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Home Highlights Amandala year in review: Part 1

Amandala year in review: Part 1

BELIZE CITY, Mon. Dec. 31, 2018– The first edition of our newspaper published on Friday, January 5, 2018, headlined the murder of a vacationing Belizean man, Jermaine Vellos, who was targeted on the second day of the New Year. Vellos was shot and killed on Maurice Bishop Street, in the Belama area of Belize City. Two masked men accosted Vellos and one of them shot him dead.

On that same day, January 2, a crowd gathered outside the Belize City Magistrate’s Court as the court opened for the first day of business for the New Year. The crowd had gathered to get a glimpse of WPC Michelle Brown, 24, who was charged with the murder of Fareed Ahmad, 39.

Ahmad, a popular barber, was shot inside his SUV on the George Price Highway, in Hattieville, where he resided with his wife and family.

In another front-page story, it was revealed that the Ahmad family had received a threatening text. The Ahmad family apparently had been under police surveillance for some time.

It was also reported that Leon Garcia, 30, a gang figure who had survived several attempts on his life, was not so lucky at the start of the New Year, when the reputed Victoria Street Gang boss was fatally stabbed. The stabbing was reportedly carried out by a rival gang.

“UDP Fat Cats feed off the PUC” is the caption of another front-page story that detailed millions of dollars that were paid out to PUC members for their attendance of meetings, an audit report found.

Another article reported that the Caribbean Court of Justice’s order to the Belize Government to pay $90 million to the Belize Bank for government’s guarantee of the Universal Health Service loan had been taken to the House of Representatives for the first time on Friday, January 5.

On Monday, January 8, popular taxi operator Roy “Bullet” Craig, 76, was arraigned in the Belize City Magistrate’s Court on a charge of sexual assault of a boy, 16. Craig was offered and met bail of $5,000.

On that day — Monday, January 8 —the ceremonial opening of the Supreme Court which signals the start of the new legal year took place.

In another news story, it was reported that Shakira Villanueva, 28, a pregnant woman who was involved in a road traffic accident, died 5 days after she was knocked down, as she was crossing the road in Guinea Grass Village, in the Orange Walk District. Villanueva was knocked down by a 16-year-old boy who was driving a SUV.

Amandala also reported that a tsunami panic hit Belize City residents when a powerful earthquake hit the Caribbean Sea. City residents began moving inland during the night of Wednesday, January 10, but fortunately no life-threatening waves arrived at the coast of the country. The earthquake measured 7.8 on the Richter scale.

We also reported a shortage of kerosene in Belize in our January 12 edition.

In our midweek edition of January 16, we headlined the story of Dangriga resident, Jenny Bonilla, who was awarded $250,000 in a medical malpractice lawsuit. A doctor told her that her womb was cancerous and went ahead and removed it without her consent.

On Monday, January 15, Mario Vernon, 24, the grandson of cultural icon and Brukdown Queen, Leela Vernon, was shot dead by a police officer in Punta Gorda Town.

“Dr. Errol Elrington is at the 6th spot on US list of 170 most wanted healthcare fugitives” was the topic of another Amandala article. Dr. Elrington is a younger brother of Belize Foreign Minister, Hon. Wilfred “Sedi” Elrington. The offense for which he is wanted by US authorities is not an extraditable offense.

On the other hand, the US had issued an extradition request to the Belize government for attorney Andrew Bennett after he was indicted by a US grand jury in the US state of Puerto Rico on 7 counts of money laundering. Bennett appeared in court for the first time on Thursday, January 18. Bennett was released on a bail of $100,000.
On January 18, the US cancelled the issuance of work visas for Belize, Haiti and Samoa. In the case of Belize, the US cited human trafficking as the reason for denying Belizeans access to work visas.

On Wednesday, January 17, Quincy Gentle, 28, was executed on Kelly Street. Gentle was believed to be an associate of the Majestic Alley/Kelly Street Gang.

In another article, Amandala referred to comments that were made by Raphael Manzanero, from Friends for Conservation and Development (FCD), which monitors the Chiquibul forest. Manzanero was quoted as saying that Belize’s response to Guatemalan cattle ranching in the Chiquibul was very weak.

