REPORT #436 October 2001

Produced by the Belize Development Trust

We have over the years at the Belize Development Trust and long before it existed, received complaints of cases, of both political and civil service bribery in Belize. Probably the most common has been complaints with the national political police. It is not that common, but periodically in certain locations from Dangriga, to Corozal to Caye Caulker we do get these complaints.

More common are the complaints by foreigners, who are immigrating to Belize, or starting a business in Belize and that sort of thing, on a relatively small scale. Usually under a million dollar investment. They seem to get hussled by the occasional Cabinet Minister and also senior civil servants of departments, who want bribes to do their job. Mostly, these sort of complaints come from Belize City, and the Orange Walk and Corozal District. Some up in the northern part of the country seem to be very blatant about it, with senior civil servants alleging they represent Cabinet Minister's as bag men and want a bribe to carry a bribe also.

There is no way to investigate these things, or find out if such allegations are true, or not. You only have the word of the victim. Cold cash demanded and received is hardly traceable.

Locals rarely have to pay bribes, though it has happened, but more often is more subtle as in free drinks, or meals sometimes. Or a barter for services, such as sex. It does not seem to matter which political party is in power. Bribery complaints keep coming.

There are also many allegations of corruption in politics and mismanagement of the treasury funds of Belize. But under the current system, which is a British system, this is a built in purpose of exploitation of parliamentary "winner take all" government. There are currently no checks and balances to the corrupting influences and temptations of 'absolute power'.

There are many people, including the NGO Spear, as well as the Belize Development Trust debating and submitting BILLS for the changing of the parliamentary system to something better. A political framework in which the corroding effects of bribery, intrigue and ambitions are confined, controlled and limited in scope. Of course, there will never ever be an end to scandals of corruption and bribery. It is just not in human nature. We do hope that eventually, Belize will evolve to a more Federalized form of governing, so that bribery and corruption is isolated to individuals and small pockets, more easily caught and identified.

At the moment in Belize, there is no recourse to such things by law. For one, the difficulty of getting evidence. Though with SPY cameras and small tape recorders it could be done, but the National Police Force is a political party directed force and would never be able to operate such STING operations. Nor if they did, would such things ever be allowed to be prosecuted.

Such JUSTICE that occurs in Belize is warped and biased by a political angle. Fair justice is unlikely to be done and most of the scapegoats are the poor. Though this is a two edged sword and often investors, or well connected people can get out of non-threatening criminal charges by paying fines for lesser offenses.

Generally speaking, you are much less likely to be asked for a bribe in Belize than any of our neighbors, such as; Guatemala, Mexico, or Honduras. Most of the time, most government locally is fair and open. Though every transaction has a political price as the country is usually polarized into those who are known controlling political party supporters and those that are known to be political opposition supporters. Amazingly enough, for being a Banana Republic; the small country of Belize has a very large number of both politicians and bureaucratic civil servants that do very good honest jobs. So, if you are asked for a bribe, or tip. Please refuse! Stand up and be counted. It may cost you some inconvenience in government service, but is worthwhile for the future of Belize. Bribery and corruption is not the common standard in Belize. Though it occurs more often than many would like. But one could say this of anywhere, including the USA.

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