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#497261 - 10/25/14 05:54 AM Caracol Re-opens
Marty Offline
Next week Monday the Caracol Archaeological Site will re-open 4 weeks and 4 days after it was closed,. By now, you are very aware that the site was closed because Special Constable Danny Conorquie was killed while on duty. He was targeted and executed while he was looking after tourists.

Since then, law enforcement and military personnel have been on a high level of activation in and around the site, especially since there was an armed incursion around Camp Valentin shortly after the murder.

But, Caracol is one of the major tourist destinations in the Cayo District, and addressing the security concerns meant that no tours were going to the maya site. Those security concerns have now been addressed with a permanent BDF presence on the ground, and today, NICH's Director of Archaeology, Dr. John Morris outlined the new security measures that are in place:

Dr. John Morris, Director - Institute of Archeology
"We have increase on the security measures of the site. Primarily we have setup BDF outpost on the archeological reserve that would provide protection for our people who are working there and also for guests who will visit the site. This is in conjunction with the Belize Defence Force, we have a similar arrangement with them at the site of Xunantunich near Benque. This contingent will remain there at the site 24/7. They will do patrols in and around the reserve. We have also increase the number of personnel that the Institute of Archeology keeps at Caracol and in addition to that the number of tourism police has also been increased. We will continue with the escort by BDF for tourist who wants to go to Caracol, this is something that was there in place before, so all tour guides/tour operators, tourists who wants to go to Caracol at 9am the BDF from Douglas De Silva escorts them to Caracol and then at 2pm they escort them back to Douglas De Silva. A part from that of course the BDF and FCD are in the area. I think we have enough people on sire to take care of that. I mean when you include the 10 Institute of Archaeology personnel, the 10 BDF personnel and that of the tourism police - you are talking about 25-30 people on site."

NICH advises that the Belize Defense Force escort services will depart from Douglas D'Silva Forest Station at 9 a.m. and the escorts leave there at 2 p.m. Anyone wishing to go to the site must adhere to the escort hours.

Channel 7

#497334 - 10/28/14 05:12 AM Re: Caracol Re-opens [Re: Marty]
Marty Offline

The Caracol Comeback

Today, 4 weeks after the murder of Special Constable Danny Conorquie, the Caracol Archaeological Site was re-opened to the public.

As we've told you, immediately after his killing, the area became the focus of national security concerns, since it is believed that the lawman was executed to send a statement to Belize's law enforcement. The Belize Defense Force closed the site down so that they can secure it from armed assailants, by stationing a permanent deployment of soldiers there.

But setting it up took time - and while the multi-agency team was busy getting things in place, the tour guides were losing money because they couldn't deliver on pre-booked tours to the site.

So, the re-opening was important for both the tour guides and the park managers, and a number of tourists made sure to visit Caracol today. Our news team was at the Archaeological Site for most of the day, and Daniel Ortiz has that story:

Daniel Ortiz reporting
The Caracol Archaeological Site, closed for 1 month and four days, resumed normal operations. Tour Guides brought in their guests showing them the stunning beauty of this ancient Mayan temple.

Jorge De Leon - tour Guide
"We were waiting. We hoped that the site would not be closed for as long as it did and now that it opened, the turn-out is good. I think the different hotels and resorts around the area sent their people out."

It appeared as though it was business as usual, but all around there were subtle changes. The main feature was that sense of heightened security being provided by the BDF. Soldiers kept watch from afar, trigger fingers at the ready, remaining ever vigilant about the possibility of armed threats.

Michael Pagent - Conservation Ranger, Caracol Park
"Just keep the place clean and make sure the tourists are okay, make sure everything is alright, keep the place well maintained, look out for each other while we are out here. As you know the situation that happened back here we got to be careful with our lives, but at the same time we are not really worried because of the presence of the military is here, so we are a little bit safe - you can depend on them."

That hyper-awareness is perhaps require because at the highest point of Caracol, Guatemala is visible on the horizon, and with the proximity to the border, there is the possibility of armed bandits.

