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Nov 24, 2017

B.D.F. Trains with International Partners; Criminals Targeted

Belize may not have fought any wars in its young existence. But every day of their lives, the more than thirteen hundred men and women of the Belize Defence Force train to prepare as if one will be declared at any moment. They are the national shield and sword against threats internal and external, which includes terrorism and transnational crime, especially as it relates to drugs. Today, News Five tagged along on a special exercise conducted as part of a regional effort coordinated with Canada, Jamaica and other international partners. The mission: to capture a ruthless drug lord hiding out in an area south of Orange Walk Town. Aaron Humes reports.

 

Aaron Humes, Reporting

There is a bad man waiting in one of these non-descript buildings in an unnamed area immediately south of Orange Walk Town. His name is “Raphael,” and he is the leader of Los Diablos, a gang of desperados with ties to the Mexican drug cartels. But today wasn’t his lucky day. He has been on the radar of the Belize Defence Force for a few weeks now, and the B.D.F., aided by their buddies in the Police, Coast Guard and international partners, moved in to take him down.

 

Colonel Steven Ortega, Acting Commander, Belize Defence Force

“What happened, they’ve been tracking a drug lord for the past month. And what happens back in base, they do planning, preparation, reconnaissance, and from there they come up with a plan, and what you saw was the plan being executed. And we had ground troops coming in, infiltrating by ground and then the assault force coming in by helicopter to clear certain buildings to capture the drug lord.”

 

Aaron Humes

“And they get him?”

 

Colonel Steven Ortega

“I think you saw him being bundled up and taken in the helicopter, so I believe they got him.”

 

Indeed they did. But there were moments of concern, with the occasional sound of gunfire permeating the area and the steady whirring of helicopters overhead, and from our vantage point there was no way to know whom was shooting at whom. But in the end, it went as planned – “Raphael” safely in handcuffs, the assault and ground forces walking off with no sign of any injuries or casualties among them. The Acting Commander was kept out of the loop but was impressed by what he saw.

 

Steven Ortega

Colonel Steven Ortega

“I wasn’t party to the planning process, so I’m not sure what their planning was. But from what I saw, it went pretty smooth. Each person knew what building they were going to assault, how they were going to do it, and they did what they were supposed to do.”

 

Reporter

“Does this particular type of opportunity and operation provide an opportunity to the B.D.F. to see how the other forces work and possibly collaborate if there is any major operation to take place and Belize needs to be part of it?”

 

Colonel Steven Ortega

“That’s the aim of the exercise, to ensure that the cooperation is there, especially between us and the Jamaicans; we are both part of CARICOM and RSS, so should an occasion arise and we have to work together, we have already some sort of training to conduct that type of operation.”

 

Today’s event was the last exercise for “Tropical Dagger,” code-name for this year’s international training exercise hosted by Belize. The Acting Commander also made note that this was an-all Belize operation, proving that we are at least the equals to our international partners.

 

Colonel Steven Ortega

“If you notice, there were only one or two Canadians amongst the crowd; they were only there basically as observers, instructors, meaning they were there to assess what our guys were doing. We were actually the ones conducting the entire operation; so believe you me, they are well capable of doing what they’re supposed to do.”

 

Aaron Humes reporting 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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