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Jul 26, 2016

Protesters in Belmopan Want their Country Back

There was a candlelight vigil held in Belmopan on Monday night, a first step in what organizers say is a move to take the country back. We’ll have that for you later in our newscast, but first we take you to a protest on the foothills on the National Assembly. There were no huge numbers to speak of, but organizers say that wasn’t the intention. Rather, they say, this is about Belizeans realizing that we each play a role in the lives we live in the jewel. According to those who attended, a blend of activists, politicians and ordinary, common Belizeans, they want their country back, and they’re starting that bold move with a single step. News Five’s Mike Rudon was in Belmopan and has the story.

 

Mike Rudon, Reporting

They marched on the sidewalks of Belmopan, to the Curl Thompson Building which houses the Ministry of National Security, to the Administration Building and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs – a small but vocal crowd of Belizeans who say they want their country back after it has been hijacked by criminals and corruption at the highest levels.

 

Louis Wade

Louis Wade, Organizer

“I am hoping that people will have a sense of the understanding of the power that they have already within them. That the yearning heart for a better Belize can be manifested in tangible ways and instead of everybody waiting on somebody else to do something, what can be done instead is that they can be the start of it. So today, we are giving the protest away; we have at least twenty people that say that they will take charge of this protest. This is a headless protest; it is a headless-ness they wanted where the body is going to act like one. So anybody today can come out and be at the head of today’s protest. Take it over, take it where it needs to go because Belizeans must learn that no knight in shining armor is going to come from anywhere and rescue us from the crime and corruption.”

 

The traditionally peaceful and quiet community of Belmopan has seen much more than its share of murders and violent crime lately, and it has shocked and galvanized these residents.

 

Michelle Rodriguez

Michelle Rodriguez, Belmopan Resident

“I’m here because I live in Belmopan and I’ve been living in Belmopan of the past twenty-six years and this is not the Belmopan that I first lived in. I have three beautiful children and this place is not safe anymore and I want my country back.”

 

Javier Novelo, Belmopan Resident

“I grew up in a Belize where I could walk the street whenever I wanted to without fear of being harmed and I want that for my kids. I want them to experience that Belize that I grew up in. So that’s my purpose for being here. I mean if you look at my sign…”Is Belize a Criminal’s Paradise?” When you look at the whole system how it operates, it’s based on money. I mean criminals are seeing Belize as you can come in, you can buy the politicians…you can literally get away with murder.”

 

While it was by no means a political rally, by nature the movement will be accused of exactly that, since the government is a target for criticism and condemnation for its actions and for its inaction.

 

Michelle Rodriguez

“My family has been victimized politically. I’ve kept quiet for many years, I think too long. But now with the beheading, with all the crime; just yesterday, someone very close to my family was killed. I’m sorry, it has to stop. It has to stop; a human life is worth nothing? Nothing to these people anymore? I can’t stand for it anymore Mike. I am here because I am a God-fearing person and I’m putting him in charge first and those people over there have to account for what they are doing or not doing.”

 

Louis Wade

“Under the leadership of Dean Oliver Barrow, there has been a centralization of power. In other words, your town board, your city council, your police department—all of these large ministries, departments, town boards and so on have been slowly, slowly, slowly, slowly morphed into one single centralized structure, one man at the top, a cabinet in the middle and then minions underneath who control departments. Ministries say who report back to the head on who should and who should not get resources. So a tightly centralized system has been built under one particular individual and if you dare speak against that centralized system, you are thrown out to the dogs.”

 

Javier Novelo

Javier Novelo

“It doesn’t matter whether you are in politics or not in politics, you could be affected. It can be my family next, it can be your family next. We need to create a system that works for the people. I am not political; I’m independent-minded. So when people say that’s just an excuse not to participate in what they know that is the right thing to do. So that’s just an excuse. People who believe that when somebody loses their lives, that politics is involved like that, I mean I don’t see the rationale behind the thinking like that. Whether you are red or blue, yellow, whatever, you could be the next victim.”

 

A lot of the faces today were new – not the usual protest slash demonstration goers and not activists. But they say that it’s time to stand up and be counted.

 

Javier Novelo

“I need to do something. I stand on the sidelines too long; that’s why I am here because I need to be here for my family.”

 

Michelle Rodriguez

“Don’t be afraid. This is your country. if you want something, you gotta come out, you gotta stand up, you gotta get off social media – you gotta get up and take action.”

 

The small crowd continued to march the streets of Belmopan, stopping in at key political offices, until midday. They are hoping that their voices will be heard in every political and government arena. Mike Rudon for News Five.

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Viewers please note: This Internet newscast is a verbatim transcript of our evening television newscast. Where speakers use Kriol, we attempt to faithfully reproduce the quotes using a standard spelling system.

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