Ministry of National Security On Suspect Drug Plane Landings
Following up on confirmation that a suspected drug plane landed this morning in the Blue Creek area of the Orange Walk district with the crew and cargo making good their escape, the Ministry of National Security has issued the following statement:
“On a daily basis there are members of the security forces of Belize deployed to intercept planes attempting to land illegally in Belize. These planes are suspected to have drugs on board destined for the North American market. Belize does not yet have military radar tracking capability. In the time being Belize relies on an external regional network that generates tracking information as soon as suspect planes leave South America.
“These aircraft must offload their cargo somewhere in Central America or Mexico after which it is transported overland to the North. Once information of a suspect plane tracking its way towards Belize is received, our security forces deploy to as many possible landing sites as our human resources allow. The fact is that there are so may possible landing options including existing roads and highways, which by the way cannot just simply be destroyed, that there is an element of uncertainty involved in predicting exactly where a plane may land. The Ministry of National Security absolutely does not have the resources to cover every single landing option. And the pilots of these planes make real-time adjustments and changes to throw the security forces off track to evade interception and capture.
“Every day this is what plays out as our security forces are deployed based on tracking information received from our regional partners including Mexico and the U.S.A.
“The Belizean people can rest assured that our security forces are applying their best efforts in fighting these very sophisticated transnational drug traffickers along with our regional partners and we look forward to our next successful plane capture and drug bust.”
ANOTHER SUSPECTED DRUG PLANE LANDS IN THE NORTH AT A CLANDESTINE AIRSTRIP IN BLUE CREEK
Re: Another Empty Narco Jet, Another Mystery
#538840 10/22/1905:57 AM10/22/1905:57 AM
Tonight Belizeans all over are shaking their heads with a weary nod - like, "another drug plane!?"
Yup, that's right. Early on Sunday morning, another narco-jet was found abandoned on a road in Blue Creek. No drugs, no passengers, just the jet.
It's the 7th drug plane to land this year, and about the 20th since 2018 - and its appearance has so many Belizeans saying, it's just too much, too often, too out of control.
And that's why the Commissioner of police held a press conference today in Belmopan. Cherisse Halsall reports:
Before Dawn on Sunday another plane, this time a Hawker Siddeley 125, was abandoned in the Blue Creek area of Orange Walk.
Chester Williams, COMPOL "Yesterday morning police visited the Blue Creek area near the Mexican border where they came across one Hawker jet that was parked on a makeshift airstrip. Police conducted a search of the plane and nothing was found therein. Searches were conducted within the area where the plane was located and again nothing was found."
And while the public has expressed its outrage at drug cartels using Belizean roads as airstrips to move huge drug cargos. The COMPOL stressed that his department is doing all it can:
Chester Williams, COMPOL "We're doing what we can with the resources that we have and we'll continue to do just that. We had tracks again last night and we deployed and we believe that we were able to prevent them from landing so we have been doing a lot in preventing and some will land and if one lands it is one too much."
"When we compare last year, last year around this time we have 12 confirmed landings. This time this year we have 7 confirmed landings so our efforts have been able to deter many of these planes from landing."
21 days ago another plane was found abandoned in the Blue Creek area. On that occasion, Mexican police found a huge stash of drugs, weapons, and 2 vehicles on their side of the border in the town of Tomas Garrido Canabal, Quintana Roo.
Police have once again reached out to their Mexican counterparts with information surrounding this narco-jet, hoping for another lucky find.
Chester Williams, COMPOL "I don't think this one had any seats in it and yes the previous one had seats again the previous one had a huge or a larger cargo area. So probably that was where the drugs were kept or were brought in."
"We believe that the plane may have brought in drugs and that the drugs may have been taken over the mexican side. We had since communicated with our Mexican counterparts to be our lookout on the other side of the border. To see if they would be able to intercept the cargo of the plane. Now just as the public are we are also concerned the landings of these planes within our borders but this is a regional thing that law enforcement agencies are dealing with. We know last night Nicaragua also intercepted a plane. They have had instances I Think mexico also got one last night, a smaller type plane and we know the problem also exists in Costa Rica, Guatemala and so it's something that the entire region is dealing with."
But the COMPOL stresses that policing this type of highly organized, well funded criminal activity is challenging.
Chester Williams, COMPOL "The truth is it is not easy for us the resources is lacking I guess you all have read the release issued by the Minister yesterday where he outlined basically some of the challenges that we are facing but despite the fact that the resources is lacking in terms of a secondary radar we still do our utmost best to try and intercept these planes when they come into our air space. Yes we wish we could have intercepted more on that night in question. Saturday night we were actually monitoring four tracks at the same time that left out of Venezuela and in the absence of direct intelligence as to where exactly the plane was going to land we have to find a way to deploy officers in different strategic locations across the country and it's a challenge."
And while catching the bad guys is extremely high priority COMPOL Willams says that he also puts a high priority on the safety of the officers who are often deploy to deal with narcotrafficking.
