February 4, 2018
Skirmishes, conflicts and uprisings, if we really look at them closely, are pretty much very small-scale wars. It has the elements of a war because the definition loosely fits. It involves two or more armed groups intending to do harm and violence to each other, with the result involving death and destruction. Over the history of man, there have been countless wars and even more conflicts. The reasons behind them are as varied as the total number of them. Some involve disagreements over land, resources, ethnic/cultural and ideology, but the basis of them remains the same, which is the use of violence to achieve a desired goal. Some have been justifiable, like World Wars I and II, and some have been as ridiculous as El Salvador and Honduras’ Football War. However, as long as mankind continues to walk the face of this earth, there will always be those who see violence as a justifiable means of accomplishing their goals.
The First Palestinian Intifada from December 1987 to around September 1993, had a total of 1962 Palestinian deaths. The Football War between El Salvador and Honduras in July 1969 had roughly 3000 deaths. The overthrow of Romanian dictator Nicolae Ceausescu in December of 1989 had 1200 deaths. The 16-year US-led war in Afghanistan, which continues to the present day, has seen 2,271 Americans killed. More recently, the 1991 Gulf War which saw a coalition of nations going up against the armies of Iraq’s Saddam Hussein to expel them from neighbouring Kuwait, which they had invaded, saw only 1000 Kuwaitis and 292 Coalition forces killed.
As of January 30, 2018, the official death toll for murder rates in the nation of Belize is at 16, while last year at this same time it was at 12. That is a total of 4 more grieving families and relatives this year as compared to last year. Belize has been averaging a total of 130 murders per year over the past two decades. For a nation with a population of a little over 387,000 people by 2017 according to recent statistics, that’s 2600 murders since 1990. That is more than the First Palestinian Intifada and a little less than those killed in the Salvador/Honduras Football War, more than Ceausescu and Philippines Ferdinand Marcus’ overthrow and more than the number of Coalition troops killed in the Gulf War and the current number of Americans killed in the war in Afghanistan. That is staggering! To put this into a clearer perspective, 2600 persons can almost be the size of a division in Belize and larger than most villages in the nation. Now imagine that 2600 people in any area of Belize would die, do you believe that the government would take drastic immediate action? Well, that same scenario is currently playing out in the nation, and that’s by means of murders. We are at war!
The killing incidents in this Belizean murderous war are a strange mix of gang warfare, drug-related killings, ordinary crimes of passion, murder over ordinary disputes and even killings within families. The core question is why a population that seemingly was a peaceful one when compared to those surrounding us in Latin America is now poised to use violence as the first means to settle disputes. War culminates with one of only two results, a total vanquishing of the enemy or some type of terms of settlement between the two. The first of these would not be an acceptable option because it will require more shedding of blood and we may well see another 2600 killed, and maybe this time in only 10 years. There must be some serious way to address the escalating level of unnecessary violence that is engulfing the nation. Belize will not successfully grow as a nation if this continues. As total warfare draws on the total resources of the nations involved in them, so too must Belize draw on all its collective resources, social partners, community groups, churches and activists to stop this war. We cannot continue to turn a blind eye to this issue because it will not just go away. For the most part, like school shootings in the US, we have become comfortable and acclimatized to the daily violence, which is one of the worst things that could have happened to our society. Violence does not have to be a way of life and most certainly not something to get used to. We cannot rest until violence is brought down because the mythical belief that it affects only certain parts of the society or only some kinds of people will be blown away when we too are affected.
The killings in Belize are not a poor man’s creation or dilemma. Violence pulls at the collective strings of the nation. It affects families, communities and the society from an emotional, physiological and also from a financial standpoint. It ties up resources in trauma units that could be spent otherwise. The cost in fuel and transportation to pick up victims, manhours to pay doctors, nurses and attendants to treat them plus the cost of hospitalization and rehabilitation runs annually in the millions and is an unnecessary expense that can easily be avoided if the violence did not exist in the first place. The largest cost, however, is the opportunity cost of losing bright, young and hopeful minds. We are potentially destroying doctors, attorneys, engineers or teachers who could have built and also altered the minds of future Belizeans. A nation that does not address the plight of its youth is killing its future generation.
It’s all about the people!!!!
Neri O. Briceno