Up Boom Creek: Listening to the beats of Belize/a>
Suddenly, in the darkness, I forget where I am. It has been a long day of movement and miles. I know I am paddling a canoe at night, on my knees in the bow, twisting my body with each stroke, trying to make as little noise in the water as possible.
There are drums on the breeze, a faint rhythm that comes and goes.
The blue-black shapes around me are pure jungle, a dense canopy of plants and animals, close on all sides.
I pull my paddle through the water again, our boat glides forward, and, just as suddenly, I know: I'm in Belize.
The drums continue in the distance, louder with the breeze, then softer; there is Garifuna dancing in Hopkins, the beat drifting across the mangroves to our boat in Boom Creek.
My guide for the evening, Ernesto, paddles silently behind me, and my fellow traveler, Danielle, sits between us and turns on the super-powered flashlight at the slightest noise in the bush.
This morning, I woke up on the bank of the Caves Branch River and went for a morning dip as the broadleaf forest awoke around me- toucans, parrots, and breezy palm fronds. Then I packed my pack and moved out of yet another brief home, another cabana in the wild.
Danielle and I caught a ride to the highway on a tractor and missed the bus to Dangriga. During the two hours that followed, we stood on the side of the Hummingbird Highway, at the entrance to Blue Hole National Park. We passed the time kicking a rock around, singing to each other, and chatting with a passing Mayan family; we met a Belizean guide who also rock climbed and trained local fireman in rescue techniques; and we spoke with a Peace Corps Volunteer who was taking a break from teaching in the schools of Cayo to go birding with his parents, down from Texas.
VIDEO: Diving Turneffe, Dolphins Welcome Papa Changa
Three tank dive, day trip from San Pedro, Amigos Del Mar.
Belizean-American Artesha Welch, residing in Los Angeles, California, has been chosen to represent Belize in the upcoming Miss Tourism United Nations Pageant.
The pageant is schedule for Saturday, December 8 in Kingston, Jamaica. For Regional pageants, candidates can just be hand picked by a committee. Only if you are sending a candidate to Miss Universe, Miss World, Miss Earth or Miss International - then you need to have a pageant to select the rep. These are the big 4 pageants and they have big contracts which stipulates the big rules. But for pageants like Miss Costa Maya, Miss Ethnic World, Miss Tourism, you can just cast a candidate and send her. If you go all the way back to 1946 when the late Rita Lewis became the first Queen of the Bay members from one or two ethnic groups have never been selected as beauty pageant winners or even a runner up. Indeed, individuals from these groups have never offered themselves as contestants in these pageants. On one hand I am tempted to say that the dominance of black women (namely of Creole descent, but there have also been a number of Garifuna beauty queens) in these pageants since Lewis became Queen of the Bay has something to do with Creole cultural hegemony, but then I would have to address the issue of the politicization of the two major pageants leading up to Independence (the Queen of the Bay and Miss Independence). There is also the issue of the somatic norm image of Belizean society. If nothing else, the selection of Belizean women of all hue says something positive about the country. But where stature is concerned, is it equally possible to have a Mayan beauty queen as you would a "Spanish"/mestiza (of mixed racial ancestry) beauty queen? I didn't want to "go there" with my comment. Hence, the issue of representation as it relates to requirements (especially in international competition). Bear in mind that while Mayas in the north and west of Belize are for the most part mesticized, Mayas in the south are for the most part acculturated and many now even structurally assimilated. This would bring into question the issue of values. Furthermore, I don't think they are immune to "outside influences," if they are somehow culturally isolated.
GOB Says No Counter Proposal Presented By Creditors Committee
Three months ago the Government of Belize made public three Indicative Restructuring Scenarios that would reduce the Super Bond Payment. The proposal was presented to the creditors committee which holds more than 50% of the five hundred and forty-four million US dollars Super Bond Debt. After reviewing the three scenarios the creditors committee rejected the proposal and in good faith accepted a partial payment from the Government in the month of September and even gave a sixty days extension for negotiations to continue. With the 60 days extension expired, a counter proposal was presented by the creditors committee on November 21st. The scenarios combine in different measures temporary reductions in the current coupon rate with modest extensions. All of them involve a return to the current 8.5% coupon upon the expiry of the reduced coupon period.