The NICH bosses made sure to make an appearance to supervise the changes in security protocols.

Dr. John Morris - Director of the Institute of Archaeology
"We need to make sure that the security measures that we have ask to be put in place are in place. We also need to ensure that the site is safe enough for visitors to come here and what better way to do it than to actually come and run through and do our inspections."

Diane Haylock - President, NICH
"We know that in terms of water, the water source, we are not near to any major source, so water has to be trucked in to our site and so with the increase number we going to have to be able to provide additional water. So there are a number of things like that that we are going to have to looked at and address over the next little while."

So with the increase in numbers of Tourism Police, BDF, and NICH Park Rangers, there are a number of growing pains, looking after an increase in accommodations and resources.

The tour guides are hoping that all kinks will be worked out.

They want to bring back their guests to Caracol, and the security boost is reassuring.

Jorge De Leon - tour Guide
"Most of the tourists that come to Belize they prepaid their packages and in most cases if you come into San Ignacio you will have Caracol as part of an option. That's something that you have to do if you are in Belize especially if you are in the west and having the site closed was hurting us because of everything that was going on. You know with the weather Xunantunich is closed, sometimes ATM would be closed or even Barton Creek would be closed, Cave Tubing would be closed, co the only thing that would be open was Cahal Pech and not that Cahal Pech is a bad site, it's an awesome site, but try explain that to someone who is booked a tour 6 months in advanced and he has fixed all his expectations in seeing the largest ancient city in the country and then you just can't show it to them because of "X" reasons and its closed."

Pedro Chuc - Tour Guide
"These persons really wanted to do tours. A lot of them were booking their tours and still wanted to come up and see the site because today is the first day that it had been reopen again and I am up here as normal doing my daily tour."

Jorge De Leon - tour Guide
"We were getting desperate. We were talking with a few guides and a few people about making a move and putting pressure on the government, so I am glad that its open and of course there are still other things that need to be done; there is a lot of works to be done. They still need to clear a few; like the underbrush needs to be clear, but we can't expect things to move overnight. We just need to be patient and I am glad that they are working on it and that it is open."

Daniel Ortiz
"Talk to us about - do you guys see this closure as affecting the bottom line for the high season? What will that one month closure play into in terms of the long picture?"

Jorge De Leon - tour Guide
"I don't think it will have an effect because having close for a month I don't think it should affect anything that will happen in December or even in November. It affected the persons who were here at the time and could not do it. The reviews, when we get the reviews it's not going to be bad reviews for Caracol because they couldn't come, it might be a bad review for BTB maybe or whoever is in charge, but other than that I think what you might see is excellent reviews on Cahal Pech and the other sites that got the business and the visitors got a chance to go to."

Meanwhile, the taint of Danny Conorqiue's brutal murder still lingers. Most of our interviewees chose to ignore that discussion - understandably so, since rehashing can lead to a negative downturn for tourist visits. Whatever the reason, it has somewhat become a taboo topic, Caracol's dirty little secret.

Pedro Chuc - Tour Guide
"A little bit shaken up with the incident that happened about a month ago up here at the site. It's really nice to see the improvements that have been done up at the site here."

Michael Pagent - Conservation Ranger, Caracol Park
"He was a very cool and quite person. He liked to hang with us and talk to us in the evenings. Always happy, always joyful, he was a person with great ambition - he had good things for his future that he wanted, but unfortunately he didn't get that chance to get there and we all felt it after that happened - it shook us very much. We are all very hurt because he was a cool person with us."

Pedro Chuc - Tour Guide
"In a way it's really shaking. Every time I go over it and when I tell everyone about what happened it just like it's happening all over again to me. It was a really bad experience up here, but all the tour guides that were here acted in a very professional manner and the tourists were all really safe."

The experts agree that even though the lawman's killing has had a major impact on the site, in the long term, value of its attraction to tourist will not diminish.

