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#322099 - 02/03/09 02:24 PM Orange Walk Erupts!
Marty Offline
Orange Walk Erupts!

It has been a day of terrible reckoning in northern Belize. One man is dead and at least four more are injured – all the result of afternoon clashes between the police and cane farmers. We’ll have it all for you tonight – but we ask your patience as our team is trying to get back in from Orange Walk where they have basically been held in by police who have taken control of and closed down the Northern Highway at the Tower Hill Bridge.

At this hour the police riot squad is sweeping forward on the Northern Highway as cane farmers are still lighting fires and throwing stones – and out team is basically stuck on the side of the cane farmers. Though we have made appeals to the Commander of Operations, our team has not been let though to get to other side of the bridge – from where they can head to Belize City. As soon as they arrive, we’ll show you the images, interviews and stories they have gathered since 3:30 this afternoon.

All this is the awful culmination of a strike which started seven days ago and came to a head very early this morning – before dawn - when the cane farmers basically locked off Northern Belize, by obstructing all points beyond the Tower Hill Bridge. As we said, we will have it all for you tonight, but we begin where it all began, early this morning. Our team was the first Belize City media on the scene and here’s how it all started.

Jules Vasquez Reporting,
3 cane trucks were parked on the north and south sides of the Tower Hill Bridge – with a police mobile trapped in between them – not able to move in either direction. And the sign on one of the truck says it all: Take Away the Core Sampler, Take Away Nemencio Acosta who is Chairman of the Sugar Industry Control board and Take Away John Gillette who is the BSI factory manager.

The tone was militant but the mood was cool as both the police and the farmers were calm, keeping their distance with neither side escalating. Thousands of stranded commuters were caught in the middle of their uneasy truce.

About 8 miles away it wasn’t so cool. The junction of the San Estevan Honey Camp Road – which is the only route that can cut past the Tower Hill Bridge – the scene was more threatening as burning tires blocked the roads and a number of busses were stranded. Again over 100 cane farmers stood around keeping the fires burning and waiting for the police to respond.

It was more or less the same at mile 58 on the Northern Highway, an area known as Indian Hill. Farmers sat coolly on the road as tire fires rages behind them. Students who got an impromptu holiday because they couldn’t go to school stood around to watch the action. And standing by and watching is what most did this morning. There was no confrontation with police – no compromise.

And the man to whom all the farmers are looking is their CEO Carlos Magana. He went to the bridge to ask his members to let him pass so that he could attend a meeting with the Prime Minister in Belize City – but they were bitterly opposed to that.

Carlos Magana Back and Forth with Farmers
[Why don’t the cane farmers agree that Magana can go to Belize City to negotiate because they have not faulted the cane farmers at all. They are already at the point where they can arrive at a resolution to the problem. The Prime Minister only wants a few explanations for them to go to Belize and Magana says the people need to have confidence in their management because they have not lied to them.

If we the cane farmers don’t move, he will have to use forces ofthe country [and there is a back and forth with the cane farmers who say they are ready to do that.]

Carlos Magana, CEO – Cane Farmers Association
“As you see, you are a witness that we are trying to bring them to an understanding and that this is what we really wanted the government to understand, that once it gets out of the hands of management, it is a different story.”

Jules Vasquez,
Is this basically right now rule by mob?

Carlos Magana,
“Yeah it is. We are going to defend their request. We want Belize to defend their request and that is what we are trying to see if we can achieve. But as you know, as you have seen, it is very difficult.”

Jules Vasquez,
Now the Prime Minister has indicated that he will not send the police or the BDF to engage with them today.

Carlos Magana,
“Well I won’t want to say up to today. He has given us a time and that is until this afternoon and we are trying to see if we can negotiate that and I really hope that we reach that negotiation and it is for the interest of the country. I don’t think that any party, neither the government or the cane farmers would want to see ourselves engage in any civil unrest.”

Jules Vasquez,
But at this time there is no compromise because the compromise is that we don’t use it this season, the core sampler, and it is just used for data and then it be held off for two more years. But these people are saying to remove totally.

