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The San Pedro Sun

Tigersharks defeat Western Ballaz to top the NEBL
With 10 wins out of 11 games played, The San Pedro Tigersharks take the lead in the National Elite Basketball League (NEBL) after a come-from-behind win over Cayo Western Ballaz. That game was played on Saturday April 26th at Sacred Heart College in San Ignacio Town, and was considered the most hotly anticipated game of the season. For the two teams the game was critical, since it would determine who would be the undisputed league leader going into week 12 of the 14 game regular season. There was a spectacular pre-game show, but the real spectacle was the game on the court. Ballaz’s Farron Lauriano opened the scoreboard by stealing a bad pass from Darwin Leslie to score the first two points. For the Tigersharks, Jamal Kelly got the ball rolling when he stole an intended pass from Kurt Burgess and raced to the basket to earn him two points plus a free throw, making the first three points for Tigersharks. The Ballaz took advantage of Tigershark’s dismal performance the rest of the first quarter, ending it with a15-9 lead.

Three miles of northern road to be paved
According to Mayor Danny, the first phase will see three miles of concrete slabs placed on the officially declared road from Grand Caribe Resort southwards to the Sir Barry Bowen Bridge. “We are working with Medina’s Construction Company to carry out this major investment. We will start from Grand Caribe and head southwards towards the bridge. In the second phase, we will move from Grand Caribe to four miles northwards which should be in the general area of X’tan Ha Resort. That area represents 80% of resorts and hotels on northern Ambergris Caye.” The improvement to the roads in the residential area of San Pedro Town is being financed by the municipality. The $3 million investment for the pavement of the first phase of the project is a joint effort between the central government and the SPTC.

Misc Belizean Sources

Belize Labor Movement, Antonio Soberanis
Labor Day is a holiday appreciated by so many and yet understood by so few. Each year, we look forward to the well-deserved holiday; however, many Belizeans do not truly understand why it is that Labor day holiday is so significant. If asked, many older folks will be happy to mention the actions of Samuel Haynes, Antonio Soberanis and the Belize Labor Movement. Antonio Soberanis was a model activist who pushed Belizeans to fight for fair wages and lived by the motto that he would rather be “a dead hero than a living coward”. But why was it so necessary for Antonio Soberanis to take such a firm stand? How bad were the labor laws in our country? It all began in the early 1800s, when the British were looking for workers in the settlement. Many Belizean men were not able to own land and had to resort to logging. For more than a century, workers were paid no more than $15 monthly plus rations (28qts of flour and 16lbs of pork) for their work. In some cases, advance salary was given and paid back immediately upon returning to work. Workers were responsible to pay employers if they were sick, late, lazy or disrespectful and often owed employers money at the end of contracted work which meant having to sign up for another term of work.

AGRIC 2014 Layout
It's the National Agriculture and Trade Show weekend. They have a new layout for this year. Have fun, stay cool, and be safe.

Belizean health workers, administrators key to New Horizons
From security and logistics to medical care and patient processing, the Belizean health workers have been vital in New Horizons Belize 2014. Belizeans can continue to receive free medical care and health education until May 9 through Belizean health care workers and Canadian and U.S. military care providers participating in New Horizons. New Horizons includes medical readiness training exercises, or MEDRETEs, that offer medical health professionals from all three countries the opportunity to train and interact with one another. Community health workers from various remote villages volunteered their time to assist with New Horizons medical care in the five villages where care is being provided. Such volunteers are imperative to ensuring the people receive the best care possible. "We know the people, and we know the language," said Juan Imish, Belizean community health worker from the remote village of Santa Theresa. "We work together with the (New Horizons medical) team ... so the patient can get the proper health care service.

Benque Viejo at Band Fest
The Benque Viejo Marching Band won at Band Fest, and here's a video of them performing Bob Marley's 'Is This Love' during the event. Congratulations, BVMB!

Cornerstone Semi-Annual Health Fair
Cornerstone had their Health Fair at the Cayo Welcome Center.

UB Earth Day
The University of Belize had their Earth Day festivities yesterday. Looks like a lot of knowledge was imparted. Picture Album 2.

Channel 7

2 Year-Old Dies From Drinking Insecticide
A family in Orange Walk has been plunged into grief after their two year old drank insecticide this morning and died. It happened around10:30 this morning in the on the Belize - Corozal Road in Orange Walk Town. His mother says she was hanging out clothes while her two year old baby Justice Usher was playing in the yard. She heard him crying and went to look for him. She found him coming out of the store-room and saw liquid coming out of his mouth. When she asked him what was wrong, the toddler reportedly told her, quote, "I drink juice." She smelt insecticide on his breath, and, terrified, she tried to push her finger down his throat to force him to throw up – but that failed. She ran to a taxi and rushed him to the Northern Regional Hospital but he died on the way. He was pronounced dead at 10:50 amby doctors at the hospital. The insecticide was the type used to get rid of termites.