In our midweek edition of Monday, January 23, we reported on the disappearance of two Mayan sisters, 17 and 19, who were subsequently found hacked to death. The bodies of the two sisters, Cresencia Oh, 19, and Josephine Oh, 17, residents of San Antonio, Toledo, were found on the San Jose Road. The sisters had left their home to go to church in San Jose.

It was also reported that 82 Belizeans were deported from the United States in 2017, and another report highlighted comments made by Attorney General Michael Peyrefitte, who was critical of the US for the removal of work visas from Belizeans.

The owner of Tiger Aggregates, Ronald Sutherland,71, died in an explosion in Cayo. He was issued a blasting license by the Belize Police Department.

On January 25, People’s United Party (PUP) (Opposition) senators Eamon Courtenay and Valerie Woods called a press conference to explain that senators representing the Barrow UDP administration had pointed out that laws were violated, specifically the Finance and Audit Reform Act.

Amandala received late news Thursday night, January 25, that three men, Tyler Herrera Cruz, 18, Joseph Cadle, 22, and Israel Cadle were charged for the murder of Thomas Henry. The accused men were also charged for the attempted murder of Kimberly Smith and her brother Orlando Smith. Thomas Henry was hit in his Roaring Creek house Tuesday night, when gunmen sprayed gunfire at his house as he and his family were asleep around 10:30 p.m.

Amandala also reported that Simon Velasquez, 23, was shot dead in a bike shop. The incident occurred on Plues Street around 12:00 p.m. Velasquez lived in San Pedro and was visiting Belize City. In 2010, he had survived a stabbing attack.

In an Amandala story entitled “Exploding oven kills Sandhill baker”, it was reported that Alfonso Moralez, 59, died around 8:00 a.m. on Friday, January 26, when he went to check an oven which was not working properly. His brother Alberto Moralez, was hospitalized after he sustained injuries from the explosion.

It was also reported that Robert Brown, 37, a heavy-duty machine operator, was accused of the murder of Earl Palmerston, 41, whom he allegedly stabbed multiple times in the back at a house on Barrier Reef Drive, where his ex-common-law wife, Stephany Coe, 26, was reportedly visiting. The murder apparently resulted from jealousy.

On Sunday, January 28, Sophie Reyes, 2, was knocked down and killed by a relative who was driving an SUV in Teakettle Village, Cayo District.

On Wednesday, January 31, two Chiquibul park rangers, Elroy Villanueva and Luis Ramirez were found alive, after they had been reported missing on Monday.

Another Amandala article was entitled, “Barrow’s $90 million headache sent back to the CCJ.”

On Thursday, February 1, police reported that Wilmar Escobar, 21, confessed to murdering the Oh sisters, who were found hacked to death on the San Jose Road.

The Public Utilities Commission (PUC) announced at a press conference on Wednesday of that week that water utility rates had been reduced by 6.39 %. The new rate will be in effect to March 31, 2020.

In another article titled, “Civil Service Credit Union bites the dust,” it was reported that the credit union which has been in existence since the early 1950s was liquidated by the Central Bank of Belize in early February, affecting 1,100 members.

It was reported as well that Jordan Bacchus, 28, a Canadian man who was wanted in Belize for murder, was arrested on drug charges and will be extradited to Belize to face murder charges.

In early February we reported on the Belize Magistracy experiencing a chronic shortage of magistrates.

On Tuesday, February 6, Israel “Prince” Perez’s body was found in a shallow grave in Harmonyville, 9 days after he went missing. Two Cotton Tree villagers, Cruz Castillo and Stanley Herrera, were charged for Perez’s murder.

It was reported by Amandala that a 4-year contract had been signed by the City Council with Citco administrator, Candice Miller. Mayor Darrell Bradley justified the contract even though it would last beyond the next administration’s term.

Another article reported that a “Blue Tsunami” had hit Belize City, as the Opposition, People’s United Party held a national convention at the ITVET campus, where an estimated 15,000 party members and supporters gathered, on Sunday, February 11.

Tyrone Norman Gibson, 20, was executed near the Michael Finnegan Market. Gibson was shot 5 times, 3 times to the head and once to the hip and to the right shoulder.

It was also reported that Tyrone Guy survived an attempt on his life. Guy was at a house on Fairweather Street when a man rode up on a motorcycle and opened fire, hitting him once in the leg.

