Anti-Violence Rally/Vigil held in SP - Residents are urged to take action against crime

The Island Newspaper, Ambergris Caye, Belize            Vol. 15, No. 31            August 4, 2005

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On Thursday, July 28th, 2005, Reef Radio along with residents of San Pedro came out in an act of solidarity against the wave of violence that arose from numerous tragic fatalities. This rally for peace was done to demonstrate that power and unity of a community that can promote peace and prevention of violent conflicts. Those in attendance were dressed in white and some held a candle in an effort to show camaraderie and create awareness and to discuss the rising crimes in our beloved San Pedro.

   The rally was aired live on Coral Cable’s Channel 7, as well on Reef Radio. Throughout the night, various speakers took the podium and were presented by Master of Ceremonies Claudio Azueta and Domingo Perez.

   Getting the night started was young Allison Nuñez who took to the stage to challenge those present. In her speech she commented how her parents are now afraid to let her out with the crime increase. She challenged everyone to make the island safe for children once more.

   Mayor Elsa Paz took the stage to address the issue and stated, “I ask you to help in any way you can and to pray for a speedy solution and a return to the peace and tranquility that we all have enjoyed in the past. Remember, when the tourists stop coming, we will all suffer the same. The fear is already noticeable in conversations with elderly, seasonal residents of the island. We must remember that yes, we have a beautiful island, but it is not the only one and if the fear is not driven out, they may just decide to go somewhere else.”

   President of the Ambergris Caye Chamber of Commerce Tom Vidrine then took the podium to address his concerns and made some suggestions as to what can be done to alleviate the crime situation. In his speech, Vidrine said “We have the beginnings of gangs, parents; you must stop this before it destroys your children. All of us need to report when we see a gang, particularly of children together wearing gang colors. We cannot allow this cancer to enter our island.” He went on to comment that in the past several “excuses” were used, “Our police now have vehicles. We have a new police station. We have been assigned more police officers. We have been given our own judge and courtroom. Now, we have been given an Inspector. Now we have no more excuses. […] Do we want to live in cages or to join together to keep what is priceless? It is your choice, our choice. Let us quit making excuses. […] It is time to stop the talk and do the walk!”

   Ramon Nuñez, business man of San Pedro Town, was also present and in his speech had one message to those who choose to make “La Isla Bonita” their home. “We can not afford to lose tourism, we can not lose our bread or our butter. We welcome you but only if you are honest. […] For those committing the crime, we are not afraid, we will fight!”

   “Antonio Almendarez will be remembered as a hero. He brought the island together and his death will not be in vain. We will fight this and Antonio will always be remembered,” stated Einer Gomez, another guest speaker.

   Moments later, a sobbing and grieving wife of the deceased, Albertina Almendarez was called upon; it certainly made for an emotional and sympathetic moment. A weeping Almendarez tried to address those present and though her speech was brief, it was clear and precise; she stated, “Please don’t let this happen to your kids. You are out here tonight trying to make this violence stop.” Accompanying the inconsolable widow were her two children, Kerona, 2, and Emile, 4.

   Another speaker was Milo Paz who stated, “There are only three words that we can think of and we have to think of these three words very carefully: racism, discrimination, and violation of human rights. Whose rights are being violated these days? Whose rights are being violated ladies and gentlemen? These rights have to change because today the criminal elements have more rights than us and that cannot be. We have to take our island back. […] I will only point a finger at one person tonight. Me! I can start making a difference, each one of us can make a difference.” His speech and all others were clear indicators that they have reached a point where changes have got to be made for the betterment of our island.

   Owner/Director of the Reef Radio Eiden Salazar was called upon to give his speech, which he delivered with much passion directed at the wave of violence that has invaded the island. In his speech, he commented, “We have to clean our island of all the bad elements, even if we get criticized for doing so. The streets of San Pedro, do not belong to the thieves, loafers, and idle people who do not have our society at heart. They cannot, and they will not, take away this liberty from us. The streets belong to us. The streets belong to us.”

   Other guest speakers include Nurse Natalie Palen, Santiago Acosta, among others. The rally was then concluded with a blessing by visiting Father Hoyton.
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