Daniel Ortiz
"Do you think that it will have any long term effects on the viability of the site?"

Jorge De Leon - tour Guide
"I don't think so. At least I don't hope so. It's an isolated case and I think the government is doing everything it should and I think over the past few weeks we've seen and they've made the right moves."

Diane Haylock - President, NICH
"The funny thing is, the tour guides, tour operators have been on our backs to reopen the site you know, so their feeling is that it will not because they still have guests who want to come, so I am guided by what they are saying, what my people are saying."

Michael Pagent - Conservation Ranger, Caracol Park
"We work as a team, we're not spread out again. Everybody comes together at the beginning of the day and we have the presence of the military with us; 3-4 guys looking after us and basically just looking out for each other and try to be safe and keep things maintained out here."

The park managers and the tour guides are caught in a quandary because everyone involved must project the perception of tighter security while ensuring that the guests aren't alarmed by the new measures or by the knowledge that Conorquie was mercilessly gunned down.

Today, we found the tour guides trying their best to strike that balance with their guests, who were enjoying the wonders of the Mayan Temple without the security worries. Here's what a few of them told us:

Jacqueline Corker - Tourist, England
"We are up here mainly for the archaeology and also the wildlife. Belize is an amazing little country because it has such a diversity. In one little country you have lots and lots of really good things. So as Edward said this morning you could be snorkeling in the morning and a beautiful place like this in the afternoon. Coming for Europe, like I said we are used to old castles, medieval styles, so the style of buildings like this is quite different, quiet exotic - it's fascinating."

Daniel Ortiz
"Did you know of the site before booking to come here?"

Jacqueline Corker - Tourist, England
"Oh yes. As a little girl I always read the National Geographic magazine and each time I had a magazine, I had a new dream, a new idea and so coming to Belize is maybe putting 2-3 ideas together because I wanted to see Caracol, I wanted to go to Tikal and I wanted to see the Blue Hole, so its 3 dreams coming together in one place."

Daniel Ortiz
"Does it meet your expectations?"

Jacqueline Corker - Tourist, England
"So far, so good, yes."

Mark Corker - Tourist, England
"My expectations are being well met. I think the country is fantastic, it's got so much history - it's just a wonderful place."

Daniel Ortiz
"What's you impression of the site, having it being explained to you what's the significance and seeing the visual aspects of it?"

Mark Corker - Tourist, England
"Stunning, totally stunning. I don't think I've ever been anywhere like this in my life. The beauty of it, it is so quite. We got the place to ourselves - it's wonderful."

Edward Requena - Tour Guide
"We are starting our season and we've been so lucky that we haven't had a lot or rains which sometimes overflows the river and then its gets pretty nasty to come up here, so we are having a lovely time for the starting of our tourism. Hopefully it stays like that for the rest of the season."

Daniel Ortiz
"Sir, is this your first visit to the Caracol site?"

James Robinson - Tourist, Bermuda
"Yes it is."

Daniel Ortiz
"What's your impression of the scenery, the architecture, tell us about that?"

James Robinson - Tourist, Bermuda

Daniel Ortiz
"What this something that you knew about before you came here?"

James Robinson - Tourist, Bermuda
"Yes we did."

Daniel Ortiz
"Tell us about the research you did into it?"

James Robinson - Tourist, Bermuda
"You would have to ask my wife."

Daniel Ortiz
"Talk to us about the experience you've had with the guides, if you had anyone speak with you as yet to explain to you the significance of this location?"

James Robinson - Tourist, Bermuda
"Yeah we got the guides from Blancaneax - they have been very good with their explanations and what not."

Daniel Ortiz
"Is this something that you've experienced before coming to these Maya sites before or is this the first?"

James Robinson - Tourist, Bermuda
"I've been to Tulum, it's my first guided tour to a Maya site."

Gambrill Robinson - Tourist, Bermuda
"It's absolutely amazing. The architecture is incredible and learning about the history of the Mayans is really amazing that they built these structures so long ago is just impressive and mind blowing."

