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Jun 27, 2008

Educators robbed on Arenal Road

Story PictureThe village of Arenal is shared by both Belize and Guatemala, divided only by a football field. Interaction between the two communities is well known but every now and then there are skirmishes that break the peace. Yesterday morning gunmen, suspected to be Guatemalan nationals on the Arenal Road, held up a group of school teachers and a principal. The four teachers and principal all live in Benque Viejo Del Carmen, but travel on weekdays for the fifteen mile journey to school and back. It was while they were on their way to school for the last day of the school year that the two gunmen chose to strike. Today still shaken teacher, Leandra Chulin, took us to the spot where it unfolded.

Leandra Chulin, Teacher, Arenal Primary School
“Around eight fifteen while we were coming, we saw the principal around this area. He was on his motorcycle right by the hill. The first thing that came to my mind was that he fell off his cycle and that he had persons assisting him. But as we approached, the two men, they went towards us and while they were getting closer we saw that they had their weapons.”

Marion Ali
“What kind of weapons?”

Leandra Chulin
“One was military, the on that the military use right, the long ones. And the other one, I didn’t notice it but I know it’s a weapon. The first thing, they pointed at us and demanded money, asking for money and it was handed to them.”

Marion Ali
“They spoke English?”

Leandra Chulin
“No, everything was in Spanish, the accent was mostly Guatemalan accent. After that they asked for cell phones, any cell phones. They searched the other teachers’ bags, my bag as well. They searched me and they demanded money from the other teachers and their jewellery.”

Marion Ali
“Did they hurt any one of you?”

Leandra Chulin
“They didn’t hurt any of us.”

Marion Ali
“Did they threaten you guys or did they ask for anybody?”

Leandra Chulin
“No, they didn’t threaten anyone but they were saying where are the soldiers in Spanish, “donde estan los soldados, queremos ver los soldados, donde estan los soldados?”. So they were asking for the soldiers, our Belizean soldiers.”

Marion Ali
“Did they say why?”

Leandra Chulin
“No, I don’t know why and the driver just told them we don’t know about any soldiers. And then they just said well, have a nice day and they let us go.”

Marion Ali
“This happened in what space of time?”

Leandra Chulin
“Let’s say in about ten to fifteen minutes and they ran in this area. They ran and just went ahead.”

Marion Ali
“Which area is this? What’s to the left that you pointed?”

Leandra Chulin
“There’s some ruins there.”

Marion Ali
“This is still Belize right?”

Leandra Chulin
“Yeah, this is still Belize. This is sill Belize. They just ran away.”

Marion Ali
“Is this the first something like this happened that you know?”

Leandra Chulin
“Well, that I know it’s a first time and for me it’s the first time.”

Marion Ali
“And it has left you shaken?”

Leandra Chulin
“Yes, very, very … right now I’m really shaking. I feel like mixed emotions right now, like crying or I don’t know but I don’t feel like coming back to Arenal to teach. I am asking for my transfer. I told the principal yesterday that I won’t be coming back. Yesterday just issued report cards and then they asked for the police to bring us back. I’m really scared.”

Marion Ali
“So what all … how much they went with and so forth?”

Leandra Chulin
“I would say four handed and fifty from the PTA, two hundred from the other teachers, that’s six hundred and fifty plus one hundred and thirty from the other two female teachers; total around eight hundred dollars.”

Marion Ali
“And then your cell phones and all of that.”

Leandra Chulin
“Yeah, cell phones. The principal’s cell phone and the fellow teachers’ cell phones plus the two females’ jewelleries.”

Marion Ali
“First time you saw these guys?”

Leandra Chulin
“Yeah, first time.”

Marion Ali
“They were masked?”

Leandra Chulin
“They were not masked. One was just wearing a brown long sleeve shirt but the other I can’t recall. One had a tattoo on the right side like a little above the eye. That’s the one I recall because he had a tattoo and the accent was only Spanish.”

The other victims of the crime are the school principal, Ricardo Chulin, Luis Godoy, Maria Olivera, and Vania Garcia. Benque police told News Five this evening that they are looking for two Guatemalans in connection with the incident and that they have stepped up patrols on the road with the help of Belize Defence Force soldiers.

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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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