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Aug 29, 2017

Drugs, gangs, and the fragile truce in Belize City

Following months of calm, the bloodbath in the month of August has resulted in eight murders. Not all, but it is considered that most of the killings are gang-related. So is a pact between the rival gangs holding? That’s questionable, but what is known is that the thriving drug trade is behind a spate of murders that also extends beyond the Old Capital.  News Five’s Isani Cayetano reports.


Isani Cayetano, Reporting

Is the fragility of the ceasefire among differentBelize Citygangs being exposed with the recent spate of deadly violence that has erupted since the beginning of August?  As of the first of the month, there have been a total of eight murders in the Old Capital, each homicide being attributable to an individual motive.  From a broad perspective it can be argued that a number of these incidents are indeed gang-related.  The spike in gun violence over the past three weeks, according to Senior Superintendent Marco Vidal, may very well be the result of a dispute over territory.  These are areas that have been designated for the sale of drugs.


Sr. Supt. Marco Vidal, Regional Commander, Eastern Division South

Sr. Supt. Marco Vidal

“You must understand that gang elements thrive on a number of sources of funding and one main source of funding is the sale of drugs, and once the network of that sale is expanded then it obviously brings turf war because they want to expand their business.  And this is, to a large extent, what we are seeing and this in fact is what we anticipated to have happened.  You would have noticed that for the past month and a half we have been targeting these persons for the sale of drugs.”


While there has in fact been a sustained law enforcement effort to crack down on drug-related activities countrywide, inBelize Citythe trafficking and sale of marijuana, as well as its consumption, are at an all-time high.


Ryan Davis

Ryan Davis, Resident, Antelope Street

“Most ah fu we business da illegal hustling, yoh undastand me.  Tek risk, yeh, we tek risk wid fu we life.  Yeah da risk, we haffi sell wahn lee weed, wahn lee quarter pound ah weed fu try put food pan fu we table and then we tyad ah dat too because yo get harassment from di policeman every time.  Yeah, we noh into di policeman dehn di cohn harass we every time just because yo di sell wahn lee weed di try eat too.”


Admittedly, they are under fire from the Belize Police Department via a systematic operation that is being led by Assistant Commissioner of Police Edward Broaster.


ACP Edward Broaster, Operations Commander, BPD

ACP Edward Broaster

“We’ve managed to seize over forty-three pounds of marijuana countrywide.  We’ve managed to seize two hundred and two rounds of ammunition.  We’ve also managed to seize six firearms.”


Those seizures were all made at the end of a rigorous campaign across the country,Belize Citynot being spared of the random stop and search being conducted.


Sr. Supt. Marco Vidal

“Just two weeks ago, we launched an operation commandeered by Mister Broaster, where we did countrywide operations and Belize City was no exception.  So, these people are being targeted.  We are targeting the elements within Belize City and we are targeting their suppliers from out-district.  So that’s the reason why a countrywide operation was done.”


Can it be that while there is a mutual agreement among the respective groups to keep the peace, there is friction building up over the lucrative drug trade?


Sr. Supt. Marco Vidal

“If there were peace then there would be no reason for there not to be peace today.  But obviously there was none.  What was happening is that these elements thought that they could expand certain activities once they are not committing murders, but then these same activities that they are expanding eventually lead to murders.  So what we are seeing is a bit of the implosion of this situation.”


The situation itself is also tied to the present unemployment situation.  Known gang members, particularly those with lengthy rap sheets, have an especially difficult time finding gainful employment.  It is often times easier to resort to illicit activity.


Isani Cayetano

“How do you make that work for you though, because to every catch, every pound, every quarter pound, any quantity that you sell you constantly have to look over your shoulder to see who is coming.  Either somebody might want to rob you of your product or somebody might snitch and tell the police where you have your stuff and they come and arrest you.  How do you balance that kind of occupational hazard, as we would call it?”


Ryan Davis

“Well, yoh just cyant got no lotta thing round, yoh undastand me.  Yoh got wahn lee two, three bag fi sell and if di policeman dehn cohn harass yoh, yoh noh got no lotta thing pan yoh.  Yeah, yoh could just dash that down deh and if dehn find that dah fi dehn dat.  One lee bag, nothing much, yeah, because dehn cyant charge yo fi no trafficking once da noh sixty-two grams.”


Regrettably, the chances of the truce actually becoming a success seem caught up in the marijuana industry.


Isani Cayetno reporting for News Five.

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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