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Sep 12, 2018

Gang Members Trooped to Hattieville Ramada Under Emergency Powers Detention Order

Seven days ago in the dead of the night more than one hundred purported gang members from the Mayflower/Banak and George Streets were detained and placed in c ells at the Queen Street and Raccoon Street police stations.  The round-up happened within-hours of a proclamation of the controversial special public emergency zones in the two south side areas.  Some were released but the majority remained in lockdown until today when they were bussed to the Belize Central Prison where they will be held until the end of the month despite growing concern for the violation of their human rights.  The new law allows the police to detain and jail the gangs without charges for thirty days.  So what is next for the men who have not been charged and much less convicted?  In an exclusive interview with prison officials, News Five’s Isani Cayetano was behind the prison walls today to find out the process of their incarceration. Here is that story.


Isani Cayetano, Reporting

The arrival of a gaggle of young men, all presumed to be active members of the George Street Gang, a majority of whom are quite familiar with the penal system, is the first of several admissions to the Belize Central Prison over the next several hours.  Having served a week in detention at the Queen Street Police Station, the group was whisked off to Hattieville in a tightly packed van led by GSU escort with Klaxons blaring.  Not all of them are seasoned criminals, however, as there are those among the twelve men who have not been charged for a major offense.  Nonetheless, the Gang Suppression Unit is taking no chances.  Weapons at the ready, the perimeter of the prison was secured from within by a team responsible for the handing over.  There to receive them were several prison officials, including Chief Executive Officer Virgilio Murillo.


Virgilio Murillo

Virgilio Murillo, C.E.O., Kolbe Foundation

“What you saw just now is the prisoners being delivered to the prison by the police and we have a need to first of all ensure that there is a valid warrant for their admission into the prison, signed by somebody in authority.  And in this particular case, they were in company of what we call the Emergency Powers Detention Order that was made under the Emergency Powers Regulations of 2018.”


That piece of legislation seeks to validate their custody, a period which will see them on lockdown for the next twenty-three days.  Joining them, but held separately, are the Ghost Town Crips which includes members from Banak Street.  Both factions have been engaged in a bitter bloodbath.


Chester Williams

Chester Williams, Deputy Commissioner of Police (Operations)

“To arrest the ongoing situation between these two groups, what we intend to do is that in the first instance, we intend to incarcerate these individuals for one month.  If at the expiration of that one-month period they have shown no sign of improvement or that they want to behave themselves then we intend to take it further.”


The directive which allows for these young men to remain in jail on a month-long sentence comes from the Ministry of National Security.


Virgilio Murillo

“That order is signed by none other than the Honorable John Saldivar who happens to be the Minister of Police and of course prisons.  So with that order, I am in a position now to accept these inmates.  What we did after verifying those orders, matching them against the individuals that came in the police van, we take them through a search procedure and that search procedure will go as far as a strip search to ensure that they don’t have any contraband on their person, particularly weapons.  So, it is a safety measure, a security measure that we have to take, especially considering the perceived background of these guys.”


…and perhaps that’s where it gets a bit unclear.  Indeed there are known underworld figures among them, but the dragnet that has been cast has seemingly had a blanket effect.


Sebastian Nunez

Sebastian Nunez, Parent of Detainee

“I have four sons.  I got one son weh work fi di police, as a mechanic.  I have three sons pan my side otherwise out ya.  Right now one deh da prison.  Di police dehn grab one from last week Monday when dehn start to pick up everybody on di street brethren.  My son cohn wid me out da Finnegan Market cause we wash car out deh in the morning time.  My son wake up fi cohn cohn meet me out deh fi wash car.  Dehn policeman dehn freeze my son and take my son to station from da Monday deh and todeh da Wednesday.  Dehn have my son fi so long and now my son call me and tell me dehn di look fi send ah da Hattieville Prison.  Now my son gaan gaan do BDF test, my son pass di test, get wahn call fu come back een di twentieth ah September fi do ih medical.  Ih fi go back een di seventh ah October fi di three months training.  Now how can my son do these things with di opportunity weh he di get by getting hold down with police officers for wrong guys?”


If that story is to be believed, then Sebastian Nunez’s son now finds himself in quite a pickle, having been trooped to the Belize Central Prison earlier today along with almost sixty other inmates.  Arrangements have been made by a welcoming committee long before their arrival.


Virgilio Murillo

“The prison does the have the capacity to accommodate these seventy-five people.  The prison has a capacity of twenty-one hundred people.  The head count currently stands at twelve [hundred] and twenty-five [inmates].  So we more than have the space.  With respect to where specifically they will be placed, I cannot disclose that in the interest of security, but suffice me to say that definitely we have things in place and we are ready to accommodate them.”


Isani Cayetano

“They will be separated based on the gangs to which they belong.  Can you speak somewhat to that?”


Virgilio Murillo

“Well, most certainly.  We have an inmate classification committee that definitely will make their classification based on the level of threat and the level of risk posed by these individuals.  And we’ve been very effective over the years with respect to how we handle gangs in the prison.  As a matter of fact, as we speak, I have a hundred and twenty-seven people who are considered gang members within the prison currently and that is among the nineteen different gang factions that we are aware of.”


Of that number, forty-seven are convicted and eighty are on remand.  These incoming prisoners, despite their respective allegiances, are not on remand, neither have they been convicted of a crime.  They are virtually in limbo behind bars, since the prison is only divided into the two aforesaid sections.


Virgilio Murillo

“Really and truly, I don’t know how to classify these seventy-five people that are coming.  I don’t know that, I am not too sure that they will fit into the remanded category or the convicted category, unless they were charged with an offense.”


That brings us back to Nunez, who swears that his son is none of the above and is being placed into a system where he is forced to be aligned with one of the two gangs while incarcerated.


Sebastian Nunez

“My son da noh wahn menace to society or wahn gangbanging man like that fi di do things outta di way fi dehn have to di grab my son fi so long, plus send he da jail.  I cyant talk fi everybody, I noh know who noh wahn cohn talk or who fraid, but my child, I wahn talk fu my child cause me da ma and pa and me haffi deh behind dehn and look into dehn.  Brethren my son noh di do no wrong pan di street like that.”


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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2 Responses for “Gang Members Trooped to Hattieville Ramada Under Emergency Powers Detention Order”

  1. kriol_Chicken says:

    Don’t do bad things and you won’t get rounded up by the GSU or Police. It’s that simple.

  2. Belize says:

    How ironic they picked one of the biggest troublemakers in Belize to pretend that either he nor his sons give trouble.
    Good try sabi

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