CEO Allen Grilled By Media
Today the media grilled Peter Allen, the CEO In the Ministry of Health for 40 minutes. He was at an event to honour the management and staff of Matron Roberts health clinic, but the media had a lot more to ask him about. That's because the Public Service Union is accusing Allen of defaming chief Pharmacist Sharon Anderson. He wrote in an email that she was quote, holding the system to ransom while she was on sick leave in early to mid-April. This is after the Procurement Manager at the Central Medical Stores office sent out an email alleging that Anderson was on strike and quote, "refusing to sign supply orders, which could endanger the health of patients." The PSU claims that CEO Allen supported that statement in his email. The PSU demanded an apology, and today Allen told the media why he couldn't give one: Jules Vasquez "Sir, did you make aspirsions against Mrs. Sharon Anderson, saying that she is holding the system hostage by not cooperating, apparently, when she is on sick leave?" Dr. Peter Allen "Well, let me say this, in my opinion, no I did not, but since -" Jules Vasquez "Either you did or didn't." Dr. Peter Allen "You see the thing is that once lawyers become involved, and I gather from the press release that the intent is to sue for libel, once that happens, then we're talking about tax payers money because we can't risk litigation against the Government, which could cost the taxpayers' money. So, we immediately refer the matters to the office of the Solicitor General, in the Ministry of the Attorney General."

Health Changes Customs Signatories
But one thing he's already taken lawyer's advice on is the decision to add three people to the list of those who can approve entry of medical supplies. Previously, this was the sole domain of Chief Pharmacist, Sharon Anderson and Drug Inspector Dana El-Amin. El Amin retired in January of this year, and when he thought Anderson had gone on strike (but was actually on sick leave) he authorized three other persons to approve such entry. He explained why he did it:… Dr. Peter Allen - CEO, Ministry of Health "Our, the advice we received, the legal advice and the regulatory advice we received is that it is a risk to have only one person who can sign such entries. So on that legal advice we decided that we would add, not remove anybody, three other pharmacists, Ms. Danini Contreras, the Senior Pharmacist from the Central Medical Stores office, and the Drug Inspector who took over from the past Drug Inspector in January. We have sent that off, but I have not yet sent - as is required - specimen signatures to the Customs Department, so that those offices would subsequently be authorized. So, at the moment, only one person is authorized to sign these entries." Alindy Marisol Amaya - News Director, KREM News "When would it become effective that those other 3 would be able to start signing?" Dr. Peter Allen "Well, given the concerns that have been raised, I am going to double check with different advisors."

CEO Allen's Much Criticized Management Style Under Scrutiny
And, indeed, that sort of thing, going above the heads of others, and keeping them out of the loop is what we have consistently heard about Dr. Allen's management style. Now, don't get us wrong, we know people always criticize the boss, and if he or she is a tough boss, the criticisms multiply. Indeed, running the show – any show - is not a popularity contest. That's accepted, but, in the case of Dr. Allen, what we've seen is the mass exodus of a number of highly trained professionals from the ministry – not making a fuss publicly, but privately, complaining bitterly about Dr. Allen's vindictiveness and micromanagement. Again, complaints will come, but these ones just keep coming. In fact, Dr Marjorie Parks, on her retirement a year ago, gave a speech right in front of Allen and his minister where she complained about the meddling of the political directorate in the nursing profession, and spoke about, quote, "a system of micromanagement and unwarranted victimization…for any real or imagined infraction against the powers that be." Those "powers that be" reference is a not so oblique swipe at Allen. Today we asked him squarely about his management style:

KHMH Faces Class Action Suit For 5 Baby Deaths
It's been 10 months since we last reported on the case of the deaths of the 13 neonatal patients inside the hospital's intensive care unit. While the families continue to live with their loss, the tragedy has faded from the national headlines. But tonight, it's back again because 5 mothers are suing the Karl Heusner Memorial Hospital's Board of Governors. They claim that the negligence at the hospital caused the death of their babies when they failed to control the outbreak of the entobacter cloacae bacteria. Marissa Cruz, Katricia Panting, Nichole Grinage, Kelsey Young and Gorgiana Hernandez all want to ensure that someone is held publicly responsible for the babies, and they've been working with attorney Kareem Musa to make that happen. Today, Musa outlined the case for us: Kareem Musa - Attorney for the Applicants "We've been writing to the K.H.M.H. because we said that perhaps they might be willing to settle because this was a clear act - in my opinion - of gross negligence on the part of the hospital. So we made attempts to reach out to the K.H.M.H., but at the end of the day all attempts proved futile. We have requested the medical records - something as basic as that Daniel and the K.H.M.H. has not been forthcoming with that.

Coyes Trying To Thaw Millions From GOB Freeze
It's been almost 2 months now since Melonie Coye and the late Michael Coye were found not guilty in the Court of Appeal, which overturned their conviction in the Supreme Court for money Laundering. Still, they haven't been able to access any of the millions of dollars being withheld by the state. Well, they're making a move to get the Supreme Court to unfreeze their family bank accounts. These were accounts which were not a part of the original money laundering case, but which the Financial Intelligence Unit wanted to keep locked up tight while they investigated and prosecuted the family for money laundering. Since they've won their appeal, they believe that the court should no longer entertain suspicions that the frozen accounts held proceeds of a crime. And so, today, their Attorney, Arthur Saldivar, made an application before Justice Shona Griffith.

