The contraband activity in the Benque Free Zone took an even darker tone over the weekend. Usually reliable source says on Friday night the contrabandistas began transporting some chemical that they had to extract from drums into gallon jugs for the backdoor trip to Guatemala. Although contraband activities have been going on in Belize for a long it is not in our best interest, as a sovereign nation to have the GOB involved with activities designed to evade legitimate customs duties due our neighbors. We are conducting some form of low-grade economic war against our large and powerful neighbors buy conspiring to evade their laws for personal profit of the members of government.

The recent death of the Guatemala national caught planting weed and the recent find of harvested rosewood in Toledo also bear closer inspection.

Considering that much of the weed in Belize is imported from Guatemala, it should be obvious that the weed he was planting was most likely for the local Belize market conservatively estimated at 100,000 pounds annually. We have information that indicates it is a common practice for Belizeans to contract Guatemalans to come and grow weed on our national reserves much as we recruit them to work in our bars. This minimum domestic weed consumption, if regulated and taxed at 25%, would produce a minimum of $25 Million tax dollars annually plus the social savings and law enforcement savings. The recent destruction of $29M represented a tax income to Belize of $7M. How can we afford to ignore the economics of this in consideration of to the growing international trend to legalize marijuana and recognize its therapeutic value in relation to the growing poverty levels and social problems created by criminalization of marijuana? The medical marijuana demand in Canada is out growing the supply and in the future it will be just another commodity.

The rosewood and other timber harvesting in our reserves is another sore spot in our border relations with Guatemala. We have been reliably informed that Belizeans also outsource much of this activity to Guatemala. The logs are ordered cut and stacked or left where they will for sure be discovered even if by "anonymous tip". That makes it easier for Forestry to impound them and to haul them away for free. Cabinet will no doubt decide they should be given to Vega as always and hence end up in his warehouse. Like all impounded property all these logs collected over the years should be sold at auction or better yet, used to develop a new industry.

The "Border Dispute" has and is being used for personal gain by parties in both countries and there is little chance to end this mythical border dispute as too much money is on the line.

Mike Campbell