Chester Williams, COMPOL "If the officer gets a call at the station that a plane is about to land we don't expect a two or three man patrol to go and intercept a plane that's like sending our officers to commit suicide. So there are a number of things that needs to be done to mobilize a team that is well fitted to be able to go into combat should the need arise in intercepting a plane because you know that these people are not just going to surrender their drugs to the police. They are surely going to have a fight with the police and we don't want to have our officers alone with small 38 or 39 millimeter going up against drug cartels with machine guns that will be like sending them to commit suicide so we have to mobilize the BDF for the most part we get ----members of the special patrol unit and members of the anti narcotics unit and that is the team that we normally put togther to be able to respond."
"And we did that Saturday night leading into Sunday morning. We had our officers deployed all over the place. Hoping that the plane would have landed at one of the locations where the officers were but again it went into the Blue Creek area which is closer to the mexican border and so we will have to look to see how we can re-strategize until we can get the resources we need to be more direct and I can tell you that even with the resources in Mexico and Guatemala they have missed a lot too."
As it stands, GOB has amassed a small fleet of abandoned drug planes including 2 HS 125s - which is the one found on Sunday, 2 Jets, 2 King Airs, 2 Cessna 210s, and 1 piper. With new additions coming in regularly there may soon be limited space in the hangars currently housing the aircraft. We are told they are currently up for sale but without much success.
In the wake of another suspected drug plane landing, the Ministry of National Security says it does not have the resources to track or intercept planes entering the airspace. On Sunday morning, police discovered a hawker jet near Blue Creek, in the general area where an executive jet landed ten days ago. The suspected narco-jet is one of four that reportedly left Venezuela; one was intercepted in Nicaragua and another in Mexico. The fourth aircraft has not been located. As is customary, police found no one in the area and its cargo had already been unloaded. The jet has been moved to the B.D.F. Air Wing. Here is News Five’s Isani Cayetano with a report.
Isani Cayetano, Reporting
Another suspected drug plane, found near the Mennonite community of Blue Creek, in Orange Walk District, has been taken into custody. Over the weekend, a corporate aircraft departed from northeastern South America and was one of four flights being tracked by regional authorities upon takeoff.
Chester Williams, Commissioner of Police
“On that night in question, Saturday night, we were actually monitoring four tracks at the same time that left out of Venezuela and in the absence of direct intelligence, as to where exactly the planes will land, we have to find ways to deploy officers in different strategic locations across the country. And it’s a challenge, but we try our best to do that and we did that Saturday night leading into Sunday morning. We had our officers deployed all over the place, hoping that the plane would have landed at one of the locations where the officers were. But again, it went into the Blue Creek area which is closer to the Mexican border.”
One of those airplanes had its coordinates set on northern Belize and after changing its flight pattern once entering its airspace, finally landed on a crude runway within that area. The flight crew and the welcoming party had enough time to discharge the contents of the aircraft, before escaping into neighboring Mexico.
“Yesterday morning, police visited the Blue Creek area near the Mexican border where they came across one Hawker Jet that was parked on a makeshift airstrip. Police conducted a search of the plane and nothing was found therein. Searches were conducted within the area where the plane was located and again, nothing was found. We believe that the plane may have brought in drugs and that the drugs may have been taken over to the Mexican side.”
According to Commissioner of Police Chester Williams, Mexican authorities have since been informed of the landing and are on alert should the illicit cargo and its couriers be headed in their direction.
“We have since communicated with our Mexican counterparts to be on the lookout on the other side of the border to see if they would be able to intercept the cargo of the plane. Now, just as the public is, we are also concerned about the landings of these planes within our borders, but this is a regional thing that law enforcement agencies are dealing with. We know last night, Nicaragua intercepted a plane. We have had instances, I think Mexico also got one last night, a smaller type plane.”
Narco-trafficking is a regional issue, however, Belize is woefully lacking in terms of its ability to successfully track and intercept drug planes entering its skies. It is a point that has been reiterated by the Ministry of National Security, one that is also emphasized by ComPol Williams.
“The truth is, it is not easy for us. The resources are lacking, I guess you all have read the release issued by the minister yesterday where he outlined basically some of the challenges that we are facing. But despite the fact that resources are lacking in terms of a secondary radar, we still do our utmost best to try and intercept these planes when they come into our airspace. Yes, we wish we could have intercepted more.”
Notwithstanding these shortcomings, when asked if there is any consideration to deploy police and B.D.F. personnel to the area on a permanent basis, in relation to an installation, the response we’ve been provided is nothing shy of circumspect.
“There are a number of things that we will be doing and some of which we have done, or we are doing, that I’m not going to divulge. To go to war and tell your enemy what your strategies are is like committing suicide. So we’re not going to delve too much into what we intend to do. But may I remind you that the Blue Creek area is a very wide area and moving from point A to point B is difficult, it’s not always good terrain and the distance and the different possible locations where aircrafts can land is a lot. So it’s something they have to look at to see what more can be done.”
Around the same period in 2018, a total of twelve aircrafts landed in Belize. So far for this year, seven landings have been recorded.
“Last year around this time we had twelve confirmed landings. This time, this year, we have seven confirmed landings. So our efforts have been able to deter many of these planes from landing and they go over to either Mexico or Guatemala and we think that it is paying off, but we also believe that we can do more and we will do our best to do more. The ministry has said that we will continue to do our best to capture these planes and we are concerned just as the public is, rightfully so. But I want to reassure the public that it’s not that we’re not doing anything, we are doing the best that we could with the resources that we have.”