The Curios Case Of Bad Bailiff Still In Court's Good Books
Tonight, there is a great deal of suspicion surrounding the actions of a senior court staffer, which suggest multiple, condoned irregularities within the lower court system. Gabriel Casey is a bailiff working for the Magistracy department, and his job is to go around collecting payments from defendants who are brought to court for civil suits. It usually involves individuals who prove to be difficult in honouring commitments with different business places like loan institutions or persons who've been sued and lost their case, where the court has ordered them to pay fines or compensation. Acting as an official enforcement arm of the court, Casey goes out and collects from those persons who owe, but the problem is, that persons he has collected from, claim that instead of depositing the money into the public purse or on behalf the finance institutions, he pockets it.

Former Marine Missing Presumed Drowned In Kayak Incident
Kayaking is a major activity for tourists all along the Belizean coast – but one tourist apparently took it too far when he paddled to the reef. At around midday yesterday, Bradley Evans Josker and his friend, 29-year-old Wrangler Shane Leesman - both ex marines went out on a kayak. Josker told police that when they got close to the reef, they saw the water was getting rough, and decided to turn back. But, it was too late; the powerful currents pulled them out beyond the reef, where the kayak was capsized by the huge swells. In rough waters, they tried for about 10 minutes to get back unto the kayak but couldn't. Another huge wave hit them, pulling them under, and Josker says when he re-surfaced he didn't see Leesman. Josker then tried to swim to the shore but he was outside the reef, and the powerful currents kept pulling him back. Luckily for him, a woman saw the kayak floating and called the Coast Guard, which sent out a search team at 3:30 pm. They found Josker at 5:00 pm – 5 hours after he had first set out. He was completely exhausted and collapsed in the boat.

19 year-old Belizean Caught Behaving Suspiciously In Mexico
There is a very troubling report coming out of a Mexican newspaper today. The website for "Por Esto", Quintana Roo claims that townspeople from Sabido, Quintana Roo captured a Belizean who was trying to kidnap two small children. The male is only being identified as 19 year old Ariel, and the paper says he tied to kidnap two 8 year old girls and smuggle them over to Belize. It happened on Monday afternoon in Sabidos, a small community which borders the Rio Hondo. Reports say that the girls had just come out of classes when they were approached by a 13 year female who reportedly works for Ariel. She allegedly promised to take them to a beautiful place where they would have everything they wanted if they went with her to the edge of the banks of the Rio Hondo. She got them to do it, and the newspaper reports that the kidnapping was only foiled when the girls' parents went to pick them up at school and didn't find them. They sounded the alarm and rounded up a search team.

US Capital's Expiry Waiver Is Official
Today was supposed to be the expiration date for US Capital Energy's drilling permit inside the Sarstoon Temash National Park, but as we've told you, the Government of Belize has waved it. That official letter arrived yesterday to the company from the Administrator of the National Parks and the Chief Forestry Officer, noting that at the behest of the government, the expiration date has been waived. That means that the company will be allowed to continue their activities tomorrow as per normal, but the Mayans from the Buffer Communities opposing the oil company say that they will be acting as security tomorrow, "the day after US Capital's permit expires". With a promise – or a threat, depending on how you take it – that they will be making a presence every day after that. We asked US Capital Energy's attorney today if this is a matter for concern.

Former Alcalde Gives Notice
And in an update to our Monday story about the Ousted Alcalde Leader from Conejo Village, Valentin Makin made his challenge to his removal official today with the Toledo Alcalde's Association. He wrote a letter to Alfonso Cal, the president of Association, demanding that he hand over all the written details about the signed petitions, the village meeting, and the process by which they community decided to eject and replace him as Alcalde. Valentin said quote, "I think that you are setting a very bad precedent as the president of the Toledo Alcalde Association in allowing the Alcalde System to be manipulated by a few NGO's in the District. This action will cause all Alcaldes to now be afraid that SATIIM or any organization who do not like an alcalde to simply come into a village use your office to remove them without due process." End Quote.

CEO Allen Still Behind Drug Inspectorate Director
At the top of the newscast, we showed you how the media grilled the CEO in the Ministry of Health about his dealings with the Chief Pharmacist Sharon Anderson. Well, hovering in the background is the case Director of the Drug Inspectorate Danini Contreras. She's being empowered to approve entry of medical supplies – which has stirred another controversy about her fitness to do this. CEO Allen defended her again today: Dr. Peter Allen - CEO, Ministry of Health "Now, the issues regarding the Directorate of the Drug Inspector, the position that we've created a temporary contract for, is that the person appears to hold all of the best possible to perform those functions which we will require from the Directorate of the Drug Inspection Unit. I've heard people saying that Ms. Contreras is being paid all kinds of money, and I'm sorry, it's just not true." Alindy Marisol Amaya - News Director, KREM News "You say that it's pay scale 18; can you clarify what it is then?"

