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Belize PM wins elections; critics accuse Venezuelan influence

By Andrew V. Pestano
Belize PM wins elections; critics accuse Venezuelan influence
Belize's Prime Minister Dean Barrow, right, won a third consecutive term after snap elections were called more than a year ahead of schedule. Barrow met with U.S. President George W. Bush soon after becoming Belize's prime minister in 2008. File photo by Aude Guerrucci/UPI | License Photo

BELMOPAN, Belize, Nov. 5 (UPI) -- Belize's Prime Minister Dean Barrow has won a third consecutive term after snap elections were called more than a year ahead of schedule.

Barrow, 64, called for the elections in September, which were held Wednesday. His critics accuse him of calling the elections in case Venezuela cuts funding to Belize.

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Belize has received about $150 million in aid from Venezuela in recent years. Venezuela is holding parliamentary elections on Dec. 6, which could see the ruling socialist party under President Nicolas Maduro lose control of the country's National Assembly. Venezuela also offers oil at reduced prices.

Barrow invested much of the Venezuelan funding toward ambitious infrastructure programs. The potential Venezuelan funding cut could have seen Barrow's popularity decline.

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About 140,100 people out of the 196,587 eligible voted in this year's election -- a voter turnout of 71 percent, Belize's Elections and Boundaries Department reported. Barrow was first elected in 2008 and won again in 2012.

Francis Fonseca, Barrow's main opponent, ran on a campaign promise of creating 25,000 jobs and cutting costs of living. Belize has a population of about 332,000 people.

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