The Debt Review Team; however, has rejected the counter proposal as they find it incompatible. In a release posted on the Central Bank website the Debt Review Team states and we quote “GOB considers it to be wholly incompatible with its objective of placing the country’s debt burden on a sustainable footing. Gob believes that the counter-proposal ignores Belize’s high overall debt levels, and that it amounts to little more than a short-term fix.
The release also states that GOB views the recently-submitted scenarios as unsustainable, and is disappointed that a counter-proposal of this nature has come five months after discussions with the Committee began.
But truth of the fact is Government must continue with the negotiations and has offered two new restructuring scenarios to the creditors committee. The first scenario proposes a principal reduction of 33% - which is down from the 45% that was proposed in August. And it also increases the proposed interest rate from 3.5% to 4.5% for the first five years and 6.75% for the next thirty years. The second revised scenario does not include a principal reduction, but suggests extending the life of the bond to 40 years - down from 50 in the first proposal. It also offers a higher interest rate than the 2% which had first been proposed. So, it’s back to the drawing table. We’ll see how the negotiations play out.
Corozal Police Clarifies Rumours Of Police Brutality
Since Monday rumors have been circulating that a police officer attached to the Corozal Police Department brutalized a male individual who was socializing at a restaurant located inside the Corozal Free Zone. On Monday, when we received the report just before the evening news, we were informed that during the altercation the police officer hit a child. Other information indicated that a couple, accompanied by their 3 year old daughter, was socializing at the free zone when they started arguing. Police were called in and when they arrived at the scene they began hitting the wife and husband who was holding the baby at the time. Allegations are that one of the officers hit the child several times on the face causing her to pass out. The couple was arrested and according to reports the child was left on the side of the road where a woman of Mexican Nationality grabbed the child and headed towards her car. Reports are that a friend of the couple witnessed the incident and managed to take away the child from the woman.
It’s a complicated story and the couple’s family is being tight lipped about the situation since they want no more trouble with police. But as they say there are two sides to a story and while we may never get the couple’s version, the Corozal Police Department has decided to but an end to the rumors by giving their account of what transpired on Monday.
2012 Hurricane Season Comes To An End
It's the last day of November and for us here in Belize that's reason to celebrate. Why? It marks the end of Hurricane Season. In the month of August Belize was threatened by Tropical Storm Ernesto. Predictions were that Ernesto could hit Belize or along Mexico's southern Yucatan coast as a strong Category 1 storm. With winds of over 85 miles per hour, Hurricane Ernesto slammed into the southern Yucatán coast near Mahahual, as a category one hurricane. As it continued its path over land, Ernesto weakened and was downgraded to a tropical storm with winds of over 50 miles per hour. In Mexico, although no injuries were reported, Ernesto did cause thousands of tourists to evacuate from their lush hotel rooms near the coast, to safer grounds.
Belize was spared once more but the north, especially the Corozal District, was hit by tropical storm winds and heavy rainfall causing some serious flooding and damaging hundreds of thousands of dollars in crop.
If you look at the numbers, this year would be impressive. Nineteen storms were named for the third straight year; well above the average of nine. Ten of the storms became hurricanes, but most of those had relatively low winds with only Michael becoming a major hurricane.
The season got off to a fast start, with Alberto and Beryl forming before the traditional June 1 start date. But the season will be summed up with two storms that won't soon be forgotten in the US. In August, Isaac churned through the Caribbean, eventually emerging into the Gulf of Mexico before smashing into the Louisiana coast just south of New Orleans. The storm stalled out and brought flooding rains that claimed seven lives and ruined homes of many more people.
In October, Hurricane Sandy formed in the Caribbean and slammed into Jamaica and Cuba before heading north aiming at New York and New Jersey. The storm claimed 130 lives in the US. In the end, the 2012 season was one that saw many storms, but only a select few that made impacts.
Columbia Pulls Out Of ICJ
In the year 2013 Belize and Guatemala will hold a referendum on whether or not to take the territorial dispute to the International Court of Justice.
And while that resolution will take place in 2013, the country of Columbia has decided to pull out of the ICJ.
On Wednesday, during a National Coffee Congress being held in the capital Bogota, Colombia’s President Juan Manuel Santos announced his country's withdrawal from the 1948 Bogota Pact, which recognizes the authority of The Hague-based International Court of Justice (ICJ) in regional disputes.
The decision follows a recent ruling by the World Court that Colombia claims grants some 75,000 square kilometers of its Caribbean waters to Nicaragua.