FSTV Pharmacy Not Tightly Policed?
But, our reports say that one place Allen didn't want drug inspectors to go to was the pharmacy in the Fort Street Tourism Village. That has been an area of concern for those who monitor the pharmaceutical trade because of the concerns about less than optimal monitoring of the disbursement of pharmaceuticals to visitors. When Dr. Allen today went on a tack about private businesses violating pharmaceutical standards, we asked him about that drug store – and why he has stood up for it in the past: Dr. Peter Allen - CEO, Ministry of Health "We've had complaints of medications which are controlled, and should only be available under prescription being sold without a prescription. We don't know sometimes where the medications come from." Jules Vasquez "Sir, but you are very well aware about the situation in the Tourism Village, where there are 4 pharmacies and only 1 pharmacist, and all sorts of stuff are sold over the counter. Yet, I know that you have vouched for the owner of that drug store to have a second chance. There are 2 sides to this story."

Central Health Region Manager Under Investigation
And we weren't done with Allen yet. As we told you the interview with four media houses was 40 minutes on a hot and humid day. Sure, Allen spent about 30 of those minutes in his own personal spin zone, cooled by a steady stream of hot air…but we did get to ask him pointedly about the presence of Melinda Guerra at today's ceremony. She's the manager of the Central Health Region – and an audit of her performance came upon irregularities. Today we asked Allen if her presence at an official ceremony means that she had been cleared for all duties: Mike Rudon - Channel 5 News "She's a person who was named in an audit investigating irregularities, misappropriation of funds in the Central Region. Could you tell us today if her presence here today is a signal that all is cleared, that she's been cleared of all wrongdoing?"

Dr. Gamero's Sudden Passing
Tonight we note the very sudden passing of Dr. Arturo Gamero. 59 year old Gamero was at the gym last night at 6:00, and caught a stroke in the middle of his workout. He arrived at the KHMH unconscious and never regained consciousness. We understand that he had a massive brain hemorrhage. He died at 9:30 this morning. Gamero was a long practicing Buddhist, so there will not be a traditional funeral. His family says there will be a Buddhist ceremony at a date to be announced.

The Rise Of Matron Roberts
That image of Gamero was from 2005 when he was the clinical director at the Matron Roberts Public Health Clinic. Since then, Matron Roberts has come a long way, operating as a public health facility and an NHI Mclinic – where its competitors are all private. The news tonight is that Matron Roberts is doing better than they are. We found out why:

Nurse Samuels Gets Her Ammo Charge Arraignment; Avoids Remand
48 year-old nurse Bernadette Samuels, who had been hospitalized, pending an arraignment for firearm and drug offences, was finally taken to court today after being hospitalized for her high blood pressure. She was supposed to have been arraigned 2 weeks ago, and police department was getting frustrated hinting that she was using her influence at the hospital to get her physician to give her more bed rest until her attorney could arrange for bail so that she could avoid jail time in the first instance. Whether that was really the case or not, the arraignment took place before Senior Magistrate Sharon Frazer today, where she was read charges of unlicensed ammunition and cannabis possession.

Nigerian Pastor Had A Fake Visa
You may remember, Fifty-three year old Nigerian national Patrick Joshua Aibaengbee. He was one of 3 persons who landed at the PGIA with false immigration documents. He told the Immigration Department initially that they had to prove that his visa was fake, but yesterday, he changed his mind and pleaded guilty. Patrick Joshua was fined $1,000 by Magistrate Dale Cayetano after he pled guilty to using permit not issued by lawful authority. Patrick Joshua was ordered to pay forthwith, in default 6 months imprisonment. After he has paid the fine or served the time, he will be deported to Nigeria. As we told you, he arrived in Belize on April 10 on an Avianca flight from El Salvador. When he landed at Phillip Goldson International Airport he handed over his passport to an immigration officer who checked and detected that the Belizean visa was not genuine.

BDF Going Back To The Jungles
The BDF is expected to come off the streets soon – and police sources say they might not be there for May. We've reported this before, in February when they were supposed to come off the streets at the end of that month. It never happened because that's right when gang violence started to jump off in precinct one. They remained in precinct one – but with last week's gang truce, the hope is that the soldiers can return to the jungles by May. Last week, the commander of the BDF told us why it's important, in the context of the shooting incidents and Guatemalan incursions: General David Jones - Commander, BDF "It's going to take a solution between two countries, or probably also international efforts to assist Guatemala to dissuade their people from coming over into Belize. That is a big part of the problem where we have these illegal farmers and peasants coming over into Belize. We want to stop these incursions coming over. My intention this year, and for the rest of my career while I'm in the BDF, is to maintain the territorial integrity and sovereignty of this country.

