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             Saturday, February 14, 2009 

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Welcome to Orange Walk! Sugar Farmers on Strike last week
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Welcome to Orange Walk! Sugar Farmers on Strike last week

Protests in the Orange Walk Town area on February 2 by cane farmers objecting to a new payment system ended in the death of at least one and the wounding of several other farmers by Belize police.

Cane farmers in Northern Belize have been upset for weeks over a new system of payment for cane. The system is based partly on sugar content of the cane instead of just tonnage. The new sugar content testing system that has been put in place at the Belize Sugar Industries (BSI) plant at Tower Hill. It's called a core sampler. Cane farmers say it results in lower prices for their crop. †

In late January some cane farmers went on strike and stopped delivering sugar cane to the BSI plant.† On February 2, the farmers took further action, reportedly blocking roads around Orange Walk Town, burning tires and shutting down the sugar factory.† At least one police vehicle was set on fire. †

Prime Minister Dean Barrow issued a 4 p.m. (February 2) ultimatum to disband, or he would have the authorities disperse them.† The cane farmers apparently didn't comply. †

The police began shooting live rounds in clear contravention of protocols involving civilian protesters.† At least one unarmed farmer who was just standing by, was shot and killed, and there is an unconfirmed report of another man also killed.† Ten farmers received gunshot injuries. †

After the violence, PM Barrow agreed to suspend the use of the core sampler.† Many have called for nvestigations of the shootings, in an effort to determine if the government and the police overreacted.

† The U.S. Embassy in Belize warned that Americans and other foreign visitors should avoid the Orange Walk Town area for the time being. The Northern Highway was closed to all traffic during the day of February 2 but reopened in the early evening.

Photograph courtesy Maliante              
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