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Aug 6, 2019

Santa Cruz Village Council’s “Fundraising” Efforts Sparks Controversy

Thousands of Belizeans illegally enter Mexico through the village of Santa Cruz in Orange Walk and into Botes.  Normally, they are lured to the area for beer, vegetables and other contraband goods which are brought into Belize. But a recent incident in the village is sparking outcry.  A fundraising activity has been going on to clean up the river bank; a village councilor was recently captured on video collecting a contribution which has been interrupted as an illegal fee.  Today, News Five’s Hipolito Novelo reached out those in the know to find out more about the situation.

 

Hipolito Novelo, Reporting

This cell phone video, recorded in Santa Cruz Village in Orange Walk, is making its rounds on social media. The footage shows a verbal confrontation between an individual and members of the village council.

 

The argument is based on what the man in the video describes as a fee being enforced by the village council for persons travelling in and out of the village using the nearby river to cross into the popular Mexican border community of Botes.

PUP Standard Bearer for Orange Walk North, Ramon Cervantes, says that those who have seen the video have misinterpreted the actions of the village council. According to Cervantes, this has been going on for the past few weeks. He says that this is a fundraising effort by the village council to collect monies to launch a cleanup campaign at an area known as “the Beach” where persons would park their cars before hopping into a canoe and crossing the river into Botes.

 

On the Phone: Ramon Cervantes, P.U.P. Standard Bearer, Orange Walk North

“So it is that area that they put the rope across. That is the situation. It is not a group of villagers. It is the village council that did it to raise funds for the village because at the end of the day a lot of people go across to Botes, come back and the place remains littered. The burden remains with the village council and the villagers to clean up the beach. The purpose of that is to request a contribution from people. It is not a charge. It is not a toll fee. It is a contribution from the people. The rope is put because a lot of vehicle pass by very rapidly to reach the beach and they jump on the boats and go across the river. So why they rope is merely to slow down the vehicle so that that village council has time to stop the people and ask for a contribution, sort of like a maintenance and cleaning fee of the beach area.”

 

According to Cervantes, successive councils have done the same in the past years. He asserts that the council’s strategy in asking for assistance is done for positive impact.

 

 

 

Hipolito Novelo

“In that video it seems that there was the insistence from the councilor for anyone who wants to use that area to pay, it is not contribution. It is to pay. They are demanding a fee.”

 

On the Phone: Ramon Cervantes

On the Phone: Ramon Cervantes

“Probably the approach needs some refinement. I would probably agree with that, the approach. But the concept of it is not what that guy says that it is a toll, or a charge or anything like that, an impediment. It is to keep the area clean. It is unfair when people go across and come back and they leave the garbage there and they leave the burden cleaning up to the village council and the villagers. If no one does it then it gives the villagers and the council and everyone in the village a bad image and the country on a whole.”

 

Hipolito Novelo

“Can the village council get in contact with the police department of the Department of Environment to enforce the rules in that area so that the area is kept clean?”

 

On the Phone: Ramon Cervantes

“Well that is an option but you know how government departments work, Hipolito. The beach cleaning needs to be done on a very regular basis. You see it is one person making a big whole noise, trying to paint it in a negative light when the purpose of that is for positive results.”

 

Hipolito Novelo

“But I am saying that the rope can be interpreted as a blockage of the road, a barrier preventing anyone who doesn’t want to pay…”

On the Phone: Ramon Cervantes

“Well that is subject to interpretation. Like I said it is one person that had a problem with that, one person.”

 

Hipolito Novelo

“From the video there are multiple voices.”

 

On the Phone: Ramon Cervantes

“Well one family.”

 

 

Reporting for News Five, I am Hipolito Novelo.

 


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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