General — 25 April 2014 — by Kareem Clarke

When Guatemalan national Tomas Desdicho Ramirez, 26, was shot and killed at the hands of Belize Defense Force (BDF) soldiers inside Belizean territory on March 29, it prompted an intensive investigation by both Belizean officials and their Guatemalan counterparts, and this past Monday, Guatemalan online newspaper Prensa Libre announced that the US-based Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) had been called in to assist in the investigation into the killing of Ramirez.

Amandala understands that actually, it is not the FBI, but a senior official of the International Forensics Laboratory and Training Center, which works with the American government, who is being asked to participate in the investigation into Ramirez’s death, which occurred during a shootout with members of a joint BDF and Police Patrol 3.4 kilometers deep, within Belizean territory in the Chiquibul near an area called Cebada Camp.

According to Foreign Affairs Minister, Hon. Wilfred Elrington, the United States government has identified Dr. James Edward Hamby, Ph.D., a firearms expert who is also the Director of the US International Forensic Science Laboratory and Training Center, as the individual who will work with the Belize government during the investigation.

As to the reason for Hamby’s involvement, which we understand was at the behest of the Government of Belize, Elrington stated: “It is an investigation that is already ongoing. The intention is to make it absolutely clear that we are taking a very professional attitude towards this investigation, that we are being completely transparent, and that we have nothing to hide. We want the world to know that we are doing all in our power to make sure that the facts and circumstances surrounding the incident are made clear and properly determined.”

We were told that Hamby has been to Belize before and is the author of a book titled The History of Firearm and Toolmark Identification.

Elrington did not say why the Belizean public had to hear the news first from a Guatemalan newspaper.

The incident occurred at the worst possible time, on the heels of confidence-building measures which were being initiated by officials from the governments of Belize and Guatemala, and the reason for the involvement of the American investigator is reportedly to look further into what has become a high priority incident for the purpose of diplomacy and to ascertain if anyone should be found culpable in Ramirez’s death.

Although the Guatemalan newspaper also said that the Guatemalan Foreign Minister Fernando Carrera had indicated that Canadian police will also join in the forensic portion of the investigation this week, Elrington did not mention or confirm this aspect of the investigation.

While patrolling the Chiquibul forest in southern Belize in late March, Belizean authorities reportedly came under fire from a group of men who, when ordered to stop, continued to fire upon the patrol, which was when Ramirez was shot in the chest, abdomen and right leg.

The patrol reported that they subsequently retrieved a shotgun from Ramirez and a plastic bag containing illegal drugs.

He was the fourth Guatemalan to be killed by BDF inside Belize territory within three years, and Elrington alluded that dealing with massive illegal border crossings involving Guatemalans is a “very difficult situation” for Belizean authorities.

We understand that a report on the investigations should be completed by the end of this month, after which it will be forwarded to the Director of Public Prosecutions, Cheryl-Lynn Vidal, for her directive.

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