The ICJ ruling recognizes Colombia's sovereignty over a series of islands in the Caribbean's San Andres archipelago, but also grants Nicaragua jurisdiction over some waters surrounding the islands.
Santos explained the ruling not only adversely affects Colombia’s border treaties with Honduras and Panama, but also affects the livelihood of fishermen living on San Andres and Providencia islands by reducing the waters where they can fish.
Nicaragua has argued that the ruling remains valid despite Colombia's withdrawal from the pact.
CEMJC Holds Tourism Expo
Tourism stakeholders here in the north are constantly looking for different means and ways to develop the north as one of the main tourist destinations. Today, they would have gotten some pretty good ideas from the tourism management class of Centro Escolar Mexico Junior College who held their first ever tourism expo highlighting a number of ideas that could easily attract tourist to the north of Belize.
Centro Escolar Mexico Junior College offers a course in tourism management and today those taking the course participated in the first ever tourism expo held at the school grounds.
Lizbeth Cabral- Tourism Lecturer/CEMJC
“We wanted to showcase the talent, the creativity, the knowledge of the students here at CMEJC, it is the first time ever but we wanted to become something annually and it is a combination or a joint effort of both first year and second year students, we have a total of 70 tourism students here at CEMJC and it has been increasing for the past two years and we are going into the third year with the tourism program. The idea and the focus really is to big up tourism here in the north, Corozal and Orange walk so what I did with the students is that we sat down and we talked about it and we included the four major sectors of tourism here in the north; accommodation, food and beverage, transportation, and attraction so they came up with these project and so that they can showcase realistic businesses that you can open in either Corozal or Orange Walk or any part of the country. To kind of teach the students on how to invest and how to turn over money they went around fund raising asking for sponsors and they got a lot of sponsors for these projects and also the school invested money to make this a success.”
Getting To The Zero Goal
Tomorrow 1st of December marks the end of World Aids Week celebrated this year under the theme “Getting to zero discrimination, zero new infection and zero AIDS related deaths”. The culmination of the week of activities does not signify that the war against the deadly disease is over. The fight continues until the getting to zero goal is accomplished. But in order to reach that goal everyone must be tested. With that in mind, today the Ministry of Health, in partnership with the National AIDS Commission Corozal Committee, held a free HIV testing at the Corozal Free Zone.
By the end of 2016, it is expected that Belize will have continued to reduce the number of HIV infections; extended the length and quality of life of people with HIV and their families; significantly reduced discrimination against persons vulnerable to HIV; and effectively coordinated a multi-sectoral response which is human rights based and gender responsive.
In order to carry out these goals and to accomplish the goal of getting to zero discrimination, zero new infection and zero AIDS related deaths, Belize has to respond as one to this disease. With that in mind, today the National Aids Commission/Country Coordinating Committee Corozal, in collaboration with the Corozal Community Hospital, directed under Dr. Nelson Marin, offered free HIV testing to all employees and owners of the different establishments at the Corozal Free Zone.
Belize Votes In Favour of Palestine
Yesterday the United Nations voted overwhelmingly to recognize a Palestinian state a victory decades in the making for the Palestinians after years of occupation and war. In an extraordinary lineup of international support, more than two-thirds of the world body's 193 member states including Belize approved the resolution upgrading the Palestinians to a non-member observer state, a status that falls well short of independence but provides Palestinians with limited privileges as a state, including the right to join the International Criminal Court and other international treaty bodies. One hundred and thirty eight members voted in favor, nine voted against including the United States, Israel, Canada, Czech Republic, the Marshall Islands and Panama and forty one abstained.
The U.N. victory for the Palestinians is seen as a diplomatic setback for the United States and Israel.
Belizean police deny having John McAfee in custody
Police in Belize deny that they have fugitive software pioneer John McAfee in custody after a post on McAfee’s blog suggested they did.
“We have received an unconfirmed report that John McAfee has been captured at the border of Belize and Mexico,” said a statement that appeared on McAfee’s blog Saturday evening.
A spokesman for McAfee also backed up the blog’s contention, though he explained to The Daily Caller Sunday that he couldn’t confirm with certainty that McAfee was in custody.
“We received a call from someone that said he was with John when he was arrested,” McAfee spokesman Brian Fitzgerald said.
“And we have not heard from John since Saturday early morning. We still cannot confirm, but we believe this is true. We are scrambling to find where he is.”
