BELIZE CITY, Mon. Aug. 8, 2022 The Deputy Prime Minister, and area representative for the Lake Independence division, Hon. Cordel Hyde, believes that the State of Emergency in his constituency, instead of being a means of preventing further bloodshed, is stigmatizing and isolating the people whom the police need to work with to fight crime in the area. Innocent residents of the community are inevitably rounded up by police during their raids, Hyde said, and he noted that such unfair targeting causes the families and friends of those detainees to feel “pissed” and to believe that they are being stereotyped.
While he admits that the crime situation in Lake Independence has been brewing for over 30 years, he maintains that many members of that community are not involved in a life of crime and violence, and thus much more deliberation should precede the rollout of an SOE in the area, which, he said, should never be a knee-jerk response.
“You can’t just willy-nilly decide,‘okay we’re tired of this, these guys are not listening and we have to have a state of emergency’. It has to be a last resort.” Hyde said, while speaking to local reporters last week.
According to Commissioner of Police, Chester Williams, however, the SOE is put in place as a preventative measure, not a last resort, and that view was echoed by the Prime Minister, Hon. John Briceño. Their view of the SOE— as a preventative tool— hinges on the belief (based on past incidents) that whenever high-profile criminals are killed, uncontrollable retaliation in the streets of Belize usually follows. Rounding up the would-be perpetrators of acts of retaliation, according to PM Briceño, is thus the best option to prevent the fallout.
“I believe that we rather err on the judgment of being extremely cautious and declaring a state of emergency, and holding things down until things have calmed down than to not do anything. So, I understand his [DPM Hyde’s] frustration; he lives in that area. But we have to look at the big picture. Historically, whenever any kind of shooting like that happens, you have these guys shooting up one another, and too many innocent people have been murdered,” PM Briceño said.
Hon. Hyde, however, noted while speaking to reporters that the crime situation, like many other challenges in our communities, can be solved through ensuring access to education, and he said that he and his government colleagues have to pool resources to ensure that youths are positively impacted.
“We have to get back to an aggressive campaign where we make sure that the truancy program is active; make sure that all over the streets school-aged kids are not roaming; are in school when they should be in school. It is really that simple,” Hyde told local media.
He added, “Ultimately, we have to do a better job as a government of pooling our resources, integrating our efforts, unifying our efforts across the ministries that can positively impact our youths – whether it is to make sure they go to school, make sure they can get a piece of land, make sure they can get a decent house, make sure they can get a little job, make sure they can have access to proper healthcare. That’s all our people want. Our people from the Southside aren’t different from other people from across the country. It’s a fundamental lack of understanding of what our people have been through. And when you begin to understand what our people have been through, then you will understand that people want the same things.”