Child allegedly used as drug mule

The Island Newspaper, Ambergris Caye, Belize            Vol. 19, No. 29            July 30, 2009

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“Mi mama me usaba para transportar drogas a Belice.” (My mom used me to transport drugs into Belize.) It is a powerful allegation by an eleven year old Guatemalan boy who claims was abandoned by his mother in San Pedro Town. This week, the child was picked up by representatives of the Human Services Department and later released into the custody of the Guatemalan Embassy. He was then repatriated to his home country. Once in Guatemala, he will be placed in the hands of the Guatemalan Child Protection Services.

    In January, police officers found the abandoned boy and began questioning him on the whereabouts of his mother. A woman in San Pedro, who we refrain from naming, in an effort to protect the child’s identity, explain to The Sun that on January 1st she met some police officers who explained that they were trying to locate the child’s family. According to San Pedro police officers, the lady took it upon herself to assist the young child and officers temporarily handed over the child into her care. The child was never legally released into her custody. According to the lady, the child told the police that his mother had run away, leaving him abandoned on the streets of San Pedro Town.

    In the presence of the lady, the boy, whose name has also been withheld, claimed that his mom used him to transport drugs from Melchor De Mencos in Guatemala to San Pedro Town in Belize. The lady took the child under her care, and after hearing no news from any family members in Belize or Guatemala, she decided to enroll him in elementary school. It was not until about a few weeks ago, seven months later, that she was contacted and informed that the child had been reported missing in Guatemala by his mother. According to the Chief Executive Officer in the Ministry of Human Development and Social Transformation Judith Alpuche, her department received a call from the Guatemalan Embassy stating that the child was being sought by his family and the Embassy. Once the child was located, arrangements were made by the Social Services Department in Belize to find the child and place him under the care of the Department until further arrangements could be made. Those arrangements involved the repatriation of the boy to Guatemala and as such, he was handed over to a representative of the Guatemalan Embassy, according to Alpuche.

    However, during his time in the care of the lady, the boy claimed that he was exploited by his mother. This he confirmed to The San Pedro Sun, but investigations have revealed that the accusations were not formally made to the San Pedro Police Department or Human Services Department. Both entities state that the boy never did mention to them the problems with his mother. Alpuche told The Sun that, “the child never told us (Social Service Department) that he was being used to transport drugs.” Should this prove to be factual, this child’s case would be the first heard case of alleged child exploitation in the drug ring in Belize. The child claimed that once in San Pedro Town, he was allegedly forced to sell drugs under the supervision of his mother. “Mi mama me forzaba a vender drogas,” (my mom forced me to sell drugs) claimed the child. When asked if he wanted to return to his parents, the tearful child said, “No, I don’t want to return to that kind of lifestyle.” Because of the child’s allegation, his case is considered as a form of exploitation, under the Convention of the Rights of Child, he is considered “a victim.” Children who are exploited in the drug ring for the benefit of adults, undergo an abnormal process of physical and mental development and are not responsible for their situation/actions nor do they “enjoy what they do” as many adults think they do. On the contrary they suffer cruel violation of their safety, development, freedom and honor on a daily basis. They are victims of physical and emotional aggression by unscrupulous persons. It is a violation of their human rights from a very early age.

    Guatemalan Ambassador Manuel Tellez confirmed that the child was released into their custody and that they were repatriating him to Guatemala once more. “This was a normal repatriation. These are cases that we see every day, unfortunately. All we were attempting to do was to get him safely back home. We thank the family that housed him while in Belize since they did an amazing job taking care of the child,” stated His Excellency Tellez. As for the child’s allegations, His Excellency Tellez commented that no such statement was made to him. As is a norm, the Belizean authorities would be expected to liaison with the Guatemalan authorities to ensure the child is in protective care in the countries social services department.
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