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Jan 29, 2020

String of Sexual Allegations against Top B.D.F. Officers

The B.D.F. is investigating some its own tonight on the heels of explosive allegations.  Those under investigation are senior officers who stand accused of sexual assault and abuse of authority committed against female recruits.  The recruits are to be matriculating to soldiers in two days time, but reports are that they have endured unspeakable acts at the hands of their superiors during training.  News Five has learnt that some officials were only made aware of the issue on Tuesday and that they are now uncovering a number of infractions committed.  While the B.D.F. has yet to comment on the allegations, they have confirmed that they received a complaint and that an inquiry has been launched. A number of sources reached out to News Five to share reports of some of the incidents uncovered – several of which were corroborated by members of the force. Reporter Andrea Polanco tells us more about some of those allegations.


Andrea Polanco, Reporting

As the Belize Defence Force prepares for its forty-second anniversary and annual passing out ceremony for Recruit Intake 65, it finds itself trying to contain what some inside the B.D.F. say may be a scandal of sexual assaults and abuse of power committed by top B.D.F. officers. Today, we reached out for an official comment from the B.D.F., through WhatsApp messages; the Brigadier General Stephen Ortega confirmed that there is an ongoing internal inquiry because they received complaints. He told us that he cannot comment until that inquiry wraps up.

A source confirmed that high ranking officials were caught off-guard about the allegations and they launched an investigation on Tuesday of this week. One person inside the B.D.F. describes the preliminary reports as “absolutely disgusting” and “unbelievably nasty, criminal acts.”

A female recruit reported that a senior officer on the training team sexually assaulted her. The allegations are that she made a report and that at least one senior member of the training staff turned a blind eye.

There is another unconfirmed report that a female recruit was impregnated by a senior officer during her recruit training and that her family reportedly complained to the B.D.F. officials calling it a rape case. The nature of the relationship between recruit and instructor is not clear at this time – but whether it was consensual, as per B.D.F. rules, relations between recruits and training staff are prohibited. We have also been reliably informed that if the recruit is indeed pregnant, she’d be the second consecutive recruit to become pregnant during training at Price Barracks.

Allegations are that so far the inquiry has uncovered more than fifty – some say as many as seventy – complaints of gross sexual offences and abuse of authority. A senior member of the B.D.F. says that while the internal investigation is still in its early stages, they anticipate that criminal charges will be made against one or more officers. The allegations, we are told are against officers of ranks such as corporals, lieutenants and captains.

Other reports coming out of the B.D.F. are that the training staff members may have breached rules in their management of the recruits. News 5 was reliably informed that the recruit training staff ordered the one hundred or so new recruits to pay two hundred and fifty dollars for a party – if those monies were handed over that would have been twenty-five thousand dollars in the hands of these senior officers. Another report alleges that the officers also demanded that the recruits pay seventy dollars for t-shirts. Those monies, we are told would be split as follows: forty-five dollars each for a shirt for each recruit and the twenty-five dollars remaining from each recruit would be contributed towards t-shirts for their instructors.

We note that these are allegations are now unfolding – but credible sources inside the B.D.F. say that reports of abuse particularly committed against recruits have plagued the force for years but that the dismissive culture has allowed for these violations and criminal acts to go unchecked.

These latest allegations put into focus how deeply rooted sexual harassment and gross abuse of power are in the military culture. These are often times committed against women and new recruits who feel powerless and fear retaliation if they report the misogynistic and predatory behaviour of their superiors.

Despite a world-wide movement of women speaking out about these unlawful acts, women in Belize still find it difficult to report for many reasons, including fear of public ridicule which breeds re-victimization and reprisal at the hands of their bosses. While this issue has dominated international headlines, the issue is still commonplace among military bodies around the world. A 2018 Pentagon report shows that approximately twenty thousand five hundred service members in the U.S.A. experienced sexual assault in the military, about a thirty-eight percent increase since 2016. We are not able to determine if these kinds of statistics are available for B.D.F. and other law enforcement entities in Belize.

A source told News Five that these allegations call for a scrutiny at the measures that may or may not be in place to protect officers, particularly women and service members who are just entering the force who may be vulnerable to these kinds of abuses.  According to General Ortega, the inquiry into the allegations is expected to wrap up next week.

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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