Carlos Magana,
“I think at the initial stage that could have been a possibility but as you have heard and you are seeing it, it is an absolute no to the core sampler and we have three points of individuals. I don’t know if you have gone to the three different places and we have approximately more than 4,000 cane farmers involved in this now. So please, I am calling on the authorities to take this as a consideration. It is something that is requested by them and they have understood the social impact that it can have if they are continued being paid by quality.”

Jules Vasquez,
Sir, you can’t attend the meeting, they are not remove it, we are on path for a head on collision here.

Carlos Magana,
“Yeah that is what it seems and I would really pray to God that it doesn’t happen.”

Cane Farmer #1,
“We are asking him to come here and finish this problem. It is nothing more than his presence that can terminate all of this problem here. We the farmers are very calm. If he is coming we will open for him to come cross and negotiate with the farmers. It is not a problem. This is just the voice of the people that is taking place now and he should understand that.”

Such militance and hardened resolve could be seen on the faces of all these farmers today: they are eyeball to eyeball with the Government of Belize – and they have take a third of the country hostage without blinking: it’s is now government’s move and that move will likely have to be made with force.

And while Magana was talking to the Prime Minister, his ultimatum was that if Magana did not make it to a meeting at Central Bank by noon, he would have a press conference to unveil government’s position. It is basically, that a compromise was offered on Friday to no longer use the controversial core sampler to determine payments for this season; it would still however be used to collect data. That was agreed to in a meeting with the cane farmers, but by the time the message got outside it was either rejected or aborted.

===================
Late Afternoon Anarchy at Tower Hill: 1 Dead, 4 Injured

When our team arrived at the mouth of the road leading to Tower Hill just before 4pm, cane fields were burning, gunshots were firing and the mood was incredulous and outraged. Just prior to our arrival, about seven farmers hijacked a tractavator and went at the Core Sampler. Police tackled them and then detained them. Their friends went to their rescue and that’s when anarchy ensued.

Damien Gough, Witness
“We at BSI were informed there was a little eruption taking place out at the core sampler. Apparently a pickup filled with about six or so cane farmers showed up, a confrontation ensued between them and the police. The cane farmers were found to have, I think, some machetes with them and the police tried to take control of the situation, threw some of them to the ground and handcuffed them and tied them up. I understand they even fired even a couple of warning shots to get control of the situation.

But what that incident did was provoke the situation because from there all the cane farmers that were down at the Toll Bridge packed up in their vehicles and started speeding towards BSI. And now as you can see, at the entrance of the BSI compound itself, at the intersection, they managed to get control of one of the tractavators and are actually pushing the barriers back and police are actually firing back at them. Whether it is live rounds or rubber pellets, I don’t know yet. But there is actually an exchange of rock hurling and gunshots firing between the cane farmers and the police that are out here."

Man #1,
“They took a cane farmer and they started to beat him. The crowd didn’t want that. The cane farmers want peace but the way the government is doing this. It is not fair for us. We are Belizeans and if we have to die here we will.”

And the treason for that outrage was visible as the injured were brought out with gunshot injuries. Some of them were bleeding, unable to walk and – others had visible bullet wounds.

Man #2,
“They shoot everyone. They didn’t have to go on like that. They shoot my friend here. We just wanted to make things clear. We just went there because they arrested a man there and they didn’t need to arrest no one. They shoot like seven people. They took them to the hospital. That is not fair though.”

[Man Talking in Spanish and holding expended bullet shells.]

Man #3,
“We came to defend him and the police with real bullets.”

Keith Swift,
The Prime Minister has said that by 4 pm you guys need to go home. Will you do that?

Man #3,
“No because they started the real trouble so we are going to stay and some of our friends are going to get there. This Prime Minister is not looking after his people. So we have to remove this because nobody is defending us. So we have to take our own decision.”

One of the men hurt was fatally injured. He has been identified as Anastacio Gutierrez, a 44 year old cane farmer.

Father,
[Translated] “He got shot in his face. They are saying that the bullet entered his face and came out the next side and he died. A pickup carried him to the hospital. He had no gun and he was without a gun.”

Attorney Michael Peyrefitte witnessed the shooting death.

Michael Peyrefitte, Attorney
“Today I saw a man get shot in the head right in front of me. He fell on the ground immediately, we took him to the hospital, he was dead. He died instantly and it is totally unnecessary for this to happen. The cane farmers would better know what the situation is as it pertains to the conflict between them and the police. But I saw another Belizean die today and I am saddened by that.”

