How will San Pedro get rid of undesirables on the island?
The beachfront on Ambergris Caye has been reduced to a façade for violence that has been spreading on the island. There were two separate stabbing incidents on Tuesday night. That prompted San Pedro’s Mayor, the Minister of Tourism, the police department, the town council, and the business Community to hold a meeting to find efforts to stop the crime wave. But before dawn on Thursday, the violence erupted in the barracks of the police station and after many shots were fired, Corporal Gavin Sanchez was dead. The Minister of Tourism, Manuel Heredia, reacted to the violence but his remarks have landed him in controversy. News Five’s Jose Sanchez was present when the minister spoke.
Jose Sanchez, Reporting
While at the scene of the shooting, the police station, Manuel Heredia, the Minister of Tourism indicated that to get rid of undesirable people on the island, he intends to take a controversial measure to Cabinet. He envisions a screening process at the water taxi where potential visitors to the island would need to answer personal questions. He also indicated that people might say it infringes on the rights of the Creoles.
Manuel Heredia, Minister of Tourism
“Many of the officers that were responsible for taking control on the island, that is what they used to do. Times have changed and it is very regretful because now with the human rights situation and so there are many people that – oh you are taking away the privilege of, in particular when it happens with the Creole descent. That is the first thing that you will hear. But again, I feel that if we have to do that, we have to do it because we have to regain our community. We see many unwanted persons on the island many times and again I have said let us ask the water taxis for a manifest that will probably question the people not really in a rude way but “Where will you be working? Why did you come to San Pedro? Do you have money to sustain yourself in the meantime?” And those types of things probably will help. And that is what came out at the meeting. We have to probably recommend to cabinet that those are measures that we need to take on the island being the number one tourist destination, probably there are other alternatives that are not taken elsewhere that we supposed to take over here.”
The statements about creoles and the water taxi manifest prompted a response from two outspoken legal minds, Arthur Saldivar and Hubert Elrington.
Hubert Elrington, Attorney
“Apparently they felt that people of Creole descent or maybe Afro descent were particularly problematic to them out there. But creoles like Mestizos, East Indians, the Maya and the Ketchi form part of the body of people who own Belize. When you see a Creole you are looking at an owner. In the same way, when you see a Garifuna, you are looking at an owner. An east Indian is an owner, a Mestizo is an owner so you must understand that you are dealing with owners of what we like to call the Jewel and you can’t start by prohibiting an owner from going to any property it owns.”
Arthur Saldivar, Attorney
“No Belizean should have to be questioned as to why they are going to any part of the country. In fact you have a right to freedom of movement to go anywhere you want to go within the eight thousand, eight hundred and sixty-seven square miles of our territorial space. So to have such a requirement would fly in the face of constitutionally guaranteed, whether we be Creole, Garifuna, Mestizo, Belizean of Chinese descent, African descent or otherwise.”
“People might feel we want to be independent that is what they say many times. That is not the case. It’s because we are isolated from the main, many people feel that San Pedro doesn’t need any assistance, that we have everything over here. But we have always said, regardless of what, it might be true that we survive better than others, but again there are many other elements that we need to address and that takes time.”
“The water taxi man or the water taxi woman has no right to question me. Suppose I go there in a short pants and barefooted one day, in an old shirt and old pants he may take me for a bad boy. The minister of National Security and the prime minister must begin to take personal responsibility for these horrendous murders that are taking place. We think that the time has been long passed when the ministers must take responsibility for what is happening. If you can’t do the job, you must give it to somebody else the job who can do it. And there is no excuse to permit this spate of murders to continue.”