Appeal Court Releasing Their Decision On Second Nationalization
The long awaited court of Appeals decision on the second nationalization of BTL will be delivered on May 15th at 2:00 pm. It's been scheduled and delayed before, most recently in early April. But, this time it's for real – and by a jarring coincidence, May 15 is also the day that Appeals Court Justice Samuel Awich's contract expires. It still hasn't been renewed and last week we asked the Prime Minister about it:.. Jules Vasquez "Sir, Justice of Appeal Awich, has his contract been renewed?" Hon. Dean Barrow - Prime Minister of Belize "Not yet, sir." Jules Vasquez "And it expires in May, what considerations go into that?" Hon. Dean Barrow "The usual considerations, is the man of sound mind? Is he in good health? Has he discharged his duties during the period of the first contract? That sort of thing." Jules Vasquez "As you know, some unfortunate allusions have been made about the timing of the long-awaited -"

Nat'l Song Competitition Going To The Districts
This afternoon the National Celebrations Commission launched the National Song Competition at the House of Culture in Belize City. This year for the first time the competition will be branching out to the districts offering both workshops and stage performances to the artists and song writers. We found out more at the launch. The winners of the district competitions will be invited on the National stage on August 9th.

SIB: Trade Imbalance Widens
Belize's Trade Imbalance continues to grow. The statistical institute of Belize reports that In March 2014, Belize imported $162.9 million dollars in good, up by $13.4 million or 8.9 percent over March 2013. The most significant rise was in Chemical Products, which surged by $6 million as a result of increased imports of fertilizer. Considerable increases were also seen in purchases of steel and iron products for construction. Consumer goods also saw an increase, rising by as much as $21 million due to increased purchases of vitamins, seeds and wines. And while imports were up, exports totalled only $48.6 million in March 2014, a decline of $20.6 million or 30 percent over March 2013. This fall was entirely the result of no sales of crude petroleum and a decline in sugar and orange concentrate exports of $7 million and $4 million, respectively.

The Reporter

Darrell Bradley says his reason for not running again for mayor is personal
Mayor Darrell Bradley says that though he is focused on wrapping up his three-year term and he is not yet completely certain about his career path, he is giving consideration to his candidacy in the Caribbean Shores area. “I’m a very strategic person, I never do something by mistake, I deliberately did not submit the application for a specific reason,” Bradley said. He explained that the decision for him to not run again is a personal one based on multiple factors but did say that he intends to remain committed to public service, wherever that may lead him. Bradley told The Reporter that he is committed to the United Democratic Party (UDP) and would support any of the candidates who have submitted their names to run as mayor in the next municipal elections.

American citizen missing at sea
An American citizen remains missing after a kayaking adventure on Tuesday turned into disaster near the reef off the coast of San Pedro. Wrangler Shane Leesman, 29, and his friend, Bradley Evans Josker, went kayaking around noon and decided to return to shore when they noticed the sea getting rough. But before they could do so, a wave hit them, capsizing their kayak. Josker told police that they tried for a while to return to their kayak but another wave that struck them made that effort futile. He added that they started to drift apart and that was the last time he saw his friend.

Galen replaces Dr. Louis Zabaneh as president
Galen University’s majority owners have moved to replace Dr. Louis Zabaneh as president of the institution in an attempt to move the university in a different acadmeic direction. The institution will expand to become a school of veterinary medicine and Professor Andreas Charalambous from Cyprus is the interim president. Zabaneh has explained that the decision was a bit of a surprise to him, even though he knew that there were discussions about taking the institution in another direction. Zabaneh has been the president of the privately-owned tertiary institution since December 2009 and has been a key figure in developing the academic programs at Galen.

Gold mine collapses in Colombia; up to 30 people trapped
Rescue efforts are underway in Colombia to save the lives of up to 30 people trapped underground after a gold mine collapsed in the south-west of the country. At least three miners were killed in the incident. The collapse occurred shortly before midnight in a rural area near Santander de Quilichao. So far, authorities have recovered three bodies and do not know if there are more victims. BBC World News and the Associated Press are reporting that the mine was operating illegally. Illegal miners used machinery to open huge holes to extract gold, and a wall on one of them caved in, burying the miners.

Patrick Jones

Belize’s Petrocaribe Credit Limitations
The Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela’s PETROCARIBE agreement allows Belize to purchase fuel by paying 40% of the costs up front….and the balance to be paid at 1% per annum interest over 25 years. The government of Belize claimed in April 2014, that since the program started in 2012, Belize has accumulated around $190 million of credit. Assuming a two year period, this would suggest that Belize accumulates around $95 million in credits per year….which at 60% of purchases would suggest that total purchases of fuel averaged $158 million per year. However, Belize is known to import around $220 million in fuel per annum….so perhaps Belize is sourcing another $62 million of fuels from a source outside the PetroCaribe agree

Boy mauled by dog continues to recuperate
Thursday, May 1, 2014. PATRICK E. JONES Reporting: The family of 5 year old Christopher Jones, the Infant One boy who was mauled by a dog in Santa Elena town on Wednesday afternoon, has released a set of photographs of his injuries. Some of the pictures are too graphic to post, but the update is that little Christopher continues to recuperate following the vicious mauling. According to a note that accompanied the pictures, Jones is scheduled to undergo a CATSCAN on Friday in Belize City to determine if there is any brain damage as a result of the mauling. In one of the pictures, the little boy’s scalp is shown torn open and there are multiple scratches on his face.

