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May 27, 2011

Protest on highway: buses block roads, while tires burn on horizon

The Belize Bus Owners Cooperative essentially shut down the highways at the crack of dawn. Students, workers and commuters could not get to their destination because buses blocked the main thoroughfares while others simply did not leave from terminals. The Belize Bus Owners Cooperative has been insisting that road service permits granted to UDP supporter, Sergio Chuc’s, West Line be suspended and that runs to the BBOC be re-instated. After two weeks of discontent and protests, an ultimatum to that effect was advanced to the Minister of Transport but when it was not met at noon on Thursday, the BBOC swung effectively into action. The nationwide disruptions got the attention of the Prime Minister, Dean Barrow and this morning he met with the BBOC. Normalcy was restored hours later but tonight the situation is fluid with government and bus operators agreeing to continue dialogue. We have coverage of this story from various fronts and News Five’s Isani Cayetano has a first report on this morning’s events.

Isani Cayetano, Reporting

Thick, choking smoke billowing from tires strewn across the Western Highway near the entrance to Hattieville set the scene for phase one of strike action taken by disgruntled bus operators this morning as the smell of burning rubber permeated the air.  Standing by vainly were officials from the fire department.  The water they’d attempt to douse the flames with is insufficient. This, after failed negotiations with the Department of Transport on several occasions during the past two weeks including an ultimatum given to minister Melvin Hulse, is their expression of discontent.

Maria Rodriguez

Maria Rodriguez, Supervisor, Belize Bus Owners Cooperative

“We sent him a letter stating that twelve o’clock [on Thursday afternoon] was our deadline but we weren‘t satisfied with that so that is when we put our plan into action.  If this doesn’t work we have Plan B, Plan C, Plan D.  Something has to work, you know, and I don’t believe, I am not proud of what is happening but I believe we have to take a stand.”

…and take a stand they certainly did.  This morning at the crack of dawn a simultaneous wave of protests spread across the major thoroughfares leading to Belize City.  Transportation came to a screeching halt when a number of BBOC buses were parked diagonally across the highways.

Here at Hattieville residents and commuters alike gathered on either side of the towering inferno while bus drivers trucked in spare tires to fuel the blaze.  Orlando Burgess, an employee who works at the Belize City terminal shared his support for the action taken.

Orlando Burgess, Commuter

Orlando Burgess

“I agree with the bus man dehn because dehn man mortgage, dehn wife and pickney dehn just di get pitch weh.  Ah mean Novelo’s slip down with this thirty-five million and all ah that stuff [and] dehn man ya step up to the plate.  Ah mean the minister mih need dehn now because this other guy step up now dehn wah pitch weh dehn man ya.  No man that outta order, di minister wrong mein.”

It is a sentiment shared by a majority of the onlookers who congregated along this quarter-mile stretch.  On the scene shortly thereafter were Commissioner of Police, Crispin Jefferies as well as Chief Transport Officer, Gareth Murillo.  The inconvenience that came along with the demonstration as traffic backed up from the Hattieville Bridge to the roundabout and beyond during rush hour is all a part of the desired effect.  For Lovel Mejia, a high school student who commutes to Belize City daily, blocking the road was unnecessary.

Lovel Mejia

Lovel Mejia, Student, E.P. Yorke High School

“I feel that, to me it’s a selfish behavior by the whole protest issue because then they’re putting commuters’ daily jobs and what they have to do in jeopardy and I feel that if they have a problem with the Minister of Transport [then they should] take [up] their issue [on a] personal [level].”

While law enforcement personnel were called in to disperse the crowd a handful of drivers remained put, opting instead to sit outside of their buses. Like Maria Rodriguez they are entirely invested in the transportation industry.

Maria Rodriguez

“This is my bread and butter.  This is what I pay my bills with, my mortgage.  I have a bus, you know, and I need to pay that and Mr. Hulse won’t pay me three hundred dollars a week to pay my bills, you know and I’m getting that from BBOC.”

At a quarter to nine this morning after constant communication with the Prime Minister and the Minister of Police the order was eventually given to remove the buses and burning tires off the highway.  Claude Frazer, who has been vocal about the situation since it began on Sunday, is the chairman of the Belize Bus Owners Cooperative.

Claude Frazer

Claude Frazer, Chairman, BBOC

“We listened to the P.M. and I trust in him.  We take his word.  I have received a call from Minister Singh and they’re concerned and we understand that the students need to go and take C.X.C. and different things and we’re not scared to move the buses.  We trust that he will come up with a good decision and do the right thing and if not we just go back to Plan B.”

With that a tractor was brought in to clear the debris that accumulated in the middle of the road making way for the normal flow of traffic to resume. Reporting for News Five, I am Isani Cayetano.

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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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11 Responses for “Protest on highway: buses block roads, while tires burn on horizon”

  1. Justified says:

    You foolish people two wrongs don’t make a right! It’s time to grow up and deal with the issues of life in a mature manner. Stop acting childish. Consider the many people that supported you over the years, they have their business that they have to get to. So, be considerate for the sake of your life line, your faithful passengers. Do right by your supporters.