Shortly after the fatal shooting, Magana along with attorney Michael Peyrefitte drove into the BSI compound to check on the status of the detained farmers. But the loss of life prompted an executive concession and Magana returned.

Carlos Magana,
“That the core sampler will not be used for the rest of this year.”

Keith Swift,
I thought the farmers had already rejected that and they wanted it gone forever.

Carlos Magana,
“Well at least it can give us a little relief at this point due to the way the mob is. At this point they are accepting it. What they are saying is if we can release the individuals that are in there.”

And while Magana and Peyrefitte drove into the BSI Compound to negotiate the release, the farmers lit tires on fire on the road leading to BSI. It was their last stand as most scattered. We are told trucks cleared the bridge shortly after and the riot squad made an appearance as they pushed the crowd into Orange Walk.

===================

Seeds of Anarchy Planted on Saturday[/b]

Today is a tragic and terrible day in northern Belize as anarchy was loosed in the area of the Tower Hill Factory in Orange Walk. Credible reports say one man has died and at least four are injured after clashes between police and protestors. But the seeds of that anarchy was planted many days earlier. Both sides knew they would eventually block the road – and indeed from Saturday hostilities started to spark up between the police who were protecting the sugar factory and the cane farmers who were holding firm outside of it. On Saturday tear gas was released on a few farmers as police had to clear a road. Hearing the news Keith Swift headed to Orange Walk and he found farmers already cultivate the resolve and the hardline that came to bear on those terrible events this afternoon.

Keith Swift Reporting,
This was Tower Hill on Saturday – police men standing guard at the road leading uphill to block these roughly one hundred sugar cane farmers and their families. The police men were armed with guns and - one even equipped with tear gas to keep them at bay but the farmers remained calm and resolute.

Francisco Tillett, Cane Farmer
“From last night we were here and we will be here night in, day out and we will stay here.”

Emiliano Aban, Cane Farmer
“I am right here because of the core sampler and we will be right here until they take it out from here. If we have to stay here a month, we will stay here a month right here.”

Francisco Tillett,
“I am here because I am in protest too against the core sampler which is not doing us any any good at all. Instead it is just taking away the little bit of money that we get and we want to send a message to the whole country and to the government and to BSI that we don’t want that core sampler. Take it away and then we can continue working. If they don’t take it away, we will continue here as long as it is there.”

Emiliano Aban,
“We have to do this because this is our business. This is not politics because if we have to fight with the government we will fight with the government because this is not politics, this is our business.”

But they made it clear that they are in it for the long haul –even if their patience was growing thin.

Elizar Uk, Cane Farmer
“Six months we deliver cane and six months we don’t deliver cane. So between that six months we don’t have work. We just depend on the work we did. So that means that if we could survive for that six months, we could survive for the rest because if we continue to deliver cane to that factory, we know that we are the ones who will be affected.”

Mario Camara, Cane Farmer
“If this continues, people will get more drastic because they are just playing with us – telling us they will fix it and nobody does anything.”

And images like this of police blocking the Northern Highway to allow a convoy of 6 trucks loaded with sugar cane to basically sneak into the factory through the back door – is probably what made what the undesirable, inevitable.

And of course, that is what is at the center of this dispute: that the farmers demand that the factory be shut down but it was not as it continued to receive cane from BSI owned cane fields.

Channel 7

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#322105 - 02/03/09 02:34 PM Re: Orange Walk Erupts! [Re: Marty]
Marty Offline
Prime Minister Says Negotiation Remains Open But Not Under The Hostility Of The Farmers

