“As far as the public is concerned, technically, Mr. [Manuel Gustavo] Vasquez is still the Governor of the Central Bank.” This is how the United Democratic Party (UDP)’s Chairman and Barrow Administration’s attorney general Michael Peyrefitte summarized, in his view, the situation surrounding last week’s announced departure of the Central Bank of Belize (CBB)’s governor.
Peyrefitte, quoting from section 15 of the CBB’s Act, made the point that the Governor can only be removed for “cause”. Section 15(1) of the Act reads: “No person shall be appointed or remain a Director who, (a) is a member of the National Assembly; or (b) is a director, officer or other employee of a licensed bank or licensed financial institution.”
The Act would go on to list other conditions under which the CBB’s Governor could be removed. Section 15(2) states that the “Governor General may terminate the appointment of the Governor … only if the Governor… as the case may be, (a) by writing under his hand addressed to the person who appointed him resigns his office; (b) becomes subject to any of the disqualifications specified in subsection (1) of this section; (c) becomes bankrupt … (d) is convicted of an offence involving dishonesty; (e) becomes totally or permanently incapable of performing his duties, [or f] is guilty of gross misconduct.”
Having referenced those sections of the Central Bank Act, Peyrefitte made the point that the government is yet to provide details as to under which of those provisions is Vasquez being removed from office. Reading from an email that Vasquez purportedly sent to the Bank’s staff last Friday, the UDP Chairman noted that Vasquez spoke of “stiff opposition” from “the Ministry of Finance and special financial and economic sector interests“.
Peyrefitte asked, “Who from the Ministry of Finance would he face ‘stiff opposition’ from? … One would be reasonable to assume that it has to be the Minister, the Minister of State, the Financial Secretary, [or] somebody at the level of the Governor.” A similar question was raised regarding Vasquez’s alleged email’s reference to financial and economic sector “interests”.
The former attorney general went on to call on the Ministry of Finance to explain what exactly is “going on in response to this [Vasquez’s] letter.” He added, “These are the questions we need answers to. These are some of the things we need to know about. How can the Governor of the regulating body for the financial system be removed from office and we don’t what the circumstances are. We don’t know what’s going on. No details. Nothing of sort.”
The Reporter had reached out to Vasquez on Monday this week; however, he informed that he would rather not comment on the matter “at this time”.
Vasquez’s departure from office, which according to his alleged email is on account of him being terminated by the Governor General, came only five months after his April 1st appointment as CBB’s governor. The Bank’s Board of Directors had announced via press release that the governor’s removal was with immediate effect. It added that the current Chairman of the Bank’s Board of Directors, Mr. Sydney Campbell has “been directed by the Prime Minister to shepherd the Bank’s operations until the appointment of the new Governor.” The email reportedly sent by Vasquez to the CBB’s staff read: “Dear Staff, I regretfully inform you that my appointment as Governor was terminated by the Governor General with immediate effect on instructions from the Ministry of Finance. I had been in recent discussions with the Government that wanted to buy out the remainder of my contract and was still in discussion with them up to yesterday without resolution.” His email to staff would go on to state: “Please be absolutely assured that I leave with my head up high as I tried by best to restore the integrity and operational autonomy of the Central Bank, and certainly faced stiff opposition from the Ministry of Finance and special financial and economic sector interests. This is now the beginning of another chapter for the Central Bank as I take ALL the necessary actions to defend myself and my reputation, and that of the Central Bank. With much respect to all the Staff. Mr. Manuel Vasquez” [sic].
Vasquez, who commenced his career at the CBB in 1983, had worked for close to 15 years as the Bank’s Director of Banking Supervision. Thereafter, he worked as a special adviser to the Cayman Island’s Monetary Authority. His career path ultimately led him to the International Monetary Fund (IMF), where, according to the April 1st 2021 release, he worked as a Senior Technical Assistance Advisor and Senior Financial Sector Expert for another 15 years.
Vasquez retired from the IMF in 2016, and, for the past five years, has been “engaged as a consultant by the IMF, the World Bank, the Inter-American Development Bank, the Government of Bermuda, the Monetary Authority of Bermuda, the Central Bank of Paraguay, the Central Bank of Albania, the International Financial Services Volunteer Corps, and ECOWAS West Africa.”