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Apr 4, 2013

Discharged from the force, Javier Castellanos bares his soul

For twenty-three years, Javier Castellanos served on the Belize Defense Force. His dream was to eventually steer the force as Commandant, but just before that was to take place, his career with the B.D.F. ended abruptly. Castellanos was discharged, his reinstatement was ordered and about to be challenged by the government when they decided to settle out of court. We haven’t heard from him since the unfortunate string of events last year but tonight Castellanos bares his soul to News Five Isani Cayetano in a two part series. Here’s the first.

 

Ships at a distance have every mans wish on board.  For some they come in with the tide.  For others they sail forever on the horizon, never out of sight, never landing until the watcher turns his eyes away in resignation, his dreams mocked to death by time.  That is the life of men. - Zora Neale Hurston, Their Eyes Were Watching God

 

Ret. Col. Javier Castellanos, Former Deputy Commander, BDF

Javier Castellanos

“As a very young child I always had the ambition, the urge to serve in the military, to serve the country of Belize.”

 

Isani Cayetano, Reporting

Retired Colonel Javier Castellanos, former Deputy Commander of the Belize Defense Force, was destined to succeed Brigadier General Dario Tapia as chief military officer.  Castellanos, like many others enlisted in the armed forces, envisaged his ascent to the highest rank in the B.D.F.  That journey, long and arduous, ended abruptly.  His is the story of a dream deferred.

 

Ret. Col. Javier Castellanos

“I come from a very poor and humble family.  I was born in Benque Viejo Town and then my family moved to what is now Santa Elena.  I went to Sacred Heart Primary School across in San Ignacio and then I did my secondary education at Belmopan Comprehensive School.  Unfortunately I could not further my studies due to financial reasons but then that gave me the best opportunity.”

 

On January twenty-third, 1988, Castellanos gave up civilian life for battle dress and so began his storied career as a soldier, one that would span twenty-three years.

 

Ret. Col. Javier Castellanos

“Once I got in I fell in love with the profession and the next achievement was being accepted or being given the opportunity to become an officer in the Belize Defense Force and one of the greatest achievements was when I attended and graduated from the Royal Military Academy in Sandhurst, in the United Kingdom.  That was the beginning of my career and that was what made of what is Colonel Castellanos today.”

 

A year after recruiting, Castellanos was joined in the rank and file by Oscar Selgado, who, like him, also attended Sandhurst.  Despite their individual humble beginnings, both men would later endure similar hardships at the hands of the pecking order.

 

Oscar Selgado

Oscar Selgado, Attorney at law

“On January twenty-first, 1989 I enlisted in recruit training in the regular element of the Belize Defense Force.  I attended the Royal Military Academy in Sandhurst immediately thereafter and graduated on August fourth, 1990 and I served with the force up until 1997 when I left to pursue a Bachelor’s degree at the University of Belize, at the time UB.”

 

A father of two, Castellanos made the ultimate sacrifice to serve Belize first and then his family after.  Despite many accomplishments as a decorated officer, his marriage often chafed as a result of that decision.

 

Ret. Col. Javier Castellanos

“If I had an opportunity to do it all over again I would put my family over my career.  I put my career before my family and many times I would tell my wife or my family that it’s a sacrifice I’m doing in my career, putting my career first because I believe at the end of the day the family will benefit and that made me put my career [ahead of my family] and it was difficult balancing [the two] and I guess it was very frustrating and difficult for my wife.”

 

That situation reached its pinnacle when he returned from overseas training and his  newborn daughter, Connie, could not recognize him.

 

Ret. Col. Javier Castellanos

“I had to leave the country and I went to do a course in the United States for six months.  My daughter was only six months old and when I came back my family went to greet me at the airport and my daughter couldn’t recognize me and that was really emotional and [it was] something that made me understand that it’s difficult.  The life of a soldier is not easy and it’s difficult to balance between the family and the profession.”

 

Selgado, on the other hand, was also experiencing difficulties in his academic pursuit.

 

Oscar Selgado

“It didn’t go well and so I re-engaged into the force again in 1998 and I served.  I rose to the rank of captain.  I passed my lieutenant to captain exam on September 16th, 1995 at first fly.  In those days it was unheard of that officers passed their first exams on the first go.  I was one of the few who did it.”

 

But, with valleys come peaks and while there were many challenges there were also many achievements.  Those honors, regrettably, have been tainted by circumstances beyond their control.  Despite numerous accolades, Castellanos’ ship would forever remain on the horizon.

 

Ret. Col. Javier Castellanos

“I was on a one-on-one interview with the then Minister of Defense Mr. Carlos Perdomo, in the presence of Mr. Allen Whylie, who is now the commissioner.  At that time he was the C.E.O. and I was called into Belmopan and I was informed that I would not be the next commander for the Belize Defense Force.  That obviously made me understand that the rank that I had achieved, my career had basically come to an end.  That was my peak, the limit of my military career.  And as a result of that I was informed that they would offer me options because you must understand that the military has a hierarchy and we are proud, and we have pride.  That would then mean that a junior officer would supersede me and would become my superior officer and therefore the ministry already saw some problems in that decision that was made by the Cabinet.”

