The news will be a bit brief for the next week or so due to time constraints
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Specials and Events
Last night's TV news on Channel 7, Channel 5, LOVETV, PGTV, West Vision (Cayo) and CTV 3. Also with the most recent Open Your Eyes, Rise and Shine Morning Show, and the Dickie Bradley Specials
The San Pedro Sun
Guatemala is exploiting the Chiquibul National Forest: An eye-opening account from photographer Tony Rath
The on-going Belize-Guatemala territorial dispute has extended to our Chiquibal National Forest. Located in the south-western region of Belize, the Chiquibul Forest includes the largest cave system in Central America, the Caracol Maya Site, and the Chiquibul River, which provides water to 40% of Belize’s population. Professional photographer Tony Rath ventured once again to the Chiquibul, where he witnessed first-hand the destruction of our forests at the hands of Guatemalans. The exploitation of our valuable natural resources is cause for much concern to Belizean conservationists.
There is only a small group of dedicated Belizeans risking their lives each day for the protection and conservation of the natural resources of Chiquibul, all 1,073 square kilometers of it. They are called Friends for Conservation and Development (FCD), and at present, their main concern is the agriculture encroachment and gold-panning by illegal Guatemalans. On September 8, 2014, Rath detailed his first foray into the Chiquibul. His harrowing experience included a shootout between illegal Guatemalan loggers and seven members of the FCD. His expose of that experience declared that “Belize is at War, without even knowing it.” The initial article generated a lot of buzz, and incensed many patriotic Belizeans.
Third annual Public Service Fashion Show
The third Annual Public Service Fashion Show took place on Saturday, June 25th at Señor Marlin’s Beach Bar. Featuring office wear and high fashion outside the office, the show was well-received by an enthusiastic audience. The DJ kept the tunes going as models strutted the runway, showcasing the different uniforms from various government offices.
Following that following segment, the models graced the runway in the latest summer outfits from Foreva Fancy Boutique. The ‘Glitz and Glamour’ segment followed by much applause. During intermissions, the models entertained the crowd with various dance numbers, and raffling of some great prizes. The last segment of the night saw the models showcasing pieces from the ‘Victoria Secret,’ collection. The grand finale gave attendees a glimpse of what is available at Foreva Fancy Boutique, especially for the summer season. Capping off the show was another dance number by all the models.
Congratulations to the Castillo’s Hardware Father’s Day Raffle Winners
Castillo’s Hardware Limited often honors different holidays by holding raffles that give back to their customers. In honor of Father’s Day, Castillo’s raffled three items. For every $50 purchase or payment on account, customers got a ticket in the barrel, hoping to win either the first prize of a Bosch Construction Saw, the second prize of a Makita Hammer Drill, or the third prize of a Stanley Tool Box loaded with tools. On Friday, June 17th, the three items were raffled, and the lucky winners are: Robert Bailey (1st Prize), Chris Rivero (2nd Prize), Mr. Moh (3rd Prize). Castillo’s Hardware Limited is the go-to store for electrical, paint, plumbing and household appliances, offering the best value for all your construction needs. They are located on Pescador Drive just before the San Juan Roundabout, and can be contacted via phone at 226-2303 or email: [email protected]
Recognizing some of the Faces of San Pedro’s worst Fire tragedy
In the early hours of Monday, June 27th, a huge fire engulfed several businesses and homes on Pescador Drive. It was a devastating blaze that left over 88 residents homeless. They are grandparents, parents, children, husbands, wives, friends…and as a community we realize their plight could just as easily been ours. It’s hard to imagine the terrifying experience of surviving such a disaster, and some of them were kind enough to share their harrowing experience with us.
GOB to pay $388 Million – final settlement to Ashcroft group for Telemedia shares
GOB pays off Ashcroft-3The Government of Belize (GOB) will pay the former owners of Belize Telemedia Limited (BTL) Bze$388 Million for the shares which GOB acquired in a public interest in 2009, Prime Minister Hon. Dean Barrow announced at a standing room only press conference at the Belize Biltmore Plaza Hotel in Belize City on Wednesday, June 29.
