SAN IGNACIO–Tourism Police Special Constable Danny Conorquie, 20, was laid to rest in his home village of Georgeville on Sunday, and tomorrow, Tuesday, hundreds of Belizeans are expected to make their way over to Belize’s western border to make an international statement on the cold-blooded execution of the young tourism police officer around noon last Thursday at the Caracol Archaeological Reserve in western Belize at the hands of illegal Guatemalan loggers who may have retaliated after security forces confiscated their horses.
Tuesday’s show of national outrage is being led by the Belize People’s Front (BPF), an organization headed by Nancy Marin. The executive members of the Belize People’s Front include Louis Diaz and Ronny Plette in Belize, and Joseph Roca, Wellington Ramos and Joseph Guerrero in the USA.
Speaking with Amandala today, Marin said that their bottom-line message is “Justice for Danny.”
Marin said that they have received a permit to gather at the Macal River Park at 9:00 a.m. on Tuesday, September 30, 2014. They will then move via motorcade, escorted by police, to Belize’s western border with Guatemala, where a protest will be held on the Belize side of the border.
The demonstration is being supported by Wil Maheia and the People’s National Party, Vision Inspired by the People, Belize Territorial Volunteers, Citizens Organized for Liberty through Action, Belize Unity Alliance, San Ignacio Tour Guides, Audrey Matura-Shepherd and the Christian Workers Union, among others.
The BPF said that this is a non-partisan, non-political event, and calls on all patriotic Belizeans to join in solidarity. She said that the supporting groups will be organizing from their respective locations in the Toledo, Belize and Cayo Districts. They have also received indications that concerned Belizeans from northern Belize will join the protest.
When Conorquie was laid to rest on Sunday, September 28, Superintendent of Police Dinsdale Thompson, Officer commanding San Ignacio, had announced that police investigations had determined that Conorquie was killed by a Guatemalan.
However, today, the Police Department issued what they say is a retraction from Thompson.
“I am hereby retracting what I had said publicly at the funeral. I would like to now say that we have no evidence to prove that the culprits who shot Danny Conorquie are from Guatemala. We are still continuing with our investigation trying to ascertain who and from where are the people that are responsible for this shooting,” the retraction said.
Marin expressed the opinion that Thompson was forced to retract his statement to protect his job.
“Belizeans not cutting xáte; they are not poaching; not cutting timber in that area. Belizeans are not there doing these illegal things,” she said.
The BPF leader said that Belizean foreign policy is “very, very weak, and we have a very, very weak Ministry of Foreign Affairs. We are being bullied by Guatemala and they are allowing it.”
The Belizean people share a different sentiment from the Government, she said.
“Tomorrow, we are giving Belizeans a chance to voice that sentiment,” she told us.
“The peaceful citizens of Belize have had enough. They [the Government] bow down too much and are too apologetic to Guatemala,” Marin commented.
She said that the last time a Guatemalan, Thomas Ramirez, was killed in Belize, the Government of Belize rushed to pay compensation, and they had yet to say anything about compensating Conorquie’s family.
That payment was $10,000, and Opposition Leader Francis Fonseca told Amandala today that this would be “woefully inadequate” for the man who lost his life in the defense of the nation.
“That certainly will have to be many, many times more, in my view,” Fonseca told us.
According to Fonseca, Opposition leaders in the western part of the country are supporting the demonstration and will participate.
Fonseca, who presented a statement on the matter to the PUP’s National Party Council yesterday, told Amandala that they are outraged as a party at the fact that a young, innocent Belizean citizen serving in the line of duty as a special constable was murdered, was executed brutally in cold blood, and they have every reason to believe it was done by Guatemalans who had illegally entered our country.
“We expect and demand a full investigation by the Government of Belize, and that we get answers, not only for his family, but for the Belizean people,” Fonseca said.
“The whole security infrastructure is a matter of utmost importance,” the Opposition Leader added, pointing to daily incursions by Guatemalans who come to illegally farm land, mine for gold, extract xáte and excavate artifacts.
“We are losing millions of dollars and these people are acting almost with impunity,” said Fonseca, reiterating concerns he raised at the official ceremony on Independence Day just over a week ago.