 

That junior officer would be Lieutenant Colonel David Jones, then Chief of Staff.   Notwithstanding the inevitable, Selgado unlike his counterpart never saw the end of his military career coming.

 

Oscar Selgado

“In October of 2000, allegations were made against me by a member of the force for impropriety or misconduct.  The B.D.F. carried out an internal investigation which from the very onset was bias.  Lieutenant Colonel Pete Parchue, Peter Parchue, was tasked to head that investigation, to go to Caye Caulker and to interview people as to what had happened.  And he made his findings and recommendations based on his own bias against me.”

 

For Castellanos, despite being somewhat prepared, his dreams were washed away in the perfect storm.  On October 12th, 2011 it was reported that a cache of high-powered weapons had gone missing from the force armory at Price Barracks.  He had been deputizing for Brigadier General Dario Tapia, who was away on vacation.

 

Ret. Col. Javier Castellanos [File: October 12th, 2011]

“Our initial investigations have revealed that a total of twenty-two M16 A1 rifles which are unserviceable, two M4 commander rifles also unserviceable, eleven nine millimeter berretta pistols which are serviceable and seven M4 carbine rifles which are serviceable. And they are reported missing from the weapons bulk store which gives a total of forty-two weapons being thirty-one of them rifles and eleven pistols. Of these, seven of the rifles are serviceable and eleven pistols are serviceable.”

 

The incident preceded what would have been a voluntary resignation from the B.D.F.

 

Ret. Col. Javier Castellanos

“The stage is already set that obviously my career, by my own choice would soon come to an end and I had accepted it, which for me that was not a problem.  It was my decision.  I was then even offered the opportunity to work in Belmopan as the Deputy Coordinator for National Security with the National Security Council and I refused again because I said I would wait for when the time is right to submit my voluntary resignation.  And, unfortunately that was two months before this incident occurred which led to what is, I’m here now today now retired and I opted for an early retirement.”

 

In Friday’s segment, Castellanos talks about his settlement with the government.

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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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6 Responses for “Discharged from the force, Javier Castellanos bares his soul”

  1. Rod says:

    You don’t even realize that you were set up by this pm and gov. Because they wanted to put a black man in that position just look at all the positions in this gov. That holds power and you will see a black in that position.this is the most prejudice pm and gov, in the history of this country and if anyone doesn’t believe me just make a list of all the power positions in his gov. And you will find a black in that position even though their are more qualified people who are not black . So don’t feel like the Lone Ranger you were set up good plus you are not black.

  2. Al says:

    The sad thing with this country is that favoritism plays a big part of who gets promotion. The country cannot go forward because there is failure to promote the people who have the education and experience to do a good job and improve conditions.

    Belize will continue to be behind in the world unless someone decides to change the awful state of the way things are done. These politicians are missing the point that the hell they create in the country they also will share in the fallout sooner or later. Belize can be a paradise like Hawaii if only the politicians would deal fairly and wisely to change the destructive course the country is headed on.

  3. Anna says:

    Mr. Castellanos is a very humble person. He did not deserve what he got but there is a God who sees everything and he will make justice.

  4. Gone fishing says:

    how about those automatic weapons stole out of the armory on a military base?

    who in the military chain of command is responsible for that?
    was it an inside job?
    how many are still missing?
    good thing BDF does not have nukes.

  5. Kris :) says:

    I believe that Mr. Castellanos (Colonel) should be proud of the work he did for our nation of Belize. Placing your family after your job is a tough decision since they then believe that work is more important than family.. Nevertheless, We have a Corrupt GOB, & Injustices will always happen, as in the case of both men who sacrificed everything I personally applaud you for the job well done!
    It find it so absurd and embarrassing thou, that they would place a Jr Officer as Commandant over Sr.Castellanos. This man (Castellanos) is a very educated individual who studied in the most prestigious institutions all over the world and it’s sarcastic that someone below his authority, could become his commandant. It genuinely shows the bias and unprofessionalism on behalf of the GOB! But let me say that ALL DOGS HAVE THEIR DAY! God Bless Mr. Castellanos in his future endeavors & Hold your head up high Sir, for you did an Excellent Job while serving the country & God does not forget the work you did while serving this country!

  6. sam dow says:

    I served with This guy a good commander, but politics and the present GOB, I know this was
    a big setup, but my commander will get his day and coming soon my commander.
    if someone knows where this weapons are, i bet it went to the Barrow gang members,
    I could say this as i have see this setup happen before.
    It is sad for our arm forces, to have lost you, put we will be proud to get justice and soon

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