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Ambergris Today

San Pedro Cancer Society Elects New Board of Directors
The San Pedro Cancer Society held its general meeting on Monday, January 7, 2013, and the election of its new board for the year 2013 took place. After formal nominations and votes the San Pedro Cancer Society is proud to announce its new board which includes President – Miguel Perez, Vice-President – Dina Graniel, Treasurer – Gonzalo Muñoz, Secretary – Lucy Muñoz and Membership Chairperson – Penny Bonilla. Outgoing president Gonzalo Muñoz expresses his gratitude to all members and the entire community of San Pedro for helping and supporting the Cancer Society during his presidency and asks for the same support for this coming year so that the group can continue helping cancer patients in need.

Misc Belizean Sources

NOTHING CHANGES, IF NOTHING CHANGES
In a highly televised press conference held by the leader of the nation and his Government on January 8th, 2013, Prime Minister Dean Barrow held absolutely no reservation in telling the nation that he personally met with the leaders of the George Street gangs at his cabinet office in Belmopan yesterday. In his press conference the PM stated Government of Belize has no motive and no opinion leading to any suspects but that there may have been a window of opportunity by the underworld to have committed this terrible act of violence. He was referring to Monday night’s quadruple murder in the city. Eventhough, the George Street gang hierarchy blames the GSU for being directly responsible for the quadruple homicide, PM says the accusations are utterly unfounded and constitutes a very serious allegation of the integrity of the government but blames the underworld. Of note is that GSU has come under fire in the past for having used excessive force in executing its duties. Head of the Gang Suppression Unit Marco Vidal categorically refutes accusations of GSU’s involvement and says not true. According to Vidal allegations are totally unfounded and baseless. The GSU has a mandate to target gangs, and that is what they have been doing in Belize City, through its intelligence. Any actions beyond that would distabilize the country and that is not its mandate. If the GS gangsters are certain that no rival gangs were involved then who did it? Today, marks nine days into the new year and 8 body counts of senseless murders. We have seen in the past press conferences after press conferences and the statistics for homicides keep increasing from 129 in 2011, 142 in 2012 and have so far close to one per day counting for the new year.

Barrow meets with Belize gang leaders in the aftermath of brutal murders
Prime Minister Dean Barrow has confirmed holding talks with the leaders of a notorious criminal gang here after four men were found murdered in an apartment building on Tuesday. Barrow told reporters that he led a delegation that included National Security Minister John Saldivar for talks with the leaders of the George Street Gang and said that an arrangement had been reached for them to leave the area and not seek to retaliate against people they believe committed the murders. “I said they went under an arrangement with the government, they went completely of their own free will as a consequence of the discussion we had,” Barrow said, adding that the delegation made it clear during the talks “that it would be absolutely unthinkable for there to be any attempt at retaliation against innocent citizens. “I will say that right from the start of those negotiations, they freely volunteered their commitment that absolutely nothing like that would happen. Now I say to residents of the City, I say to citizens of this nation that notwithstanding that particular development...the security forces are putting in place all that is necessary to make assurance doubly sure. “But we do think that it was extremely helpful that we were able to secure that kind of commitment from the leaders. These people have premises outside the city. I don’t know that we can say it’s for rehabilitation purposes. It is perhaps better put as a departure that helps to assure us that they are going to be far removed from Belize City and to help to give us the additional comfort that they mean what they say when they undertake to abide by the laws of this country and to in particular not to engage in any random acts of violence at all against innocent citizens,” Prime Minister Barrow said.

Baldy Beacon in MPR
Jonathan Cariddi captured some beautiful scenery around Baldy Beacon in Mountain Pine Ridge. "A special part of Mountain Pine Ridge reserve is Baldy Beacon. Speculation continues on the cause of its infertility - soils are so poor they can't even support trees. Instead its covered in grass so tough that when sheep were introduced as an experiment back in the 1960s, they died of indigestion! The most probable explanation for the infertility is that in geological history, while the rest of Central America was under water, protected from the elements, these parts were still above sea level and exposed to erosion and leaching for millions of years longer than anywhere else. The result is a set of rounded grassy hills, with views uninterrupted by any trees."

Contemporary & Classical Concert Coming Saturday
The Soul Project will be having a Contemporary and Classical Concert this Saturday, January 12th. See a lot of great, local talent, with Giselle O'Brien playing too.

