March 4, 2018
‘Tonight, there is anxiety in the senior and lower ranks of the police department after reports emerged of a damning watchlist circulated by the US Department of Homeland Security. 7News has seen the document which names over 50 police officers of all ranks. It says they are suspected of money laundering, drug trafficking, human trafficking, and transnational crime. The listing is for 2017 and 2018, and it says that the watchlist has been sent to all entry points in the US. The names are broken down into high and medium priority. The majority of the names we saw are listed as high priority. Now, as we said it includes senior police officers. How senior? Well we counted four assistant commissioners of police and five senior superintendents. This is in addition to at least 45 other officers of various ranks. And the heading to the list makes clear that it is not comprehensive, and it states that there are other ‘risks’ within the department. If authentic, it’s a heavy blow to the credibility of the police department — because of the number of names, their seniority, and public prominence. CEO in the Ministry of Home Affairs George Lovell told us that he knows nothing about the list. He said he has heard of it — and even asked the Commissioner of Police, who said he knows of no such list. Lovell said as far as he is concerned, there is no such list. He raised the possibility that it could be concocted, and he would have to see it directly from the Americans. We’ll keep following the story”.
—7News Belize, Tuesday, February 27, 2018 —
While 7News has now disavowed the authenticity of this document, my doubts still linger regarding this entire situation. On the one hand, the Minister of Police does confirm that some officers are banned from US- sponsored training because of suspicions (or should I say evidence, since the US does not act on suspicions) of a wide array of irregularities, the Embassy and GOB are both still denying it. By the way, when was the last time any government, including the US and GOB, has ever fessed up to anything negative? For those who have studied diplomacy, no government will openly accuse another of any wrongdoing unless it’s something extremely terrible and the same applies here in the case with the US and Belize. My uncertainties always tell me that where there is smoke, there has to be fire.
Logistically the nation of Belize is positioned ideally for the transit of legitimate goods going both north and south. With a long coastline, many offshore islands and huge swaths of unpatrolled and isolated inland jungle, the same holds true for illicit products, including drugs. It is no secret that fast boats originating from South America with drugs, made Belize one of their frequent ports of call for refueling and to replenish food, water and other stuff. Many of the isolated offshore cayes became virtual hospitality settings for traffickers, providing them with hot meals, alcohol and even female companionship. Inland the operations were equally as successful, employing fast small planes to transport their products either directly to the US mainland or as close as possible to the Mexican-Belize border for further transshipment. The insatiable demand of our friends to the far north has made this an extremely lucrative business to growers, producers, transporters, enforcers, financiers, bankers and all those along the illicit logistical trail.
The man on the street who is often seen as the face of the illicit drugs trade is but a small part of the entire illicit drug operation. Often the other equally if not more important parties go unnoticed and most of the times unprosecuted. The illicit drug trade in every producing nation has one universally key component, and that is the assistance of law enforcement, both military and police. The trade cannot exist without the support of these two elements, and in Belize it is no different. I am convinced that there is a corrupt core element within the police and the military in high positions that are involved in the drug trade in Belize. All evidence points to it, because they are the only people with the technology, logistics and weaponry to intercept both sea and airborne vessels that ship drugs both to and through Belize. Additionally, the history of the nation’s war on drugs has always shown that segments of the military, police and political establishment have always been involved. The landing of two planes just days apart in the north in what was clearly an operation to deliver illegal cargo, shows the confidence on the part of the traffickers that Belize is either unable or incapable of preventing this. The landing of two planes almost simultaneously shows the incompetence of the authorities to stop this.
The real winners in the drug trade have and will always be the big financiers and the banks which still continue to uphold them. The ordinary man on the street who is most often the target is but the mere run-man in this often complex logistical equation. Let no ghost fool you, while the sale of illicit drugs without a doubt generates a huge amount of monies, financing the operations also takes huge cashflow. This does not come from the man on the street selling the product, since he is incapable of financing what amounts to millions upon millions of dollars. Most of the time this is financed by businessmen involved in legitimate businesses and who have earned a certain amount of respectability in both the financial and banking community. Belize is a small place both geographically and population-wise; in other words, everybody knows everybody and likewise it is clear as daylight who are involved in the drug trade. We all know what work people do and how they earn a living, so identifying big money is quite easy. While in highly populated and geographically large nations harnessing the drug trade can be challenging because of mere numbers and size, in Belize there is no such obstacle. However, the complicity runs so high that the business has become a smooth operation and clearly the traffickers have recognized that Belize is a weak link.
Interestingly enough, the majority of the planes continue to land in what has become contraband area. Long before cocaine when marijuana was king, and Orange Walk was Rambo-town, these same clandestine logistical links were once used, except that the cargo was different. The impoverished communities in the north, including certain members of the Mennonite community, were the ones putting in the manual work for this operation. Yes, I said it right, the Mennonites. What a lot of people do not realize or fail to remember is that a lot of the great wealth that some Mennonites are not able to display and promote themselves as the success story businessmen that they are, has its origins in the 1980’s illegal marijuana trade with the United States. Don’t get me wrong – I am not saying it’s all of them, but a portion was ill-gained. While there is certainly more than enough blame to go around, sometimes the real bogeyman in the drug trade is not always the man on the street.
It’s all about the people!!!!
Neri O. Briceno