Government Ministers, Chief Executive Officers, UDP Senators and other scions of the Barrow administration, Financial Secretary Joseph Waight and BTL Chairman of the Board Nestor Vasquez flanked Barrow as he announced the final decision handed down by the arbitration panel to which Telemedia’s former owners had submitted the settlement of their claim. Financial Secretary Joe Waight crunched the numbers: the arbitrators ruled GOB should pay Bze$265 Million for the acquired shares, of which GOB had paid $65 million in a partial preliminary settlement last September. So GOB still owes $190 Million, and the interest payments would come to another $198 Million, for a total of $388 Million. Waight cautioned that because of legal fees and other costs yet to be finalized, the final total might be closer to $395 Million.
El Fogon Wins Best Lobster Dish at San Pedro Lobsterfest
It was El Fogon’s Belikin Beer Battered Lobster with Orange Ginger Rice that captured the first place trophy at this year’s tenth annual San Pedro Lobsterfest during an exciting night of judging, lobster sampling, new lobster inspired cocktails, super desserts including lobster cheesecake and ice cream and plenty of musical entertainment.
Winners of Lobster Fest 2016
Best Lobster Dish: El Fogon - Belikin Beer Fried Lobster,
Finn & Martini/El Jefe - Three Cheese Lobster & Spinach Empanadas,
Elvi’s Kitchen - Veggie Lobster Empanadas with Smoked Gouda Lobster Cheese Sauce.
Misc Belizean Sources
SBDC Workshop: INTRODUCTION TO BUSINESS TAX
Mrs. Carol Baird and
Mrs. Annisa Perdomo. Post/Teaching Description:
Tax Officers, Income Tax Department. Location:
BTEC Building, ITVET Campus, Belize City.
July 07, 2016. Time:
9am to 12 noon. Income Tax was enacted in Belize in 1924 and remained in that basic form up to July 1998, when Business Tax was introduced. The Legislation is now called "The Income And Business Tax Act", with an effective date of January 1999 in its current form. The Act is divided into three parts with Income Tax under Part 1, Income Tax on Profits arising from Petroleum under Part 11 and Business Tax under Part 111. This Information session will help you understand the ACT in details.
Agriculture Course in Israel
Honorary Consul General of Belize, Mr. Yoram Naor, Deputy Director General of Israeli MFA and Head of MASHAV, Ambassador Gil Haskel, Mr. Tony Carlito Chulin, Cotton Tree Greenhouse, Belize and Director of MASHAV's Training Department, Ambassador Mattanaya Cohen. Mr. Chulin participated in an Agriculture Course in Israel.
Southern Belize Communities Better Prepared for Natural Disasters - Taiwan and PADF training program benefits 14,000 residents
The Pan American Development Foundation, in partnership with the Government of the Republic of China (Taiwan) and the Government of Belize, held its Capstone Conference for its Community Preparedness and Resilience Project today at The Pelican Beach Resort in Dangriga Town.
Thousands of residents of coastal Belize are better prepared for extreme weather and the effects of climate change after a yearlong program funded by Taiwan and implemented by the Pan American Development Foundation (PADF).
Through the Community Preparedness and Resilience initiative, launched in July 2015, PADF assisted over 14,000 residents of Belize’s Stann Creek District in preparing for and responding to
Mr. Cliff Arthurs passes away
Mayor Daniel Guerrero, the San Pedro Town Council and Staff would like to express our deepest condolences to the Arthurs family and friends on the passing of Mr. Cliff Arthurs. May his soul rest in peace.
Cayo Road Safety Initiative
The SISE Town Council and local police met with a road safety consultant to start the Road Safety Operational Plan.
"June 28, 2016 - Twin towns: San Ignacio and Santa Elena road safety stakeholders were actively engaged and displayed a high level of commitment in the process towards a workable plan which should be completed by ending September 2016. The Road Safety International Consultant, Ms Mavis Johnson, worked along with key partners to commence in the drafting of the Road Safety Operational Plan. We extend our appreciation to each of them!"