Prime Minister Dean Barrow this afternoon held a press conference to state the Government’s position as it relates to the standoff staged by Belize sugar cane farmers in the north today. Prime Minister Barrow today advised the cane farmers to seize the standoff by 4:00 this evening or the security forces will step in. But the situation escalated before that deadline as shots and tear gas were fired injuring at least 5 people. One of the witnesses of what caused the escalation spoke to us on the condition of anonymity.
Witness to what escalated near BSI factory
“What happens was that at about 2:00 this afternoon, a group of farmers went back to BSI near the Core Sampler and a confrontation ensued between them and the police officers that were out there guarding the sampler. That provoked BSI to send home their employees at that time. However, the confrontation escalated between the police and the cane farmers because the farmers were found to have some machetes with them. So when the police confiscated the machetes the fight started between them and the farmers. They pulled their guns to try to fire the warning shots to try and subdued the crowd of 6. We noticed that they were thrown to the ground and tied up with ropes and handcuffs and so on, but shortly after that incident happened, the crowd that was on the Toll Bridge started rushing toward the factory and then what happened earlier erupted the exchange of gunfire and stone throwing. I don’t think that anybody that was out here realized that live rounds were being fired. They were 6 regular cane farmers who went in their own vehicles.”
We have confirmed that one person died and at least 4 more were injured when shots were fired into a crowd of farmers that were standing near the BSI factory. Since the escalation, Prime Minister Dean Barrow announced that after consultation with BSI, the Core Sampler will not be implemented for the rest of this cane season not even for research purposes or data collection. Prime Minister Barrow maintains that the lines of negotiation is open and has always been open, but not under the hostility that the cane farmers are upholding.
Prime Minister Dean Barrow
“The position of the farmers according to him and according to Magaía, who I also heard on the radio, remains the same. That position now is that BSI must agree to drop the Core Sampling period. It is not enough that it will not be used as a method for determining payment this year; it must not be utilized at all not even for research purposes. Mr. Montalvo from BSI had made it plain to me that he felt that BSI had made every reasonable concession. He said that he was at least prepared to talk but again in an atmosphere where they would not be under siege on their compound. They also do not want any of the screaming and shouting and protesting taking place immediately outside. After I got back in touch with Mr. Montalvo to communicate the position of the farmers as conveyed to me by Magaña, Mr. Montalvo made it plain that then there would be no negotiation. Not in the current circumstances, he remains open to negotiations if we can conduct those in a civilized fashion. I want to repeat before I tell you what is going to happen in the event that the appeal I am going to make to the farmers is not heeded, I want to repeat that I am ready to go to Orange Walk tomorrow. I am prepared to have a meeting with the farmers and with BSI in Orange Walk tomorrow, but they will call off the blocking of the roads. We will meet in a mutual place in Orange Walk. Those are the only pre-conditions.”
And while the farmers have received their wish of abandoning the Core Sampler, as was explained by the Prime Minister, the Core Sample method is embedded in the law and was adopted to improve the overall output of the sugar industry.
Prime Minister Dean Barrow
“This business of the Core Sampling is actually part of the law. The requirement that there be Core Sampling as a method of determining quality which would in turn affect prices is a part of the law. But of course there has been this stalling as it relates to the industry and I am not proportioning blame that have seen the implementation postponed year after year. I take no sides in this issue. My interest first of all is or was, I met with the farmers and with BSI two weeks ago and my interest was to try and ensure that we continue to have a viable sugar industry. It’s clear to me as the farmers said was clear to them that if we are to have a viable sugar industry reform there must be; you either reform or you perish.”
But this standoff by the cane farmers will not only affect the cane farmers and the production at factory but the overall economy of the country. International assistance may also be affected as it relates to the viability of the industry.
Prime Minister Dean Barrow
“Sometime before BSI had come to me because they were having difficulty with their bankers; in terms of the global credit crunch they were finding it increasingly difficult to maintain financing from a particular bank ING. Ultimately the bank agreed to extend their credit for another year, but one of the pre conditions was that the reform measures that had been generally agreed and had found expression in the laws would have to be implemented. I met with BSI and the farmers and made the point that if in fact there would again be no implementation this year, I expected, based on what the bank had said that BSI’s credit would then dry up. The fact is if you don’t have the factory, if you don’t have the millers then there will be no farmers. And so it’s not taking side to say that for the sake of the entire industry we certainly can’t afford for there to be a collapse of the factory. There was the Fair Trade money that was actually given to them as an association and government has no control over how that money was spent. That money was supposed to assist them with the reforms that would allow the industry to move forward viably. In addition to that, though, there is the money from the EU’s accompanying measures for sugar. That’s where the investment in the infrastructure in the repair of the sugar road network comes under. Now that’s a matter that’s done by government so they don’t have any control over that funding. But the point is that both sources of monies are likely to be cut off if what is happening continues and if it becomes clear there is no serious intent, there is no serious will for reform, because this is the basis for which these monies are given.”
Efforts are still being made at this time to contain the farmers who spiraled out of control when shots and tear gas were being fired at them. In the meantime, access to and from Orange Walk from Corozal and Belize City is being cleared up, but the riot squad and armed security forces remain in place until the civil unrest is brought under control.

