Barrow said grant for Guatemalan family was his idea
Chief Executive Officer in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Alexis Rosado, confirmed to Amandala on Wednesday that the Government of Belize has paid US$10,000 into the OAS Fund for Peace, with specific instructions to the Organization of American States (OAS) to have those funds made available to the pregnant widow and children of Guatemalan Francisco Quinn Yat, who was fatally shot by a Belize Defence Force officer more than 7 miles inside Belize, after the Guatemalan, who allegedly attacked the officer with a machete, refused to yield to six warning shots from the soldier.
The OAS Fund for Peace was established, according to the OAS, to help address conflicts that arise out of territorial disputes, particularly in relation to disputes between Honduras and Nicaragua, El Salvador and Nicaragua, and Belize and Guatemala.
The decision by the Government of Belize to pay any funds to the Guatemalan family has been the subject of great controversy here, and a newly formed group, the Belize Coalition for Justice, as well as Citizens Organized for Liberty through Action (COLA), publicly condemned the decision and called for the removal of Foreign Affairs Minister Wilfred Elrington for the manner in which the incident was handled on the diplomatic front.
Today, though, Prime Minister and Minister of Finance Dean Barrow told the press that Elrington did not propose that Government pay that grant to the Guatemalan family—he, Barrow, did.
Barrow said that Cabinet agreed that as a matter of international diplomacy and in the interest of moving forward with Guatemala, he agreed on the humanitarian ex gratia payment.
“That did not come from Minister Elrington,” said Barrow. “I was the one who put that to Cabinet and I stand behind the decision to make a humanitarian ex gratia payment.”
Several persons in the public domain have said that the government has shown partiality, in that similar assistance has not been provided to their very own Belizeans who have been harmed in encounters with members of Belize security forces. One very prominent case is that of Steven Buckley, who was disabled after a cop shot him in the head. Buckley said today to Amandala that he has still not received any aid from the government. (See story by Albert Ciego elsewhere in this issue of Amandala.)
Calling the US$10,000 payment to the Guatemalan “compensation” has a specific denotation. Barrow told the media that while he does not want to get into any kind of a word game, he wanted to clarify that compensation has a legal and technical meaning, signaling that amends is being made for a wrong committed.
CEO Rosado told Amandala Wednesday that soon after the shooting of Yat in early October, Belize wrote a cheque for US$10,000 and gave it to the special OAS representative who was in-country; however, because they have no bank account in Belize, the funds had to be wired through the office of the Belize Embassy in Washington to the OAS.
Rosado said that Belize, by making the payment to the Peace Fund for the Yat family, does not accept any liability for the death. “There is absolutely no way the government could ever countenance doing that,” said Rosado.
According to the CEO, the OAS will decide how the funds are paid to the family, but it won’t likely be given in a lump sum, but broken up in a series of payments, possibly earmarked to help offset education expenses for the children of Yat.
Amandala readers will recall that on the occasion of the visit of OAS Secretary-General, José Miguel Insulza, he was asked about the payment of compensation to the Guatemalan family. Insulza’s reply was: “…if somebody wants compensation [they have to] go to a commission of human rights. The OAS? I don’t know where they get that.”
We asked him more generally: “Will there be any allocation at all from the peace fund to support the family regarding this?”
Insulza replied: “Not unless the countries agreed on that, which is something I don’t want to discuss. We don’t have budgeted money for any kind of compensations. Where do you get these things? I am certainly saying this is not true, definitely not true.”
Rosado said that at the time of Insulza’s interview with the media, he should have already been briefed about Belize’s decision to make the US$10,000 contribution to the OAS Fund for Peace to aid Yat’s family.