“Mexican businesses abandon Corozal Free Zone” was our lead story on Friday, February 16. The story was based on reports in the Mexican press that Mexican clothing and novelty stores in the free zone were closing down.

Another report said that Yolanda Bowman Nembhard, 61, was found dead under Mike’s Club, on Thursday, February 15.

It was also reported that while Ombudsman Lionel Arzu had been re-appointed, Contractor General Godwin Arzu’s contract was not renewed. Prime Minister Dean Barrow had told Amandala this in an exclusive interview.

No one can eat “fancy buildings and cement streets,” Hon. Cordel Hyde, area representative for Lake Independence declared at the PUP National Convention, according to an Amandala report on the convention.

On Saturday, February 17, there was a murder-suicide on Rose Lane. Jason Emmanuel, an employee of the General Sales Tax Department, shot and killed his wife, Hermelinda Pinks-Emmanuel, before turning his licensed 9mm gun on himself.

It was also reported that the Belize Chinese community was celebrating the Year of the Dog, and that the Opposition, People’s United Party mayoral candidate, Bernard Wagner, had addressed new regulations at the Fort Street Tourism Village (FSTV).

Alfredo Pech, 67, was arraigned and remanded for unlawful sexual intercourse with a girl, 14. Pech reportedly impregnated the minor.

Masked Orange Walk cops from the Special Patrol Unit and BDF’s Belize Special Assignment Group allegedly beat a man to death, according to reports in the Amandala. The victim, Ariel Salazar, 46, a resident of Orange Walk Town, died on Thursday morning, February 22, while undergoing treatment at the Northern Regional Hospital.

Amandala also reported that two persons died as a consequence of inter-gang rivalry. A gunman, in a shooting rage sprayed gunfire at a house on Cemetery Road, near Pregnant Alley, killing David “Capo” Morrison, 12, a student of Queen Street Baptist School; and Lloyd Valentine, 26. A third person, Albert Wagner, 23, was shot in the stomach, but he survived.

On Thursday, February 22, the Opposition, People’s United Party (PUP) launched its Belize City manifesto under the theme “PUP Team-11, The Rebirth.”

“Barrow administration is a sinking ship, says Opposition Leader, Hon. John Briceño “was the title of another Amandala article. Hon. Briceño made the remarks at a press conference during which he laid out a raft of concerns about the government’s performance.

On Friday, February 23, Humphrey Mitchell, 44, a Jamaican businessman of Sarawee, died while in police custody. Police reported that Humphrey jumped out of the back of a moving police pickup truck.

Seven BDF soldiers and a police officer were arraigned on charge of murder in the Orange Walk Magistrate’s court. The group of law enforcement officers were charged for the murder of Ariel Salazar and the attempted murder of Oscar Peyres. Both men were beaten by the lawmen, but Salazar died from his injuries. The lawmen facing the murder and attempted murder charges are: Baldimir Escarga, Francis Sho, Patrick Villagran, Sr., Edmar Petillo, Patrick Diego, Mateo Bolon, Elvis Cobb, and Lennart Cajun Bernard.

“Another sick UDP land compensation hustle uncovered”, was our lead story for the Friday March 2, issue. Opposition Leader, John Briceño revealed at a press briefing that the Montero family had been compensated to the tune of $3,147,683.

In another Amandala article about government corruption, it was reported that Kirk Lamb, a former employee of the Port Loyola area representative, Hon. Anthony “Boots” Martinez, said,  “ I gave Minister Boots thousands of dollars from my account.”

In an article titled, “Justice for Baby Alyssa”, it was reported that Everal Martinez, 21, had been arraigned on 4 counts of sexual assault. According to police, because of the child’s death, more charges would be forthcoming on March 5.

Another article reported that a 4-year-old boy had been shot in the head on Nurse Findley Crescent. His uncle, 27, had also been shot; and both victims were in a critical condition in the KHMH.

“154 ‘horses at the gate’ for Wednesday’s Municipal Elections” was the title of another front-page Amandala story in March.

A subsequent Amandala article, which reported on the results of those municipal elections, stated that on Thursday, March 8, there had been a PUP blowout in Belize City, Orange Walk and Corozal. The PUP snatched the grand prize, Belize City—turf of the UDP’s most powerful ministers.

