SAN PEDRO, Fri. Jan. 30, 2015–The San Pedro Town Council, on Friday, January 30, issued a release condemning allegations made by the Honduran Ambassador, Her Excellency Sandra Rosales-Abella, that a Honduran national, Sylvia Benitez, a single mother of three whose body was discovered about 15 feet off the Mata Grande Road, 3½ miles north of San Pedro Town, had not been “decently” buried.
On January 17, after San Pedro police reported that they found Benitez’s partially nude and decomposing body, police coroner Dr. Mario Estradabran and his team from the police’s forensic unit conducted a post-mortem exam at the scene of the discovery of the corpse, and found that the body had bruises to the face, neck and back, and that there were multiple blunt force injuries to the right side of Benitez’s face, as well as to her neck and back, and injuries to her shoulders and inner thigh that seemed to have been caused by restraint by force.
The cause of Benitez’s death, however, could not be determined, and the body reportedly was buried at the site.
Benitez had been missing since Monday, January 12, after she left her place of work and a report to police was that she probably had been intoxicated at the time. Police suspect that Benitez had been murdered elsewhere and her body disposed of in the uninhabited area.
The San Pedro Town Council, which won elections on a UDP slate, contends that the Honduran Ambassador, concerning the burial, made “misleading and false statements” against the Council, the Mayor of San Pedro Town, Daniel Guerrero, the Minister of Tourism, Civil Aviation and Culture, Hon. Manuel Heredia, Jr. and other authorities on Ambergris Caye, first at a forum held on January 29 at the Lion’s Den and then on The Reef Radio Morning Show.
Not only that, the release said, but on both occasions Ambassador Abella had been flanked by the People’s United Party mayoral candidate Giovanni Solorzano and other key members of the PUP.
In fact, the matter so incensed the Council that in its release, it mentioned that it was “taking the statements made by the Honduran diplomat very seriously, including other political remarks” and that the Council, through relevant authorities, “will register its protest to the Government of Honduras in regards to the misconstrued and offensive remarks made by Her Excellency Abella.”
Two weeks after Benitez’s corpse was buried in the Grand Belizean Estate area, the body was exhumed on Friday morning and taken to the San Pedro Town Cemetery, where Benitez was finally laid to rest in a proper burial by her family and friends.
The order to exhume and relocate the body to the cemetery was given by Her Excellency Abella during a meeting held on Thursday in San Pedro.
Ambassador Abella reportedly said that the Council rendered no support to have the body decently buried and in addition, the diplomat stated that the Council and the Mayor allowed the immediate burial of Benitez without notifying the Honduran Embassy.
She further complained, in the release, that the Mayor of San Pedro Town refused to meet with her to facilitate the exhumation of Benitez for a proper burial.
In rebuffing the allegation made by the Honduran Ambassador, the release said that there was never direct communication between the Ambassador and the Mayor, and that on January 29 it was a secretary of the Honduran Embassy who had requested a meeting with the Mayor.
The San Pedro Town Council declared that throughout the entire process from the day that Benitez was discovered, all help was rendered to the relevant authorities upon their request, but that its involvement was limited because any murder investigation is carried out strictly by the police and other relevant institutions, although the Council was there to offer any assistance at the request of Belizean authorities.
In addition, the release said, the Council paid in full for all food and accommodations of the forensic team and that of the scenes of crime personnel brought in from Belize City, to ensure that Benitez’s body was treated with respect.
The Council also stated that it has no authority and cannot act outside of the established diplomatic protocols between Honduras and Belize, and that it was the duty of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Belize to have communicated the death of Benitez to the Honduran Government.
Her Excellency Abella, as a career diplomat, “knows these procedures all too well,” said the Council.