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Mar 26, 2009

Bus conflicts prompts action between Belize/Guatemala

Story PictureWe have reported from time to time about the war in the transport industry between local bus companies and now there is another battle developing, but this time with regional bus lines that may have greater implications in the tourism industry. This week the Ministry of Transport held a public consultation in Belize City with stakeholders including local and regional bus operators, tourism personnel, and consumers to address concerns in the industry. That consultation has shed light on a situation where bus lines such as Linea Dorada and San Juan Travel Services, which shuttle tourists daily between Belize, Mexico and Guatemala, do not have permits to operate in the country. Local operators complained that the lines are in direct competition with them without having to follow the same rules and that the Belizean companies are not afforded such lax measures when they travel to Mexico or Guatemala. The Ministry of Transport took heed and on Wednesday began to enforce regulations that regional lines could not drop off and pick up passengers in Belize without a permit. As a result, all buses, except those who were simply in transit, were told they could not enter the country. Word is that Guatemala reacted in kind and prevented Belizean public transportation from entering through the Melchor border. During a phone interview today, C.E.O. in the Ministry of Transport, Col. George Lovell told News Five that the ban has been temporarily lifted as the three countries will try to reach an amicable solution.

Col. George Lovell, CEO, Ministry of Transport
“Our Guatemalan counterparts on the other side got word of this because the international tour operators complained. What they did, they then appealed through the Ministry of Tourism and Foreign Affairs. That appeal was heard by my minister and the Prime Minister and we had taken a decision to suspend our enforcement until Monday at six p.m. at which time our borders normally closes. And that would give them enough notice and give us enough time and I say us, I am talking about the tri-part between Guatemala, Belize and Mexico to work out an amicable solution as to how we can take this thing forward. Our laws in Belize stipulate that any provider must have a permit and that permit then stipulates under what conditions and which routes you would be allowed to operate. This has never been enforced to these people who reportedly—I say reportedly because Linea Dorada and San Juan Travel Services are operating under the virtue of a Mundo Maya agreement. This Mundo Maya is apparently an agreement which has been in existence and again the reports we have receive over the last nineteen years. Now we have not see copies of this report nor has the ministry of tourism. I have checked with my Ministry of Foreign Affairs and they cannot find we have asked Linea Dorada and San Juan to produce, which they promised to do, but we still have not seen that agreement, the Mundo Maya agreement. So what we are saying though even if there is such an agreement, there must be some sort of conditions as to where they can go and how they can operate. Our buses, for example in Mexico, are not allowed to go beyond Chetumal. You see and this where our operators are complaining. Apparently there are ways to get special permits to go beyond and only a few people know and can access that type of permit. Now our providers are saying that we would want to have the same privileges that we allow those international providers to have here in Belize, in Mexico and Guatemala and if we cannot have that then we cannot allow them to do as they so please here in Belize.”

Apparently the straw that broke the camel’s back is that another regional operator was looking to set up shop in the country and the locals felt their market share would shrink considerably should that occur. The local providers are also contending that they have the capacity to move the tourists from the border into Belize, but according to Lovell the issue of the standards of the local buses would have to be similar to those of the Mexicans and Guatemalans and the local would also need permits.

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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