BELIZE CITY CRIME IMPACTS TAXI DRIVERS, GROCERS, EVEN NEWSPAPER EDITORS Police continue to claim that crime is down in Belize City and across the country, but the media appear to report otherwise. In a single day in June, three taxi drivers -- two in Belize City and one in Belmopan -- were jacked. Robberies of groceries and other businesses are near daily occurrences in Belize City. Gang shootings occur many times a month, and murders are almost too routine to report. Even Harry Lawrence, the 68-year-old editor of The Reporter newspaper, which reports extensively on crime in Belize City, isn't exempt from criminal attack. In late June, Lawrence was hit on the head with a gun in a robbery of the newspaper's offices. Lawrence was treated at Karl Heusner hospital and released. Outside of Belize City, crime is much less of a problem.

IF YOU THINK CRIME IS BAD IN BELIZE, CHECK OUT GUATEMALA The crime wave in Guatemala makes Belize's look like a summer vacation. In late June, nine people, including two Mennonites from Belize, were shot to death in a "kill squad" attack in the Petén, and another seven people were wounded. Drugs were thought to be involved, although responsible sources say the Belizean Mennonites were just there looking at farms to buy and were simply in the wrong place at the wrong time. At the Tikal park, at least one tourist guide was killed and several tourists have been attacked and raped in recent months, in a series of organized attacks by three ski-masked gangs. In the month of June alone, in Guatemala City, a gang with assault rifles killed six people, and two businessman, one German and one Guatemalan, were kidnapped and murdered. In May, an American nun was car jacked and killed. There have been 14 bank hold-ups and armored car robberies this year, resulting in at least two deaths. Kidnappings and extortion attempts in Guatemala have doubled in the last year. Robberies and burglaries occur routinely throughout the country, and police rarely solve any crime. Citizens have taken to vigilante actions to try to stop crime. Observers rank Guatemala along with Honduras as the highest risk countries for crime in Central America. Nicaragua and El Salvador are considered moderate risk. Costa Rica and Panama are viewed as low risk.

TASTES LIKE CHICKEN DEPARTMENT In June, a San Ignacio Chinese restaurant chef was accused by Fisheries Department inspectors of skinning and frying a cat. The cook at Lee Restaurant said it was fried chicken.

BELLEVUE HOTEL DARK The venerable Bellevue Hotel on the Southern Foreshore of Belize City has closed. Operated by the Dinger family, the hotel has struggle to remain open and of late had gotten good reviews by guests. The Belize Supreme Court, however, closed the hotel for non-payment of debts and returned the hotel to the Social Security Board, which earlier had rescued the hotel from bankruptcy. About 30 employees were put out of work. The future of the property is not known.

PROMINENT CAYO HOTEL OWNER PROFILED AS U.S. TAX FUGITIVE ON FRONT PAGE OF WALL STREET JOURNAL A front-page article in the July 3 edition of the Wall Street Journal profiled a prominent Cayo District resort owner, Jay Picon. The thrust of the article was "how a U.S. tax fugitive is having a wonderful life in a Belizean paradise." Jay and Pamella Picon own Mopan River Resort in Benque Viejo del Carmen. Pam Picon also publishes an electronic newsletter on Belize called Belize Report. Jay Picon, an Oklahoman who made his money running an aviation company -- he says he trained 110,000 pilots during the Vietnam war -- has been on the lam since he was indicted in 1986 for tax evasion. He lived in Mexico for awhile and also in Europe. The American fugitive and his wife had an apartment at Marina Towers in Belize City after being chased out of Canada by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. They then moved to Benque where they built a beautiful, 5,000 square-foot home and the all-inclusive resort. The Picons are in Belize under the economic citizenship -- or buy-a-passport -- program. Very little was new in the article except that Jay Picon's real name is Joseph Ross. Most in Belize know the details of the story, and Jay/Joe himself is quite open about his tax problems. Overall, observers say, the article in the prominent business daily, which has a circulation of more than a million, may have been good public relations for Belize.

LOCAL FUNGUS EATS CDs Scientists have discovered a fungus in Belize which appears to destroy compact discs. A microscopic fungus is eating through the plastic, aluminum and polycarbonate resin on some CDs in Belize. Some observers hope that the newly discovered fungus has a taste for rap music.

AIR JAMAICA MAY BEGIN FLYING TO BELIZE, BUT DELTA SERVICE STILL NOT SET Air Jamaica may begin three-times-a-week service between Montego Bay, Jamaica, and Belize City in November. Long-awaited service from the U.S. by Delta has been postponed again. It could begin sometime in 2002.

COUNTERFEIT $100 BILLS SURFACE Look twice at any Belize $100 bill you get. It could be bogus. The counterfeit blue notes have been found all over Belize.

FIRST COMPREHENSIVE GUIDE TO LIVING, RETIRING AND INVESTING IN BELIZE SET FOR PUBLICATION Adapter Kit: Belize, by Lan Sluder, editor and publisher of Belize First Magazine and author or co-author of four other books on Belize, is scheduled to be published September 9, 2001, by Avalon Travel Publications, a large California publishing house. The new 256-page book, the first comprehensive look at living, retiring and investing in Belize, will retail for US$17.95 and will be available from bookstores in the U.S. and around the world. It is available for pre-order now at and other on-line bookstores.

LOBSTER SEASON OFF TO A SLOW START Lobster catches have been lower than expected this year. Most observers blame the punk season, which began June 15, on last year's Hurricane Keith.

BELIZE ARTISTS ON TOUR An exhibition of Belizean art organized by the Image Factory is on tour in Mexico, Cuba, Costa Rica, Guatemala, Jamaica, Spain and elsewhere. The exhibition, titled "Zero: New Belizean art", features works by Gilvano Swasey, Alfonso Galvez, Michael Gordon, Yasser Musa, Damian Perdomo and Santiago Cal.

NEW EDITION OF GUIDEBOOK PUBLISHED The second edition of The Rough Guide to Belize, by Peter Eltringham, was published in mid-July by The Rough Guides, London.

Lan Sluder/Belize First