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Jun 25, 2019

A Closer Look at Belize’s Place in the Cocaine Trafficking Landscape

Belize’s physical location in this hemisphere has positioned the country as an ideal transhipment point in the international drug trade. The limited resources of law enforcement have made the struggle against the narco-traffickers too difficult to win. Drug cartels consistently use our waters and land as gateways to drug markets in the United States. Over the past four days, as many as seven persons were murdered as a result of the evil drug trade. In the following report, News Five’s Isani Cayetano connects the dots between the murders and the trafficking of drugs within the region. 

 

Isani Cayetano, Reporting

Belize’s geographic location within the Central American transshipment corridor makes it an ideal waypoint for hundreds of tons of narcotics to be smuggled across continents, from South to North America.  An insatiable appetite for cocaine has seen various means of trafficking being employed, with shipments being freighted by sea, air and land.  There haven’t been much overland discoveries, however, a majority of the drugs seized in Belize are either flown in or conveyed by water, en route to Mexico and the United States.  More recently, there has been an increase in the number of “wet drops”, a routine in which bales of cocaine are deposited from an aircraft into the Caribbean Sea, to be picked up by boats.  The spike in murders at sea is attributed to this illegal activity.

 

Chester Williams

Chester Williams, Commissioner of Police

“Of recent we have been hearing of “wet drops” and we know that whenever there is rumors of “wet drops” that people, including fishermen, tend to comb the seas and comb the beaches with a view to find these illegal substances.”

 

It is an extremely risky undertaking which sees a number of fishermen, some legitimate and others simply masquerading as seafarers, heading out to the open waters in search of an easy payday.

 

Chester Williams

“I want the public to understand and to take heed to the fact that while they may look at the proceeds of these substances as a means of collecting large sums of money that it does come with a risk.”

 

It is that hazard which presumably led to the demise of five men last week when they were executed on the inner waters between Swallow and Mapp cayes, just off the coast of Belize City.  Policing the littorals falls within the mandate of the Belize Coast Guard.

 

Greg Soberanis

Lt. Commander Greg Soberanis, Fleet Commander, Belize Coast Guard

“Maritime safety and security is a key and critical task mandated to the coast guard.  We continue to patrol our maritime areas with emphasis on protecting our local marine resources and our stakeholders which are our fishermen, resort owners, cruise tourism and other stakeholders as well.  Any incident at sea, especially those that involve the loss of life, is of utmost concern for the coast guard.”

 

Over the weekend, seven persons lost their lives at sea, including five men who set out on a fishing trip last Tuesday and two men in San Pedro who were also fishing on the lagoon near San Mateo.  The murders are believed to be drug-related.  In the case of American tourist Dr. Gary Swank, however, he was simply at the wrong place, at the wrong time.

 

Lt. Commander Greg Soberanis

“In light of the recent incidents, our plan is to increase our presence in the operating environment, of course with our collaboration with the police department and the leadership out in San Pedro and for us to create a sense of safety and security for those citizens who might be flustered by these recent activities.  As the commissioner mentioned, we plan to meet with the key leadership out in San Pedro and look at a structured way forward in how we are going to create a plan in dealing with the illicit activities out in that area.”

 

But those illicit activities are not limited to the sea.  Since 2018, there has been a spike in the number of aircrafts that have landed on clandestine airstrips across the country, primarily in the far reaches of the Orange Walk District.  More recently, drug activities have also been recorded near Independence Village where the refueling of suspected drug planes seem to be taking place.

 

Joseph Myvett

ACP Joseph Myvett, Head, National Crimes Investigation Branch

“The police were on operation and acting on some information as well.”

 

Reporter

“Did police receive any information from any resident in the area of any low-flying aircraft to indicate to indicate why those [drums of] aviation fuel were in that area?”

 

Joseph Myvett

“No.  None was received from the police, however, there is a legal airstrip within the area of Independence which is not far away from the site which probably was two or three miles from where that fuel was found.”

 

In 2017, the U.S. State Department named seven Central American countries, including Belize, as havens for the laundering of proceeds of drug trafficking and organized crime. 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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