The Belize Travel Trade team taking part in this years' JG Black Book Colorado Roadshow.
Angel Navidad is bound for Harvard University
Ambassador Moreno had the opportunity to meet with Angel Navidad, a Belizean student bound for Harvard University this fall. Harvard University is a private research university in Cambridge, Massachusetts (US), established 1636, whose history, influence and wealth have made it one of the world's most prestigious universities. We are so proud of his achievement, and look forward to hearing more stories like this from other hardworking young Belizean students pursuing higher education. They are Belize's future!
About Angel Navidad: He graduated from Bishop Martin High School in Orange Walk in 2013 and St. John’s College in 2015. He has excelled in distinct achievements, including winning the Sagicor Visionary Challenge, a ‘STEM’ (science, technology, engineering, and math) regional competition. During the challenge, he was the team leader for the project called “Coconuts for Life”, and the Coconut Ecology Park impressed judges like Russlynn Ali, head of the XQ Super School project.
Kieran Killed, Companion Critical
There was another murder on the south side of Belize City last night. This time the victim is 20-year-old Kieran Morrison. Reports say Morrison was shot 5 times and died on the spot - while his friend was shot once and is still clinging to life at the KHMH tonight. It happened last night in the Saint Martin's area- a zone that- while gang ridden - had been dormant for a while. In fact it has been nearly a year since the last murder there. So what triggered last night's murderous attack? Today Emanuel Pech went looking for answers.
The familiar sound of gunshots was heard in the St. Martin's area of Belize City around 8:30 last night. The victims this time were 20 year old Kieran Morrison and 18 year old Kent Brooks. At the time the two were hanging out here in front of Morrison's house on La Croix Boulevard. Then out of nowhere, a single gunman emerged from a vehicle and fired several shots in their direction. Residents report hearing as many as 7 gunshots go off.
Teenaged Shooting Victim Needs Blood
Now as we told you, one of the victims of this deadly shooting is 18 year old Kent Brooks. He is currently admitted at the KHMH and, according to doctors, his situation is very dire. He underwent his first surgery last night and is slated for another this weekend. But the teenager will need a lot of blood. That is why the father today appealed to blood donors and the general public to assist the family in raising 8 pints of blood.
Kent Brooks Sr., Father of shooting victim:
"This morning when I left from the hospital and saw the doctor, they said he's in a critical condition. They did a surgery on him from last night when he went in and he lost a whole lot of blood so he needs 8 pints of blood. The doctor told us that the condition he has is like a 20-30 percent chance of survival because the gunshot he got was serious that disrupted some of his organs.
17 Year Old Stabbed For "Mumuch"?
Today police confirmed the reports surrounding 17 year old Jasmine Petillo's murder. She was stabbed to death on Tuesday night and her body was found after 10:00 Wednesday morning in a ditch near her house. Now as we told you, the family and residents suspect that Jasmine's murder is connected to the June 2015 killing of Desmond Usher better known as "Mumuch". But that is just one aspect of the investigation. Today police gave us more details.
ACP Edward Broaster - OC, Eastern Division Rural:
"Yesterday about a little after 10, we received information of a female body that was found. The police responded and upon arriving they discovered what was later on identified to be Jasmine Petillo, 17 years old, a domestic of #1Q Mahogany Heights, with what appeared to be multiple stab wounds to the body. We are currently investigating that matter, we believe that it has something to do with the death of Desmond Meyers that occurred a year ago. We're investigating this matter, we have some leads that we're working on and we may have some updates next week as to the progress of this investigation."
MIT Makes Move On Marijuana
The Police Department's Mobile Interdiction Team is known for its random highway checkpoints and one of them paid off big time last night: they caught a man with over 100 pounds of weed near Teakettle Village. But it wasn't easy - they had to chase him!
Here's how it played out. At 9:00 pm, a beat up taxi station wagon heading towards Belize City blew past a MIT checkpoint in Teakettle at mile 54.
