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Jun 25, 2015

Santa Cruz: Unlawful Imprisonment, Predawn Raid, Mass Arraignment

Tonight, impassioned debate continues to dominate over the incident in Santa Cruz, Toledo in which a Creole man, Rupert Myles, was ordered detained and handcuffed by the community alcalde.  That incident sparked the arrest on Wednesday of ten Maya residents and Maya Leaders Alliance spokesperson, Cristina Coc. The villagers were charged with unlawful imprisonment and Coc with conspiracy to commit unlawful imprisonment.  But what is next? It’s a situation fraught with danger because Myles has been given until July fifth to take down a house he constructed on the Uxbenka Archeological Site. But will he?  Tonight, we look back at the chronology of events in the south in which the racism card is playing out.   News Five’s Isani Cayetano reports.


Isani Cayetano, Reporting

The striking image of a quartet of Mayan men disrobing outside of the Punta Gorda Police Station is as poignant an impression as the parading of Rupert Myles through Santa Cruz a few days earlier.  While they bared their chests to lend a few articles of clothing to their captive brethren, Myles had been manacled, his handcuffs fastened with a length of rope by which he was led to his residence.  His home rests at the top of an unexcavated mound, a relic of the ancient city of Uxbenka.  The ensuing controversy is two-sided.  On one hand, villagers contend that Myles is nesting on sacred grounds protected by the Uchbenka K’in Ajaw Association.  On the other, Myles argues that he is being racially discriminated against by the Mayan community, beginning with their leader.


Rupert Myles

Rupert Myles, Resident, Santa Cruz Village

“The next thing ih seh dat we right ya have fu we customary ways, if you look eena di village da lone Indian people.  Ih seh and you da Garifuna and we noh wahn dat di mix up.”


It’s a bold assertion coming from someone who is presently in a relationship with a female resident of that village.  The allegation is vehemently denied by Manuel Pop, Alcalde of Santa Cruz.


Isani Cayetano

“At any point in time was Mr. Myles racially discriminated against, in terms of either slurs or words that would have insulted him based on the color of his skin or his race?”


Manuel Pop, Alcalde, Santa Cruz Village

“No.  We didn’t tell him that.  No we noh tell him that.  Well, we can’t say it like that because we are human beings.  We can’t say that, but the only problem is [for him] not to live there.”


Work is underway at Uxbenka where a backhoe is clearing and leveling earth for future parking.  The site is being restored for use as an archaeological attraction, understandably why Myles has been asked to relocate from the area.  Those requests are documented, as seen here.


Indeed, Myles’ defiance has resulted in arguably the most polemic issue in the Toledo District since the quest for oil inside the Sarstoon-Temash National Park.


Rupert Myles

“I had to show the country of Belize what kinda people and what Cristina Coc di do, right.  So… How fi explain dis to you, when I gaan live eena da house deh I noh gaan live eena da house because I wahn go live da Santa Cruz or I wahn live tappa wahn hill, you undastand me.  Ih cost wahn lotta fuel fi up and down just fi reach deh but I had to prove to this country weh kinda racism dis.”


Depending on what side of the argument you choose to take, Myles may simply be playing the race card to his advantage.  Nonetheless, his detention over the weekend comes with serious consequences.  On Wednesday, dozens of residents lined Front Street to witness a perp walk led by MLA spokesperson Cristina Coc.  In case you are wondering, Coc isn’t attempting to hide her face.  She has been afflicted with the flu since the beginning of the week and was placed inside a cramped holding cell among several other detainees.


Audrey Matura-Shepherd

Following that march, her comrades were likewise trooped to the nearby courthouse unshod, where they would be arraigned for the unlawful arrest of Rupert Myles.


Audrey Matura-Shepherd, Attorney for Detained Villagers

“You have any people with land papers?”


Pablo Mis, Program Coordinator, MLA

“We have some people with land papers.  We have some people with job letters.”


Audrey Matura-Shepherd

“Okay then.  Those with land papers da di ones we should use immediately.  Who are those?  Because if we have land papers then you only need one person fu sign because anytime bail da five thousand, more than five thousand then land paper.  Do you have your land paper here?”


Alfonso Cal, Resident Santa Cruz Village

“No.  It’s a businessperson that will sign…”


Audrey Matura-Shepherd

“Call him.  Whichever people have land paper because di lee paperwork wahn tek wahn while fu mek we be able fu do, process twenty signatories or ten bails.”


With that they proceeded to the courtroom of Magistrate Emerson Banner where charges, including common and aggravated assault, were read.  Bail was initially set at eight thousand dollars but had to be adjusted at the request of attorney Audrey Matura-Shepherd.


Audrey Matura-Shepherd

“He can give either the eight thousand dollars and split it into two sureties, which means that each person will be signing for four thousand dollars each or he can reduce the bail to five thousand dollars or less so that you can access bail without getting land paper. I must say that initially he indicated that his style was once he gives bail; that’s it. But I am glad he heard our application and used his discretion.”


Following the indictment, Coc’s husband, MLA Program Coordinator Pablo Mis, addressed the media.


Pablo Mis

Pablo Mis

“Unfortunately, it’s sad for Belize that this is what our government will entertain, that this is what it comes to.  Our message again is, we’re not broken.  For over five hundred years this has been done to us and today will not mark that day of breaking us.”


For the time being, a deadline has been set for the removal of the structure.


Filberto Teul

Filberto Teul, Resident, Santa Cruz Village

“The alcalde gave him permission for two weeks, fifteen days then, to take out this building and I hope so.  Fifteen days up from last Saturday and then I hope that this building should be removed, that’s what the alcalde [requests] and he signed that document.”


What happens on that expiration date remains to be seen. Reporting for News Five, I am Isani Cayetano.

