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Corporal Andrews and three other police officers under criminal investigation by the Belize Police Force
Yet again our outstanding police force has come to the forefront of criminal enterprises. At 2:30 in the morning on Tuesday, a local resident who is over 65 years of age was arrested. Corporal Andrews and his merry band of 3 uniformed police officers demanded entry into the home of this longtime resident. They then produced a piece of paper that he was not allowed to read, and said they were there to search the house for illegal liquor.
They found some and were going to arrest him, but he produced a receipt for the alcohol that he had purchased at Belize International Airport the previous week. They then discovered countless pairs of sunglasses and said they were illegal, until the produced the importation receipt with all duties paid showing by Belize Customs.
As the police are searching this relatively large apartment and are in every room, they find a small bowl, which you can buy from any street vendor for $20 Bz… they then arrest him for the smuggling of Maya artifacts. As they were reading him his rights, he noticed that his ‘hidey-hole’ had been disturbed and discovered that $5,000 US was stolen from it, but he was bundled into the car and then thrown into a jail cell. The police refused to allow him to make a phone call, but he managed to get the cleaner to call a friend who is a Belizean citizen. This pillar of society arrived at the Police Station and was not allowed to see his friend.
Forestry Minister Makes Bold Move; Burns Illegal Rosewood Cargo
Last night, 7News told you about that big rosewood bust in the Village of Golden Stream in the Toledo District. Currently, it is illegal to extract rosewood, and nobody should have any license to do it because of the indefinite moratorium which hangs over the trade.
That didn't stop licensee Hilmar Alamilla from trying to smuggle hundreds of flitches out, but fortunately, he was caught in the act of trying to move them by villagers who called in the authorities.
Today, we travelled down to Golden Stream to meet with the Minister of Forestry who was scheduled to make a statement on the trade. And what a powerful statement it was! So powerful that it was already attracting major feedback about an hour after it was made in a remote area of the country without any cellular phone service.
What's the statement? Well, you'd have to see it to believe it:..
Daniel Ortiz reporting
Experts from the Forestry Department conservatively estimate that this cargo of rosewood represents a value of $400,000. While cognizant of that, the Minister of Forestry made the decision to burn every last flitch of wood. She says that her Ministry must do it to send a clear message to illegal loggers.
Hon. Lisel Alamilla - Minister Of Forestry
"What we are doing today is burning the rosewood that we confiscated on Wednesday night`. My ministry has had enough; enough is enough. We have been battling this rosewood business for the last 9 months since I assume office and we have not been able to put a dent into the rosewood illegal logging and so we want a clear message sent to everyone who is involved in this rosewood business that their moratorium stands."
Deputy Com Pol Maintains Police Non-Affiliation With George Street Mass Murder
At the Prime Minister's Press Conference on Tuesday, PM Barrow confirmed that a special proclamation is going to be made to seal off Zone 4 -which includes the domain of the George Street Gang. Well tonight those three blocks from Dean and West Canal to Dean and West Street remain cordoned off and smothered by a heavy police presence - but the proclamation which would have enabled security forces to lock down the winder Zone 4 has not yet been activated.
According to Deputy Commissioner of Police Elodio Aragon, they are waiting to see if the proclamation will come about - but in the meantime the police department continues to post both vehicles and foot patrols in these areas to ensued things remain in order.
Elodio Aragon Jr., Deputy Comissioner of Police
"At this point in time nothing official has been released as far as I know and therefore notwithstanding that we do continue to mount foot and vehicles patrols checkpoints etc. within the area. That's to ensure that we keep things at bay and thus far that is working and we will wait and see what comes if the proclamation does come or not."
New BTB Logo, New Marketing Direction
Today, the Belize Tourism Board held its twelfth annual industry presentation. This year it was done on the Tourism Minister's home turf in San Pedro town. And why not? In 2012, he presided over the best year for overnight tourism in half a decade - with arrivals soaring and earnings as well.
But the BTB isn't content to rest on its laurels, it's moving forward with a new logo, and a fairly radical rebranding. We got a preview of the new look today:..
