Coincidence??? Belize on US Bad List 6 Days after Recognizing Palestine Statehood
Many intellectuals have come to believe that Belize’s appearance on the “Presidential Determination on Major Illicit Drug Transit or Major Illicit Drug Producing Countries for Fiscal Year 2012” six days after it officially announced its recognition of Palestine as a sovereign state is more than mere coincidence.
Before a look at their basis of such conclusion it is important to address a concern more close to home. Many University lecturers across the Caribbean have made a conscious effort to remove the negative connotation from the word black. The media is a very powerful agent of perception and its embrace of the word black as meaning bad and ugly is hurting the cause of educators like Miss Silvana Udz. Such was the case with last week’s coverage of Belize’s appearance on the major drug transit and producing countries list. The Amandala headline read, “Barack Blacklists Belize” and Channel 5 headline read, “Belize Blacklisted by U.S.” 2011 is way past the era of accepting something bad as being black.
Belize’s appearance on the “blacklist” that the two media houses were referring to has raised interesting discussions on Obama’s foreign policy. He campaigned as a candidate that would stop the bullying of smaller nations- the end of the “Big Stick Policy” where relationships with old allies would be strengthened and new relationships established. The truth of that only seemed to have materialized in a brief honeymoon period and soon Uncle Sam was his same old self again. Those critical of the United States’ decision to put Belize on its drug trafficking watch list compares the move to Belize’s 2006 appearance at Tier 3 on the Trafficking in Persons Index. The move in 2006 raised eyebrows because it was during a hotly contested campaign between Guatemala and Venezuela for a temporary seat on the United Nations Security Council. The United States was concern that Belize was supporting Venezuela and lobbying CARICOM members against Guatemala. The U.S. was supporting Guatemala because of their feud with President Hugo Chavez. The Government of Belize made it clear that it was not supporting Guatemala and soon found itself downgraded to the most troubled level on the Trafficking in Persons Report.
Similarly, Belize’s appearance on the United States’ drug watch list comes after Belize found itself on the wrong side of U.S. foreign policy. There is a move to pass a resolution in the United Nations to declare Palestine as an independent state. The United States has gone on the record to say that they will veto any resolution that appears in front of the United Nations Security Council in regards to Palestinian statehood. Belize is officially on the other side and has already officially “recognize Palestine as a sovereign and independent State within its pre-1967 borders.” According to a government press release, “In taking this decision Belize joins more than a hundred and twenty other members of the United Nations who have formally recognized the State of Palestine. This decision is consistent with Belize’s long held position in support of the inalienable rights of the Palestinian people to self-determination in an independent, contiguous and viable State of Palestine, living side by side with secure and mutually recognized borders in peace and security with its neighbours.” Many now believe that the decision not only caused Belize to join the list of more than one hundred and twenty countries that recognizes Palestine’s statehood but it also caused Belize to join a list of 22 counties on the list of Major Illicit Drug Transit or Major Illicit Drug Producing Countries 2012. If this assumption is true, then Obama has continued the same bully tactics of the presidency he inherited.
Whatever be the case of Belize’s appearance on the U.S. watch list, whether purely coincidence or not, the United States is in no position to point blame for the drug game. As the largest consumer, they are to hold blame for the turmoil this region is in due to the drug trade. Without the North’s demand for drugs there would be no drug industry. Furthermore, Belize is a victim of the trade due to its geographical position. Instead of painting a picture of Belize as a big player in the game, the U.S. should do more to assist in our efforts to keep drugs out. Bluntly speaking, in its attempt to stop the drug trade Belize is really fighting the United States’ war- since that’s where it is going. Now that BATSUB has withdrawn its air support this is the United States opportunity to step up and help a country that is fighting its war. On Tuesday, October 27, 2009 in his first press conference the Guardian asked H. E. VinaiThummalapally if he
would lobby for the funds to Belize to increase for its fight against drug trade considering the country’s geographical position. Funds are allocated to the region to combat threats of drug trafficking, transnational crime and money laundering. However, Mexico is already the richest country in the group and it receives by far the largest share of the funds. For that reason, some critics call the initiative “Plan Mexico”. Ambassador Thummalapally said that Belize’s geographical position is crucial in regards to drug trafficking; therefore, “the funds to Belize can only increase”.
Since we have been placed on such a troubled list let’s hope that the increased assistance matches the “increased threat”.
=========================Belize is drug transit route – reports U.S. State Dept.
Belize is a transshipment point for marijuana, cocaine, and precursor chemicals for methamphetamines. This was the verdict of the U.S. State Department’s International Narcotics Control Strategy Report released this month.
The report recognizes that Belizean financial institutions do not engage in currency transactions involving large amounts of United States’ currency related to the international drug trade, illegal sales or which in other way would significantly affect the U.S., but it indicates that Belize’s offshore financial activities are vulnerable to money laundering.
This activity is believed to be related to laundering the proceeds from the trafficking of illegal narcotics, psychotropic substances, and chemical precursors, and they are controlled by drug trafficking organizations and organized criminal groups.
The State Department notes that it has received 76 reports of suspicious transactions between January 1 through October 24 of last year, but there were only two money-laundering prosecutions and two convictions in the same period. In the U.S. State Department’s view, Belize lacks the resources and political will to effectively enforce anti-money laundering rules.
Belize’s Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU) has a broad mandate, but a small staff, who are limited in their training or experience in identifying, investigating, reviewing, and analysing evidence in money laundering cases. There were credible reports of at least one investigation being halted because of political pressure on the FIU. Prosecutors and judges also need additional training on financial crimes, including money laundering. Belize should arrange for assets to be shared so that the FIU might have access to additional resources.
The report also recommends that Belize should significantly strengthen its laws and regulations on financial information systems, beneficial ownership, customer due diligence and wire transfers in line with international standards and recommendations.
Belize should also review whether it would be appropriate to require all financial institutions to report any and all large currency transactions.
The report recommends that Belize should require the free trade zones companies to be reporting entities, because while it is widely believed that abuse occurs within the offshore sector and in the FTZ, no one from these organizations has been charged with a financial crime.
Belize has a Mutual Legal Agreement Treaty (MLAT) with the U.S. for the exchange of information related to criminal investigations, and Belize is a member of the Caribbean Financial Action Task Force (CFATF), a Financial Action Task Force (FATF)-style regional body, but recommends that the Government of Belize should become a party to the UN Convention against Corruption.
The U.S. reports says local officials suspect that a significant level of money laundering is happening in Belize. One suspect area under scrutiny is the large Corozal Commercial Free Zone (CFZ) at the border with Mexico, which is believed to be involved in trade-based money laundering. Belize’s laws do not effectively regulate the casinos and on-line gaming is allowed to operate legally, and authorities acknowledge that this may pose a money laundering risk.
The Esquivel administration encouraged both the Free Zone and the growth of offshore financial activities in an attempt to diversify the country’s economy, but the U.S. report sees these institutions as vulnerable to money laundering. These include offshore banks, insurance companies, trust service providers, mutual fund companies, and international business companies, which continue to offer financial and corporate services to non-residents, since the Belizean dollar is pegged to the U.S. dollar.
In gathering information for this report, the US State Department scrutinized Belize’s domestic and offshore banks; venture risk capital; money broker, exchange and transmission services; moneylenders and pawnshops; insurance; real estate; credit unions and building societies; trust and safekeeping services; casinos; motor vehicle dealers; jewelers; international financial service providers; attorneys and notaries public; and accountants and auditors. Reporter