Pickup truck crashes into police vehicles in San Ignacio town
There are reports of a vehicle crashing into two police vehicles in San Ignacio town. Information is sketchy at this time, but it appears that the occupants of a gold Ford ranger pickup truck were trying to evade the police but ended up crashing into their vehicles. The crash reportedly happened at the bottom of the street beside the San Ignacio police station. The occupants of the crashed Ford Ranger pickup truck are believed to be from Belize City and it is suspected that marijuana may have been their cargo. A total of three vehicles were involved in tonight’s incident which happened just before 9 o’clock.

Maya Leaders take community members to US Capital drill site
There was a showdown at the entrance to US Capital Energy drill sight inside the Sarstoon Temash National Park in Toledo today. A group of men and women from buffer communities, aided by the Maya Leaders Alliance went to the area today claiming that they were going to stop the oil company from carrying out any further activities on what they describe as ‘Maya land. US Capital Energy’s permit to carry out oil exploration in the Sarstoon Temash National Park was set to expire at the end of April; but that expiry date has been waived by government. That means that US Capital Energy could continue with its activities as per normal. But the Maya Leaders Alliance and members of buffer communities will have none of it. And so when they showed up at the entrance to US Capital Energy access road today, they were met by a team of police officers. Reports from Toledo say that despite the police presence, some members of the group from the Maya Leaders Alliance still managed to make it pass the over a dozen police officers at the entrance.

Blogs

Belize Tourism Expo is fast aproaching
Where does the time go? Hard to believe it has already been 2 years since the last Belize Tourism Expo and the popular travel trade show is coming up next week. This years event runs from from May 7-9 2014 and will take place at the Princess Hotel and Casino in Belize City. BETEX is a is a business oriented travel industry trade show featuring information on Belize travel destinations, accommodations, tour companies, and other tourism service providers. The Belize Tourism Expo provides an exclusive meet and greet opportunity for international traveler resellers to network and conduct business with local Belize travel suppliers. It also allows for them to learn more about the country and experience what this popular travel destination is like first hand in order to better help people when they are selling Belize vacation packages. I know this is very important from personal experience. When my mom was coming to visit and we were going over her travel itinerary, I learned her travel agent had her booked on a Tropic Air flight two hours after she had landed Philip Goldson International Airport. I emailed her back and let her know that was too long and the recommended time to clear customs and be ready to hop on a puddle jumper was 45 minutes. It was clear the Toronto based woman was thinking Miami sized airport. Anyone who has passed through International Airport, or done their research, would have the correct information and better be able to guide someone in booking their trip to Ambergris Caye Belize. That experience illustrates why BETEX is an important and useful resource to giving travel industry people a chance to gain first hand knowledge of the country of Belize and it’s travel related businesses.

A Beautiful Lunch At Elvi’s Kitchen And Some Animals About Town
I walked into town at lunch time for a meeting and passed the new Diamante project just south of Blue Water Grill. They just officially broke ground about one month ago and it’s growing. Quickly. I had planned to go to Estel’s Dine by the Sea for their delicious breakfast all day. I was going to get my usual and set up my computer for a few hours to answer some questions for a magazine article. But Estel’s was oddly closed. Maybe taking a little well deserved time off. I headed over to Middle Street and Elvi’s Kitchen. A restaurant that I can NOT write about without showing this picture of me and Prince Harry. PRINCE HARRY!

Belize Labor Day Holiday: 5 Facts you should know
May 1st of every year marks a very important day for us Belizeans, especially for the working class; Belize Labor Day Holiday! This Belize holiday is a public and bank holiday that we enjoy as a day of rest from work, and as gratitude for all our hard work. However, many are unaware what we Belizeans had to go through to be able to enjoy such treat in this jewel of our country. 1. In the 18th century the British tried to force the Maya people to work for them. The Mayan people were mostly forest dwellers, hunters and worked on their own agriculture crops mainly for trade. They refused to work for the British in the logging of Mahogany. As a result the British had to settle by purchasing African slaves then eventually obtained workers from Belize (at that time known as British Honduras). Most of these workers couldn’t afford a land to work on their own so that they can take care of their family therefore had to work on logging with the British foresters.

San Pedro is Belmopan Bound
Wunderground was right on the money this morning weather wise, they predicted 80% chance of lightening and rain today which exactly what we woke up to at 4:00am. Thankfully Paul reminded me fast to get the cart unplugged as I had been charging it overnight to leave my friend Dick with a fully charged cart for the weekend. Hopefully it will be drier by the time we leave on our 8:00am flight. For the last two days a bunch of us from San Pedro have been making plans to meet up at the National Agriculture & Trade Show happening in Belmopan this weekend. Not only is the Ag show a great way to learn about agriculture in Belize, it is also the biggest annual social mobilization activity for the for the Belize Red Cross. Every year, BRC participates and all branches are invited to send volunteers to help for the show, this year Shirlee and I are going to represent San Pedro. The Red Cross booth is #23 which is located in the area of Prosser Fertilizer and CPBL, stop by and say hi if you are at the show.