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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8 Responses for “Santa Cruz: Unlawful Imprisonment, Predawn Raid, Mass Arraignment”

  1. Ali BaBarrow & his 40 say, screw the Mayans says:

    1) is Myles on lease land? Does he own the land? Squatter on government land, or NICH archeological land? Claiming to be Mayan on village communal land?

    This should not be that difficult to determine who owns the land Myles’ house is on. Is this another crooked land title from GOB that Myles bought or was given? Is that the real problem, somebody at Lands sold him ruins land like the criminal mahogany permits out of forestry?

    If someone wants to build a house in the middle of Altun Ha, first house standing gets the land rights? Who gets to build a house in an archeological site without NICH approval at the highest levels?

    2) Did Myles made reference to a gun in his vehicle? Did he have a gun? If he has a gun, does he have a permit? This should not be that difficult to determine.

    If Myles made reference to a gun, and the alcalde decides this is an imminent threat, the Alcade has the right to instruct village citizens to apprehend Myles, and hand him over to PG police.

    If someone comes into the Belize City Council, says they got a gun in their car and they start going to the car, the Mayor would be an idiot not to stop the person and hand them over to the police. Let a magistrate sort it out. If Myles said he had a gun, he is an idiot. What village would want this kind of asshole?

    3) Myles was handcuffed. Was he beaten after that? Stripped naked and made to walk miles? Did he require hospitalization? Was his family threatened? Was his house damaged?

    He was handcuffed and handed over to PG police, that is it?

    If the Alcalde screwed up, then that is the Alcalde’s problem. Why were the Santa Cruz citizens arrested if all they did was apprehend Myles and call PG police? Why terror bust them? They are not gang members hiding, everybody knows where they live and work.

    Just another case of GOB making bad decisions, turning them into big bad decisions. What ever happened to the San Marcos case where the village burned down the crocodile farm and killed all the animals? That was on video. Those two children are still missing. Why is Myles getting all this attention? Usually you do an investigation and then make an arrest, unless they plan to leave the country or are violent criminals.

    If Myles feels he was wronged, get a lawyer, sue the Alcalde. Why are we wasting time and money with this? A useful distraction from the major criminal activity with GOB and the cabinet?

    Sorry Flippin, you were setup, chop goes your head. Now is a good time to switch to this Toledo crap to divert public attention with racism bullshit, and some ex-minister selling crooked titles.

    Belize needs scape goats.

  2. Elgin Martinez says:

    Where is the National Garifuna Council?

  3. CEO says:

    I guess we are becoming as ignorant and intolerant as some of the developed world.

    When did we get so ignorant that we cannot live together?

    if we would have better land management practices in the country no one would need to squat on land that is not their’s. The folks at the lands office need to start being facilitators and not obstructionists..

  4. Kimo Jolly says:

    Santa Cruz Village is a Role Model
    By Kimo Jolly

    26 June 2015

    All Belizeans should be thankful that Belize has a community that protects one of our Archaeological sites. These sites belong to all of us. They are our treasures, our past, our heritage. If our Police, our BDF, and NICH cannot protect them, then thank God that Santa Cruz people can. We cannot let one man destroy an Archaeological site, whatever his color. If the Government cannot protect our sites, then the people MUST.

    Many parts of Belize are becoming lawless. We are killing each other. Raping each other. Destroying our Archaeological sites. Political Corruption is rampant. Thank God that Santa Cruz seems to be lawful. They have village meetings and solve problems. They have Fajinas and clean their own village. They have rules for living in the village. They even have their own Auxiliary Police that are not governed by politicians. This is a Good Thing. Thank God. If a crime is committed in their village, they can legally arrest the man and take care of the problem. We should all be following their example.

    If a crime is committed and we, the citizens of this country, know it is a crime, then the criminal has to be arrested. It doesn’t matter his color. Let us not become racists too quickly. First let us look at the crime. Every criminal wants to say that it is only because of his color or his race or his religion that he or she is being arrested. Let’s not jump to conclusions. Let’s investigate. And if it’s a whole community that is arresting a man, I don’t think that a whole community can be racist. Not in Belize. There are no pure races in Belize, and we know it. We are all mixed.

    And now, if the Government wants to send police to arrest hardworking citizens because these citizens arrested someone who they think is a criminal, then let all of us hard working citizens give them our support. The Courts must decide, and all hard working citizens must be witnesses so that the Courts decide fairly. Let us all watch carefully what happens down South, because it may happen next in your own community. What would you do if someone starts to destroy an archaeological site near your community?

  5. rastafari says:

    Ali BaBarrow and Kimo Jolly we could tell you both Maya’s with your stupid comments, the fact is these people (MAYA) think they better than the rest of us. By the way racism is define as the belief that all members of each race possess characteristics or abilities specific to that race, especially so as to distinguish it as inferior or superior to another race or races. These people does not allow ANY BELIZEAN no matter the color if your not a maya then your not welcome in their village. What made them so special? cause they suffered? who haven’t? at least they got land from the Government what about the rest of us BELIZEANS i guess we still haven’t suffered enough to be rewarded with communal land but at least we know how to treat each other with love and respect and we dont feel like we better than any of the other races living in the country …..these ignorant racist SBches needs to be thought a lesson, they lucky the cops just kicked in their doors and not beat the shit out of them like they do to us.

  6. Hatari says:

    Totally agree with you Kimo.

  7. Ali BaBarrow says:


    I am not Mayan, and you are not a rasta, Jah!

    I hang mostly with Garifuna and Kriol.

    If I moved to Dangriga and built a house on top of Drums of my Father, how long would that last?
    Keep guessing and show us your ass rasta-wannabe

  8. jah says:

    Stop have conclusion rasta with out a dread. thats why uno lone the kill each in Belize.

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