PM Barrow says no increase of taxes in late budget, “but there may be some tweaking,” reported another Amandala article.

It was also reported that on March 16, the PUP Belize City Council mayor and councilors were sworn in.

Amandala also reported a Police Department shakeup that week. Four senior police officers were assigned different duties, and one, Chester Williams, was promoted to Deputy Commissioner of Police.

A murderous weekend was then reported in Belize. Six were dead and 5 injured in 8 shootings in just over 48 hours. The deceased were Victor Gibbs, 30; Kendis Flowers, 27; Teresita Flowers, 64;  Delcia Blanco, 17; Denton Alvarez; and Alexi Palma, 23.

In the wake of one of the most murderous weekends in the country, Prime Minister Dean Barrow called an urgent press conference on Sunday afternoon and government’s response was to order the Belize Defence Force to patrol the streets of the old capital.

In another article entitled, “PUP trashes Barrow’s $1.83 billion budget”, it was reported that the PUP leader John Briceño said, “Things dread under the red.”

Hon. Cordel Hyde, apart from putting a human face on the budget that he did not support, also pounced on the government’s latest contract with a foreign company to provide management of the Belize City Center.

Then, on Thursday, March 22, the Belize National Teachers Union marched on Belmopan in protest of the spiraling crime rate. Hundreds of teachers joined in the protest march, which was followed by a rally at the Belmopan Civic Center.

Belize marked World Tuberculosis Day with a health fair at Belize City’s Battlefield Park. The Ministry of Health described tuberculosis in Belize as an epidemic.

“Mayflower Street/Ghost Town and Gang Suppression Unit (GSU) rumble,” reported another Amandala article.  Following the funeral of Kendis Flowers, GSU police officers descended on the area known as Ghost Town and mayhem ensued.

“As the Easter holidays approaches, the government decided to cash in on the busiest travel time for Belizeans with the hiking of fuel prices”, stated another Amandala article, titled “Barrow jacks up fuel prices for Easter.”

It was also reported that Mario Guerrero, 64, was murdered at his Sunset Park home.

Amandala also reported that Belize Aquaculture Limited had laid off 100 employees, citing disease and high cost of operating.

“Fuel, butane gaan up, electricity gwine up. The only thing di go down da yu chance ah living!”stated the headline article of Amandala’s April 6 issue.

In other articles, it was reported that City Administrator Candice Miller had been suspended for one month, and that a 71-year old American woman had been robbed, kidnapped and tied up to a tree 13 miles from home. The victim was Judith Classen, a resident of Cotton Tree, Cayo District.

It was also reported that in Belmopan, a relentless Rottweiler had attacked a boy, 3, and that he might lose his right ear.

It was also mentioned in other reports that the United States named Belize in its 2018 International Narcotics Control Strategy Report as a major transshipment point for illicit drugs, and that Evan “Mose” Hyde Jr. won a 3-way race for Christian Workers Union president.

Mayor Darrell Bradley gave Candice Miller an $11,000 salary boost with the new employment contract. Miller and others dined at a Biltmore Bistro restaurant, where they spent over $1,000 on food and expensive wines, stated one report this year.

Amandala also reported on what was classified as UDP bloodletting in the Punta Gorda Town Council. The council laid off 10 employees to reduce its operational cost.

It was also reported that Marcia Downs, 37, a mother of two, had been gunned down. The cold-hearted gunman shot at her twice, hitting her in the head.

The KHMH administration fired 2 doctors, but refused to say why. The hospital’s ad hoc committee said the action was distasteful and very troubling. Dr. Alain Gonzalez and Dr. Salvador Paguaga were the fired doctors.

On April 15, Guatemalans voted yes to the International Court of Justice referendum. The voter turnout, however, was low.

James Jason Bellencio, 30, was murdered on Lovely Lane in the month of April.

Another Amandala article highlighted Mayor Darrell Bradley’s $133,000 concert spree. The money was spent on a pre-election concert at BTL Park.

It was also reported that City Administrator, Candice Miller, would challenge her suspension in court.