Challenge Gobie Foundation Raffle
The Gobie Foundation is doing a raffle of 2 trucks to help with the children's ward at KHMH. "February 16th 2013 is the date for the 5th Annual Bike Ride for the Challenge Gobie Foundation... We will also be drawing the Grand Raffle for 2 brand new 2013 Wingle Pick-ups on February 16th after the bike ride! Tickets are available countrywide at Caribbean Tire offices and select Service Stations for a contribution of only $10 each. Each vehicle will come with 1 year license (donated by De’Mar’s), 1 year comprehensive insurance (donated by RFG) and $100 worth or diesel each month for 12 months (donated by PUMA). All proceeds raised by the Challenge Gobie Foundation is for the construction of the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit at the KHMH. You may also make donations directly to our Scotiabank Account number 4060895 Support a worthy cause! Call us at 627-5206 for further information or contact us on Facebook or at [email protected]"

Toledo Alcaldes Association Conducts Swearing-In Of New Alcaldes
On Saturday January 5th, 78 First and Second Alcaldes were sworn at Father Ring Parish Hall, Punta Gorda Town. This ceremony was a momentous event for the 38 Maya villages of the south as their traditional leaders take office to lead them into 2013 and 2014. Special remarks were made by Mr. Enerst Banner of the Ministry of Rural Development who maintained that the ministry will continue to collaborate with the Alcaldes. Inspector Ernel Dominguez, commanding officer of Punta Gorda Police formation, affirmed that the Alcaldes play a very important role in policing and that the police will remain committed to their partnership with the Alcaldes especially through its Community Policing program. Attorney for the Maya people, Antoinette Moore, spoke on the topic of Rights. She asserted that as Indigenous Peoples, the Maya communities have a right to exercise their own forms of social institutions such as the Alcalde system. Guest speaker Chief Magistrate Ann Marie Smith congratulated the Alcaldes for taking on the mantle of being custodians of law and order especially in these times when crime is becoming more prevalent. She spoke to the Alcaldes on principles of Integrity, Independence and Fairness. She encouraged the Alcaldes to ‘do right when no one is looking’, to be ‘free from improper influence’ and to be ‘balanced in their reasoning.’ The Chief Magistrate asserted that incorruptibility must be a bench mark of all magistrates and ‘to be one of the Alcaldes who cannot be bought.

Channel 7

Meyers' Mom Speaks: Says "Ghost" Is Gonna Get GSU!
Tonight, the city remains peaceful after a rough Tuesday - that forced a panic induced, city-wide shutdown. But today, there has been no violence, and Dean Street remains locked down from West Canal through its junctions with Plues Street, George Street, up to West Street at the Police substation. Today the GSU continued paramilitary style searches in the area -which did not sit well with residents, but the GSU continues undeterred. And the reason residents are angry is as we have told you: they remain certain that the GSU killed 30 year oldLeonard "Ghost" Meyers, 19 year old Albert "Long John" Fuentes, 40 year old Keino Quallo, and 28 year old Anthony Perez. In terms of George Street seniority, the most prominent among them was Leonard Ghost Meyers. He was considered to be George Street Boss Shiney Tillett's closest companion - and today his mother spoke for the first time. She'll be the first to tell you that she's not the average mother - she says she's shed no tears for her son, and told Monica Bodden why: Elizabeth Welch Escarpeta - Mother of Lenard "Ghost" Meyers "I am Lenard Meyer's Mother. I haven't shed a single tear as yet, and I am not going to shed any until I get the satisfaction for what the GSU did to my son. And from the time they told me that they killed 'Ghost', I thought that it was the GSU who killed him because they always - they told me, 'You will bury your son very soon.' I told them, 'When I bury my son, you all will bury me too.'

The Dean Street Apartment Has Known Violence Before
And that's pretty much the same thing that Vidal said 11 months ago when the accusation was that four masked policemen went into that very same apartment building and beat up six men - including Leonard Ghost Meyers. It's a compelling parallel due to the physical location and the tactics employed - which were brutal. But there's one major difference - at the time two prominent government politicians - including the Prime Minister didn't side with the GSU. For context that is difficult to overlook, we re-visit that story, that time - which was just a month before the election. Monica Bodden reported in February of 2012: File: February 9, 2012 Monica Bodden Reporting The bruises on the back of this man are allegedly from a baton used by GSU Officers. He showed us his busted face and cuts on his foot straight down to his toes.

Police Camera Did Not Capture Anything, Hoping For More From Post Mortem
And while the jury is out on that - there are other developments of note. First, our information is that the camera at the corner of George and Dean Streets overlooking the apartments won't yield any clues to investigators. It works and has night-time visibility, but there's no recorder, we understand that unit malfunctioned some time ago and hasn't been fixed. But - as far as clues go - police do have hopes for the post mortem examinations, which are expected to be conducted tomorrow. So far they know that all the victims were stabbed multiple times and had their throats cut. Police believe that they were stabbed into submission and their throats were cut after that. Tomorrow's post mortem on the bodies is expected to give some indication as to what type of blade and how many were used.