Jules Vasquez reporting
This is the Belize tourism logo you've known for the past 25 years, "Mother Nature's Best Kept Secret, but now it will be replaced by this - the new Belize Logo. This was the moment of the big reveal at today's Industry Presentation in San Pedro.
The logo is designed by Olson - one of the biggest and most highly-regarded marketing firms in North America. According to their release, the BTB asked Olson to "refresh its marquee" from this old faithful, a good quarter century old to this what the company calls a quote "contemporary, yet classic vibe to represent tourism in Belize 'modern yet timeless.'"
Director, Laura Esquivel Frampton explains:
Laura Esquivel-Frampton, Director BTB
"Every now and again it's every single company who is trying to sell a product to look at their brand, to look at their product, to look at what they are doing marketing wise and try to mix it up. We want to ensure that we are doing that before it gets stale."
Tourism Director: Cruise Tourism An Area Of Priority
And while there's plenty of back slapping and self-congratulation to go around for the sharp increases in overnight tourism - no one wanted to talk too much about Cruise Tourism.
That important sector witnessed a ten per cent downturn in 2012 - and just this week, it was announced that Carnival was cancelling ten calls to Belize - which represents the loss of tens of thousands of visitors.
Director Of Tourism Laura Esquivel Frampton said it is an area of priority, but, at this point, it's not a crisis:..
"There was a down turn in cruise tourism 10% is a massive and consequential down turn because it represents major losses for regular people."
Laura Esquivel-Frampton, Director BTB
"Yes and of course we did not toss it over. We are disappointed with those numbers and that is one of the reasons why we mentioned that we are creating a new position within the Belize Tourism Board "The Director of Cruise and Regional Initiatives" we feel that it's important that we have somebody who is knocking on those doors who is constant communication with the cruise lines to ensure that we are hearing what they have to say and we are responding."
"Are you all treating the propitious dip in cruise tourism arrivals as a crisis; as an emergency? Ten calls have been cancelled just for the remainder of this season?"
New Correctional Facility Is Ready
Last night on the news you heard the Police Minister speak about a new facility in Pine ridge for wayward young men. Well, today, they've provided pictures.
It is in the Mountain Pine Ridge Area at the location of the former D'Silva Forest Station, which has been refurbished and renamed the Corrective Training Facility.
It seeks to provide an alternate correctional environment other than the Belize Central Prison. Minister of National Security, John Saldivar, his CEO, and the heads of Belize Defence Force all toured the facility to see the progress of its preparation. This new facility will be managed and controlled by members of the BDF. According to the Minister and his team, the facility is now ready for the first inmates.
At this time, there is no information from the National Security Ministry about what type of juvenile offenders will sent to this facility instead of the Belize Central Prison.
Robert Lopez Damaged No Property
Right now the family of Roberto Lopez is unhappy with the justice system because according to them, one of their neighbors is abusing the process and victimizing them.
According the family, there is a man who lives near them in the Gungulung area of Belize City, and every night, the man parks his vehicle in front of their house before he crosses one of those "London Bridges".
According to them, the vehicle's windshield has been smashed twice, and in both instances, he's accused their family members of doing it.
According to Roberto Lopez, this man has used police to victimize him by bringing criminal charges against him without any evidence. He says that the only thing his is guilty of is having the misfortune of living in the house where the man chooses to park his vehicle. He told us that he wants to go public with this issue in hopes that the authorities will listen to him:
"He is trying to say that I broke his windshield. I know that the same day that got broken; I know that he would have blamed me for something, but I didn't break anything. I was in my room and when I out because the dogs were making a lot of noise. I
Another American Accuses Attorney Arthur Saldivar
In July of last year we told you about Richard Gentry, a retired US attorney who claimed that his local lawyer, Arthur Saldivar had defrauded him of $13,900.00 dollars. It was to pay stamp duty so that Gentry could get clear title for the Condo unit he was living on at Reef Village in San Pedro. Years passed, no title was forthcoming and, neither was any refund or disciplinary action. So Gentry came to 7news - and according to reports - he did end up getting his refund.