The Telegraph reported Sunday morning that Belizean authorities were denying knowledge of McAfee’s whereabouts.
McAfee started a blog after he was first reported to be on the run from authorities in the Central American country in mid-November as a suspect for the murder of American expatriate Gregory Viant Faull.
Software developer JohnMcAfee has not been captured, say Belize police
PIONEERING software developer John McAfee, who is wanted for questioning over the murder of his neighbour, is still on the run.
Despite posting a cryptic post on his blog saying that he was in police custody, McAfee has not been caught, Belize national police have told the Daily Mail.
Police say they simply want to question the 67-year-old about the murder of fellow American Gregory Faull, a Florida native who was found dead at his home last month in a pool of blood on the Caribbean island of Ambergris Caye.
McAfee's blog, whoismcafee.com, was updated on Saturday with an "unconfirmed report that John McAfee has been captured at the border of Belize and Mexico."
'That is not true. He is not in police custody,' Officer Martinez told MailOnline. In Belize, a source at the US Embassy said that friends of McAfee denied he had been captured and that they and the police had no information on a possible arrest, the MailOnline reported.
Rumours that the software developer has been apprehended come directly after an interview with CNN, in which he claimed his life was in danger.
Reports of John McAfee's capture have been exaggerated it seems
AFTER almost three weeks hiding from police in Belize, John McAfee, the anti-virus software pioneer who is wanted for questioning about the murder of a neighbour, was thought to be still at large despite a report on his own website that he had been captured. On Saturday night the website launched by Mr McAfee while on the run posted an update: "We have received an unconfirmed report that John McAfee has been captured at the border of Belize and Mexico."
Yesterday, a spokesman for the Belize Ministry of National Security said the report was incorrect and police still had no idea of Mr McAfee's whereabouts. The internet tycoon has used the website whoismcafee.com to record his escapades, protest his innocence and publish claims that the police and government of Belize are corrupt and engaged in a conspiracy against him.
While declining to be interviewed by the police, claiming he would be killed if he were taken into custody, he agreed to appear on CNN for a TV interview that was broadcast at the weekend.
"It hasn't been a lot of fun," he said, sitting in a whitewashed bedroom before a double bed with a dark wood headstand. "I miss my prior life. Much of it has been deprivation. No baths, poor food."
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He had warned that should anything befall him, Chad Essley, a cartoonist from Oregon who was composing a graphic novel of his exploits, would take over the running of the blog and publish reams of fresh material. Mr Essley did not respond to a request for comment.
A weary-sounding Raphael Martinez, of the Belize Ministry of National Security, said: "No sir, it's not correct that he has been captured. The police do not know where he is."
RELUCTANT HUNTER STALKS THE LIONFISH IN BELIZE
Tourists are encouraged to spear the invasive species that has devastated local fish populations. Sinking slowly through Belize’s turquoise sea, Giovanni Gonzalez has murder on his mind. The dive guide scans the reef, his dreadlocks moving like a sea creature. I see only the usual confetti of tropical fish, but I can tell that Gio has spotted a lionfish tucked into the coral.
He readies his spear, takes aim and fires. The impaled fish materializes in a cloud of silt, thrashing to free itself — or at least sink a poison-barbed fin into someone’s skin. No fool, Gio pulls out a pair of scissors and disarms the fish by snipping off its spiky fins.
Gio is clearly having a lot of fun, but he’s also ridding the reef of a dangerous invader. Native to the Indian and Pacific oceans, lionfish were released into the Atlantic in the 1980s — most likely by Florida aquarium owners who tired of feeding the voracious creatures. Since then, these orange-and red-striped devils have colonized coastal waters, devastating local fish populations wherever they go.
In Belize, they’re making a meal of the tropical fish that tourists like me fly hundreds of miles to see. So, to protect the marine ecosystem and their own livelihoods, fishermen and dive professionals began hunting lionfish in 2002, Gio tells me once we’re back on the boat. “There was a bounty then,” he says. “Fifty dollars a fish.”
“We need tourists to spear lionfish, and we really need people to start eating them,” Gio says.
When I’d booked my ticket to Belize, hunting and eating poisonous fish hadn’t been on the top of my to-do list. But beneath the ocean’s surface, I discovered a world of fearsome creatures engaged in a fierce battle for survival — and I got pulled into the melee myself.