REPORT #157 Jan 2000

Produced by the Belize Development Trust

One of the indexes of freedom, or level of democracy in any nation is the existant, or lack of existence of a Secret Police!

In a country like Belize, with no external enemies on our borders, there is no need of INTERNAL SECURITY ( Secret Police). Yet we have such an animal, which we inherited from the Colonial power of the U.K. Back in the times of British Honduras it was used to keep tabs on political dissidents, like George Price and Philip Goldson. Today, INTERNAL SECURITY, or the SECRET POLICE are used mostly for political vendettas and persecution, and sometimes for drug enforcement.

The subject of drug enforcement for the rationalization of the use of INTERNAL SECURITY is fraught with danger for the general public and human rights in Belize. The DEA and the CIA and other State Department officials are required by USA law to abide by the laws of the USA, only within the territorial borders of the USA. They do carry on in foreign countries like Belize, St. Kitts, and Jamaica, violating the spirit of the laws of the USA, but often the laws of the country in which they operate. They seem to do this with impunity and even tacit encouragement from their home headquarters. That our own INTERNAL SECURITY police branch even exists is a shameful thing. That it exists and can condone the actions of foreign agents within Belize is even worse infamy.

Rightly, INTERNAL SECURITY is not a police matter, but one of National Defense, when one is at war with a neighboring country, or expects to go to war shortly. Internal Security is the responsibility of a SECRET SERVICE which is military in nature and works outside the sovereign boundaries of the nation. Not inside! Otherwise, HUMAN RIGHTS organizations say there is no real reason for an INTERNAL SECURITY POLICE FORCE, or SECRET POLICE OF BELIZE operating within Belize against citizens of Belize. You can measure the type of national constitution and the type of level of democracy a nation might have, by the very existance of an INTERNAL SECURITY POLICE BRANCH. Nearly always, they are primarily for political purposes, to maintain the political party, and the clique of 'LEADERS', of that party, at the top of the political power heap. The enemy are other political parties, or individuals who object too loudly against policies of the ruling political party. In some cases it is to maintain the existing Constitutional Rules, that opposition parties may be trying to change. In Belize, Internal Security or the Secret Police can be used against Belizeans wishing to change the Constitution as the long term running debate at present (11 years). Often political parties in Latin countries will use the excuse of existing constitutional perogatives which give them an unfair advantage, to order their INTERNAL SECURITY POLICE FORCES to arrest, detain and disappear those desiring to discuss, debate, or change through the political process anyone who proposes change, as SUBVERSIVES.

The trouble with INTERNAL SECURITY POLICE FORCES anywhere in the world, is that they frequently are ABOVE THE LAW. There are no controls. Some secret police are not even secret, like DINA of Chile, now called the CNI, or National Information Center. Secret police forces often maintain their budgets and expand by providing services to the ruling political party by feeding into the political ruling party paranoia, erroneous gossip and misinformation. They even act as agent provocateurs to provide a sort of rebellion and targets that can be crushed, leading to further illegal human rights abuses. INTERNAL SECURITY IN MANY COUNTRIES can become a government within a government, like in PERU under present day authoritarian President Fuijimoro, a psuedo democratic dictator.

INTERNAL POLICE SECURITY SERVICES routinely violate the laws of the Constitution in most countries and Belize is no exception. Searches without warrants using civil legal pretexts, illegal detentions and false arrests, surveillance often by illegal means, interrogations that are improper, beatings and torture, false confessions are the norm for any INTERNAL SECURITY POLICE BRANCH. They usually have the mandate from their political bosses, to suppress all serious, threatening political opposition to the party ctrolling the government in Belmopan. Making the controlling politicians in the Cabinet look good for the votes is also a main thrust in Belize. They also have the mission to control and harass political opponents, or those in the media who question their policies, or actions. Usually, in undemocratic countries that are at peace with their neighbors, the INTERNAL SECURITY ( secret police- or not so secret sometimes) use compartmentalization to confuse the public and hide their dirty work. The brains, or strategy are usually the Commissioner of Police and the (political party) Cabinet Minister of Police, while the dirty work in Belize is done by the policemen in that particular department. They usually are paid with quick promotions and pay raises in our Belizean colonial police model.

SECRECY is not even a defining nature of SECRET POLICE work in undemocratic countries, or those only partially democratic. Often the INTERNAL SECURITY BRANCH is well known for what they do. Terror and fear are part of their working modus operendi. One has to wonder at the type of person who would willingly volunteer to be a Secret Policeman, or belong to an INTERNAL SECURITY unit. After all, if the work were desirable and honorable, why would there be the need for such secrecy surrounding it? Theoretically, in Belize there is no need for an INTERNAL SECURITY BRANCH. We are not at war with anyone, nor likely to be in the forseeable future. We do have trouble with bandits from over the border from the Peten, but that would fall under military defense and more practically be a foreign assignment of a military undercover spying unit, to be carried on in a foreign country. Not on home soil.

