General — 28 February 2014 — by Kareem Clarke
FECTAB and COLA defend Yhony Rosado

Popular cruise tourism personality and proprietor of Cavetubing.com, Yhony Rosado, has been thrust into another battle against those at the helm of the tourism industry in Belize – only this time, the stakes are higher because Rosado suspects that there is collusion within elements in the tourism sector who are hell-bent on tarnishing his reputation and putting his multi-million dollar cruise tourism operation out of business.

Last Friday, February 14, Rosado was arraigned in the Magistrate’s Court on a charge of disorderly conduct after he and a rival tour operator, Vitalino Reyes, Sr., allegedly got into an altercation last Boxing Day 2013 at the Fort Street Tourism Village.

Reyes alleged that while in the Belize City Tourism Zone on that day, Rosado attacked him and supposedly punched him in the face in a brawl that ensued afterwards.

In court, Rosado pleaded not guilty to the charges, was granted bail of $500 and must return to court on March 25, his next court date.

However, the misdemeanor charge happens to be the least of Rosado’s worries, as his tour operator’s license – which grants him lawful authority to run his business – is in danger of being revoked due to the incident, and Rosado believes that he is being deliberately victimized because of his courage in speaking out against inequalities within the tourism sector.

The fate of his livelihood is now before the Belize Tourism Board’s Tour Operator Licensing Committee, which is currently reviewing the allegations of assault against Reyes.

According to Rosado, the BTB did not even wait to check the credibility of the allegations, and is using this as an opportunity to derail his company.

Today, Rosado sought to clear his name, and his lawyer, and his colleagues from The Federation of Cruise Tourism Associations of Belize (FECTAB), as well as the Citizens Organized for Liberty through Action (COLA), held a press briefing this morning to discuss details of a longstanding rift between executive member Yhony Rosado and his competitor, Vitalino Reyes, Sr. among other pressing issues within the industry.

Rosado’s attorney, Kareem Musa, vowed to put a stop to the defamation of his client’s character, and threatened to file a lawsuit against those who have brought Rosado’s business under scrutiny. Musa stated, “I, speaking as his attorney, will not stand for that. I am taking an action with Yhony’s instructions because I think he has had enough. He is a businessman and he doesn’t like to bother with court, but I think he has seen the light. I think he sees the direction that this thing is going that they will stop at nothing until his license is revoked and I had advised him to not take these things lightly. Too many things are happening too often, and because he is so outspoken, because he is fighting against CHUKKA and fighting against BTB, I am convinced that they will stop at nothing to bring him down.”

As for Rosado, his opinion is that Vitalino Reyes is the instrument through which the “powers that be” in tourism are trying to stifle his way of making an honest living. An exasperated Rosado said, “My name has been tainted, painted very dark. [That’s why] I have my attorney with me and I have COLA beside me because my name is in the media as a gunman, as a boxing man and as a very rude businessman, and so my tour operator’s license is in question. [But] it’s not a fight between me and him (Vitalino Reyes); it is him just being used because he has never joined us to fight the same issues that we are fighting against. It seems to me like the people with the powers, they want to see some smoke. I am asking COLA, hold on the smoke, but I am not afraid of fighting for my country [because] I am a Belizean.”

The activist group, COLA, also stood up in defense of Rosado. Their president, Giovanni Brackett, made it clear that COLA will not just stand aside and watch Rosado’s business and license be tampered with. Brackett said, “It looks like in this country you have to burn down something so that you can get the attention of certain people in higher power. The day they think that they will take away the operating license of Yhony Rosado, we at COLA will turn this… upside down.”

Apart from citing Rosado’s tribulations, FECTAB directed their indignation to other factors that are currently crippling business for local tour operators, such as “unethical” lowering of prices by Carnival Cruise Line who, FECTAB asserted, is in collusion with foreign-owned competitor Chukka Tours and the BTB.

The local tour operators claim that they have had enough and vented their frustrations at those entities as well as the Minister of Tourism, Hon. Manuel Heredia Jr., even calling for his resignation. They are disgruntled at Carnival’s slashing of prices of their tour packages which has made business difficult for local tour guides who do business at the Belize City Tourism Zone. The BTB has said that the price slashes are out of their control and there are others in the Caribbean facing the same dilemma; however, Rosado said that explanation does not cut it.

Meanwhile, FECTAB’s David Almendarez accused Chukka Tours of giving the country a bad name, as he pointed out some reviews on the global travel website, Trip Advisor.com.

FECTAB has thus gone on a crusade to ban Chukka Tours from conducting business in Belize.

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