San Pedro, and particularly the San Pedrito area, has seen a rise in violent crimes – underscored last week by the senseless murder of Charlie Daniel Espat, 2, the toddler who was killed by gunmen who sprayed his family home early last Tuesday morning while he slept with his parents.
Of the 9 municipalities which went to the polls on Wednesday, Belize City and San Pedro have become the two most violent, and we asked Prime Minister Dean Barrow to address the worsening state of affairs, marked by a spate of weekend killings and an outburst of violent shootings at those centers on election day.
Barrow, who is also the head of Belize’s National Security Council, said that the crime situation in Belize City, where a shootout on election evening has left one man dead and another critically wounded, has been “a longstanding, ongoing problem,” and while there are “ebbs and flows,” he said, every time there is a flare up, the government takes measures to address the situation, and things subside, but there is a flare up again.
“The pattern is likely to continue. I don’t have the kind of answers that will see us tame this thing, but we will continue trying,” Barrow told us.
As for San Pedro’s worsening crime wave, believed to be linked to the narco-trafficking trade, the Prime Minister described the situation there as “particularly worrying,” and a situation which, he said, could give Belize’s tourism mecca a huge black eye.
He told us that he has instructed the Chief Executive Officer in the Ministry of National Security, Retired Col. George Lovell, to set out a plan for San Pedro which will see a very much stepped-up national security presence there on the island of Ambergris Caye.
Senior Superintendent Russell Blackett will head a special operation there, which the Ministry of Finance will fund. Barrow, who is also the Ministry of Finance, told us that his ministry will provide additional vehicles, golf carts and other materials for greater policing of San Pedro Town.
He also said that more support will come from the Belize Coast Guard and the Belize Defence Force.
“We will be able to get a handle on [the] situation out there,” Barrow told us, adding that it should be an easier situation to tackle than Belize City, since the municipality is smaller, and the trouble spots are far more concentrated than in Belize City, where the problem spans much of the Southside.
Barrow said that he does not want San Pedro to be perceived internationally as unsafe.
He said that the death of Espat, the toddler, last week, “galvanized us even more…”
“There is a bit of a drug war taking place in that area of the town,” he said, adding that the importance of containing the problem is underlined even more when innocent bystanders, and especially innocent children, become victims.