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Feb 12, 2018

U.S. Makes Latest Donation of Equipment to B.D.F., Coast Guard

The Belize Defence Force and the Belize Coast Guard received more than eight hundred and fifty-thousand dollars in drug fighting equipment and training packages. The US Embassy handed over the donation gifted by the US Southern Command’s ‘Counter Narcotics Program Office.’  While the U.S. and Central America have cooperated on defense and security, there have been recent announcements from the U.S. Government that aid may be cut off to some of the countries because they have allowed drugs into the U.S.  News Five’s Andrea Polanco reports.

 

Andrea Polanco, Reporting

The Belize Defence Force and Belize National Coast Guard received four hundred and thirty-two thousand U.S. dollars in counter-narcotics equipment. U.S. South Commander’s Counter-Narcotics Program gifted items such helmets, body armor, trucks and boat motors. The purpose of this donation is to help these law enforcement bodies to secure land and maritime borders in the fight against trafficking of drugs, arms and humans.

 

Adrienne Galanek

Adrienne Galanek, Chargé d’ Affaires, U.S. Embassy

“The equipment that we are handing over represents an investment that will yield long term citizen security progress in the region and will enable Belize to address the illicit trafficking of weapons, humans, drugs, and merchandise, as well as the transnational threats of terrorism.  Today, the Belize Coast Guard is receiving pick-up trucks, boat trailers, body armor, ballistic high cut helmets, boat motors, flotation vests and two fuel tank cleaning systems, to name some of the equipment.  The new equipment will assist with the Coast Guard rapid deployment special operations and survivability.  The B.D.F. Air Wing is also receiving equipment. They are receiving tool bags, fuel quantity tester, site compass, radio tester, video bioscope and cabinets to protect flammable liquids. The new equipment will enable the B.D.F. Air Wing to test the accuracy of and adjust the compass on their aircraft to perform critical inspections on the turbines and compressors of the aircraft engines – a new capability. The BDF special boat unit is also receiving ballistic flotation vest, trailers and boat engines. The equipment include spare engines for the BDF’s turbine propelled vessels enhancing BDF’s capabilities at sea. The BDF intelligence unit is also getting IT equipment to enhance it capabilities.”

 

And to help secure this trove of new equipment donated to the B.D.F., the Price Barracks received a new main gate valued at fifty thousand US dollars. According to C.E.O. Felix Enriquez of the Ministry of Defence, these donations will go a long way to boost the fleet and the work of the B.D.F. and Coast Guard.

 

Felix Enriquez

Felix Enriquez, C.E.O., Ministry of Defence

“Today, the Belize Coast Guard is receiving some much needed equipment. Admiral Borland has been telling us about his fleeting fleet and they have been ailing for some time so this replenishment for the Coast Guard is very much appreciated. Counter narcotics efforts and search and rescue efforts on the Belizean seas have been very testing particularly recently because of the weather  and he growing need for the coast guard to be out there accompanying all the remaining agencies that work with them in these efforts. The B.D.F. maritime boat unit also has an ailing fleet and their constant patrolling of our rivers and their counter narcotics efforts as well. The surveillance equipment, the engineering equipment for the light engineers who worked along with the Louisiana National Guard for the state of the art main entrance. All these efforts have been long overdue.”

 

And while today Belize receives more than eight hundred thousand dollars in counter narcotics-equipment – neighboring countries may see this kind of aid cut off. According to the U.S. Government, Central American countries such as El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala and Mexico are letting drugs into the U.S.  Just over a week ago, on a visit to the U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s National Targeting Center in Northern Virginia, U.S. President Donald Trump threatened that hemay cut aid to these countries.

 

Donald Trump

Donald Trump, U.S. President

“Where are the drugs, the cocaine, the heroin, the meth, coming from?”

 

U.S. Customs and Border Protection Rep

“The cocaine is produced in South America.”

 

Donald Trump, President, US.

“Which particular country?”

 

U.S. Customs and Border Protection Rep

“In Colombia and Peru, primarily. Then it is trafficked up through Central America or on maritime means into Mexico and coming across our land border primarily. We also see significant heroin production in Mexico, with opium, poppy grown in Mexico and produced.”

 

Donald Trump

“These countries are not our friends. We think they are our friends and we send them massive aid. I won’t mention names right now. But we look at the numbers and we send them massive aid and they are pouring drugs into our countries and they are laughing at us. So, I am not a believer in that. I want to stop the aid. I want to stop the aid. If they can’t stop drugs from coming in because they can stop them a lot easier than us. They say, ‘oh we can’t control them.’ Oh great. We supposed to control it. We give them billions and billions of dollars and they don’t do what they are supposed to and they know that. But we are going to take a very harsh action.”

 

If this happens, it could be counterproductive to the fight against the illegal transnational drug trade in Central American. While Belize was not named among the countries that allow the smuggling of illegal drugs into the U.S., it is left to be seen if the President’s threat will have an impact on our own efforts. But for now the U.S. says Belize has made progress.

 

Adrienne Galanek

“What is important to remember is that we need to make progress together on countering narcotics. So, I think, in the region we need all in partnership to make progress in countering narcotics. So, I think for the regional strategy for Central America in partnership with the Government and people of the region and here in Belize, making progress on counter narcotics is an important thing.”

 

Andrea Polanco

“How do you measure this progress in counter narcotics here in Belize? Do you look at stats from the Coast Guard or the B.D.F.’s [annual] reports?”

 

Adrienne Galanek

“I think in interdictions and things like that are important indicator. A lot of the equipment that we provided today is to enable sustainment. For example, we have given vessels before but the trailers will now help with their deployment capabilities. So, if there is an area that is quicker to get through by putting the vessels on a trailer and then putting them on land, that will help with that capability, that sustainment.”

 

For now, we will have to wait and see if the aid will be cut off from our neighbours and if it will affect the fight of the illegal drug trade in the region. The Chargé d’ Affaires says this donation presents U.S.A.’s commitment to security of Belize

 

Adrienne Galanek

“Today’s provision of equipment represents the United States’ significant and continued commitment and investment in Belize. We look forward to continuing the close partnership with the Government and people of Belize, as well as its armed forces, as we stand shoulder to shoulder in our joint efforts to counter narcotics trafficking.”

 

Reporting for News Five, I’m Andrea Polanco.

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