Earlier on in the news we showed you how Lieutenant Colonel David Jones had to be flown in via British Helicopter from a security conference San Pedro to deal with the grenade situation in the Lake Independence area.
And, without reading too much into it, that is a microcosm, or maybe, better yet, a metaphor, for Belize's role in the Central American Security Conference which was opened today on San Pedro: "we'd love to help, but, first, we’ll be needing your help with a couple emergencies."
Of course, when it comes to security matters, with the contagion of crime blighting the entire Americas, everyone needs help, and at today's security conference, representative of a dozen countries from Central, North and South America and the Caribbean discussed the confounding crime problem.
The event was hosted by the Belize Defence Force, and the US Army SOUTHERN COMMMAND AND 7news was there:
Jim McFadzean Reporting:
As the regions' economies struggle to rebound from the current global economic recession, trans-national crimes continue to impact heavily on the slow process. And nowhere are the effects of illicit trafficking, whether it be drugs, arms or ammunition, and the most hideous of all, human trafficking, have such a dibilitating effect than in Central America and the Caribbean region. So important that it topped the agena at last December's meeting of the 36 Annual Summit for SECA Head's of State.
PM Dean Barrow
"The discussion of the Regional Security Situation, and that involves looking at all aspects, including drug-trafficking, including money laundering, including cross-border crimes, including human trafficking. There is a need for even closer collaberation among Central American States,"
General Douglas Fraser, Commander SOUTHCOM
"This an important security conference. We've talked about it significantly, Trans-National Criminal Organizations and they illicit trafficking that they conduct is impacting all of our nations. And it's all impacting us maybe differently, but it's impacting all of us. It's hindering and threatening our sovereignty, and it is an issue that we need to address, and it is why we are here to play our role. Because the Armed Forces of the Region have a limited role that we play in conjunction with our other partners., our Law Enforcement partners as well as others throughout the region."
The reality is that funds are drying up from this region's main source of funding, The United States of America. Any new efforts to combat this scourge will have to rely less on the almighty dollar and more on sharing of intelligence.
Brigadier General Dario Tapia, Commander BDF
"In terms of resources, yes in many of our economies, because of the current financial crisis that is not only affecting Belize, but everyone at this conference, that is one of the themes of the conference, to see where we can, if possible, share resources, share intelligence, so that we, within our own country, are able to tackle the problem that we face."
General Douglas Fraser
"You seen the focus within in Mexico, at least from the United States' stand-point. We have been working with Colombia for other years; there is growing recognition internationally of the threat and the concern to Trans-National Criminal Organizations in the Western Hemisphere. The Central American Integration System, SECA, will have a meeting in the end of June, in which they will discuss that. And which many donors, commercial as well as international donors, are looking at how they can support it. It's not just, and I emphasize this, "a whole of government approach", to the issue as we look at it. There is not just one solution; we all have to work together to address it."
The threat of trans-national crimes to the economic recovery and stability of Belize and the rest of the region is huge.
General Douglas Fraser
"We'll examine the problem, the threat; we'll look at short lessons in how we can learn from one another on what we're doing to address this, and have the opportunity to exchange ideas with intent of understanding one another. Being able to share information better, and being able to coordinate our efforts within countries and across countries in a much better effort to address the common threat that we have."
Brigadier General Dario Tapia
"Small arms trafficking is also an issue for the region. It's not only Belize that finds itself with lots of small arms. There are countries that also don't produce and they have a problem with small arms. So it is a major threat, small arms trafficking, and that is why I think it's essential one of the key things of this forum is for us to be able to share information, and be able to tackle the issue of small arms trafficking."
Belize like the rest of Central America and the Caribbean is a major trans-shipment point for both drugs and human trafficking. Last November's drug bust on the Hummingbird Highway, largest in the countries history, worth over $50 million is testament to that. Yet, unlike our neighbor to the north, Belize receives but a trickle of the funds coming out of Washington in the overall efforts to keep the Mexican and Colombian Cartels at bay.
"The American Government is obviously trying to reduce its spending because of the current recession. How will this affect the funding for small economies in this region in this battle against trans-national crime."
General Douglas Fraser
"I can't answer the specifics, those are discussions we're having right now. There will be an impact, I don't know the amount, the focus and present is here, and dedicated $200 million to address this effort next year, and that's a one year number. It remains a very signficant focus for the United States, as well as other countries, but it really points to the real key. There is, again, not one country and not one solution to this problem. We all have to use our resources."
Last night's grenade incident is proof that the proliferation of drugs, arms and ammunition will continue to pose a serious threat to the security and stability of region.
The Central American Security Conference is one of three regional security conferences sponsored by US SOUTHCOM every year. This event, follows the 2011 Caribbean Nations Security Conference which was held in Trinidad and Tobago.