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Jul 10, 2019

Human Development Employee in the Middle of Smuggling Operation

Sergio Adrian Guerra

An employee of the Ministry of Human Development has been charged with human smuggling of four Honduran nationals, who are in Belize illegally. The employee is thirty-five-year-old Sergio Adrian Guerra.  Guerra and another Belizean, forty-year-old Edwin Naj, were allegedly busted on the Crooked Tree Road on Tuesday morning.  They were transporting four Honduran nationals, two adults and two minors, when the lead vehicle was intercepted with Guerra, allegedly, at the wheels. The first vehicle, a Benque Viejo licensed taxi carrying several occupants all identified as Belizeans. The other vehicle, a grey Ford Escort was reportedly being driven by Guerra, a social worker with the Human Development Ministry. They were all detained on Tuesday, but only Guerra and Naj were charged.  Today we met the C.E.O. in the Ministry of Human Development Judith Alpuche and she denounced the action of that social worker and described it as “an egregious breach of trust and ethics.” She says that while there may be criminal charges, they are also doing internal reviews. Now, the Ministry of Human Development, through its Human Services Department, is the lead agency to work with these vulnerable populations in Belize. Alpuche says the case is a human smuggling operation and they are being very transparent and careful with the investigation.

 

Edwin Naj

Judith Alpuche, C.E.O., Ministry of Human Development

“The case looks like a human smuggling and not a human trafficking case. From our perspective, if the facts wear out, that is just a technical difference because it would be a gross, an egregious violation of his ethics. A social worker is charged with a responsibility of protecting the vulnerable, not participating in their exploitation. So, we are gathering information and working with immigration department, looking at what actions can be taken from a disciplinary perspective and I know also immigration is looking at it from a criminal perspective. This is absolutely intolerable.”

 

Reporter

“Is it a concern for you as well that this is not an isolate incident, or in fact it may be a pattern of behavior or an enterprise for this gentleman to perhaps even use the specific knowledge that his office may have given him to run these operations where human development is an integral part of the anti-trafficking in persons initiative?”

 

Judith Alpuche

Judith Alpuche

“That is a concern and it is something that we are looking into, in terms of looking beyond just this one case to see if we can work with the police to get even more information on how these things happen, etc… We are looking at cases and what have you to see if there are any sings because it is a concern.”

 

Reporter

“Might he have been able to use specific knowledge from his office as a social worker to say, “Bwai, nuh go on this move right now because they have X and Y operation out deh?”

 

Judith Alpuche

“All of that is a possibility. As I said, we are gathering information because with a case like this we have to be very precise because there is no room for error. We have to look beyond this case to see if it is a pattern of behavior. We are very concerned. Disappointment doesn’t even begin to describe it. One of my senior managers said it feels like someone died and that is how it feels. It is an egregious breach of trust, of ethics, of morals. We will have to deal with it head on.”

 

Duane Moody

“Is termination a possibility?”

 

Judith Alpuche

“Disciplinary actions – some of it is outside of our control because we are within public service so we are making sure that we gather the information to be able to follow the process. As I said, we have to be very precise. There can be no technicalities here. He is not one of the human trafficking social workers. For the same reason these things are kept close to the vest. We will look at it in its entirely to see what it means. In so far as the implications, one of the things we have to agree and this is world-wide, this is not only in Belize, that there is complicity among officials and when you find it, you have to deal with it head on. That is what we intend to do.   We intend to break no quarter.”


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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