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Special Branch

Special Branch is what the British called that section of the Police Force which did secret service work. Special Branch spied on Belizeans, especially those who were active in groups like trade unions and activist organizations and political parties. Special Branch gathered information, then, on any one who, or any group which, could be considered any kind of threat to the colonial order of things.

In 1964, British Honduras became a self-governing colony, and this meant that the same man who would have been considered a dangerous security threat by the British in 1954 (Sharpe Inquiry), and in 1957 (expulsion from London), and in 1958 (sedition trial), became the First Minister, and then Premier. This was the Rt. Hon. George Price. So what happened to the Special Branch files on him when Mr. Price himself became, ultimately, responsible for Special Branch?

Likewise, what happened to the Special Branch files when Mr. Esquivel replaced Mr. Price as Prime Minister in 1984? Special Branch had been working for Mr. Price for twenty years, providing him with weekly information on his enemies, which would have included Mr. Esquivel. One morning Special Branch were working for Mr. Price, and the following morning, after the votes were counted, they were working for Mr. Esquivel.

Special Branch had to change horses in mid-stream in 1964, and then again in 1984. These were men who knew about the private life of important people. These were men who knew too much, in a certain sense, and these were men who had to make traumatic adjustments on two different occasions. They had to adjust from the British to the PUP, and then from the PUP to the UDP.

We would say that the most important thing in the Special Branch is politics, and the second most important thing, since the 1970s, is drugs. In the self-government era, drugs began to affect our lives more and more in Belize, and that was because of the big money to be made (and the money was two for one in American dollars) moving marijuana, later heroin and cocaine, and now meth, to the United States, which is just 600 miles away and is the greatest, most lucrative market for illegal drugs ever in the entire history of planet earth.

There were and are other sections of the Police Department (formerly Police Force) for which drugs were and are the most important subject matter. And there was a time when the Belize police began to be divided between those who worked for anti-drug American government agencies and those who worked for the drug traffickers. In fact, this territory became even more treacherous, confusing even, when an American government agency, in the foreign policy interests of American politics, began to move cocaine through Belize in the early 1980s.

Special Branch Belizeans had their own concerns, primarily socio-political, but they also had to be informed and knowledgeable about those of their police colleagues who were committed to either of the two sides in the “drug war.” By now, you will realize that Special Branch is a tricky place to work, because you have to adjust to changing realities. Special Branch personnel have to be quiet, discreet, unobtrusive, steady, intelligent, cold, resilient, brave, and so on. Be real, Belizeans: these men are spies. Every country needs them. Intelligence is vital for the nation-state to protect itself from its enemies both domestic and foreign.

This Gino Peck business, by now you get the sense, is very serious business. It has divided the Police Department. It may even be dividing our army, because they have their own version of Special Branch, which is called “military intelligence.”

As civilians at this newspaper, all we can say for sure right now is this: this is the Minister of National Security’s baby. He better get his a— in gear.

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