Features — 19 January 2016 — by Johnelle McKenzie

BELIZE CITY, Fri. Jan. 15, 2016–At a press briefing yesterday, Brigadier General David Jones reviewed the BDF’s accomplishments in 2015 and outlined what could be expected in 2016.

Jones made mention of the base being built at the Sarstoon, which he claims will be completed within three months.

Also, a base is needed in Consejo in Corozal District, where there have been observations of illegal drug activities occurring between Belizeans and Mexicans in the maritime area, Jones said. Jones said he was happy to report that funding to build such a base is in the final stage of being approved.

Rio Blanco was also a problem area due to a sizeable number of encroachments, which the BDF was able to bring under control with the assistance of their Guatemalan counterparts, Jones said.

Jones said that in 2015, the Belize Defence Force (BDF) was able to destroy over $76 million worth of marijuana.

The Cayo District was the area that saw the most destruction of marijuana; this was followed by the Toledo District. Also, marijuana was destroyed in the Corozal and Orange Walk Districts.

Jones further mentioned that the BDF is conducting aggressive patrols in the Chiquibul National Park to combat illegal gold panning, and as a result of their patrols of the area, four Guatemalans were arrested and charged for illegal gold mining within Belize in 2015.

Where illegal logging was concerned, there were a total of 52 illegal logs seized; these included mahogany, cider and sapodilla. The value of the lumber seized is $21,265. The fines levied against persons caught with illegal lumber totaled $20,200 in revenue for the government, Jones said.

Jones also stated that the BDF assisted the Customs Department in seizing the following contraband goods: 31 cases of beer, 18 cases of soft drinks, 29 bottles of rum, 43 sacks of vegetables, and 50 cartons of cigarette, perfumes, and zinc. The contraband goods were together worth $60,000. The majority of the confiscation occurred in the Orange Walk and Corozal Districts, and also in the Cayo and Toledo Districts, to a lesser degree.

Several Guatemalans who were trying to enter Belize illegally especially from Jalacte and surrounding areas, were caught and detained and brought to the Immigration Department, where they were dealt with, said Jones.

The BDF intends to step up their operations in 2016 along the border to detect illicit activities. In an effort to assist them with this, they have acquired the Bell 407 helicopter which landed in the Blue Creek area in August 2015, and they will be getting two UH-1H helicopters on January 18, Jones said.

Also in 2016, the BDF intends to do more air reconnaissance along the border and maritime space; Jones admitted there was less flying time in 2015, since the BDF’s aircraft was down a couple of months for the year.

Jones noted that 201 successful patrols were done “…jointly with the Guatemalan armed forces.” Meanwhile, “12 border patrols along the Rio Hondo were done with the Mexican army.”
“In 2016, training will continue; that is what the military does in absence of war; we continue to train for it, if it does happen. We intend to have cross-training with the US forces, in particular, the US Marines, British Forces and Canadian Special Forces,” Jones said.

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