Letters — 11 January 2013 — by Dr. Kenneth Gale

Dear Editor,

In an ineffective attempt to lessen crime, the Government has directed a war against gangs that will result in hardened gang members and retaliation. The actions of the Government protect those in the upper level of crime and seek to punish the lower level offenders – gangs that the upper level has helped, created and has placed in untenable positions.

Belize has two levels of crime. The lower level of crime comes from gang affiliation. The separate and upper level of crime arises out of corrupt politics. Those involved in the upper level of crime are politicians that put their own interest, or the interests of their cronies, ahead of the interests of the people of Belize.

The lower level of crime, gangs, can never be resolved until the upper level of crime, corrupt politicians, is brought to an end. The reason is that the upper level of crime is a significant factor in bringing about and maintaining the problems that lead to gang affiliation.

There are three primary problems that lead to gang affiliation. The first is lack of education that deprives the youth of the knowledge and ability to maintain himself. The second is fatherless homes where the child does not receive proper direction and support from his biological father. In the States, 70% of those in prison come from single parent homes. The third is lack of available employment by which the child can seek to maintain himself.

Where politics gone wrong has deprived the youth of an education and an economy that provides an opportunity for employment, the ground work is thus laid for gang affiliation. One cannot expect the youth to stand on a street corner and starve to death: they will join gangs. The gangs’ home on the street is a substitute for the inappropriate home that he had during the earlier years. Gang members refer to each other as “home boys” or “homies.” They look to the older homies as father figures and are led by older homies into crime.

During the PUP’s prior term in office there was over $200,000,000.00 loaned to cronies or the cronies’ companies. All such loans shortly became in default. Even though there were guarantors on the loans, the PUP never tried to “receiver” on the defaulted loans. When the UDP came into office they did not make any attempt, of substance, to recover any of the moneys loaned. In addition to the loans, the Government Treasury has been looted by mismanagement of public funds and bloated contracts.

There have been more than enough Government funds to build schools and provide free education that would have kept the teenagers off the streets until they finished school. The teenagers would then have been in a better position to care for themselves. Previously, there were truancy laws that kept the children in school and off the streets. When the Government decided not to educate the youth, the truancy laws were discontinued.

Politicians have proceeded in manners that have denied the youth opportunities for employment that would have kept them off the streets. The Jewel was blessed with the earth’s finest fisheries. However, the politicians have brought about destruction of the fisheries, thereby depriving the youth of employment and depriving Belize’s economy of hundreds of millions of dollars of annual income.

Belize’s waters have been invaded by Guatemalan gill net fishermen who have virtually destroyed Belize’s fisheries with their miles of gill nets, which are referred to as “the walls of death.” During 2004 the then Minister of Fisheries, the Hon. Servulo Baeza, held public hearings and polled fishermen. As a result he concluded that to save the fisheries, gill nets must be outlawed in their entirety. Before he had the opportunity to proceed with such legislation that would have outlawed gill net fishing, saved the industry and increased employment in both the tourism and fisheries industries, a Cabinet meeting and shuffle was held. The Hon. Servulo Baeza was thus removed as Minister of Fisheries.

To benefit the foreign gill net fishermen, and their advocates, the Government then changed the law that had reserved all commercial fishing solely for Belize citizens. The law was changed to where residents who were not citizens could also engage in commercial fishing. The Guatemalan gill net fishermen were given fishing licenses, as residents, even though they resided in Guatemala and brought their boats and miles of gill nets from Guatemala to destroy Belize’s fisheries.

The result has been virtual destruction of Belize’s fisheries by foreigners, with the Government’s consent and assistance. Prior to 2004 the Gulf States of Texas, Louisiana, Georgia and Florida, after scientific study, had outlawed all gill net fishing. As a result nearly extinct species of fish came roaring back and Texas ended up with a billion-dollar sport fishing industry. Had Belize followed Texas’ lead and allowed the Hon. Servulo Baeza to have legislation passed to outlaw gill net fishing, in its entirety, Belize would now have a sport fishing industry that provides tourism and the economy with hundreds of millions of additional dollars annually.

Instead of increased employment and an increase in tourism’s annual income of hundreds of million dollars, tourism, in respect to sport fishing, has become so depressed that soon it will be of no significance.

Instead of the war being against gangs, the war should be against those in politics that have brought about the destruction of Belize’s economy and also against those who refuse to remedy the situation. Those in the upper level of crime, through their actions and failure to act, have caused the great increase in gang affiliation and present problems therefrom.

Those in the upper level of crime operate with almost complete immunity. The problems of Belize were studied and recognized by the Political Reform Commission. The Commission made recommendations that would weaken the politicians’ immunity and provide a means of prosecuting corruption in politics. Even though both the PUP and UDP had campaigned in support of political reform, neither party has sought to adopt the recommendations of the Political Reform Commission that would have put an end to political corruption.

If the recommendations had been adopted, the problems that have accelerated gang affiliations would not exist. The politicians should first pass legislation and adopt the recommendations of the Political Reform Commission to clean up their own act, before making war on the children.

There are politicians that are above corruption; among such politicians are Belize City’s Mayor and City Council. They have initiated a procedure that prevents bloated city contracts. The Government, that has a history of bloated contracts, has failed to enact procedures that will prevent future bloated contracts. Is the failure because there are politicians in Government that wish to have bloated contracts continue and benefit therefrom?

Dr. Kenneth Gale
Judge of the Superior Court, Retired

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