Wa lee breeze in Paradise by: Aria Lightfoot
Today I was on the receiving end of a patriotic tongue lashing on Facebook. It was done unapologetically and in no uncertain terms I was told that I was “full of crap” and I am trying to make “Belize into what it is not. “ It was done by one of those very happy people who refuse to take me off her newsfeed but seemed genuinely disturbed by my posts. Some of my Belizeans like their world to be filled with sunshine, roses, sugar, spice, and everything nice; never wanting to be exposed to a reality outside their happy circle. Cognitive dissonance maybe? Many people in the US normally need prescribed happy pills to keep them in such constant state of oblivious bliss. I theorize that some Belizeans come with an unusually high amount of serotonin that keep them happily devoid of the reality around them. I guess my patriotic Belizean friend has never ventured or worked amongst the poorest and downtrodden. She has never cried the tears of thousands of mothers who lost sons and daughters to the blood bath in the city and probably have never had to cross a London bridge to poor living conditions during a rainy season that brings out the harsh elements of nature. Rainy days in Belize to her were probably pellets on the roof that lulled her into a calm comforting state where she eventually drifted to sleep.

International Sources

U.S. Army Ranger missing off the coast of Belize
29-year-old Wrangler Shane Leesman went missing Tuesday. A 29-year-old former Army Ranger went missing off the coast of Belize Tuesday when the kayak he was in flipped over near a reef off Ambergris Caye. Wrangler Shane Leesman, of Austin Texas, was last seen about noon when he and another former Ranger pushed off from the beach on a red kayak. The kayak was seen capsizing near a reef by an American on the beach, according to a police report provided by the San Pedro Sun. Family and friends back in the states were expecting the pair, who now work as security contractors, back today. “He’s just an all around good guy,” said Leesman’s friend David Corley. “He really opened up to me about what went on over there, I guess because I’m a veteran too.” Leesman’s companion, Cpl. Bradley Evans Josker, and the kayak were found about 5 p.m. by the Belize Coast Guard.

Queen's Baton Relay: Belize's first Commonwealth triathlete
In 2013, 33-year-old Kent Gabourel was crowned winner of the Lionman, the biggest triathlon in Belize, and qualified for a place at Glasgow 2014. His home, Ambergris Caye, is a small island 90 minutes by boat from Belize City. The tiny cobbled streets of the town are populated with golf carts and holidaymakers. However, the idyllic, laid back facade hides the reality of a community that is struggling with gangs and drugs. Last year, Belize was named the sixth most violent country in the world, according to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime. I soon find out that fighting this situation is exactly what motivates Kent. He picked up the triathlon after finishing his career as a footballer recently, and is realistic about his hopes for the games.

Soldier from Houston area missing at sea off coast of Belize
Friends and family of 29-year-old Wrangler Leesman, of Rosenberg, are desperately watching from afar in the search for the former Army Ranger. The decorated veteran has been missing since Tuesday. Leesman -- who in five years as a Ranger deployed five times to Iraq and Afghanistan -- went kayaking with an Army buddy on vacation in Belize. The boat capsized after a wave hit. They were holding on to the kayak when another wave struck and separated them. The Belize Coast Guard eventually located Leesman's friend, but the Foster High School graduate remains missing. "I think there's still a chance that if they haven't found him yet that he's still out there," said friend Jimmy Bruinsma. Bruinsma has known Leesman since high school and they served together as Army Rangers. Bruinsma said his close friend has the skills to survive in rough waters, but believes the U.S. government should be doing more to search for him, in light of the fact that American assets are being used to search for the missing Malaysian jetliner in the Indian Ocean.

Merida celebrates 20th anniversary of Association of Caribbean States
In celebration of the twentieth anniversary of the Association of Caribbean States, “ACS 20/20: Present and Future,” Merida prepared a draft declaration at the Sixth Summit of Heads of State and/or Government of the States, Countries, and Territories of the Association of Caribbean States: We, the Heads of State and/or Government of the Member States and Territories of the Association of Caribbean States (ACS), meeting in the city of Merida, Yucatan, Mexico, on April 30, 2014, to celebrate the twentieth anniversary of our Association and to continue moving forward with its strengthening in preparation for future challenges: 1. Underscore the importance of the Greater Caribbean, a region that accounts for almost half of the population of Latin America and the Caribbean and which represents fifty five percent of its total trade, and we reiterate the permanence of the Association of Caribbean States as a special space for dialogue and co-operation in order to make strides in Latin American and Caribbean integration;

