Tonight, News Five has confirmed that Officer Commanding Special Branch, Marco Vidal, who has been at the helm of the Gang Suppression Unit since its formation in 2010, has been replaced as its chief officer. The reason for his removal remains unclear; however, Vidal, whose portfolio was expanded a year ago to include leadership of Special Branch, will be succeeded by Superintendent Linden Flowers. Vidal has come under sustained fire primarily for his approach to getting the job done. Despite the GSU’s notable record for drug busts, its intelligence-led operations have come under intense public scrutiny on several occasions. One such incident was back on May twentieth, 2011, when a team of officers stormed the residence of Belmopan businessman, Mike Menjivar. During the raid, multiple shots were fired inside the home of La Cabana’s proprietor, who told nine-one-one dispatchers that he believed he was under siege by a gang of criminals. That incident resulted in Menjivar’s arrest and remand, followed by a protracted legal battle over what transpired during the shootout.
More recently, Vidal’s name resurfaced in the Supreme Court, as well as the media, when fellow officer Corporal Gino Peck was convicted for possession of unlicensed ammunition. The raid on Peck’s Curassow Street residence, according to the GSU boss, was also the result of an intelligence-led operation. Peck’s subsequent case divided the Belize Police Department, as many officers were of the opinion that the matter should have been handled internally. Vidal later explained that the suggestion that the case against Peck was motivated by some personal vendetta was preposterous and that his interaction with Peck had at best, been minimal. Vidal, it is believed, will remain head of the Special Branch.