San Pedro Residents Tell Troublemakers to Leave...
And while that latest bust shows that there is major drug activity on Ambergris Caye right now the island community's biggest concern crime. As has been widely reported, watchman Antonio Almendarez was killed at Fido's Recreation Center early Tuesday morning. It now appears that crime was the tipping point for a proud island community whose residents feel besieged by a recent wave of violent crime and now say they just won't take it anymore.
Last night, the community banded together for a solidarity vigil to send the word out that those who come to San Pedro had better come correct. It's a message that may not sit well with some but last night community leaders said it over and over again, San Pedro is their and they're not going to let anyone spoil it. Our cameraman Fortunato Noble was there and we've put together this story.
Jules Vasquez Reporting, [jules.Vasquez@gmail.com]
A wide cross section of the San Pedro community came out with their candles to sympathize with Albertina Almendarez - the widow of slain security guard Antonio Almendarez and her two children. In the evening's most emotional moment, a tearful and distraught Albertina tried to address those who had come out to support her.
Albertina Almendarez, Wife of Murder Victim
"Please don't let this happen to your kids. You are out here tonight trying to make this violence stop." [Sobbing.]
And with consolation from her young, now fatherless, son who put a supportive arm around his mom - she sat and publicly grieved to an acapella rendering of Ave Maria.
Now, Albertina's grief is being harnessed as a rallying cry for a San Pedro community that is fed up with crime and feels that it is being preyed upon by outsiders. Indeed, on this evening, there was a very distinct tone of "us and them" - the "us" being San Pedro natives and the "them" - those from the rest of the country and Central American immigrants who go to the island seeing it as a place of plenty.
Mayor Elsa Paz,
"Criminals are drawn to this place of perceived richness. They come to our island daily, many by sea, seeking the opportunity to prey on our residents."
Aiden Salazar, San Pedro Resident
"Those who come and make San Pedro their home are welcomed but only if they come here to contribute to the betterment of the island and if they are law abiding citizens."
Now these natives are determined to weed out those who have come to prey on them, even if it means dealing squarely with the race issue.
Milo Paz, San Pedro Resident
"And three's only three words that we can think of and we have to think of these three words very carefully: racism, discrimination, and violation of human rights. Whose rights are being violated these days? Whose rights are being violated ladies and gentlemen? These rights have to change because today the criminal elements have more rights than us and that cannot be. We have to take our island back."
"We have to clean our island of all the bad elements, even if we get criticized for doing so. The streets of San Pedro, my brothers and sisters, do not belong to the thieves, loafers, and idle people who do not have our society at heart. They cannot, and they will not, take away this liberty from us. The streets belong to us. The streets belong to us."
A determined message, and now it's left to be seen if the momentum from this militant night will translate into community action. The mayor thinks so.
"Where do we go from here? Is this an exercise in futility? Will you achieve something or does this end here?"
Mayor Elsa Paz,
"I definetly think that we will achieve much more than what we are doing right now. Ireally think that we are going to be more united and we are going to be fighting this crime that is affecting our island. San Pedro has always been united and so I am sure we will have a success story."
Now the only question is at whose expense will this success be gained.
And hard talk is not all the island community is doing, later on we'll tell you about an island summer camp that's taking children off the streets.