Attorney General Michael Peyrefitte called the US “unfair and cowardly,” according to another Amandala report. The reference was in response to the US citing Belize as one of 22 countries which are major drug transshipment points.

Oscar Rosado, 70, was murdered in his hardware store. Three men, one of whom shot Rosado, made off with $1,000.

Brian Hyde, 22, was found guilty in a US court of slaughtering his family. At the trial, Hyde testified that he had no memory of killing his family. Hyde killed his aunt, Dorla Pitts; her daughter, Starlette Pitts and her unborn baby; and Michael Kelly, Starlette’s boyfriend.

Dario Hernandez, Belize City’s meat pie king, died at 79.

“$50,000/5-year sentence stipulated for the media. This particular section of the new law escaped exposure and debate in the Senate,” reported another Amandala article.

It was also reported that, in an eviction notice, the Belmopan City Council told squatters to move or be moved from the Pleasant Creek Reserve area.

In the early days of May, shootings surged in the city—5 persons were shot, but there were no fatalities.

It was also reported that a rise in electricity rates was imminent. The Public Utilities Commission approved the 4.4% increase to offset the cost of fuel.

Caroline Williams died from flu-like symptoms, after the Camalote resident returned from a visit to Punta Gorda, stated another Amandala report. By the time she was taken to the KHMH, doctors told her husband that she arrived too late. Williams died from double pneumonia.

Tit for tat, says BNTU president, Senator Elena Smith, according to an Amandala report. The BNTU vowed to withhold contributions to school management for day-pay deduction, said the article.

“1 dead in horrific 3-vehicle highway accident on the George Price Highway,” was another Amandala headline. Miguel Ayala, 58, died on the spot when a BATSUB truck ploughed into his Mazda pickup truck.

Rony Cassasola, 19, was shot dead in St. Matthews Village.

In court, irregularities in San Pedro elections exposed. The Opposition, PUP challenged the results of the San Pedro Town Council elections. The case began in mid-May.

San Pedro businessman, Lamont Lipka, 49, was murdered. Lipka was shot multiple times in his restaurant.

Richard Hyde, 36, was arraigned for the murder of Miguel Monje, 23.

It was also reported that 6-year-old escaped death in “dalla van.” A 16-year-old opened fire on Central American Boulevard at a rival gang member who was running away from him. Bullets from his gun hit the “dalla van” in which the 6-year-old was traveling.

Amandala also reported that Sharlene Rudon, Belize City Council Human Resource and Administration Director, had her vehicle firebombed. The attack came just after the City Council fired 5 employees.

On May 10, Belize City Councilor Micah Goodin made a Facebook apology to Mayor Bernard Wagner after making critical remarks about the mayor.

The Belize City Council terminated 5 employees as it entered a restructuring phase.

Albert Jones, 45, a Hattieville fisherman, was charged with the murder of Alaine Garcia, 35, who had gone missing.

It was also reported that the UDP CitCo owed $77,000 in Social Security contributions. But it is the PUP City Council that had to pay, and within 5 days.

In mid-May, Belize began importing fuel from Texas, instead of Venezuela. PM Barrow insisted, however, that the Petrocaribe program is not yet over.

Another Amandala report stated that US Feds charged a Long Island man with securities fraud for bilking investors in a Placencia airport scheme.

PM Barrow confirmed that there is still a hold on granting Guatemalans Belizean citizenship.

Carl Coc, 19, was shot to death on Dolphin and Gibnut Streets, and police corporal Audrey Moody was remanded for a stabbing fellow officer.

Fuel prices were increased again.

Jose Zelaya, Jr. 22, was found dead in a Calcutta cane field.

Brandon Hughes, 18, was charged with the murder of businessman Oscar Rosado, Sr., 70.

Three persons were charged with the robbery of Jolli Bee’s restaurant. The robbers escaped with a metal safe which contained $15,500.

On Wednesday, May 30, we headlined that there were 265 accused murderers on remand at the Kolbe Foundation-managed Belize Central Prison. Accused murderers form the largest block of prisoners.

“GOB ‘pussyfooting’ around with lawbreaker Santander”, was our response to a press release issued by the Spanish multinational company which produces sugar in Belize for the European market, but was found selling some of its sugar on the local market.

Public Service Union president Doreth Obermayer faces no confidence vote, reported another Amandala article.