  2. Hakeen Taylor says:

    Solidarity with the bus owners i’m surprised at the PM for saying he does’t know what’s going on with Minister

  3. Hakeen Taylor says:

    Very much surprised with PM way of doing business he loves to twist things around like he’s in a court of law if he was in opposition he would speeches and press conferences praiseing the bus ownwers of what they’re doing for political mileage we must remember all these problems didnt just started he’s just getting the feel as his governemnt in control

  4. Fairman says:

    Over the past few years I heard commuters complaining that they cannot get to work or other destinations on time because the buses are full or there is simply no bus on the road at certain times. I am not a regular traveler but I have experienced the very same problem several times. The fact that some bus companies are not allowed to stop along certain lengths of highways compounds the problem.
    The solution to this problem is not to deprive any bus company of any run but to make more buses available to serve the people. As one commuter rightly said: “Let the people choose which bus they want to ride.” Common sense could have guided the Minister of Transport to this solution but, sadly, most politicians are always behaving worst than crack heads most of the time.
    Politicians always ignore the people and just do whatever they want. When the people get frustrated, they stage a demonstration and then the same politicians condemn the people for not being tolerant of nonsense. These same politicians use the police to start personal violence against the demonstrators.
    They have set up the laws in such a way that the police is authorized and required to go and suppress the people who try to stand up for their fundamental rights. We need to find a way to change this situation.

  5. javier solis says:

    No matter which side of the color spectrum you support, i say this is not right. Now when any one wants to protest they block the common man from doing his business. Students, workers, vendors, all suffer except the minister. No matter which government is in office we should be careful of condoning this type of behaiviour. Briceno is stirring an ants nest by showing personal support of blocking our highways. But he is not known to be smart anyways, so he will have to learn the hard way.

  6. Lucas says:

    On Friday May 27, Maria Rodriquez, UDP, told Channel 7 ” HE (DEAN BARROW) TOLD US TO BLOCK HATTIEVILLE, WE WILL FILL YOUR BUSES AND YOU NEED LEGAL REPRESENTATION. I WILL DO THAT.” These four short sentences give a clear insight of the man; how low he is willing to stoop, how willing he is to use unsuspecting individuals and that he gives a damn about the PEOPLE AND COUNTRY OF BELIZE as long as he achieves his selfish goals. To block a highway is not only illegal. IT IS A THREATENING PROVOCATION TO THE CONSTITUTIONALLY ESTABLISHED AUTHORITY. When Dean advised to block Hattieville, he was INCITING A REBELLION and when he promised to fill the buses, HE WAS ACTUALLY SAYING THAT HE WOULD PROVIDE THE PEOPLE TO CARRY THE BLOCKADE. From that point, he past from being an assesor to an actual participant of a REBELLION. By inciting a REBELLION, he knew that there could be dire consequences with fatalities that could had plunged the country into an armed revolution. However, Dean gave a damn about Belize and the Belizean People. By promising legal representation, he tried to portray himself as the CHAMPION of the people when all the time he was seeking his own selfish pollitical gain. We now know that he used Gregg Ch”oc, The Unions, The Chamber Of Commerce and now BBOC. A certain level of education and a fat bank account is not neccesarly a favorable evidence that an individual can govern. People whom we many times think are intelligent are but children in capabilities and criterium. Where the leader leads, there the nation goes. When the leader go the wrong way, the nation wanders and gets lost. The welfare of the nation depends on the sound advise and good example of the leader. There is not a more despicable traitor than the leader who instead of leading the nation in the right direction, leads it astray. On the other hand, there is no greater patriot of greater value than the leader who promotes justice.

  7. Justice says:

    Sometimes your actions have to be drastic to get resukts. It is unfortunate that so many people were affected but that is the messsage that was needed. Let the people choose. Nothing seem to be able to work under this PM. Rather than intervening to try and aleviate the situation what does he do? I am sorry for the students but it had to be drastic to be effective!

  8. sexy chica says:

    totally agree w Mr.Lucas.

  9. Liz says:

    Does anyone even realize how toxic that smoke is? Is it really worth poisoning the whole City? Breathing that smoke for even a few minutes will cause horrible effects to your body!!

  10. belizeanpride says:

    liz,

    don’t worry about the toxic smoke, worry about the lives being affected by the stupidity that the baldhead man barrow does and his ministers. the smoke was for a few hour but the dictatorship is for 5 yrs think about it, liz. Jah bless.

  11. la eighteen says:

    i say kill em all..burn them down like the saying says to make something work you have to take up from the roots. make the people arm them selve we need weapons that is what we need people to start war with the police and b.d.f who thiink that because they are with thet big guns the people will run ..i say shoo them all put them in a bus along with the minister and light it up mek them feel what it is to be in hell.le t them meet their creator

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