Construction workers organize solidarity protest for South Beach

The Island Newspaper, Ambergris Caye, Belize            Vol. 19, No. 7            February 19, 2009

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Construction workers join in a peaceful demonstration.

OIC Arnold informed the protesters that they did not have a permit to protest, and they calmly went back to their workplace.

South Beach Belize has been a burning issue since it was introduced as a concept. South Beach has received criticism from various environmental groups, but has also seen the support of the over 200 construction workers of its sister investment, Reef Village. On Tuesday, February 17th, some two hundred construction workers from Reef Village went to the street and protested in solidarity for South Beach Belize. The construction workers at Reef Village are worried that their construction job is near completion and the sister construction is far from starting.

    Fearing that they might lose their employment, the workers decided to send a message to the various authorities in an effort to ensure that the mega investment gets headway. One of the organizers was Edgar Cruz and during the peaceful march he explained that they were in solidarity with South Beach Belize Investment. Cruz explained that the protest was to indicate to those opposing South Beach to be aware of their [the construction workers] position should the South Beach project get aborted. He explained that, “It’s all in the interest of the community workers, basically for our jobs. At our construction sight we have six or seven people a day that come across asking jobs and we just want to get on with this project, give the people work and get on with the development.” During the demonstration, the peaceful protesters held placards displaying messages such as, “Go ahead with development,” “South Beach increase flow of tourist from world wide,” “Increase revenue for San Pedro development,” and “South Beach more job, less crime, more education,” amongst others.

    When asked if he was aware of the environmental impact South Beach could have on the environment, Cruz explained that there are procedures put in place to minimize the impact. “Definitely, but there is procedure put in place, everything is procedure, to do this thing right. Yes, I will not say that there will be no impact but it is all in development.” The protest in support for South Beach comes directly at the time when the Ambergris Caye Citizen for Sustainable Development (ACCSD) has engaged in an aggressive campaign to increase its membership.

    For Cruz and his vociferous and furious 200 colleagues, their voices have been heard. “We have been heard which was what we wanted and the people in authority know what we want so I guess that is it for now,” stated Cruz.

    The protesters were forced to desist from their protest as they walked down Laguna Drive by the San Pedro High School. Police officers arrived on scene and stopped the protest. According to Head of the San Pedro Police Department Superintendent Dennis Arnold, the protesters were illegally conducting their march. Superintendent Arnold explained that the protesters had no permit to conduct such activity. “We checked with a gentleman named Mr. Cruz and he explained that it was him and another person who had agreed to have this protest. He said that the other person told him that they had the appropriate notice but it turns out that they didn’t,” explained Arnold.

    Superintendent Arnold explained that to conduct such a protest, the Police needed to get proper notification of 36 hours prior to any protest. As a result, the protesters were asked to cease after which they headed back to Reef Village. The crowd disassembled near the foot of the Boca del Rio bridge.

    When contacted, South Beach Belize investor, Jeff Pierce claimed he had no knowledge of the protest, adding that it was a miscommunication. Following the protest, Mayor Elsa Paz met privately with investor Jeff Pierce, but when question by the media about the grounds and outcome of the meeting, Mayor Paz refused to comment.

    No one was arrested for the illegal protest but the police advised that, for future references, in order to conduct and type of gathering, the police department must be given proper notification.
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