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May 18, 2020

Pet and Arthur Saldivar Charged After BGYEA Land Meeting in Cotton Tree

A crowd of persons showed up at mile forty-four on the George Price Highway on Sunday, lured by the promise of a piece of land.  Nigel Petillo, of the Belize Youth Grassroots Empowerment Organization, is attempting a repeat of the Harmonyville Community where he successfully took over acres of land and parcelled it out to first time land owners.  Hundreds turned out and a long line of vehicles parked along the stretch of the highway near Cotton Tree where some two thousand five hundred acres of abandoned land has been identified. But there is a state of emergency and mass gatherings are not allowed. Police soon arrived and the crowd was dispersed. Later, Petillo and his attorney, Arthur Saldivar, were picked up and this morning, they were taken to court in Belmopan. Here is News Five’s Isani Cayetano.


Nigel Petillo, President, BGYEA

“If you call it wahn illegal gathering because poor people di register dehn frustration, Paul.  Dis da weh you call illegal gathering?  Wahn bunch a voters, poor people di register dehn frustration.  How dis da illegal gathering.  Di elites dehn deh pan di beach right now.  Di elites dehn di swim, dehn di gather.  Weh di police dehn deh?”


Isani Cayetano, Reporting

Nigel Petillo, a well-known activist and founding member of Belize Grassroots Youth Empowerment Association, joins the list of persons who have been charged for offenses under the State of Emergency.  On Sunday, the president of BGYEA was in Cotton Tree Village where he met with dozens of residents and many others from across the country who were interested in acquiring parcels of unused land along the George Price Highway.  In the process, he is said to have violated regulations that fall within the existing S.O.E.


Nigel Petillo

“This land turned out to be a parcel of land like many other parcels of land throughout this country that has been neglected by its owner.  The taxes on this land haven’t been paid for quite some time.  The people of the community have been settling the land and information reaching me is that the government has been issuing parcels of this said land already out to other people, you know.”


It’s a tract of land covering two thousand, five hundred acres which was reportedly the property of an Asian landowner who passed away without leaving it as an inheritance.  Since then, the acreage has been designated for agricultural use.


Nigel Petillo

Nigel Petillo

“The villagers of Cotton Tree contacted me and brought it to my attention that dis land deh ya fi quite some time and actually the government labeled it as the Cotton Tree Agricultural Layout, yet no resident of Cotton Tree own wahn piece ah land eena da layout.”


According to Petillo, a number of persons turned out for the outdoor meeting, including the police department whose officers were called out to maintain law and order during the event.


Nigel Petillo

“We came out, we came out to discuss.  We invited everybody countrywide.  We asked the government to come out, we asked the area reps fi come out mek we discuss.  I call pan di prime minister and I even ask the police come out so dat we could maintain law and order.  Ih turn out dat we neva feel fi go, I neva eena di mood fi go swim yesterday, but yet if I mi wahn go swim yesterday it would have been quite fine.  Wear yo face mask, go go swim, no eena no crowd ah wahn ten.  We mi di adhere to the rules and regulations.  The government sent the police out there, the police came out there and did what they were told to do, disperse the crowd, lock up Arthur, lock up Nigel and that was the response from our government.  That was the response from the people that we vote een over and over.”


Petillo say that he left and went to home Harmonyville where he was later arrested by a team of officers.  A call was immediately placed to attorney Arthur Saldivar who showed up on the scene.


Arthur Saldivar

Arthur Saldivar, Attorney for Nigel Petillo

“It started about 9:45 yesterday morning, I received a call from a family member of Mr. Petillo who requested that I go to mile forty-four because there was the belief that Mr. Petillo was in police custody there.  So I proceeded to go to mile forty-four.  When I got there I approached Superintendent Carcamo and asked him for my client.  He told me that he didn’t see my client and I was in the process of leaving when I got another call saying to proceed by a piece of heavy equipment.  I went in that direction and I located my client and we walked out.”


Saldivar says he saw to it that Petillo got home without incident before proceeding to his home.  Sometime later, he received a second call informing him that his client was in police custody in Belmopan.  Again, Saldivar went to Petillo’s aid, unbeknownst to him that he too would be charged for an offense under the SOE.


Arthur Saldivar

“Upon arriving at the police station, I got off my motorcycle which I was riding at the time and going into the station I was ran up on by Superintendent Carcamo who told me that between the vehicle that I exited and the entrance to the station, that I was not wearing my mask.  Now I was in the process of putting the mask on before entering the station.  But apparently I was told at that point that I had already violated the law.”


And so, he too was taken into custody and charged for not wearing a mask.


Arthur Saldivar

“The charge is bogus.  Apart from that, while at the station, while looking after the interest of my client, I was informed that I would also be charged for unable to provide reasonable explanation or excuse for being in public after curfew hours.  Well I was never asked any question by law enforcement why I was there.  But then again, as an attorney at law, I have a legal duty to safeguard the interests of my client and where I am called upon to safeguard those rights as they pertain to being in police custody outside of a police station, that is his constitutional right.”


This morning, attorney Arthur Saldivar and his client, Nigel Petillo, appeared before the Belmopan Magistrates’ Court where they were both read charges related to violations of the state of emergency. 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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