Belize City, Mon. Sept. 20, 2021– Fifty detainees who are believed by police to be responsible for most of the criminal activity in designated gang zones in Belize City were released from the Belize Central Prison this weekend after being detained by police as part of a series of measures taken under a State of Emergency (SOE) declared on Belize City’s Southside. The SOE was a response to a sequence of shootings and retaliations that had been taking place, seemingly with no end in sight, among gangs in the Banak and Mayflower areas, among others.
The fifty men had participated in a thirty-day state of emergency mediation program prior to their release, and each received a certificate indicating their completion of the program, which was jointly coordinated by the Ministry of Home Affairs and the Ministry of Youth. Reportedly, during the program’s sessions — in which the men were able to openly express their frustrations and concerns, as well as air their grievances — a sort of reconciliation was reached between members of rival groups, and the purported leaders of two high-profile gangs in the Mayflower and Banak areas reportedly shook hands and hugged to indicate their commitment to repairing the rifts between them.
The chairman of the Leadership Interdiction Unit, William Dawson, has indicated that the stakeholder groups will work at ensuring the continuity of the efforts to repair those rifts and slowly integrate these men back into society. Dawson said that the most crucial aspect of the initiative was the end of a long-existing feud between two warring gang factions. “We brokered a truce between the factions on the Banak and the Mayflower gangs, and both individuals decided that they will try their best to repair the relationship that was fractured years ago. As you see these guys, most of them are families. They are good friends and have been generation from that area; because of different feuds and different relationship factors that went wrong, and they vowed to work on that,” he said.
Dawson believes that allowing these men the space and freedom to vent their frustrations enabled them to overcome their differences. “One of the things is that we instill respect, discipline, and the ability to voice your emotions without getting violent and rude, and that seems to have played a major role where they were given that opportunity to air their differences without getting into that back and forth,” said Dawson.