And that's the same thing that a retired couple from Michigan want. They got caught in the same bad deal - and today in San Pedro they told us that they paid Saldivar $6,500 US dollars three years ago - and have not gotten title or their money back. They said that they had no choice but to come to the media:..
"We retained his service in order to obtained title for our condo and he assured us that we will have our title within 4 weeks after we pay our stamp duty tax and his fees to him which we did. It is now 2013 and we still haven't received title and Mr. Saldivar repeatedly fails to answer or correspond with us in any way shape or form. We have emailed him numerous times and he fails to reply back, so we are lost and we are not the only ones in this position."
"There are 10 of us that I know of that are in this situation, so we talking somewhere between $75,000 - $100,000 that Mr. Saldivar has taken from us."
Burglar Jailed for 10 Years
30 year-old year Sheldon Lewis, a resident of Police Street who stole from a police officer, and got caught in the act, will spend 10 years in prison for it.
According to police, at around 2:30 p.m. on October 29, 2011, Lewis broke into the Mahogany Heights home of Police Sergeant Frank Augustine. He was in the process of cleaning it out of all the valuables he could find, but residents saw what was happening, and called police.
They responded and caught him red-handed with the officer's VCR, a knapsack filled with his clothing, and blender, and a lady's wrist watch, to a total value of $493.
Witnesses came to testify to the very same in the case before Chief Magistrate Ann Marie Smith, and when it was his turn to provide a defence, he didn't call any witnesses on his behalf. He only told the court that he didn't commit the burglary, and that he went to the village to visit a friend.
Y.E.S. Intervenes With At Risk Youths
Youth Enhancement Services known as Y-E-S has gotten onboard with the US State Department and the Belize Police Department for a new Community Policing initiative.
The three year, hundred thousand dollars project focuses on reducing youth involvement in violent crime. The project funds will assist in the renovation of the Southside pool near the Raccoon Street Police Station.
In addition, the funds will be utilized to conduct training for parents of at-risk youths, annual camps for police cadets and scholarships for low-income youths that live on the south side of the city. Karen Cain of Y-E-S explained more:
Karen Cain - YES Director
"Today we have our opening ceremony for the CARSI grant, its US$187,100.00. It's a 3 year project that we will be facilitating in partnership with the community policing department."
"Tell us a little bit about the project?"
Karen Cain - YES Director
"The project has 3 main goal; one is to basically refurbished the pool on the Southside of Belize City right in the same compound with Raccoon Street Police Station and hopefully that pool then will engage Southside children in fun activities; learning how to swim, learning personal development and basically trying to reduce criminal activity and then the second objective of the grant was to facilitate camps for the police cadets and these camps will be held in the 3 zones area; central. Northern and the southern and hopefully we will take the camp in other districts so that the kids get to know the country as well.
Those Images From That Terrible Tuesday
Today, the National Trade Union Congress of Belize issued a statement on crime. It says that quote, "the tidal wave of crime that has gripped Belize City over the past year....cannot continue."
IT adds, quote, "Additionally, images of the security forces with guns cocked with live rounds and aimed directly at grieving, protesting citizens followed by obvious shots being fired, certainly spur this perceived loss of confidence (in law enforcement.)" End quote.
The NTUCB calls on government to activate RESTORE Belize for a policy discussion on gangs, the drug trade and gun control. They also call on the media to quote, "censor these images and downplay these crimes."
And while the NTUCB wants censorship - but also refers to our images of security forces with guns cocked - the truth is, they can't have it both ways: rough times call for rough coverage. And that's what we saw this week. As we close tonight, we do so with a brief look back at some of those striking images that played out on Tuesday on Dean Street, George Street and Basra Street.
A Tale of Five Cities: Charming Campeche
As I mentioned in the previous post, we only had one afternoon, evening, and the next morning in Campeche, Mexico, but we managed to make the most of it and got a lot of walking in. This city we knew nothing about before arriving really did charm us with the beautiful cobblestone streets, colorful colonial facades, and handsome architecture. Here are some of the sights from our walks around town during our short visit.There were a couple of pedestrian-only streets we really enjoyed walking on.
