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Aug 29, 2014

Bank Management Says Employees Are Free to Converse in Garifuna

Shaeleen Castillo

As we told you, there is escalating anger against the CIBC FirstCaribbean. Late this evening, Manager of Retail Banking and Operations, Shaeleen Castillo responded to the allegations being made at the Dangriga Branch.  While Castillo declined to comment on the employment status of Uwanhie Martinez, the statement followed a meeting that was held in Dangriga this afternoon with Mayor Gilbert Swazo, as well as other members of the Garifuna community.


Shaeleen Castillo, Operations Manager, CIBC FirstCaribbean

“We are anxious to bring this matter to a very speedy resolution. We want to highlight and to repeat and to make it clear that we don’t discriminate against any person based on race, heritage, sex and in fact we have a policy in the bank that prohibits any form of discrimination. We have the utmost respect for the Garifuna people and we have been active in the community for many years. There has never been any intention by the bank to disregard or disrespect the cultural heritage or the traditions of the Garifuna community. We have been in Belize since 1949. We were the first bank to extend to the districts and we started off with Dangriga and we started there in 1953. And so we are also proud to highlight that our staff base, it comprises people of all ethnicities including the Garifuna people and at least ten percent of our staff comprises of Garifuna employees. We at CIBC FirstCaribbean embrace all ethnicities and cultures within the communities in which we operate. Never has there been any attempt on our part to stifle the use of any native language of our employees. And so we confirm that we CIBC FirstCaribbean, our staff, our management; we did not issue any written directive to the staff regarding not using Garifuna in the branch and there is no policy within CIBC FirstCaribbean prohibiting the use of Garifuna or any other native language within the bank. Our employees are free to use whatever language they are comfortable with in their private conversations. So you know, FirstCaribbean, we operate across the Caribbean and in the territories in which we operate, there are other native languages that are used and staff are free to use those languages. We encourage diversity in all its forms and within all sectors of our community especially within the Garifuna community….you know the culture is rich and we have supported that in so many ways. We have contributed to the National Garifuna Council; we have contributed to the Gulisi Museum. Our renowned Unsung Heroes Program, we’ve had two persons of Garifuna heritage who have been finalists and even when there are Settlement Day activities, the bank has given full support to staff to participate in those activities. We have participated in the Settlement Day parade; we have brought in the drummers and the dancers in the branch; we’ve showcased the culture in terms of the food and even the dress. I recall fondly one year where the staff across all ethnicities wore their cultural outfits. So we are very much in support of the culture. In terms of any HR or Industrial Relations matters, we are not at liberty to discuss those and those would be pursued through other channels according to the laws of Belize. I was in Dangriga today and I had privilege to meet with Mayor Suazo and we are hoping then that through his leadership, we will be able to have further communication with the Garifuna community and so bring a smooth and fast resolution to this matter. So again we just want to extend apologies for any misunderstanding and we are in full support of diversity and in full support of our Garifuna culture here in Belize.”


It is expected that the matter will be fully resolved in the days ahead.

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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4 Responses for “Bank Management Says Employees Are Free to Converse in Garifuna”

  1. Uncle Benji says:

    The Punta Gorda branch of CIBC FirstCaribbean is much more lucrative (bigger profits) than the Dangriga branch. But no one is complaining that Maya Indian dialects are not spoken at this branch.

    Many Guatemalans Quiche Indians come to Punta Gorda to save their monies at CIBC. They are forced to speak English or Spanish. No Quiche spoken here. Simple as that.

    Our beloved KERUBS are making much ado about nothing. Speak English. End of story!

  2. moses x says:

    Uncle (Tom) Benji. I suspect you are one of the kruifis who think their ancestors are Englishmen. You are an African descent whose language was stolen. The Garifunas kept theirs. You are way out of line. The business language(official) of Belize is English. What this story about is Garifunas greeting customers in their own language. If one of our Mayan brothers were working at a bank and wanted to greet a Mayan customer in their language, that would be cool, and then they would proceed in English with their transaction. Our beloved krofis are in denial of their African ancestry..this is the beginning of something you started…Bosnia. If you continues this ignorant line of thinking, you will be opening a pandora box. May I suggest to you, you ignorant krofi, you don’t want to go there. Belizean krofis are out of touch with main stream “mein”. We in the districts speak spanish, maya, ketchi, garifuna, and proper English when we need to. And kriol, so “Noh start noh raws”.

  3. dats just gud says:

    So only English and Spanish should be spoken………….it seems that you have no understanding U “Uncle Benji” the News is saying, the issue is The Grifuna people speaking to each other in their own language…….Obviously if you are not a Grifuna person the language would not be spoken to you when you are conducting your business……so don’t be an idiot…….End of your story…..

    therefore, since you and all the others who object to this issue; have shown your ignorance…….. if your brain would be put in a bird that bird would fly backwards…..

  4. Louisville, Ky. says:

    Maybe first Caribbean didn’t get the memo, but Garinagus hold their culture very near and dear to their hearts and any kind of intolerance will not be entertained and any insensitivity toward the culture will be viewed as if you were stepping on sacred grounds.
    It’s that serious Mr. Banker, so if you didn’t know; you KNOW now!!

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