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Feb 7, 2020

Retired B.D.F. Captains Pens Letter to Brig. General Ortega

It’s been a week since the reports of multiple sexual harassment and abuse emerged from within the B.D.F.  Those reports were mostly about offences committed within the training school, but as you’ve heard here on News Five, those allegations go beyond the training school and its instructors.  There are allegations of several other members of the force who have sexually assaulted and harassed civilian staff members and low-ranking officers.  Retired B.D.F. Captain Derricia Castillo Salazar has spoken out about the abuse she experienced, as well as about the force’s culture that normalizes these attacks on women.   Castillo-Salazar has been lobbying for an independent team to investigate the reports inside the B.D.F.  She started an online petition to collect signatures to prompt the Human Rights Commission of Belize to look into the reports.  On Thursday, she sent a letter to Brigadier General Steven Ortega pointing out that she has collected over four hundred online signatures from citizens and civil society organizations who want an independent investigation. The letter states, “As you know, although the Defence Act does not empower you, or the B.D.F. to independently deal with cases of criminal complaint nor to try any criminal case; it does give you the power to independently convene a Court of Inquiry to address the administrative matters which exist.” The retired captain’s letter points out that the Ministry’s special investigative team’s role is unclear, as it relates to investigating criminal complaints. The letter goes on to query if the B.D.F. will address, the endemic culture of violence against the women in the B.D.F., as well as some of its men. Last week Friday, in an interview with the press, General Ortega claimed to have no knowledge of any wrong doings in the force. Castillo-Salazar urged Ortega to deal with the matter expeditiously, saying “What you should not and cannot do is to emulate Pilate and try to wash your hands of the problem.” The letter ends by asking Ortega for a public response.


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