Part of the old wall around the city on the Gulf side
City street near our hotel (on right)
There was a McDonald's in the newer part of the city, but we did NOT go!
The ubiquitous Beetle
Pedestrian street in the early evening (too early for the fashionable folks to eat dinner!)
Park at night
...and during the day
Rio on Pools – Natural and Spectacular Waterfalls in Belize
Rio on Pools are beautiful and spectacular waterfalls in the Mountain Pine Ridge Forest Reserve of Belize that features a wide, open expanse of pine forest, and small waterfalls that cascade over large granite rocks, ending in round pools connected by natural waterslides.
Below are some helpful hints to take into consideration before you visit these amazing waterfalls in Belize:
Anyone can view these marvels of nature and take photos of the site regardless of their level of fitness.
To access the pools and falls for swimming, you must either descend many stairs and then ascend them back up or take on a bit of a hike with the foot path.
If you don’t want to tackle the steep and slippery hike back up from the pools, just bring your camera and enjoy the spectacular view.
Once you are at the site, you can increase your adventure level by jumping from boulder to boulder to get to farther pools and falls.
Bring Hat, towel, swimsuit, sunscreen, water, insect repellant, camera, and raingear if needed.
Moving On Up
Since moving to Ambergris Caye, Belize I have rediscovered looking forward to the weekend. When I was working the weekend was something to look forward to. An opportunity to ‘recharge the batteries’ after a long week at work ( I used to work long hours – don’t know why now, but I did). With retirement every day became somewhat like the weekend but with the TV coverage here for the English Premiership ( football (soccer) ) Saturday and Sunday are days to look forward to.
Started the day well by watching Spurs drop two points when held to a draw by Queens Park Rangers, followed by a draw between Norwich and Newcastle United which was rounded off seeing West Ham United lose three nil to Sunderland. A full morning ( the Spurs game started at 6.45 am) on the sofa watching football and Sunday I have Manchester United v Liverpool and Arsenal v Manchester City to look forward to.
Because of the full football programme Rose I and didn’t set off to our build in Ambergris Caye, Belize until the afternoon which was good because it allowed the guys to make some further progress since our visit on Friday.
No surprise on parking the golf cart to hear the sound of the concrete mixer in action. We expected this because we knew that there were further columns to pour . What we didn’t expect though was to see that concrete was being poured to create the golf cart ramp. And by the time we arrived most of the concrete for it had been poured.
Fishers travel to Belize on dental-themed mission trip
Dr. Stephen D. Fisher may have retired and sold his dental practice, but he has yet to perform his last oral surgery, thanks to the Belize Mission Project.
“It’s a Christian-based mission trip,” Dr. Fisher said.
He and his wife were joined by 40 other people from the United States on a trip last fall to provide free dental and medical care to people in Belize.
“There were 14 dentists, three nurses, a physician, four dental hygienists, two dental lab technicians, an audiologist and several other dental assistants and general workers,” Dr. Fisher said.
Dr. Fisher, who operated practices in Potsdam, Ogdensburg and Massena for 32 years, retired and sold his practice to Dr. Lee Akin in March 2011, but he said he knew that his dental career was not over.
“I wanted to use my God-given talents to help others,” he said. “I’ve always wanted to go provide treatments to people in an unserved area.”
During their weeklong stay in Belize, Dr. Fisher and his wife, Deborah L., stayed on the island of Ambergris Cay.
During the day, Dr. Fisher saw patients in a clinic set up by participants in San Pedro’s Lions Den, the local Lions Club.
“It was pretty primitive,” Dr. Fisher said.
He said that they had no X-ray equipment, and that many of their tools were powered by a scuba tank.
“Normally, you wouldn’t be working in such an open area. It’s a bit different than dental care in the United States,” Dr. Fisher said. “When you’re used to working in your private office with two staff members, it took a while to get used to people staring at you.”
Dr. Fisher said he and his wife were responsible for bringing all of their own equipment and supplies.
“I did mostly extractions,” he said. For patients with more serious needs, he issued referrals to an orthodontist on the mainland.
Each day, he would see 20 to 30 patients.
John McAfee, Part 2: "The more ugly the woman, the better the sex."