Channel 5

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#322106 - 02/03/09 02:39 PM Re: Orange Walk Erupts! [Re: Marty]
Marty Offline
from a friend....

I hardly think the caneros had time to spare. As I said before, caneros live a subsistence lifestyle. They get $40BZ for a truckload of cane. It takes literally hours in a cane line to get to the front and deliver your cane. Sometimes it takes 24 hours. Therefore, a canero is only making THAT $40 from his cane delivery for the day. That is what he feeds his family with.

When as a result of the machine that was reduced to $26 per truck (almost a 50% drop), wouldn't you be upset too?

The caneros have protested peacefully for 7 days, meaning even at only $40 a day, there were willing to stand it out to resolve the issue.

Obviously the BSI plan was to starve them into submission.

I don't think that is fair or even right.

While I am sorry that people got hurt, I am glad that the caneros stood their ground. They sent a message that the BSI shoes were not made for walking over them. For that, I will always feel proud.

More Belizeans need to learn how to protest. We are too complacent as a people.

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#322107 - 02/03/09 02:41 PM Re: Orange Walk Erupts! [Re: Marty]
Marty Offline
from a friend....

Don't just sit on the sidelines... every one of us and every Belizean in the US can phone or send email to the GOB and let them know that we DO NOT support their actions, and demand the removal and prosecution of all personnel involved in the murder of unarmed civilians... there are NUMEROUS things to complain about how the situation was handled... and let them know that ALL eyes are watching what happens next! Flood their offices with outrage, and see what happens.

If we don't put a stop to it now, it will only get worse.... next it will be teachers, landowners, then citizens against BEL rate increase, etc., etc....

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#322286 - 02/04/09 07:02 AM Re: Orange Walk Erupts! [Re: Marty]
Marty Offline

Blood, Bullets, and Bonfires on Tower Hill

And tonight we’ve given you a few important snapshots of what happened in Orange Walk. But in our next story, we take the broader view and look at the situation in the morning as it turned into a deadly and tragic afternoon.

Jules Vasquez Reporting,
The battle lines were drawn from before dawn at three points in the north, the Tower Hill Bridge, the Honey Camp/Santa Estevan junction and mile 58 on the Northern Highway, known as Indian Hill. The farmers blocked the roads at all three points with cane trucks and burning tires. The police maintained restraint and set up a command point about four miles south of the Tower Hill Bridge.

A last ditch meeting was held in Orange walk Town just after noon with the Deputy Prime Minister and the Cane Farmers’ Association. No solution or compromise was arrived at and the mob rushed Vega’s vehicle as he was leaving. At a 2:00 pm press conference, the Prime Minister warned that the restraint of the police would end at 4:00 pm:

Hon. Dean Barrow, Prime Minister
“Please, for the sake of continued order in this country, call it off by four this afternoon and let us meet first thing tomorrow morning. If that appeal falls on deaf ears, I say again the security forces of this country will do what they have to do.”

And by 3:30 – the cane farmers had pre-empted the police action, setting fire to these BSI canfields and setting after the cane factory. Police responded with live fire – sending the farmers running for their lives.

[Video with sound of gunshots.]

Man #1,
“The police officers are shooting at us. They are shooting.”

Damian Gough who works in the factory told us what started the confrontation.

Damien Gough, Witness
“Apparently a pickup filled with about six or so cane farmers showedup, a confrontation ensued between them and the police. The cane farmers were found to have, I think, some machetes with them and the police tried to take control of the situation, threw some of them to the ground and handcuffed them and tied them up. I understand they even fired even a couple of warning shots to get control of the situation.

But what that incident did was provoke the situation because from there all the cane farmers that were down at the Toll Bridge packed up in their vehicles and started speeding towards BSI. And now as you can see, at the entrance of the BSI compound itself, at the intersection, they managed to get control of one of the tractavators and are actually pushing the barriers back and police are actually firing back at them.”

