Erwin Rafael “Winchi” Contreras (born 9 July 1966, Benque Viejo del Carmen, British Honduras) is a Belizean Politician and former Footballer. A member of the United Democratic Party (UDP), he served as Minister of Economic Development and Minister of Commerce, Industry and Consumer Protection from 8 February 2008 to 8 March 2012. After the 2012 election he was made Minister of Trade Investment, Minister of private sector Development and Minister of Consumer Protection, he served in those positions until 9 March 2018. On 9 March 2018, he was appointed as Minister of Economic Development, Minister of Petroleum and Minister of Investment, Trade and Commerce.
Contreras is currently second in the Line of succession to Prime minister Dean Barrow who will retire as Prime minister on 1 April 2020 behind Deputy prime minister, Patrick Faber. He belongs to the UDP. In addition, Barrow has also decided not to seek another term in his Queen’s Square constituency and will officially resign from Electoral politics on 2 November 2020, once the results for the 2020 general election is out. On 7 February 2006, Barrow told 7 News that he will resign if the UDP losses the upcoming Municipal elections. Contreras was at that time one of the two choices who would succeed Barrow as Leader of the UDP, if he were to resign then. The other choice was Shadow Minister of Police and the Army, Michael Finnegan. After the UDP won the 2006 municipal election, Barrow kept his promise and remained as UDP Leader.
Contreras is a former member of the Belize national football team. He first joined the team in 1993. After a determined training, he played in both of Belize’s 1998 Wold Cup qualification games against Panama in March 1996. Although, his team made it through the qualification Round. They would eventually lose the World Cup that year. After the loss for his team, Contreras announced his resignation from the Team and that he no longer aspires to enter the Soccer arena. He also said that he will be looking for another opportunity to serve the People of Belize.
Contreras first joined the UDP in 1997 when he submitted his Nomination to contest the UDP Standard Bareer convention and election in Cayo West against Guillermo Valdez, who contested the 1993 election under the UDP ticket. Contreras had the support of Prime minister, Manuel Esquivel and Former UDP Leader, Dean Lindo, while Valdez was backed by Deputy prime minister, Barrow and Minister of Police and the Army, Michael Finnegan (Belizean politician). In the end, Contreras won 1,537 votes to Valdez’s 1,527 votes. Contreras then prepared himself to face Amin Hegar of the People’s United Party (PUP) in the 1998 Belizean general election who had been the MP for Cayo West for over five years. Contreras had a disadvantage and new that the road to Cayo West was not easy. He was even criticised for “lack of experience”. When Esquivel called the election, Contreras led his People in a March from Cinderella Plaza through downtown Belize City to the Island. It was a very Successful March which energised his Party. After the March concluded, Lindo spoke to News 5 and said that he has full confidence that Contreras will win and deliver Cayo West for his People. Public support for Contreras indicated that he was going to win his Constituency with a Landslide victory. However that all changed on Election Day. It was found that Contreras had allegedly handed out leases to over four hundred lots on Election Day and this constituted Bribery under the Election laws. The written Opinion in the case has not yet been released. After a determined Campaign, Contreras emerged Victorious, gaining 1,537 votes to Hegar’s 1,527 votes retiring the one term MP. Bucking a National trend, Contreras as the Only UDP Candidate to defeat a PUP House Incumbent In 1998 and one of the only three UDP members elected nationwide that Year. After the UDP’s Landslide lost in the 1998 election, Esquivel resigned as UDP Leader and the Party had only three suitable candidates for the post. A The first being Front-runner, Barrow who was considered favourite in the race and the others being, Finnegan and Contreras. Both declined the offer to run for Party Leader and instead Contreras submitted his Nomination to run for Second Deputy Leader of the UDP and so the Party had no other option but to elect Barrow as their Leader. Barrow formed his Shadow cabinet comprising with just three Opposition Ministers. He appointed Contreras as Shadow Minister of Economic Development, Investment and Traderesponsible for aguing with Minister, Ralph Fonseca on issues concerning the Budget planning and management, Economic development, Investment and Trade. Contreras discharged his duties in the portfolio faithfully and eagerly. In 1999, he provided free Petrol to cars in his Constituency and reduced the sales of Vechicals by $1000. As a result, many of his constituents were able to afford them. In 2000, he officially opened a Sewing shop in Benque Viejo del Carmen. Soon the 2003 general election came, and it was time for Contreras to secure another term in Cayo West. He was endorsed unopposed as Standard-Bareer for the Constituency In 2002. He then went on to go neck-a-neck against PUP Newcomer Kendall Mendez. During the campaign, Contreras sited his major Achievements in his first term and embodied the road ahead for Cayo West. Contreras was once again Victorious In Cayo West, acquiring 2,180 votes to beat Mendez, whose votes totalled 1,800. Although Cayo West remained a UDP Stronghold, it lost the election that year and was sent back to opposition. This time with a larger Shadow cabinet of 7 ministers, Barrow selected Contreras to be Shadow Minister of Economic Development, Shadow Minister of Commerce, Industry and Consumer Protection. This time with double the responsibilities. In 2005, Contreras wrote a stimulase plan on how to tackle the Economic downfall and create more industries. Two issues that the Musa Administration failed to Address during his 10-year term. The UDP was on