Antivirus software pioneer John McAfee, who says he is now making Portland his home after fleeing Belize, has some unusual ideas about money and sex—some of which he shared with WW earlier this week in a wide-ranging interview. (We posted a portion of the interview Jan. 11, and we'll be running more excerpts over the next several days.)
The international fascination with McAfee is due in part to the fact the Silicon Valley legend has made and lost more money than most people. But it's intensified when Belize authorities named a "person of interest" in the November murder of his neighbor Gregory Faull—followed by his flight from that country, his arrest in Guatemala, his deportation to the U.S., and his bizarre allegations about spying and terrorism conspiracies back in Belize.
McAfee has now surfaced in Portland to work on a graphic novel with local illustrator Chad Essley (who appears and speaks in this video interview).
In what seems to be a natural progression of this story, The Hollywood Reporter broke the news yesterday that Warner Brothers will be making a movie about McAfee and has secured the rights to a profile of him that appeared in Wired Magazine last year.
In this portion of our interview with McAfee, which took place in a coffee shop on the east side, he talks about about how most people have the wrong idea about money and his "open hole" theory of capitalism.
Then he started talking about sex.
Belize police distance themselves from multiple murders
Belize police have distanced themselves from any involvement in the murders of four men, whose bodies were found in an apartment in the city earlier this week.
According to the results of the autopsies conducted on the bodies, the four men died from asphyxia, transection of the trachea and multiple cut wounds. The results also showed that two of the men received over 35 stab wounds each to the body.
Deputy Commissioner of Police, Elodio Aragon, speaking on television here on Friday night, has distanced law enforcement officials from any involvement in the crime.
“I will tell you right here, right now, the police department is in no way involved in these acts that have been speculated out there by the public.
“There is no reason why the police would have done something like this. So I want to dispel that kind of thinking and I ask the general public, think about it, what do the police have to gain from doing things like these,” he added.
Aragon said that while the special police unit “has been out there actively working to deal with the gang situation” it would “never engage in these kinds of acts”.
Earlier this week, Prime Minister Dean Barrow confirmed holding talks with the leaders of the notorious George Street Gang after the bodies of the four men were found.
Barrow told reporters that he led a delegation that included National Security Minister John Saldivar for talks with the leaders 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.
Since the start of the year, at least eight people have been murdered including 22-year-old Feeshia Felix, who was shot while she slept at her home.
Police said there were no new leads regarding the murders of the four men.
Ecotourism: Can Belize Handle the Heat?
With its diverse landscape, Belize is a symbolic ecosystem laboratory. Certainly, this terrain—replete with exotic rainforests, dry plains, and a tropical, marine environment teeming with untold species of fish—is a paradise on Earth. Consequently, Belize is saturated in the wash of runaway tourism, which is the living engine of its economy. But even relative prosperity can bear the seeds of big problems. Tourism is imposing harsh penalties upon the country; and the gentle ecosystem is reeling under the strain.
Although Belize has garnered a well-deserved reputation as an “eco-friendly” and “green conscious” nation, it continues to wobble under the virulent pressure of waste dumping, littering, beach erosion, and overcrowding—just to name a few. Accordingly, the Belize Tourist Industry Association (BTIA), which formed to promote eco-tourism, is acutely aware of this crisis.
One of the single most insidious threats to ecological stability in Belize, though, is the cruise industry.
In the study, “Cruise Tourism in Belize: Perceptions of Economic, Social, and Environmental Impact—2006,” every local farmer and fisherman interviewed stated that quality of nature was highly important; and a majority indicated that solitude, cleanliness, and contact with nature was very important. Further, the majority also believed that cruise tourism contributed to serious environmental hazards like toxic waste pollution, extinction of wildlife species, and the spoilage of beaches and forests.
When questioned, one travel manager expressed the notion that since cruise guests generally visit the country for a shorter stay and spend residential time on board, they do not cultivate familiarity and an appreciation for the locale. In the opinion of David Johnson, professor of coastal management at Southampton Solent University, the cruise itself—for many travelers—is the destination, even though the terrestrial destination remains central to the cruise product.