SOUTHCOM, National Guard review state partnerships in the Western Hemisphere
U.S. military leaders, planners and coordinators from U.S. Southern Command (SOUTHCOM), the National Guard Bureau and 18 states’ National Guard met at SOUTHCOM headquarters in Miami from April 29-May 1 to review how the Defense Department’s State Partnership Program (SPP) supports the combatant command and its defense ties in the Caribbean, Central America and South America. The 2014 Western Hemisphere State Partnership Program Adjutant Generals’ Conference marks the first time the group has gathered since 2011 to discuss the combatant command mission and priority areas supported by the program. “Your contribution across this region matters, and we thank you for it,” said U.S. Army Lt. Gen. Kenneth Tovo, military deputy commander for SOUTHCOM, as he addressed participants prior to the start of the conference. “It’s critical that everything we do is focused and is synchronized.”

A chocoholic's guide to the Caribbean
Not many things trump an island getaway. Here's one that does: a chocolate-filled island getaway. And the Caribbean islands have much to offer when it comes to the beloved cacao bean. Here, you'll come across a storied history, chocolate factories and dedicated chocolatiers. In other words, it's not hard to find your sweet spot. Chocolate Festival of Belize, Belize There's more to Toledo than dramatic waterfalls, Mayan temples and world-class fishing spots. It also has a longstanding cocoa-producing history, and it all culminates in May during the Chocolate Festival. Here you can sip specially brewed chocolate stout while listening to steel-pan music, get to know the chocolate producers themselves and sample chocolates flavored with organic orange peel and baalam nut. Also for sale are powdered cacao, baking chocolate, homemade cocoa-butter lip balm and cocoa-butter soaps. And don't forget to sample the dark chocolate mixed with bacon bits. chocolatefestivalofbelize.com

The Last Coral Reefs
A new survey is documenting the rain forests of the ocean—before they’re gone There’s only one way to lower a $20,000 custom-made underwater camera from a swaying fishing boat into the open sea: very, very carefully. And that’s exactly how Manuel Gonzalez-Rivero’s colleagues handled the SVII camera as they nudged it overboard, where the coral ecologist was bobbing in the bathtub-warm waters off the Central American country of Belize. Gonzalez-Rivero is based at the University of Queensland’s Global Change Institute in Australia, but he was in the Caribbean working with the Catlin Seaview Survey, a scientific expedition that is assessing threatened coral reefs around the world. Once in the water, the cumbersome SVII–a beach-ball-size camera head with three separate lenses at the end of a 7-ft. (2 m) pole–was easy for Gonzalez-Rivero to maneuver. The camera’s attached propeller sled saved the scientist the work of swimming as he covered more than a mile of Belize’s protected Glover’s Reef, part of the vast and endangered Mesoamerican Reef that stretches from southern Honduras to the eastern tip of Mexico. Every three seconds, the lenses on the SVII–facing to the left, right and below the camera head–snapped pictures of the reef. Over the course of his 45-minute dive, Gonzalez-Rivero produced more than 900 detailed images of Glover’s Reef, each one rich with data about corals and sea life. Back on the catamaran that served as the expedition’s temporary base, those images would be processed to generate a precise three-dimensional image of the reef. Later, computers at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography would analyze the pictures, giving scientists a quick diagnosis of the health of one of the most valuable marine ecosystems in the Caribbean. What’s long been possible on land, thanks to satellites scanning jungles and deserts, is now feasible beneath the waves. “Every coral reef is different,” says Gonzalez-Rivero. “This will allow us to see the reef as it really is.”

Videos

Video: National Geographic Student Expeditions- Belize, 3min.
Meet National Geographic Expert Tierney Thys, and see what makes our Belize: Oceans and Underwater Exploration program so special.

Video: Mountain Pine Ridge Fun, 4min.
Mountain Pine Ridge Belize. Belize is not all beaches and Cayes. There are waterfalls, caves, ruins and many things to explore in the mountains of Belize. Come join us on the road in Belize to see how much fun' you'd be missing if you stayed at the beach. Belize's 107,000-acre Mountain Pine Ridge Forest Reserve is home to exotic wildlife such as Cougars, Jaguars, Ocelots, Crocodiles, and many bird species. The Rio On Pools and the 1,000 foot falls are the best attractions in the reserve. Waterfalls flow over smooth granite, creating shallow pools perfect for sunbathing and lounging. Take the stairs down to the lower pools, or hike upstream for better views and bigger pools. It a great place to spend those 100+ degree weather days.

Video: Belize - BV Expedition 2-14 (PART 5), 6min.
My expedition together with the amazing Blue Ventures Team and volunteers in Belize, 14 feb - 27 mar 2014.

Video: Belize Dance Company Jr. BUTTERFLIES & FLOWERS, 4min.

Video: Caye Caulker, Belize 4 30 14, 4min.
Backpacking Central America. Snorkeling day trip with Ragamuffin Tours. Very cool.

Video: Franckner CARNIVAL CRUISE stop in Belize., 35min.
CARNIVAL CRUISE stop and ride in Belize tourists center.