OW Man Dies In Prison; Who Beat Him Up?
Tonight, the family of 48 year-old Florentino Ayala is awaiting a post-mortem to determine his cause of death after his body was found inside his cell at the Belize Central Prison yesterday morning. Earl Jones, the CEO of the prison, confirmed to us that authorities found him inside his cell at the special care section at around 7:30 a.m. According to Jones, he was displaying signs of psychotic behavior, so he was placed there under special care. Ayala, who is a resident of Orange Walk, was remanded to prison December 31 on the charge of aggravated assault, and according to reliable reports, he had injuries all over his body, which is the cause for suspicion.

Police Get Gun + Well Known Figure
Tonight, 20 year-old Diondray McKoy and 18 year-old Lyson Cacho are in prison for firearm offences. At around 4 p.m. yesterday, police visited #35 Set Site Belize City, and they were searching for both McKoy and Cacho in relation to an aggravated assault report. When they entered the premises, they found a firearm which had been thrown into the backyard through one of the windows. As a result, the officers detained both men and retrieved a .38 pistol and a magazine which contained 5 live rounds of .38 ammunition. As a result, both of them were arrested and charged with keeping unlicensed firearm, and keeping unlicensed ammunition, in addition to that aggravated assault report. They were arraigned before Senior Magistrate Sharon, where they pleaded not guilty to all charges. Because they are firearm offences, Senior Magistrate Frazer couldn't grant them bail, and she remanded them to prison until February 20.

Back To The Chaos On Dean/George Streets
Yesterday, 7news had the most complete coverage of what was happening on the ground on Dean and George Streets. But there's some stuff that didn't make the cut - and tonight we revisit those images with narration from Jules Vasquez: Jules Vasquez Reporting When we first arrived at the scene around 8:00 - the police were just arriving and trying to bring the area under control by dispersing residents form the area - after a good many had already made a trip inside to witness the gruesome scene. This stepfather got pushed back and police had to keep on doing that. Police had a small armory out at the crime scene yesterday but this stretcher wasn't needed.

Leader Of The Opposition Wants A Commission Of Inquiry
We've given a recap of yesterday's incident - and we're not the only ones wanting a second go at it. The Leader of the Oppositions did a "wheel and come again" remix today when he changed his tune on the GSU's alleged involvement. Yesterday he said he didn't want to entertain any thoughts or conclusions of a state-sanctioned execution by the GSU. But today he told the media he's been in contact with very many members of the public from all across the social and political spectrum, who believe that the GSU was involved. Here's what he told about his recommendations to the Government as the Leader of the Opposition: Hon. Francis Fonseca - Leader of the Opposition "We thought that it was important to raise a few important issues, 3 important issue really. The first issue we wanted to raise, and the first recommendation we want to make is that because of the ongoing concern being expressed by people throughout Belize - and it's not only Belize City. Over the past 24 hours, I've had the opportunity to community leaders, religious leaders, leaders in the business community, and of course my fellow political leaders and representatives across the country.

OW Mayor Lashes Out
Today the PUP Mayor of the Orange Walk Kevin Bernard sent out a statement basically chiding his leader Fonseca for the moderate position he took yesterday. It says, quote, "Extending the hand of cooperation is fine, but…I believe that is the responsibility and obligation of the Opposition…to take control and lead the charge. This is not the time to sit and wait for an invitation which may never come." End quote. He also chastises the Prime Minister and calls on him to, quote,"desist from negotiating with criminals, and…restore control to the streets of Belize City through legal force, if necessary." And for gratuitous effect, the Mayor adds, quote, "we should not negotiate with terrorists. A curfew should be imposed and enforced immediately." And while Bernard seems to be riding a rather high horse in speaking about a city that is not his own and a situation he has no familiarity with, the Council of Churches is not quite so doctrinaire. In a Statement issued last night, it quote, "urges the authorities responsible for law and order to re-instill confidence in the Belizean populace by introducing stronger measures to preserve law and order."

Belizes Murder Rate, "Up There"
But apparently neither prayer nor police will keep down the murder rate. In the nine days of 2013, we've had eight murders - and one shooting victim, Marco Valle remains in a very critical condition on life support. Police still have not released the official crime statistics for 2012 - so we are still going with the media's figures which show 145 murders, the most ever. That leaves Belize with one of the highest murder rates in this hemisphere. According to sources culled from the internet, Honduras is at the top with 80 homicides per one hundred thousand inhabitants, Venezuela is second with 73 per hundred thousand inhabitants, the US Virgin Islands is third with 60 per hundred thousand, Salvador is next with 41.3, and Belize rounds out the top five with 40.7. Now this is an adjusted figure - last week we told you it was 46.6 - but that was based on the 2010 Belize census figure which puts this country's population at only 313,000.