NICH says that all the issues of equipment, training, and communication will be dealt with in due time.

Channel 7

Roads to Caracol Remain Deplorable

The Caracol Archaeological site is located approximately fifty miles from Georgeville in the Cayo District. But due to the condition of the road, the journey can take anywhere from two to three hours. Small vehicles cannot make the trip, and in many spots even four wheel drive vehicles are forced to slow to a crawl on the badly gutted road, with deep ruts and gullies carved by the rains. The site is the largest in the Belize, and is undeniably impressive. Visitors from all over the world make time for Caracol on their itineraries, and the high season is just around the corner. So why hasnít there been some attempt to maintain that long, terrible stretch of road? Today, Archaeology Director, John Morris, told News Five that itís in the pipeline.

Dr. John Morris, Director of Archaeology, NICH

John Morris

ďIíve been working t Caracol for the past thirty years and the road has improved…compared to then, this is a highway to me. But I can imagine that people who are coming in, it can become quite torturous. We are in the process of working with the Ministry of Works and Forestry to try and improve the protion between Douglas DíSilva and the FCD Camp, at Tapir Camp, just by the Water Maya Bridge. As you notice a portion of it is paved and that just needs bushing on the side and some maintenance. But the previous ten to fifteen miles would require graving and dumping and we are going to work with Forestry and the Ministry of Works to try and get that portion upgraded.Ē

Jorge De Leon

Jorge De Leon, Tour Guide

ďWhen you left Tapir Camp, you saw a section that is very bad. Vehicles will be damaged if that isnít fixed like fast…small vehicles wouldnít be able to come. Today, we have a couple vans came in and in the next couple weeks, if the rains continue, and right now we have the B.D.F. and the soldiers that are here training. They are using those big trucks and those big trucks are just tearing the roads. That’s something that we have to deal with every year. These guys come in. They might contribute monetary to the government, but we would like to see that money that they give be put into the road. And that is something that just needs to happen. The peak of the season is around the corner and normally before the peak starts, before the tourism season starts, they fix the road. Right now they havenít gotten to that and it is just a matter of time before they come fix the road. I just hope that it is sooner than later.Ē

Tour guides told us that when the road is particularly bad, they must travel in convoy so that they can assist each other when their vehicles inevitably get bogged down.†

Channel 5

#497715 - 11/08/14 04:23 AM Re: Caracol Re-opens [Re: Marty]
Marty Offline

Still No Tourism Police at Caracol

Caracol reopened on October twenty-seventh after being closed for an entire month. There was much hype about enhanced security protocols Ė beefed up B.D.F. presence and Tourism Police presence ramped up from two officers to six. News Five was at Caracol for the reopening and there were no Tourism Police Special Constables there. And when we checked on Thursday, that was still the case. We checked in with National Security C.E.O. George Lovell who told us he was surprised that the commitment to place more Special Constables on site had not been met.

Via Phone: Retíd. Col. George Lovell, C.E.O., Ministry of National Security

George Lovell

ďI was disappointed to understand that they were not there because I didnít see any reason why at least the two people who were traditionally escorting the tourists had stopped. When I asked the commissioner about it, he was unaware of it also and when he checked he realized that it was suspended. But they said it was suspended because after the break, the unit did not get the logistic support that was necessary to have them back out there. And so come Monday, they will be out there in the strength that it had initially. I then asked them why is it that he didnít have the additional four because the numbers were going to increase from two to four. I was told that they had just had interviews where there were a hundred and ninety-odd applicants and havenít really decided on who the twelve that was going to allow them to have the four additional PTU out at Caracol done just yet. So we still have to go through the selection process and they want to do some training before they start. So it is in their ball park; they are the ones who are dragging this out and I hope they understand to expect that they will have the tourism police in numbers that we have agreed.Ē

Lovell says that in the interim the Belize Defence Force and personnel from the Special Patrol Unit have been taking up the slack created by the lack of Tourism Police Special Constables.

Channel 5


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