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Jul 13, 2017

The Harrowing, But Triumphant Story of Teen Rescued from Human Traffickers

Tonight there is a disturbing report from the north about a Belizean teenager rescued from the clutches of human traffickers in Chetumal, Mexico. It comes on the heels of the U.S. 2017 Trafficking in Persons Report which once again places Belize in Tier Three and attacks Belize’s willingness to fight the problem. The story was posted on Facebook by Senator Osmany Salas, who was involved in the rescue, earlier this week. According to Salas, the girl, whom he identified under a pseudonym “Natalie”, ran away from home. Her mother, who is called “Maria,” says the teenager crossed the border at Botes, across from Santa Cruz village in Orange Walk along with other girls, accompanied by a male escort, who paid for their bus fares. The teen had no money and left with all her belongings.  Salas writes that he got in contact with Belize’s Ambassador to Mexico Oliver del Cid to help find Natalie.  A formal search was launched and soon enough, “Natalie” called a family member and her mother asking to meet in Chetumal. The Embassy staff arranged for the party to meet one Comandante Varela at Chetumal’s public safety office and they set up a successful operation to recover “Natalie,” who is now back home.  According to Salas, she had already been offered a “waitress” job in Chetumal with a promise that she would also “work” in Cancun on weekends, but all that was averted.  Due to the sensitivity of the case, the teenager will be relocated to another part of the country for her safety. Following the June thirtieth House Meeting in an interview with News Five, and separately during the July fifth Senate Special Select Committee public hearing, Prime Minister Dean Barrow and Minister for Human Development Anthony “Boots” Martinez specifically denied Government-level complicity in organized human trafficking as alleged in the U.S. report, though Martinez conceded that not enough is being done.


Dean Barrow

Prime Minister Dean Barrow [File: June 30th, 2017]

“I wasn’t aware of the report, and I have no doubt that what you are saying is accurate. I certainly reject that. I don’t know that the report offers any evidence to substantiate that claim, but that is not something that I would accept.”


Mark Lizarraga, Senator, Business Community [File: July 5th]

“The U.S. has recently put out this report, this Trafficking in Persons Report; where we’re at Tier Three – that’s the lowest you can go, Minister, and you do not know about this report that was put out by the U.S. Government?”


Anthony “Boots” Martinez, Minister of Human Development [File: July 5th]

“You have read the report, sir? Have you read the report?”


Mark Lizarraga

“No; to be honest with you I have not; I’ve recently seen and heard about it in the press though. I was hoping you could inform us about the report.”


Anthony “Boots” Martinez

Anthony “Boots” Martinez

“But anyway, the report is neither here nor there, sir. As far as I know, Belize is not on a blacklist; they mention about areas that they believe Belize – low conviction rate, in terms of people that go to court for human trafficking and so on; they think the conviction rate should be heavier; I don’t know.”


Mark Lizarraga

“Minister, did the report not also imply that persons within the administration could possibly even be involved in this? The report did not say that?”


Anthony “Boots” Martinez

“No, sir; no, sir. Not at all, sir.”


Mark Lizarraga

“So you are familiar with the report, minister?”


Anthony “Boots” Martinez

“Not at all, sir.”


Mark Lizarraga, Senator, Business Community

“Minister, so you are familiar with the report?”


Anthony “Boots” Martinez

“That is not in the report, sir.”


Senator Salas expressed his gratitude to all involved for saving “Natalie,” stating it took a village to ensure that she was not exposed to the shadowy and dangerous world of human trafficking.  For now, he has reserved comment. 

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