At the end of a preliminary inquiry, Senior Magistrate Aretha Ford committed the UDP’s Alfonso Noble,41, to a Supreme Court trial for manslaughter. On December 24, 2016, Noble knocked down and killed Hattieville resident Gilbert Meyers, 48.

“Belize Telemedia Limited (BTL) declares war on Kremandala,” was another front-page Amandala story. The national telecommunications company had ceased advertising in the Amandala newspaper, KREM Radio and KREM TV, the three media businesses that make up Kremandala.

A police officer was busted with 23 pounds of marijuana. The officer and another man escaped a police roadblock in San Antonio, but he was later caught.

On June 4, Maurice Amancio Serano, 62, the driver for Dangriga Town mayor Francis Humphreys, committed suicide. Serano was accused of misconduct with underaged girls.

Mark Seawell, 48, sued GOB for false imprisonment. Seawell was the subject of a US extradition request and was remanded to the Belize Central Prison for 2,376 days. As it turned out, the warrant on which he was committed to prison was irregular, and he was released, ending his extradition case.

Oriel Leslie, Brandon Baptist, and Tyrone Meighan, who were accused of the murder of ex- BDF James Noralez, went on a second trial on June 7, in the Supreme Court. The men were acquitted, but the Court of Appeal ordered a retrial, after the DPP successfully appealed their acquittal.

A Belizean man, Fiorman Erick Gillett, 48, was charged in the US District court of Norfolk with conspiracy to distribute methamphetamine. Gillett pleaded guilty and will be sentenced later this year.

Fuel prices rose for the 10th time this year.

On June 11, a Florida judge sentenced Brian Hyde, 22, to four life sentences for the murder of his relatives. In August 2015, Hyde stabbed and killed his aunt Dorla Pitts; her daughter, Starlette Pitts, who was also pregnant; and Starlette’s boyfriend, Michael Kelly. The killing occurred at the Pitts’s home in Florida, where Hyde was staying.

The top two students for the 2018 PSE were Rolando Umana and Haley Thurton.

Darnell Arnold, 19, was charged with the murder of Philmore King, 26.

Orange Walk mayor, Kevin Bernard, defeated one of his councilors, Josue Carballo, to become the PUP standard bearer for the Orange Walk East constituency.

Manuel Pacheco, a jeweler, shot and killed Jose Villanueva, his neighbour, on Collet Canal on the evening of Thursday, June 14.

PM Barrow reshuffled his Cabinet. Minister Hugo Patt was assigned the powerful Ministry of Natural Resources, replacing Senator Dr. Carla Barnett.

Four persons died in a house fire on San Pedro, which highlighted the inadequacy of the fire- fighting capacity of the National Fire Service.

On Sunday, June 17, lightning fatally struck Mennonite Jacon Weibe, 22, at Shipyard in the Orange Walk District.
Daisy Acevedo, 6, was fatally shot by her stepfather’s gun. The incident occurred on San Pedro.

In a hotly contested constituency convention between Senators Paul Thompson and Valerie Woods, Thompson came out on top to become the PUP standard bearer for the Albert constituency.

It was reported in Amandala that local artists would be protesting Israeli training of Belize police.

Dwayne Davis, 37, was sentenced to 14 years for manslaughter. Davis killed Dr. Ivan Garcia in June 2012.

Another Amandala front-page article was titled, “Bz$251,000 in 48 hours for Omero Campos’ life.” His kidnappers demanded 20 bitcoins for the San Narciso businessman’s life.

Another Amandala article reported that the Bliss Institute for the Performing Arts is in terrible shape and needs work. The ceiling was falling down in some places and the walls were cracked and broken.

A detained man, Lindberg Anthony, committed suicide in the Crooked Tree Police Station, on Monday, June 25.

The month of June ended with murder, then suicide in Tacoma, Washington. American, Malcolm Tucker, 49, killed his Belizean wife, Rushan Tucker, 35, and himself.

Other Amandala articles in June reported that Heritage Bank was investigating fake emails and that Arthur Saldivar was rejected from running in the Belmopan constituency convention and had sued the party.

As we were going to press on Thursday, June 29, Warren Rudon, 17, was shot dead on Lovely Lane.

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