Taxi drivers gathered in front of the Town Hall in Benque Viejo del Carmen on Tuesday expressing concern that they are losing income as a result of vehicle operators coming from Guatemala. This is after a group of them had also gathered in front of the home of Benque’s Mayor Heraldo Ramcharan Junior asking for an audience to express their concerns.

Mayor Heraldo Ramcharan told reporters that the taxi drivers are concerned about the tourist buses coming into Belize.

Chief Transport Officer Tirso Galvez, who was visiting Benque on Tuesday has said that if a person does not reside in Belize, then his vehicle is considered a foreign registered vehicle and must abide by permits to do runs. He also clarified that road service permits are being issued by the Transport Board and that entity will not approve a road service permit for any person who does not live in Belize and who is not a Belizean.

Taxi drivers have expressed concern that Guatemalan operators cross the Belize border, change their Guatemalan license plates to Belize license plates, which gives them free reign to operate in Belize and in doing so deprive them of sustenance for their families.

However; Chief Transport Officer Tirso Galvez says that he has personnel at the Western Border, who work in partnership with the Customs Department to discourage such a practice.

“..they cannot just change from a Guatemalan license plate to a Belizean license plate and just be allowed to enter the Country, because that could happen to any stolen vehicle, if they do that then they would have to have some documentation to show that that vehicle was already legally registered in the Country of Belize, which means that they would have to provide a certificate of title for the vehicle bearing that license plate which they are putting on the vehicle on that side before they cross over to Belize…,” said Tirso Galvez.

“…of course the certificate of registration has all the particulars of the said vehicle meaning the VIN the vehicle identification number, the color of the vehicle and all the other information on the license plate, then that vehicle will not be considered a foreign registered vehicle anymore, because that vehicle has been legally registered in the Country and the duty has been paid, if it has been registered to a Belizean operator, insurance has been paid and so then it is legally a Belize registered vehicle,” he explained.

The Transport official further said that if the Guatemalan authorities do not allow a Belizean bus or registered vehicle to enter their country, but will allow if they registered their vehicle in Guatemala and put on Guatemalan license then that’s another issue for the Guatemalan authorities because it falls outside of their jurisdiction.

It is common practice for resorts in Belize to have their own vans and tour businesses in the transportation of tourists; thus depriving taxi drivers from the income to support their families. Benque taxi drivers have complained that the tourists pass them without stopping and asking for their service. Mary Carrridi, who owns resorts, tells us that the reason for this is that insurance plays a big factor, given that the safety of tourists is a top priority.

The Guardian