez for his pioneering work and dedication to the station throughout the years. A new ownership group, led by Jules Vasquez – who is now the Managing Director – has acquired Nestor Vasquez’s holdings in Tropical Vision Ltd, Channel 7.”

Eulogies For Nestor Adriano Vasquez

Eulogies were delivered by former Prime Minister Dean Barrow and Jules Vasquez

Former Belize Prime Minister Dean Barrow.

Dean Barrow, Former Prime Minister: “I first got to know Net Vasquez through politics, of course. He was, by the time I finished law school in 1975, a well-known accountant who numbered some important and wealthy business persons among his clients. He had helped to found the fledgling party of Manuel Esquivel, Curl Thompson, Harry Lawrence and Paul Rodriguez in 1972. The liberals then joined with the traditional opposition NIP of Philip Goldson and Dean Lindo’s breakaway P.D.M. to form the United Democratic Party in 1973. It was Manuel’s ascendancy that fixed Net in what became his undisputed role as consigliere to the U.D.P. Net had been Manuel’s best friend even before the latter’s entry into politics. By the time I first stood as a candidate in 1983 then, Net’s influence over the U.D.P. was enormous. He was both principal fundraiser and chief strategist. He cast such long shadow over the U.D.P. Net was without a doubt the most outstanding public servant who was never officially in the public service. He served from early days on almost every board and statutory body imaginable, including the utilities, not just B.T.A., but also B.E.B. And later on he was a towering figure as chair of the privatized and nationalized B.T.L.

“I want to say something now about the misfortune that overtook him towards the end; it was a physical fall that took his life but before that there was the moral stumble that finished his B.T.L. chairmanship. When that occurred, there was despite the Biblical caution, there were many that lined up to cast the first stone. While I am not here to gloss over what happened, that is because Net, though he was fervently religious, always knew that he was like all of us a sinner and no saint. He readily admitted his failings and that is why I am here to say that when everything is weighed up in the balance Net surely comes out massively on the plus side of the ledger. His one known public service lapse consequential though it may be cannot erase the lifetime of all consuming commitment that resulted in such giant historic achievements.”

Nestor Adriano Vasquez was laid to rest in Belize city on 23 April 2021. Video eulogy by his son Jules Vasquez follows below: