This afternoon at the Belize Coast Guard’s headquarters on the Western Highway, a donation was made, totaling more than 4 and a half million dollars, from the U.S. Southern Military Command (SOUTHCOM) to the Coast Guard and Belize Defence Force (BDF).
Commander of SOUTHCOM, three-star U.S. Air Force General Douglas Fraser, began a tour of Belize with the transfer of two new 37-foot Boston Whaler Justice patrol boats (bringing the total fleet of the Guard to eight Whalers and safe boats), two Ford F-440 pickup trucks for the Coast Guard, nine Polaris Ranger all-terrain vehicles (ATV) to the BDF and an F-440 truck, along with other supplies.
Ambassador of the United States to Belize, Vinai Thummalapally, said that the transfer, established under the SOUTHCOM regional initiative, was intended to offer American assistance to Belize to counter transnational threats such as terrorism and illicit trafficking and establishing in the long-term a regional security network designed to train and enhance national capability in defense.
The ambassador noted the growth in company strength of the Guard from its formation in 2005 (currently 150) and the extensive opportunities for training and development for officers and enlisted men offered by the United States, from Commandant Captain John Borland to junior rank officers.
General Fraser commended the senior staff of Belize’s armed forces and emphasized the partnership, cooperation and friendship of the armed forces of the U.S. and Belize as the bedrock of future regional and international security.
“Belize’s land and maritime forces routinely contribute to disrupting illicit trafficking, and the Belize Defence Force engineers have recently supported humanitarian assistance efforts in Haiti. The determination, and the steadfast commitment of the men and women who participate in these missions deserve not just our admiration, but our utmost support…” the General noted, adding that because of that cooperation, there has been a reduction of air and maritime traffic into the Caribbean and Pacific coasts with regard to drug trafficking.
In noting the very busy recent times for the Coast Guard, BDF and police, in which they have had to tangle on the high seas with armed pirates on the caye ranges and gun-toting drug traffickers in the flash point of North Ambergris Caye, Col. (Ret’d) George Lovell, CEO of the Ministry of National Security, admitted at the ceremony that it is a challenge for the Government to deploy the new assets at the frequency at which it would like and charged the armed forces to be “sustainable” in their use and “revise the maritime security strategy to meet evolving threats of transnational crime from a joint perspective.”
Nonetheless, he reiterated the Government’s commitment to a safe and secure Belize.