SFXCU vs. The Central Bank of Belize

The content originally appeared on: Amandala Newspaper

Photo: Rafael Dominguez, former SFXCU general manager

by Kristen Ku

BELIZE CITY, Mon. Mar. 27, 2023

Members of the Saint Francis Xavier Credit Union (SFXCU) continue to oppose the appointment by the Central Bank of an administrator for the SFXCU, holding a protest in Corozal last Friday, demanding that the Central Bank exit the institution.

On Monday of this week, the Central Bank witnessed the demonstration by displeased members, and former board members, and the manager of the SXFCU as they demanded the removal of the Central Bank’s governance from within the organization.

On March 10 of this month, the Central Bank Governor and Credit Unions Registrar, Kareem Michael, announced the installation of a new administrator, Martin Marshalleck, who was to immediately take over every function and all power over the operation from SFXCU’s management and board.

This new appointment was made in an effort to protect and resolve the discrepancies and deficiencies discovered after two extensive evaluations were done at the institution earlier this year.

Unfortunately, this transition would also mean removing authority from board members as well as the former general manager, Rafael Dominguez.

At first, this decision prompted an immediate press conference via Zoom by the board, at which they tried to convey to the public how unfair they believed this decision was.

However, this was only the beginning of what looks like an ongoing series of acts of resistance/protest to be taken against the Central Bank.

The board, along with members of SFXCU, later followed up with a protest held in Corozal Town on Friday, where protesters held posters and chanted “We want Central Bank out!”, as they walked in front of and around Central Park just across from the credit union.

While the reason for their anger is evident, Dominguez explained what their initial demands are through this protest.

“We are demanding for the Central Bank to move away from the Credit Union. We want the Central Bank to tell the membership who will be paying the cost of the administrator and all the other expenses associated with the Central Bank of Belize,” demanded Dominguez.

Both SFXCU members and ex-management along with their attorney, former prime minister Dean Barrow, are reportedly planning to file for judicial review regarding Michael’s decision to “invade” their management.

According to the former board president, Everaldo Puk, they have already placed the issue in the hands of their lawyer, who they believe will take the appropriate time to take the matter to court to see if the Central Bank has abused its power in taking over their credit union.

Puk further explained that he believes they are being punished by the Central Bank for issues in the past with the former SFXCU administration, especially because they were in clear and consistent communications with the Central Bank about their improvement prior to the abrupt appointment of the administrator.

Approximately 150 individuals participated in the protest—a number that is underwhelming, considering SFXCU’s size. (The second largest credit union in the nation, SFXCU claims to have over 30,000 registered members.)

However, Dominguez says it’s just a start, as most of their members were at work.

“We need to realize that today is Friday and most of our members are working; but even with 100-150 members out here, it’s just a start. It’s our first demonstration that we are pulling out some of our members; but we know that this will not be the end, we will continue fighting,” said Dominguez.