Editorial — 09 September 2017
Who gave the order?

No one was injured during the entire episode but one Marisol Amaya who as always was being overzealous in trying to get an interview with Briceño had to be hauled off to the side as she too was in the way of the officers as they attempted to clear the highway for the free flow of traffic.

– Insert 2, THE UDP GUARDIAN, Sunday September 10, 2017

Our feeling at this newspaper is that a civilian politician gave the order for KREM Radio/TV News Editor, Marisol Amaya, to be manhandled and abused on the Tower Hill Bridge on Wednesday afternoon, September 6, 2017. There is, of course, the possibility that Inspector of Police, Aaron Gamboa, who did the actual manhandling, and was videotaped doing so, acted on his own initiative, as commander of the Special Patrol Unit (security forces). Whether he acted on his own initiative or was following orders from a superior, Inspector Gamboa made a mistake which will haunt him for the rest of his life.

A few months ago, May 18, 2017, to be exact, during a hearing of the Senate Select Committee which is investigating the various scandals at the Immigration Department, Brian Audinett, an activist of the ruling United Democratic Party (UDP) who is their sergeant-at-arms in the House of Representatives, assaulted the aforementioned Marisol Amaya, who was covering those hearings and was responding as a professional journalist to an uproar in the gallery led by UDP Chairman, Alberto August.

If you read the various editorial comments made by this newspaper on that Brian “Yellowman” Audinett assault on Ms. Amaya, you will note that we did not excoriate Mr. Audinett: we indicted him, but we did not excoriate him. That is because we understood Mr. Audinett to be a “soldier” following orders from his commanding officer, Chairman August, who in turn was acting in the service of Prime Minister and UDP Leader, Rt. Hon. Dean O. Barrow.

Our position was so restrained, in fact, that a leading official of the Opposition People’s United Party (PUP), a prominent women’s activist, attacked KREM Radio in the PUP newspaper for not standing up for Marisol. The fact of the matter was that Marisol herself refused to press police charges against Audinett, because she felt she would become tied up in court for months and months. An absolutely dedicated journalist, Marisol Amaya felt that her work in the field was more important than filing a court charge. Most people did not agree with Marisol, but it was her decision.

In the matter of Brian Audinett’s videotaped assault on Marisol, the people of Belize saw the rank hypocrisy of all the professional women’s activists and media practitioners who are on the payroll of the ruling party and are subsidized by the so-called “Friends of Belize.” These hypocrites did not come out for Marisol the way they should have.

Wednesday’s manhandling at the Tower Hill Bridge was significantly worse than the National Assembly assault. Marisol was thrown to the ground, where a member of Gamboa’s team attempted to club her with a baton. One of Marisol’s media colleagues from CTV-3, Fernando Sanchez, heroically blocked the baton blow. We saw a videotape of Marisol on the ground for what seemed like a long time. Later, the incredible warrior that she is, Marisol recovered to interview the Opposition PUP Leader, John Briceño, whereupon she, Briceño and other journalists were teargassed by the security forces.

Why would the order have come for Marisol to be manhandled on Wednesday, in the first instance, and who specifically gave that order? We cannot answer the second question, but we can offer a possible motive for the order. The nature of modern mobile telephone technology is such that Marisol Amaya was broadcasting live on KREM Radio from the Tower Hill Bridge almost as soon as John Briceño, Jose Mai and other PUP leaders and supporters arrived at the bridge to begin a protest, having left Central Park in Orange Walk Town a brief while before after the conclusion of a PUP rally. (The Tower Hill Bridge is about two miles from Central Park.) In the media capital/population center of Belize City, KREM Radio was the only medium reporting on the drama at Tower Hill Bridge. Thanks to Marisol Amaya.

The Tower Hill Bridge is a strategic spot where the security forces of Belize have had major problems in controlling protests in the past. Although it is only the security forces of Belize which are authorized to use violence, and although they are militarily organized, trained, and armed with all riot control weapons, this Tower Hill Bridge, for whatever the reason(s), is an area where the security forces of Belize have looked bad in the past, so to speak.

The UDP leaders of Belize are jumpy, because the Gapi Vega scandals, on top of the Immigration Department scandals, have sparked popular outrage nationwide. The security forces of Belize, for their part, were jumpy on Wednesday, because Tower Hill Bridge has negative memories for them. The decision by Briceño and Mai to block the bridge in a temporary or symbolic manner, quickly resulted in a physical response by the police, and things deteriorated rapidly. All the while, KREM Radio was broadcasting live. It was sensational journalism. But, Marisol Amaya was endangering herself, because the UDP Government of Belize has targeted her. That is this newspaper’s considered opinion.

The senior people at Kremandala need to address this situation urgently. What do you do with a journalist who is too brave? Marisol Amaya was completely within the guidelines of the laws when she was attacked by the commanding officer of Belize’s security forces. This is the second such incident in a few months. We do not consider the incidents to be coincidental. The UDP government created an atmosphere with respect to Kremandala in late 2015, when the incumbent Lake Independence area representative, Mark King, publicly threatened Kremandala, and Prime Minister Barrow refused to denounce King’s rhetorical excesses.

In parliamentary democracies like Belize’s, the elected civilian government has power over the security forces and the military. General Douglas MacArthur of the United States Army was a spectacular American hero, but when he insisted in early 1951 on chasing the North Koreans into China, U.S. President Harry Truman relieved MacArthur of his command – fired him, in other words. Truman’s decision was considered sensational. For MacArthur to have entered China would have risked nuclear war with both China and Russia.

Our message to Prime Minister Barrow is that he is pushing Partridge Street too far. Those of Mr. Barrow’s “handlers” in Belize’s power structure need to pay attention here. Kremandala can take Marisol Amaya off the ground, or Kremandala can organize itself to march. If the power structure of Belize will not recognize the fact that 48 years of work count for something, if they will not admit that Kremandala enjoys massive credibility with the Belizean people, then we shall see what we shall see.

Power to the people.

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