And the sight of blood and injured being carted out created desperate moments and enraged the farmers.

Man #2,
“But the way they are doing, the government is doing this. It is not fair for us. We are Belizeans and if we have to die here, we will.”

Patrick Jones, Love FM
“Why did they start to shoot unu though, why?”

Man #3,
“Why? Because we are trying to stop them or they were knocking our friends. One was down and they were knocking him and then we come to defend him. The police shoot him with real bullets. 12 gauge and this like if we are terrorists and we are not terrorists.”

Man #4,
“They shoot my friend here. We just wanted to make things clear. We just went there because they arrested a man there.”

And those arrestees who took control of the tractorvator went to destroy the core sampler within the BSI compound and were caught by police provided the spark that set off this keg of gunpowder. Their friends urgent attempt to rescue them in this cane truck was foiled when police opened fire and that’s right where Antonio Gutierrez was killed in the back of the truck. His father told us what happened.

Father,
[Translated] “They are saying that the bullet entered his face and came out the next side and he died. A pickup carried him to the hospital. He had no gun and he was without a gun.”

Michael Peyrefitte was in the pickup which took him away.

Michael Peyrefitte, Attorney
“Today I saw a man get shot in the head right in front of me. He fell on the ground immediately, we took him to the hospital, he was dead. He died instantly and it is totally unnecessary for this to happen. The cane farmers would better know what the situation is as it pertains to the conflict between them and the police. But I saw another Belizean die today and I am saddened by that.”

And when Magana went to address the crowd, they were still enraged but he had news of a compromise – that the PM had agreed to complete suspension of the use of the core sampler.

Carlos Magana, CEO – Cane Farmers Assoc.
“That the core sampler will not be used for the rest of this year.”

Keith Swift,
I thought the farmers had already rejected that and they wanted it gone forever.

Carlos Magana,
“Well at least it can give us a little relief at this point due to the way the mob is. At this point they are accepting it. What they are saying is if we can release the individuals that are in there.”

Coming unto 5:30 pm, cane farmers were still going back to the factory with their hands up as a sign of surrender, wanting to check on those men. Through the efforts of Mike Peyreffite, They released those individuals around 6:00. The riot squad held the line on the Northern Approach to the Tower Hill Bridge but the bonfires still raged on the highway.

Since we put together that story early this morning, some new facts have come to light in the press conference – which corrects the information we had in there. First according to police it was a green pickup truck not a tractorvator that carried the crew that went to try and dismantle the core sampler. Critical, because the detention of that group sparked everything off. Also police say they don’t know when Gutierrez was shot – and while it cannot be certain that it happened when the cane truck sped by – his body was found on the side of the road in the same area that police were firing at the cane truck.

Channel 7

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#322287 - 02/04/09 07:03 AM Re: Orange Walk Erupts! [Re: Marty]
Marty Offline

Farmers Decide to Remain on Indefinite Strike!

After yesterday’s deadly civil unrest in which a cane farmer was killed by police and at least 12 were injured, 5 of them by gunshot, there was calm in Orange Walk today. But things are not back to normal: particularly at the sugar cane factory because tonight the sugar cane farmers are still on strike. The decision to continue the indefinite strike that is now on its 8th day was made this morning at the People’s Stadium. Here’s the story.

Keith Swift Reporting,
This morning the message at the People’s Stadium was the same. But you can say it was louder because the over 1,500 farmers with hardened resolve voted unanimously to reject BSI and government’s offer to suspend use of the core sampler for this year.

Carlos Magana,
“The proposal of the PM, which he communicated to myself and then to the media, was rejected and it was reaffirmed that the request for it to be totally removed and to remove Mr. Nemencio Acosta as Chairman.”

And until those demands are met, Magana says the farmers will remain on strike.

Carlos Magana,
“The strike is still in effect and it is going to be as long as it is needed.”

Keith Swift,
It has been eight days. Will they stick it out to the end?

Carlos Magana,
“Yes and that is what they reaffirmed this morning, that they will not deliver sugar cane until the request is being met. And as their CEO, I need to negotiate on that. As I mentioned, I can’t just stay with my hands crossed. I need to negotiate on that.”

