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Apr 19, 2017

Fishermen brace CitCo on access gate at Commercial Center

The Commercial Center gate in downtown Belize City was sealed off today and it didn’t sit well with fishermen who use the gate to access their boats that are moored in the Old Belize River to the back of the facility. Fishermen on the ground today told us that some of them have been using this gate more than twenty years. Well today it was locked off at one this afternoon. The reason, we understand, is that over the years the area has become untidy so the City Council locked it off. Fishermen denied that they are making the area untidy – they say that homeless persons and drug abusers are using the grounds as bathroom and even sleeping there. We were out at the commercial center today and spoke with two fishermen from the north.

 

Felix Copo, Fisherman, Copper Bank Corozal

Felix Copo

“We always use this gate to go through to our boats andeverything. And if this gate gets closed then what will we have to do? If this gets through, then we have to hire skiffs to go to our boats and if I go to my boat and if we have to go back for something else then that is money I have to pay and if I want to go back then that is a next money again.”

 

Andrea Polanco

“So, they are closing the gate – is it that they are closing it at night; will it be day time – have they indicated?”

 

Felix Copo

“They say right now that at one clock they will close everything; they will seal it because they have their things right back there. They will close it at one o’clock.”

 

Andrea Polanco

“So, that means you will no longer be able to come in and out?”

 

Felix Copo

“That is why they no longer want us here. And if we are paying taxes and everything, I think the Mayor should still have this open for us. But they should come here and maintain it.”

Andrea Polanco

“So, why don’t they want you guys here?”

 

Felix Copo

“Well, that part I don’t know but this gate should still be open for us. How can we access our boats if we don’t have a gate?”

 

Andrea Polanco

“Is it that the fishermen are not keeping the area clean?”

Felix Copo

 “It is not the fishermen. It is supposed to be the Mayor to keep this clean. Because the last time we had this clean with the next ladies – we all put monies and we clean this place other day.”

 

Andrea Polanco

“But if you are out here sitting during the day, conducting business – eating; consuming products; just leaving trash and things like that then wouldn’t you be responsible?”

 

Felix Copo

“No, we never leave trash. We always pick our trash. We never conduct business here because we go out a week and a half and when we come back we just do business and then we go out and take our trash with us.”

 

Andrea Polanco

“So, what do you this area for – just in and out only?”

 

Felix Copo

“Yes. Just in and out only.”

 

Andrea Polanco

“So, people don’t hang around – loiter – so to speak – in this area?”

 

Felix Copo

“Well, there are people that come and loiter here, yes.”

 

Andrea Polanco

“But not fishermen, you are saying?”

 

Felix Copo

“Not fishermen. Not fisherme.”

 

Andrea Polanco

“So, no one consulted with you guys? Tried to explain or to solve this situation?”

 

Felix Copo

“No one told us about this issue that they are doing this; that they are sealing the gates.”

 

Edilberto Casanova, Fisherman, Chunox Village

Edilberto Casanova

“I am hearing that they are gonna lock off the gates because the fisherman is doing the problem. All I want them to understand is that it is not the fisherman. We are not creating problems. We come here and we go on the sea. We don’t come and shit about the place and shit about the place. We are working people. We come in and we go out. So, we want them to understand why they can’t do something about the people that is sleeping about the place – pissing up and shitting up?”

 

Andrea Polanco

“So, their concern is that the area is very untidy; throwing garbage, and so on?”

 

Edilberto Casanova

“Well, if you see there is piss everywhere and shit everywhere and they say it is us the fishermen that are doing it. We are not doing this stuff. If we want to take a little poo we do it on the boat or on the water, you know, so we don’t have to do it on the land.”

 

But, fishermen have stated their dissatisfaction with the gate closure and while there was no consultation prior, it seems that the words of the fishermen fell on listening ears. When we contacted the City Council they informed us that, “there was a concern about illicit activities being perpetrated in the area by the homeless and drug addicts. However, the fishermen have been negatively affected by the decision to close the gate and that decision has been revisited. The gate will be reopened to have them access their boats.”

 

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