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Apr 29, 2003

More drug suspects detained but not sent to U.S.

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It’s a club that is not particularly exclusive, with officers numbering in the dozens, ordinary members running to the hundreds and perhaps thousands more young wannabees just waiting for their big score. But those people whose life revolves around Belize’s burgeoning drug trade have not been sleeping well lately, thanks in large part to Saturday’s surprise snatching and removal of two Belizeans to face prosecution in the U.S.A. In case the cocaine cowboys didn’t get the message, the police were busy last night and this morning, once again collaring suspects in what appeared to be a new round of state sponsored kidnapping. And while it now seems that those fears were overblown, that’s not how it looked this morning to relatives trying to learn the fate of those in custody.

Janelle Chanona, Reporting

This morning, the parents of Hadrian and Robert Hertular stood guard at Queen Street Police Station after both sons were arrested on Monday night.

Merlene Hertular, Mother

“We are here standing here waiting trying to get an explanation from them…they don’t even allow us to see our sons or talk to them or anything.”

According to Merlene Hertular, Robert was picked up at a police traffic checkpoint on Vernon Street in the early evening and hours later, members of the Central Intelligence Unit arrested Hadrian at his home on the Northern Highway.

Merlene Hertular

“One of them wanted to get real rough you know, like out of hand. And I said to him you know, Hadrian, just cooperate with these people. Hadrian said, but mommy, I haven’t done anything why are they coming here at this hour of the night to try to harass us…this is harassment. They started talking and I wasn’t paying heed to what they were saying. And I said to them, you know what it’s one, two, three, four, five of you, two of them were carrying these big ammunition guns, the others had handguns. I said you know what happen, you all are too powerful for me, but I’m going to use the weapon that I have, and my weapon is the word of God.”

There was no divine intervention, but there was attorney Dean Barrow…and tonight the Hertular brothers are back on the streets. According to police Sergeant Chester Williams, their arrest was the result of serious charges against them and at least seven other Belize City residents.

Sergeant Chester Williams, Central Intelligence Unit

“Yesterday as a result of very reliable information that we received of threats being made against, not only police officers, but members of government we detained the Hertular brothers along with other members of the George Street gangs in order to be interviewed regarding the threats that we had been receiving.”

Janelle Chanona

“Threats as far as death threats or just hurting these people or what?”

Sergeant Chester Williams

“We received information that they are contemplating to kill certain police officers and likewise members of government.”

Janelle Chanona

“Why would they want to do this?”

Sergeant Chester Williams

“Well we believe, what the information is saying is because they are upset of the fact of the incident that took place over the weekend.”

Janelle Chanona

“Which incident would that be?”

Sergeant Chester Williams

“Well, that would be the incident concerning George Herbert and Liston McCord.”

Janelle Chanona

“They have association with Mr. McCord and Mr. Herbert why you are saying they would respond this way?”

Sergeant Chester Williams

“Obviously, we are all aware that Mr. George Herbert was the person who has been the person in charge of the George Street Bloods and once he’s gone, obviously his soldiers will try to take some sort of action in connection, as a result of him being sent away from the country.”

From behind bars, those “soldiers” denied those allegations and, given the events that transpired over the weekend, the Hertular family is not convinced either.

John Hertular, Father

“We live in a country where I have worked all my life for. It’s a country that I love dearly and it’s distressing to see the police, who is supposed to protect us acting in this way, acting like a common criminal. Their methods are identical to the method a common criminal would use.”

Merlene Hertular

“We are fearing that they’ll do the same thing to our sons that they did to the other two guys that just disappear like that. And this is why we are worried, and I do believe that all this that is going on is because of the case that is pending.”

That case, being a major drug bust in May 2001 in which more than a ton of cocaine was confiscated. Their case is expected to be heard in the Supreme Court at a later date.

As authorities both at home and abroad continue to crack down on the drug trade in Belize, it is highly plausible that similar arrests will dominate the headlines for some time to come. And tonight local law enforcement agencies are bracing themselves for the flak that comes with the territory.

Sergeant Chester Williams

“We will not take the threat lightly. And whatever other information we might receive, we will act upon it because we don’t want them to believe they will intimidate us, the police. We will ensure that we do whatever it takes for our safety and the safety of the other persons against whom the threats are being made.”

Aside from issuing a press release, the nation’s political directorate has not responded publicly to charges that Saturday’s handing over of George Herbert and Liston McCord to U.S. law enforcement officials was a blatantly illegal violation of the pair’s constitutional rights. It is believed that several more Belizeans are wanted on U.S. drug charges and formal requests for extradition are expected in the near future.

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