Keith Swift,
It seems to me that new demands continue to be made; every time as one thing is agreed to, they want two things and then they want three things. Is that an accurate assessment of what’s happening?

Carlos Magana,
“No, no. That demand was already there. There were nine points that were presented. From the moment of the strike nine points were presented and it is just an issue that has to do with the confirmation of certain points. In other words they still hold us to the nine points. But the one for Nemencio, that is not a new one. That is one that has been there for long.”

Keith Swift,
How realistic or necessary is it to tear down the entire core sampling unit?

Carlos Magana,
“I should that that is the only method for quality.”

And until it is no longer the method for testing quality in Belize, these farmers are resolved to remain on strike.

Magana says he will continue dialogue with government and BSI. The BSI Factory was not milling sugar today.

Channel 7

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#322288 - 02/04/09 07:04 AM Re: Orange Walk Erupts! [Re: Marty]
Marty Offline
PM Barrow: Law & Order Must Prevail

And while there are legitimate question marks about the circumstances of the shooting, the Prime Minister today announced that while he is not opposed to the naming of a Commission of Inquiry, he will not commit to do so at this time. In his general remarks, he expressed regret, but maintained that maintaining law and order must be the government’s first priority.

Hon. Dean Barrow,
“Government was absolutely right to signal that it intended to do whatever was necessary to restore law and order. We very much sympathize with the cane farmers but the cane farmers are not the entire nation of Belize and we have a duty to all the citizens of this country. The manner in which the farmers were going about their protest could not ultimately be countenance. And I hope that there will be no resort to that sort of thing again because if there is that duty that we all know is a constant one, that will of course come back into play.

I really do not understand how elements of our society could become so self-destructive in a way that puts their own industry and a huge portion of our national economy in such serious peril.

While yesterday was a sad day for our country though, let me just suggest that to some extent this is what happens in a growing, thriving, robust society. We are becoming a modern nation and the life and work of the new Belize will continue, not withstanding the setbacks that are part and parcel of the rhythms that make up the right of passage of and developing country.”

Channel 7

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#322482 - 02/05/09 02:17 AM Re: Orange Walk Erupts! [Re: Marty]
Marty Offline
CANE FARMERS IMPOSE INDEFINITE STRIKE UNTIL DEMANDS ARE MET

February 04, 2009

Cane Farmers in their meeting held yesterday at the People’s Stadium in Orange Walk have decided to continue the strike indefinitely until three demands that were made to the government are met. The demands are that the core sampler be eliminated completely from the industry; the second demand is that if the core sampler is not eliminated there will be no further negotiations with the Government of the Belize Sugar Industry and the third demand is that Nemencio Acosta be removed as the Chairman of the Sugar Industry Control Board. Prime Minister Dean Barrow in a press conference held yesterday said that those request will not be adhered to.
Prime Minister Dean Barrow

“Starting with the last one first; I have told Mr. Magana that that is not going to happen. At least not in the current circumstances; we naturally have to look at all that has gone on and the various roles played by various people. But to demand that without any kind of due process, without any kind of examination of the circumstances Government would simply, give in to what I see as a form of blackmail, fire Mr. Acosta is not on. Let me go to the first demand since the second demand is related to the first. What they are asking for involves as well BSI and what they are asking for in terms of saying abandon completely the reform measures or at least that particular feature of the reform measures will have fundamental consequences for the industry. This is not my industry, this is their industry, and it is also a national industry. I said yesterday that these reform measures are also being required by our external partners. The EU which had to cut back on its prices in order to compensate agreed a financing package to the industry. This is known as their company measures for sugar and as a result of that all the sugar roads are to be rehabilitated. The entire road network in the north is to be rehabilitated but part and parcel of this financing mechanism is the implementation of the reform measures by the industry. This is why the people are giving us the money. They are saying look we have got to look we have had to cut back on the prices, we know that that causes some dislocation, we know in order for you to survive you need some money to become viable: here is money to help. But there is no point in us fixing the roads if in fact you will not be able to produce more efficiently. If the factory will not be able to operate with the right quality, the proper cane throughput. So if the farmers are to achieve this demand that core sampling payment by quality be abandoned forever, I put it no higher than that this will have grave consequences for the industry. It may well be that if there is a determination to say to hell with the industry that that is what would have to happen. But there is no way I will agree to that, to some extent it is beyond my power. But in so far as my being required to bless this position, there is no way will do that. Long story short, in so far as it is within my power, I do not adhere to this demand. That of course leaves the third demand, which is premised from the first, that there is to be no discussion unless the first demand is met. I turn it completely around. There will have to be discussion before any contemplation of possible movement on the first demand can take place.”