He said that he expects the Belize Ministry of National Security and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to pursue the matter very aggressively. He also calls for a full official report on what took place at Caracol last Thursday.
“The Ministry of Foreign Affairs has to, at the very highest levels, make it very, very clear to the Guatemala Ministry of Foreign Affairs that this is an affront on our national integrity and territorial integrity, and we expect them to carry out an investigation and to cooperate in every way,” the Opposition Leader added.
In its statement issued today, COLA expressed its condolences and said, “It is now clear that the Guatemalans have an unofficial policy of sending their people over here to claim our country and its resources in a way they cannot and will never do legally. And Belize’s security and diplomatic officials, particularly Minister of Foreign Affairs, Wilfred Elrington, seem to bend over backward to accommodate them.”The COLA statement added that, “…Conorquie’s death highlights the lack of planning to safeguard these sites and the absolute lack of attention paid to the borderline. There are no border outposts, no management plan, no resources, nothing! We have no plan, no defense, and no way to stop Guatemalan aggression, and the politicians do not seem to care.”
The National Trade Union Congress of Belize issued a statement on Friday extending heartfelt condolences.
“We, at the NTUCB, shudder to think that as the month of September (Belize’s month of national pride and unification) wanes and comes to a close, that such an occurrence has befallen our nation and there seems to be no stir of national indignation, public outcry and official, vehement condemnation of this act by our authorities. Instead, what we have seen and heard is some soft-stepping around the matter, as if though this young Belizean’s life is of little or no value.”
The NTUCB says that “the cost of modern day invasion on Belizean territory has gone up too high! BELIZE … now is the time to act!”
Marin said that the Belize People’s Front will not relent until the Government makes a serious effort to address the security issue.
She said that tomorrow is just the first event of a series.
“We don’t want to stop here. We want them to solve this situation with the border incursions. We are in it for the long haul,” Marin told Amandala.
She said that one of the things they hope to achieve is a commitment from the Government of Belize that it will at least compensate the family of Conorquie and give due respect to the Belizean people and Conorquie’s family by issuing a note of condolence.
“Their silence is a real insult to our people,” Marin said.
After our interview with Marin, the first official statement of condolence came via press release from the Office of the Prime Minister. Today, four days after Conorquie’s execution, Barrow released a one-page statement, condemning what he described as a “dastardly act.”
While Barrow did not pledge a specific compensation package for Conorquie’s family, his statement said that “the Government commits to looking after the financial welfare of his immediate survivors.”
Barrow’s statement further said that, “Every effort will continue to be made to strengthen the security arrangements in the border areas.”
It added that, “It was only last Friday, after much planning, that the Belize Defence Force launched Operation Incisive Gallop, designed to clear illegal incursions into our national territory. The first of three new border outposts is nearing completion, and our capacity to deploy security forces more rapidly and effectively in the jungle is also being reviewed.”
Barrow’s statement concludes by saying that the Government is determined to do everything possible to safeguard Belizeans and to prevent any repetition of harm to the country’s security personnel.
An official statement from the PUP on Friday said that, “…the PUP is outraged at this brazen, daylight killing of a young Belizean special constable in the line of duty by what appears to be Guatemalan intruders.”
It added that this latest act of incursion and breach of national security is worsened by the fact that it occurred in the plain view of tourists, with obvious repercussions for this vital industry.
“No effort, therefore, can be spared in the investigation of this brazen crime and every attempt must be made to bring Danny Conorquie’s murderers to justice as quickly as possible,” it added.
The Opposition called on the Government of Belize to “lodge an immediate and vigorous protest of this crime and affront to our national security and sovereignty, with counterparts in Guatemala, at the highest level, once we can confirm that this abhorrent act was committed by Guatemalan nationals trespassing in our national reserve.”
In confounding contrast to Superintendent Dinsdale Thompson’s (forced, some believe) public retraction of his statement that Guatemalans were responsible for Conorquie’s murder, in his statement today, Prime Minister Barrow similarly underscored what Thompson had initially asserted, that, “There are reasons to believe that Guatemalan nationals may be responsible for the shooting and this has been communicated to the Guatemalan Authorities and the OAS. The Guatemalan Foreign Minister expressed his government’s regret over the death of the Belizean Special Constable and offered full collaboration in the effort to bring the perpetrators to justice.”