Is Micah G Being Punished For His Outspoken-ness?
Micah Goodin has been featured many times on our newscast for his youthful and outspoken position on various social issues. His most recent appearance was on behalf of the 500 new students at the University of Belize who are forced to pay an addition $150 in registration fees. Well tonight, he is not wearing the hat of advocate; he's in the news because according to him, he's being victimized. He is a 6th Form Student at Saint John's College Junior College, and he is trying to begin his final semester and graduate with an associate degree in criminal justice. But he can't register because according to him, his scholarship from the Du Di Rait Ting Program sponsored by the Police Department has been revoked. This program is set up to encourage young people to engage in positive activities in society, so according to Goodin, he cannot understand why he's being punished for it now. He explained to us today that he has an excellent academic record at the institution: Micah Goodin - Claims Victimization I was a recipient of this scholarship while a 3rd form student at Saint John's College. This scholarship took effect in August of 2011. I have been attending SJCJC since then, attended both semesters and summer classes of last year. And when I went for my report card last semester, I was told that I was blocked from picking up my report card, and from registering. I was embarrassed, a bit disrespected, and a bit devalued.

Alleged Bicycle Shooter Charged
Tonight, 21 year-old Kenyon Dominguez is at prison after he was taken to court in connection with a shooting on Sunday. According to police, at around 9:20 a.m., Justin Richards and Leroy Zuniga Jr. were both hanging out at the corner of Flamboyant Street, when a man rode past them on beach cruiser bicycle and fired several gunshots in their direction. Richard was shot in the lower left back, while Zuniga escaped without injury. As a result of this report, police arrested and charge Dominguez with attempted murder, use of deadly means of harm, wounding, and aggravated assault. He was arraigned before Chief Magistrate Ann Marie Smith, who remanded him into custody until February 22, his next court date.

Cruise Ships Cancel Calls
In last night's newscast, we told you about the US Embassy's travel advisory about Belize City sent out in the aftermath of the quadruple murders. Well, it caused some issues for the local tour operators today. As viewers are aware, the tour operators only make money on the ship days, which happened to be today. But according to those operators we spoke to today, they had mass cancellations of were pre-booked tours because the captains of the 4 ships today made announcements to the guests that Belize City isn't safe. That represents a major loss in earnings for operators - and they weren't happy! 7News spoke to Yhony Rosado of Cavetubing.com who explained the effects of the Dean Street mass murder on his business: Yhony Rosado - Cavetubing.com 2:00:18 We have been impacted because we got a lot of cancellations this morning stating that the captain on the ships are announcing that if you're not booked with them, you should not come ashore because the city is not safe. That is the announcement, point-blank, made by the captain of the ships. We have got a lot of emails and text messages from our guests." Daniel Ortiz "And how many tours have been cancelled so far, sir?" Yhony Rosado "About 50% of our tours have been cancelled because we are the freelance tours. There are people who book with us for many factors, finance or different budgets."

Hon. King Tells Parents, "Keep the Kids Home!"
If you are Belize City resident, did you send your child to school today? We sure hope you did because things were safe and sound all over. But if you listened to Minister of State with responsibility for Human Development, Social Transformation and Poverty Alleviation with Emphasis on the Conscious Youth Development Programme and the Gang Truce Programme Mark King you would have kept them home! You see, Honourable King has set up a Facebook Account where he takes questions from the public. He explains that the is a sort of antidote to what he calls the misleading media, which can, quote, "destroy our country the way they operate on second hand info..." Ok then...so what's the first hand info? Well, in response to a question about whether it was safe to go to school today, King said: - and we quote, "Yes, I think it is very safe but as usual I would take off tomorrow (meaning Wednesday) just to be sure, we could never predict these things when rumors are so high... try sending them back Thursday..." end quote. Not sure you can use that as an absent note for a principal, but, hey, it's worth a try...

Belize Nat'l Selection Gets Promising Start
While yesterday was a stressful day, it wasn't all bad news. It didn't make our newscast last night, but the Belize National Team Selection played its third and final exhibition match against the Premier League Champions, Belmopan Bandits and other reinforcements they chose. The 90 minute game started at 4 p.m., and when it finished, the score was 5 goals for the National team, 2 goals for the Bandits. The man who put the National Team on the board with his first goal was Harrison "Cafu" Roaches. Deon McCauley nailed the coffin shut with 4 goals in the second half. For the Belmopan Bandits, the goal scorers were Kevin Rodriguez and Floyd Jones, who both scored in the second half. With these first 3 games under its belt, the National Team makes last minute preparations for the first round of the Copa Centroamericana which starts on January 18 in Costa Rica.