The officers set chase and caught up with the driver in the Arizona area of Teakettle two miles down an old logging road. The driver, 19 year old Maynor Portillo, dashed out of the car and tried to run away but the police quickly caught him. The team searched his car and found 2 sacks of weed amounting to 104 pounds. The sacks bore markings saying it originated from Guatemala.
Teen Found Drowned, Not Decapitated In Rio Hondo
Yesterday morning word went out that a man's decapitated body had been fished out of the Rio Hondo near "La Union" - which is the northwestern border with Mexico. The body was on the Mexican side so it didn't make news on Belize, initially. But it is in the headlines tonight because the dead male is a 17 year old from San Felipe Village in Orange Walk. He went missing the day before, and the family had to go to the Chetumal Morgue to identify him by his clothing. But, it turns out he wasn't decapitated - and no foul play is suspected. The Officer in Charge of Orange Walk explains:..
Selvyn Tillett, OC, Orange Walk Formation:
"There was a body indeed but it was floating in Mexican territory. There was nothing we could have done at that moment. Later on yesterday evening a female from San Felipe reported that her son Dustin Cortez, a teenager from San Felipe village had left with friend to La Union on a motorcycle from since Sunday and hadn't returned as yet. The description given to us by Dustin's mother fit that of the body seen floating in the river. As such orange walk police informed Mexican authorities of the report where the family of Dustin will need to go across on the Mexican side and try to identify the body. According to Mexican authorities, it appears to have been drowning. People have mentioned earlier something about his face, but apparently his face was damaged because it seems that fish had bitten his face."
PUP Blasts Barrow Administration for Half a Billion Dollar BTL Bukkut
Last night you heard the government's hard spin on the final price of the BTL Nationalization. Government's bottom line puts it at over 450 million dollars, the total for the shares and interest. But the government argues that the whole package is worth 775 million dollars - when one factors in the savings to consumers and taxpayers. But, not surprisingly, the PUP isn't buying it. And, for the opposition, it's not just a knee jerk rejection - the party held a press conference today to pitch a deeply felt position:
Hon. Julius Espat, PUP Deputy Leader:
"Well if we look at what they have paid out, its approximately 557.5 million dollars which is about a little more than half a billion dollars and what the true value of the company is and you get that by the shares that they are putting the value to the company and the amount of shares that you have. So that's gives you the company approximately a million dollars. That leaves you with a loss of 450 million dollars approximately."
Accommodation Agreement Asides
But the government says a big chunk that cost - fully 60% of the price of the shares - is the fault of the PUP. It's called the Accommodation Agreement and that inflated the share price by 3 dollars and 38 cents per share - to a total of about 153 million of the 255 million dollars in share value that government now has to pay.
The accommodation agreement dates back to 2005 - when the then PUP government was trying to secretly get someone to cover the cost of some Intelco Properties which Social Security had (also) secretly guaranteed. So, they invited the Ashcroft Alliance to step in and take over the 19.2 million dollars in debt. The Alliance had them on the hook - and to make sure they stayed hooked, a secret accommodation agreement was crafted. Among other things, it guaranteed BTL a 15% rate of return, and tied the hands of the PUC. John Briceno was Deputy Prime Minister at the time but he never knew about it - in fact, today he told us that ten years later, he still had not read it! And today he said the Barrow Administration is just trying to deflect blame by using the accommodation agreement:...
The Speednet Carve-Out In The Accommodation Agreement
And while Briceno points to the punishment of the electorate, he doesn't get off so easy. That's because his family part owns the other phone company, Speednet. That company - which also has the Ashcroft Alliance as a major shareholder - gets special mention the accommodation agreement. The agreement says, quote, "no persons other than BTL and Speednet…will hold an individual license to legally carry on, conduct, or provide telecommunication services."
It's a special carve out in a very special agreement, and today, Briceno bristled when we asked if he had the standing to condemn this latest BTL payout when his family's company was involved in the Accommodation Agreement:...