One of the problems with having an INTERNAL SECURITY BRANCH is the problem of extra-judicial searches, surveillance and interrogations. Because such small units tend to break the law and the Constitution, usually by demand of their masters in politics requiring quick results from some perceived threat. They get away with breaking the law by the permissive attitude of Cabinet ministers who demand immediate results and will look the other way, so long as they don't know about it, or the secret police officers don't get caught. Because they are permitted to break the law, and are protected politically, such departments can soon become a hidden government within the elected government.

In the old WHITE APARTHEID SOUTH AFRICA, the State Security Council, or Secret Police, actually became an "INNER CABINET". Under old Prime Minister Botha, the Security Council governing the INTERNAL SECURITY BRANCH, OR INTERNAL SECRET POLICE FORCES met on average every two weeks. It became the senior of five cabinet committees including the Chairmen of four other committees and other officials. They met more often than the actual cabinet supposed to look after economics and business affairs.

Nor is the advice of our friends from up North all that clean. When Mexican internal security forces work in cooperation with USA DEA agents, the American agents leave the scene immediately torture is administered. Plausible deniability! The only requirements are; that no marks be left on detainees, bruises, or scars, which can be photographed and submitted to a court, or some international body like Amnesty International. The American questions are put to detainees by Mexicans, who then tell the Americans what they found out. ( sometimes! )

Sometimes American trained Latin American officers have a cruel sense of humor. In Paraguay during the time of President Carter ( a human rights activist )in the USA, the Paraguayan interrogators would administer beatings to detainees with iron rods, that were labeled according to thickness. There was the "HUMAN RIGHTS" rod. The "DEMOCRACY" rod, the "LIBERTY" rod, the "CONSTITUTION" rod.

Even CANADA has known it's famous RCMP to break the law. Quite frequently in fact. The RCMP are quite well known to plant false information, make illegal burglaries, use well researched plans to confuse groups, or factions within groups, such as the Free Quebec movement by substituting false information, or leaking love affairs to discredit leaders and other such dirty tricks. So much for the democratic process in Canada! Voters and Referendums cannot be relied upon it seems by the political party rulers in Ottawa.

It would seem from a study of history on countries that have INTERNAL SECURITY POLICE BRANCHES, or SECRET POLICE; that by their excesses and very existance they actually "create" enemies of government. Usually, schemes to neutralize a relatively independent press and perhaps critical press in partial elected representative democracies, like in Belize, are the main focus of INTERNAL SECURITY POLICE BRANCHES. A critical press threatens the ruling clique in a political party that controls a national capital like our Belmopan and old colonial capital of the port Belize City. A would be totalitarian government of whatever make or shape, has a fixed image of itself as the hero, the Robin Hood, the fixer of all that is wrong with the nation and society. The individuals in that Cabinet, do not want a critical press, that threatens the official version of reality, by presenting explanations for events that happen contrary to the official line, or discussing alternative policy discourses. A state, or government that is not at war, with an INTERNAL SECURITY POLICE BRANCH is an insecure state. A secure society does not require such repressive measures to provide stability. The inherited national British Empire colonial model of policing in Belize has been a massive failure in curbing crime. The answer is not by an INTERNAL SECURITY BRANCH, but by local governments with local elected police chiefs on two year terms to answer the needs of the citizen voters in the community of the type of police work and priorities that are deemed important by locals.

The most dangerous aspect of an INTERNAL SECURITY POLICE BRANCH, is the atmosphere of "being above the law". In some countries, they are so secret, they do not obey laws, or the law is written to provide the secret police the right to define the law as they see fit. This way leads disaster. In many countries, the Secret Police or Internal Security can influence advertisers in the media. A publication that is annoying can be shut down, or bankrupted by cutting off their advertisers. The pressure can be applied in many forms. In some countries, INTERNAL SECURITY officers cannot be summoned by the courts. Their knowledge is classified secret! Many sovereigns subscribe to this idea, even President Pinochet the old dictator of Chile argues that a secret police organization cannot be bound by the law, or normal rules and procedural limitations. He murdered around 5000 people to prove his point and his forces raped another few thousand girls for sport with their privileged liberties. In Argentina the military did this in the tens of thousands.

One of the questions that studies of torture allegations has made, is that; which comes first in the decline of civil liberties? Is it the torture of detainees by police officers? Or is it indefinite detention? The studies show that the creator of disaster is the establishment of a practice of illegal incommunicado detention by police forces. In Belize, the misuse of the 72 hour detention law on suspicion has often been misused. Detainees are detained, released, then re-detained several times in repetition. The power of misuse of unlawful detention creates the situation which readily invites torture against detainees who are effectively stripped of all legal recourse to protest their detention.

The creation of an INTERNAL SECURITY POLICE BRANCH, or SECRET POLICE is a Pandoras Box. It is hard to set the clock back to more innocent times. Government's that create this monster hardly ever are able to go back to regular policing systems. The new generation of Belizeans have a lot of changes to make in the way Belizeans govern themselves to become a self sufficient wealthy democracy.

Back to Main Belize Development Trust Page

Maintained by Ray Auxillou, Silvia Pinzon, MLS, and Marty Casado. Please email with suggestions or additions for this Electronic Library of Belize.