Channel 5

Who ordered the hit on the George Street 4?
Since the bodies of four George Street affiliates were found on Tuesday morning, there has been no further violence in the city’s hotspots. After meeting with the prime minister, some leaders of the gang left the City to cool off tensions. The rumor mill and citizen journalists on Facebook may have helped spread mass hysteria [...]

What is the PM’s relationship with George Street?
It seems that while the entire country supports the government to find a strategy with haste that would end the violence on the streets, many don’t believe that any Prime Minister of Belize should hold private discussions or negotiations with gangs. But the meeting that occurred on Tuesday also included Minister of Housing Michael Finnegan. [...]

Returning to the scene of the crime
On the day after the quadruple murders were committed, we went back to the scene of the massacre at the apartment building at the corner of Dean and Plues Streets. The area is still barricaded and there are more boots on the ground, but there is a foreboding air on the streets adding to the [...]

Citizen journalist’s camera allegedly triggered shooting
Terror spread quickly through the George Street Area on Tuesday when shots were fired after the discovery of the four bodies. While the PM and security forces say that they were warning shots, there is video that shows the contrary. A bottle was hurled at police and B.D.F., which triggered the gunfire at the angry [...]

Police camera in vicinity of murder scene
The murders of Keino Quallo, Leonard Myers, Albert Fuentes and Anthony Perez of the George Street Gang, is likely to be one of the most difficult to crack for the police, which is now officially headed by Commissioner Allen Whylie.  The bodies of Quallo, Fuentes and Perez were found in a pool of blood in [...]

Carnival Cruises by Belize without stopping
According to the Belize Tourism Board, arrivals peaked last year with record numbers of visitors. But to start the year and in the height of the high season, one of the biggest cruise lines, Carnival Cruise line has cancelled ten stops in Belize for 2013, starting as early as this week.  That can have a [...]

Life not a carnival for operators without 28,000 visitors
Two stops by the Carnival Legend, which carries two thousand, one hundred and twenty-four passengers, were canceled; one this week and one in December. The other eight calls being cancelled in the coming months are for the Carnival Glory; a two thousand, nine hundred and seventy-four passenger ship. If you do the math, that’s twenty-eight [...]

Masseuse Kevin Lee accused of inappropriate touching
The trial of massage therapist Kevin Lee is taking place before Senior Magistrate Sharon Frazer.  Lee is before the court for allegations that he inappropriately groped a client on separate occasions while administering a massage.  Director of Public Prosecutions Cheryl-Lynn Vidal charges that Lee touched the woman on her breasts, buttocks, as well as her [...]

Attempted murder charges for Kenyon Dominguez
Twenty-one year-old Kenyon Dominguez appeared unrepresented before Chief Magistrate Anne Marie Smith today, where he was read four counts of attempted murder, use of deadly means of harm, wounding and aggravated assault.  It is alleged that on January sixth, Dominguez opened fire on a pair of men as they stood on Flamboyant Street.  Twenty-five year-old [...]

P.U.P. now want Commission of Inquiry for GSU
The People’s United Party issued another press release today on the quadruple homicides of members of the George Street Gang.  The party leader Francis Fonseca is now calling for a commission of inquiry into the possible involvement of the GSU in what residents strongly believe were state-sanctioned executions.  A complete report subsequent to the official [...]

FECTAB says Belize has good track record for visitor safety
In the aftermath of the gruesome discovery on Tuesday of four George Street Gang members, who had been brutally murdered, the U.S. Embassy has issued a security message for American nationals residing in and travelling to Belize. The advisory notes that, “while there is no indication that U.S. citizens are targeted or otherwise under direct [...]

Aunt says cop choked her niece on Caye Caulker
On Tuesday’s newscast we told you about seventeen year old Shaniel Soriano, a Caye Caulker resident who says she was slammed and choked by an officer on the island. After being examined by a doctor who classified her injuries as wounding, she reported the incident at the Raccoon Street Police station. Her aunt, Eden Velasquez [...]

Under-20 prepare for Central American Games
On a more positive note, the Central American Games, 2013 are coming up in March and the Football Federation of Belize is preparing to take male and female Under-twenty national teams to compete. Some athletes were scouted in the recent selection process for the National A team and have been called to attend tryouts this [...]