Hon. John Briceno, PUP Party Leader:
"It has been no secret that my family in involved in a company with the competition against BTL - SPEEDNET. They got no special concessions from the government of Belize, they got no tax exemptions from the government of Belize and thirdly, I was unaware of that agreement. You knew that. You've ask me this before Jules if I knew about the agreement. You know I did not know about the agreement. So then how then can you ask whether I have a moral authority to speak? Of course I have moral authority. I am the Leader of the Opposition, I am the leader of this party and we have to hold Dean Barrow and the UDP accountable for the folly that is costing that country hundreds of millions of dollars."
Action At The Auction
A crowd of city residents stampeded through the gates of the Queen Street Police Station this morning, and it wasn't to make mass complaints or to visit their loved ones in lock down, they were there for the auction. The police auctioned off a number of items from old rusted bicycles and motorcyles to household appliances. But it was more than just the auction, today was a full fun day with a Red Wingle raffle and an all day fair. Northside Public Relations Officer Fitzroy Yearwood told us about today's initiative.
Insp. Fitzroy Yearwood, PR - Eastern Division North:
"First of all this is the most highly anticipated auction. as you know this is our first for this year and we had to do a lot of planning because it coincides with our all day fair event and the raffle of our Police Wingle Pickup that should take place 7:30 tonight."
US Trafficking Report Blasts Government
Today, the US gave Belize another "F" for its progress against human trafficking. For the second year in a row, Belize continues to be listed as a "Tier 3" country - which means that, by the interpretation of the US State Department, the Belize does not meet the minimum standards and is not making significant efforts to do so.
So, just to make it clear, countries that do the most to fight human trafficking are listed in Tier 1. Those that do the least - are listed in Tier 3. Belize is the only tier 3 country in Central America.
The report notes that there are 17 pending cases from previous years, but for 2016, no new prosecutions have started, even though law enforcement raids increased when compared to last year's number. Though it does not specify, the TIPs report says, quote, "The government did not investigate or prosecute any public officials for alleged complicity in human trafficking-related offenses, despite reports of a significant level of official complicity." End quote.
PUP Says 7News Got Special Sarstoon Pass
Today at the PUP press conference, we also asked them about the party's position on the Sarstoon. As we've reported, the opposition has pulled out of Belize - Guatemala talks saying that the current approach is futile and misdirected.
But, what about the Sarstoon? Yesterday the Prime Minister suggested that things were back to normal - and pointed to the trip 7News made there a week ago when we received no harassment.
Well, today PUP Leader Briceno said we must have gotten a special pass:...
Hon. John Briceno, PUP Party Leader:
"I think that Daniel got a special pass, the pass that we got, yes, to go to the Sarstoon. But I think that Wil mentioned that he attempted to go and he was stopped. I have to check that, I am not sure about that. But I am told that he attempted to go and he was stopped by the Guatemalans. Obviously you have to get a pass, you have to speak to the Prime Minister, then Prime Minister will call Guatemala and then Guatemala will give us permission to visit our own country, which we find unacceptable."
Summer Funner With Tourism
It's coming up on Independence Day in the USA, which means the summer tourism season opens tomorrow and the Belize Hotel Association members are ready for tourists to come pouring in for the next couple of months. And just to make sure the members are on the same page for this season, the association held its Annual General Meeting today at the Biltmore. President Lisa Carr-Caceres outlined the major areas that were discussed and the importance of tourism in Belize.
"What we're doing right now is mostly dissolving the current board and re-electing a new board that will start out year which basically starts tomorrow July 1st and runs through next year June 30th. This basically is when we start our year, we still accept applications for membership and we'll be doing that throughout the month of July. We're happy to say that most of our members have already renewed their membership, so this is just a benchmark of where we're starting the year off and ending our previous year."
Scotia Scholars Smile With Supercop
For the past 10 years, Scotiabank has been providing needy primary school students with scholarships to continue their education.
