From working on a farm with his father to now becoming Belize’s fifth and first out-of-district Prime Minister, John Antonio Briceño has become the symbol of positive change for the county’s leadership.
Briceno was sworn in on November 12 after leading the then opposition party, the People’s United Party (PUP) to a landslide victory in last week’s general election. The PUP won 26 of the 31 seats, defeating the United Democratic Party (UDP) that had been seeking an unprecedented fourth consecutive term in office.
During his victory speech, Briceño borrowed a popular line used in the United States’ election, saying that citizens have “rebuilt the blue wall” in Belize and given the PUP another chance at leadership after 17 years in the opposition.
Ushering the new era for the country’s leadership is Johnny Briceño, whose humble beginnings and hard work has guided him through a career in politics, which has spanned almost half of his lifetime.
Briceño was born on July 17, 1960, in Orange Walk Town, also called ‘Suga City.’ During his childhood and teenage years, he worked with his father, Elijio Briceño, in the family-owned cane fields and tended to cattle. John would later buy the properties from his father and continue farming even after his father died in 2016.
He earned an associate degree in business administration from St. John’s College in Belize in 1980, and a bachelor’s degree in business administration from the University of Texas at Austin in 1985.
Upon returning to Belize after college, Briceño and his brother Jaime founded Centaur Communications in 1990, a cable television provider which later branched out into Internet service, television news, and radio. The company became and remains the leading cable TV and Internet service provider in Briceño’s hometown.
He first entered electoral politics in 1993, when he was elected to the National Assembly as the representative for the Orange Walk Central constituency. In the following year, he successfully ran in the municipal elections in his hometown and served as a member of the Town Council for two terms from 1994 to 2001. Also, in 1994, Briceño was elected co-chairman of the People’s United Party and in 1996, he was elected deputy party leader. At 36 years old, he was the youngest Belizean ever to become deputy leader of the PUP.
During his years as deputy party leader, his party won the national elections in 1998 and 2003. Briceño’s then served as minister of natural resources and the environment.
While in government, he was one of the ministers who opposed former Prime Minister Said Musa’s proposal to settle the country’s Universal Health Services debt. As a result, Musa attempted to demote Briceño from his position as deputy prime minister, but Briceño refused to accept the lesser posts in the Cabinet and instead resigned in 2007. At a PUP national convention later that year, Briceño was re-elected as one of the party’s deputy leaders.
A year later, in 2008, Briceño was elected as the leader of the PUP, succeeding Musa. The party had lost the 2008 election after which Musa retired from politics.
Citing unspecified health issues, Briceño abruptly resigned as both PUP and opposition leader in October 2011 without leading the party in a general election. The party subsequently lost two consecutive elections, in 2012 and 2015 but Briceño remained successful as a member of parliament for his Orange Walk Central constituency.
In 2016, during an internal election, he was re-elected as leader of the party. In November 2020, Вrісеñо managed to bring the PUP back to the capital city of Belmopan, with a resounding victory in the general elections. He became the first prime minister who is not from Belize City.
Вrісеñо was officially sworn in on November 12 and also announced he will serve as the minister of finance, economic development and investment.
Briceño and his wife Rossana have two children.