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PWLB officially launched

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Albert Vaughan, new City Administrator

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Our leaders must deliver peace

EditorialOur leaders must deliver peace

The world’s human rights watch dogs screamed foul as thousands – they say an estimated 2% of El Salvador’s adult population who would have been walking about freely – were nabbed and incarcerated. What El Salvador has done, mass incarceration, is inhumane; but is it more inhumane than tolerating a murder rate of over 100 per 100,000? The people of El Salvador don’t think so. Despite their president, Nayib Bukele, tossing aside their Constitution which doesn’t allow for a second term, they voted overwhelmingly for him in their most recent presidential election. Foul murder is no longer the scourge it was in El Salvador. Reuters said that data provided by the country’s Justice and Security Minister Gustavo Villatoro “implies a homicide rate of 2.4 per every 100,000 people, which Villatoro said was the lowest in the Americas apart from Canada.”

Murder is a terrible crime. In Genesis 4:10, God told Cain after he had murdered Abel, “Your brother’s blood is crying out to Me from the ground.” The pain for the victim’s family is immeasurable, and the financial cost for families and the nation is astronomic, with decades of productive years lost because most victims are young. Murder destroys the soul of a nation, especially when it goes unpunished, which is far too often the case.

There was a time in Belize when one or two murders was a sad year. That was when we lived under colonial rule and jurors had no fear and didn’t need much convincing to bring in a guilty verdict, and the state didn’t hesitate to hang people. We considered last year an encouraging one because our murder rate fell below 20 per 100,000 for the first time since 2000. We hoped it was the beginning of a trend, downward. But 2024 is looking particularly bad.

The government has introduced a number of good initiatives; indeed, all our governments introduce good initiatives to end our impotence on violent crime. They all fail. Sometimes it seems we are as far away from being a peaceful country as we are from true economic prosperity. Social scientists and other experts tell us the magnitude of the task before us. They say peace won’t come to our shores until we fix our endemic economic and social problems. The illegal drugs trade and porous justice system are also cited as hurdles.

Human rights activists say violence will go away when our country provides more opportunities for our people. It is accepted that poverty creates desperate people who engage in illegal activities to satisfy their needs, and unhappy people who are more likely to respond violently to difficult situations. Some say that the poor distribution of material wealth fuels violence more than the actual lack of it. It is a fact that there are places in this world where the people are materially deprived but the young aren’t murdering the life out of their communities.

The churches say that a big contributor to violence in our communities is unstable unions. Show me your friends and I’ll show you who you are. Stable unions will likely remain on the wish list until Belizeans stop idolizing the US, the poster country for shaky relationships. Wilkinson & Finkbeiner at the web page wf-lawyers.com, say “almost 50 percent of all marriages in the United States will end in divorce or separation; researchers estimate that 41 percent of all first marriages end in divorce; 60 percent of second marriages end in divorce; 73 percent of all third marriages end in divorce.”

Some Muslim leaders suggest we try polygamy. Especially in the afro community where so many young adult males have fallen victim to violence or are in jail, it must be that there is an insufficiency of males for young adult females in the afro demographic. Our local Muslim leaders have pointed out that polygamy works well in countries in Africa. But the very scholarly Belizean/Nigerian Marie-Therese Belisle Nweke, who features regularly in the Amandala, has pointed out that women in Africa are cultured differently from women in Belize. Indeed, afro-descent Belizean women only compare with the women of Africa in physical attributes. Indeed, the afro-descent woman in Belize whose ancestors were enslaved is more Western than the women in all our other tribes.

The illegal drug trade is considered a main contributor to the out of control violence in several urban areas. Selling illegal drugs is quick money, but an extremely dangerous way to earn a living. Those at the very top seem to operate with impunity, while everyone else lives precariously between law enforcement authorities and rival “entrepreneurs.” An attempt by government to regularize marijuana, one of the two main illegal drugs that are being fought over, was foiled. The illegal drug trade continues to be lucrative, and extremely dangerous.

For most of the years since independence, our justice system has been a pushover for defense lawyers and their clients. In the first two decades of this century the murder rate in our once peaceful country equaled, and in some instances surpassed those of countries in Central America that have a long history of violence. Most murders in Belize still go unsolved, but with the introduction of trial by judge and increased forensic capacity, “guilty” is now as frequent as “nolle pros”, “not guilty”, and “no case to answer” in the highest court in Belize.

The improved delivery of justice might have some part in our 2023 murder rate being the lowest since two decades ago, a time when we were just beginning to sink into the abyss along with the most violent countries in the world. But, sadly, 2024 is beginning to look as horrific as our worst years. Three months into 2024 we are sliding, and if we don’t turn it around we will end up needing an El Salvador type solution.

While most of the factors remain for continued failure, while so much seems stacked against success, we cannot afford to lose this war against violence. In the face of people blaming our nation’s shortcomings for unpardonable murder, out of control murder, our leaders must impress on everyone the magnitude of this crime. Together we must find solutions. We must have peace. Our leaders must insist on ending violence; they must will it.

Happy Easter!

Last Sunday, we celebrated Jesus riding into Jerusalem on the back of a donkey. It was a glorious moment, with all the people who knew He was the Messiah waving palm fronds, strewing flowers in his path, and singing, Hosanna in the Highest! That was Palm Sunday, the beginning of the Holy Week. The Jewish leaders would take Him before the Roman governor, Pontius Pilate, who found no fault in Him; but because the Jewish leaders persisted, Pilate buckled and handed Him over to be crucified.

On Good Friday, with a little help from Simon of Cyrene, a bleeding, beaten Jesus with a crown of thorns on his head, lugged His cross from Pilate’s palace to Golgotha, Calvary, some 650 yards according to the Christian Crier, where they nailed Him to the cross and placed Him between two sinners.

On Sunday, Christians around the world will sing, He is risen from the dead! For most Christians, The Christ rose physically from the dead and they point to the empty tomb that glorious Easter Sunday morn. But many Christians see the resurrection as purely spiritual, and so powerful that when He appeared to His apostles it was as if He was still here in the flesh.

That the Europeans used Jesus to forward their enslaving, white supremacist agenda, does not detract from His message to non-European believers. We don’t condemn Jesus because of bad priests. Alleluia, our triumphant holy day! Happy Easter, Belize!

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PWLB officially launched

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