It's part of their Bright Future Program, and today 77 deserving children accepted their scholarship grants at a ceremony at Scotiabank's Albert Street in Belize City. To keep them motivated to remain in school, the bank staff invited the Eastern Division South's Police Commander, Chester Williams as a guest speaker.
After the Ceremony, we got a chance to talk to the country manager about their reasons for keeping this program alive:
Scotia Bank Representative:
"It's a scotia bright future where we ensure that we participate in the country's activities. Scotia bank is big unto two really key initiatives. Initiative number one is health, initiative number two is education. You can't have a healthy population not being educated and vice versa. Every year we participate in this function where we give a number of scholarships to kids who are transitioning from the junior school to high school. To date we have given over 750 scholarships since the inception of the program."
Cruel Summer For Cops
Summer is here and while kids and teens get to play or relax, for the police department, it means more work making sure those idle hands don't end up doing...well you know what idle hands do...
So police are keeping the child curfew in effect, but their youth intervention efforts are not limited to the curfew hours. The South Side Commander spoke to us about an incident involving kids and a known gang figure that took place yesterday during daylight.
ACP Chester Williams - O. C., Eastern South Division:
"I will tell you that just yesterday we brought in 7 little boys, the oldest probably about 12 years old, this was during the day, who were involved in a little activity where a major gang player came and wanted to rescue them because obviously their tied to him. We withdrew the kids from here and we got the parents and social people involved. Again the objective is that we want to be able to stop these little kids from associating with these gang members. While the current gang members are so adamant about killing out each other, we believe that the only way we can bridge or to stop this madness is to slow down the recruitment. So that when they kill out themselves, there will be no one to take over for them."
Third World Camp
Now while the police continue their intervention efforts , the Third World Flower's Sports Education Club also continues its efforts in getting kids off the streets and onto basketball courts and football fields. The program has been running for the past 17 years - and while it's an annual struggle to get the finds for the camp, they have managed to expand the program. The camp started this week at the Third World field on Vernon Street and 120 kids have registered. Today we stopped by to check on the progress and also learnt that the camp deals with much more than just sports.
Now as we said the organizers have had a hard time finding sponsors for the three week program, so if you are interested in pitching in by way of donating monies or equipment you can get in contact with the coordinator Deon Flowers at 607-8585.
After The Fire, The Philanthropy
It's been 4 days now since that terrible fire in the heart of downtown San Pedro, which left 88 persons homeless after 17 buildings caught fire, 11 of them totally destroyed.
Well, today, bulldozers and other heavy equipment were working all day to clean up the block between Pescador Drive, Buccaneer Street, and Black Coral Street. That's where the fire took hold and razed the buildings to the ground.
Apart from the clean-up campaign, the humanitarian efforts continued today with the San Cas Group of Companies pitching in and donating groceries to the 88 fire victims. And, as viewers remember, Area Representative Manuel Heredia Jr. told us that they were going to organize a radiothon to raise money to assist those affected. Reliable reports tell us that it started early this morning, and when it closed about 2 hours ago, the organizers managed to secure pledges totaling almost 173 thousand dollars. We're also told that the San Pedro Lions Club has also collected approximately $30,000, and that's funds separately generated, apart from the radiothon.
PC Assi Esta Bien
Yesterday Precinct 3 honored their officer of the month for June. PC Regino Assi was awarded for his excellent police work and dedication. WE spoke to Assi's commander and she told us why he stood out among the rest. Assi also told us about his daily motivation as a cop.
He received a certificate and money from Zitro Western Union.
Reggae All Over The World
If you're a lover of reggae music, you probably don't need any excuse to listen your favorite Bob Marley, Dennis Brown or Aswad song. But, the rest of the Reggae World has decided that on July 1 of every year, they will celebrate International Reggae Day.
That's tomorrow, and Belize will participate for the first time. The Coordinator of International Reggae Day in Belize, Kwame Scott, told us what local reggae listeners will be treated to:
34 of the 35 countries will have concerts - Belize is the only one, which is its first year of observance will not.