That means that the strike continues and cane farmers will not be delivering sugarcane to the BSI factory until there is some kind of truce.

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#322525 - 02/05/09 06:26 AM Re: Orange Walk Erupts! [Re: Marty]
Marty Offline
Tower Hill At A Standstill

The smokestacks at the Tower Hill Factory did not pipe any smoke into the skies over Orange Walk today and that’s because the factory did not operate. The strike is now in its ninth day and there is no resolution in sight. The personal losses in terms of revenue to the cane farmers is enormous as are the corporate losses to BSI which has a ship in port that it cannot fill; the ship usually departs with 14,000 tonnes, but is presently only loaded with 5,600 tonnes – and with the strike still indefinite there’s no telling where the other 8,000 tonnes will come from - that is if they are milled at all before the ship has to leave.
The cane farmers yesterday made 3 main ultimatums to government: First, that Chairman of the Sugar Industry Control Board Nemencio Acosta be removed; that the Core Sampler be permanently removed; and that these conditions be met before they sit to negotiate with government. The Prime Minister rejected all 3 proposals and that’s where it stands tonight, with a standoff, and a teetering industry in the balance.

Teetering because the industry saw one of its worst years in 2008 – exporting only 78,000 tonnes, down from the 2006 figure of 114,000 tonnes. Another bad year and the industry could go into a tailspin. Add to that the fact that 6,000 farmers, the breadwinners for at least 30,000 Belizeans in the north are not earning and you’ve got the makings of a full blown economic and social crisis. According to reports, BSI has already sent home all temporary and casual workers. The company’s 400 regular staffers will be addressed by Managing Director Joey Montalvo tomorrow and the news is not expected to be good.

The Prime Minister left the country today – but said at yesterday’s press conference that he hopes they can continue to negotiate.

Hon. Dean Barrow, Prime Minister
“The farmers ought to be told of government’s position which is that you can’t say that you have these demands that are non-negotiable, that government must simply cave in before you even begin to talk. If government just caved in, why would there even be a need for any talk? We also believe that we have people of influence in the sugar belt, and so we will be asking them as well to try to intervene with the farmers, to bring them to the table. But if the farmers refuse to come to the table, then I am afraid the stalemate will continue.”

In the Prime Minister’s absence, Deputy Gaspar Vega is the acting PM. Viewers will recall that his vehicle was manhandled by a mob of angry farmers when he left talks yesterday.

And while the Prime Minister said he would be seeking out people of influence in the north, two that he definitely won’t be seeking advice from, have weighed in. First is the PUP, which yesterday issued a statement criticizing the Prime Minister for refusing to meet the Cane farmers in Orange Walk and making incendiary remarks during his press conference. The release concludes that, quote: “The responsibility of Mr. Gutierrez’s death and the injury to ... farmers rest squarely with the Prime Minister and his Government. We call upon the government to fully compensate the Gutierrez family and the farmers injured by the security forces ...”

And not one to be spoken for by John Briceňo’s PUP, Florencio Marin Junior, the PUP area representative for Corozal Southeast and himself the owner of cane farms, issued a statement calling for the establishment of a Commission of Inquiry into the use of deadly force by police. Marin also calls for changes in the pricing and payment structure that BSI administers to the farmers.

And while the political tensions are heating up, generally, things are calm right now in the North, however there is no telling whether they will flare up when the funeral for Anastacio Gutierrez is held. No date has been finalized for that funeral because the post mortem could not be performed as scheduled today. A number of cane farmers are pressing the family to have it on Saturday February 7th, which will mark the one year anniversary of the Barrow administration and will coincide with his wedding day.

http://www.7newsbelize.com/sstory.php?nid=13274

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