Features — 13 July 2019
The point of no return

I believe that there comes a time when a nation reaches a point of no return in all it does. There is that time when you just can’t undo certain things and surely can’t change the trajectory already encrypted in our way of doing things. And by things I mean all social, political, educational, fiscal, economic, physical, sociological and physiological decisions and conduct pertaining to a nation.

Most of what is happening in Belize did not stem from events that took place overnight; rather they stem from seeds sowed some time back and are now being reaped. And those same bad seeds that have been harvested have also produced new seeds of their own, which are now producing their own harvest, and we are reaping the harvest from those now. Then the cycle will continue as each harvest produces more seeds to be replanted and each crop of seeds are worse than the one before, but nonetheless they produce and keep producing until the crop has reached a point of no return.  We can never go back to finding clean and good seeds from these crops. We would have to get rid of these crops and find new seeds to plant, but seeds that will not be infected and are different in nature.

If you can understand the concept of the crop and apply it to the present ongoings in this country, you will understand that mere band-aid changes and laments and cry for change will NEVER help solve the rotting and purification now taking place in our society. The recent murder of Yanira Canul Novelo is a clear manifestation of the harvest of the most recent crops from the newest batch of seeds planted. And I know what we are reaping is nothing nice and nothing we want to keep harvesting!

Cold and callous

You see, in this year alone, we have seen what harvest we are reaping. The murder of a young mother of two, for her cash of $400.00 collected at the Western Union, is just the most recent cold and callous murder in this country!  This one has hit hard because of the surrounding circumstances and the fact that her four-year-old son was with her and he lived to tell that her mother was being held on a farm. Also, because he too was stabbed, but miraculously survived and “escaped” and was found wandering along a lonely canefield road, bleeding and alone. This is what we are reaping:  Killers willing to kill for so little money and in the process to even kill children or attempt to kill them with no regard!

Let me recap what I wrote and posted via social media, in June.  This should help to put the enormity of our crime situation in perspective:

“When on 4th June, 2019, I learned of the execution killing of my dear friend and joyful-fun-filled lady Alarice Adele Andrewin I was aghast. I was petrified, shocked, upset, terrified, angry … etc. But my reaction was not only because she was killed, but because it was cruel and involved two other lives, Mr. Yuman Cacho and Maria Lucas. I told many that it had to take much anger to kill three … yes 3 … persons in one evening or night! Darn how cold, how inhuman, how morbid and how far gone the mind must be to be able to take three lives in one instant.

“I have not yet recovered from the trauma of Alarice’s death and the surrounding circumstances, when the past week, from Wednesday to Saturday [June 19 to 22, 2019] the news of one body after the next being found surfaced. Darn it’s five … yes 5 … murdered again, seemingly from one incident. Family and friends can confirm that these five fishermen went out on a boat together. The findings are as follows:

1. On the 20th June, 2019, Travis Cooke, 23, found near Swallow Caye about 3 miles northeast of Belize City. He had gunshot to his head.

2. On June 21, 2019, the body of Ernest Wills, 49, was found floating near Reggae Street in Belize City; he had a gunshot to the forehead.

3. Police later found the body of Winston Santos, 40, near Swallow Caye. He was also fatally shot to the back.

4. On June 22 the body of Jamar Martinez, 21, was found in an area behind Mapp Caye about seven miles from Belize City.

5. On that same day and place the body of Allyson Jones, 19 was also found behind Mapp Caye. Both bodies were tied together. They were also observed with gunshot injuries.

“I write it and can’t come to terms with this alarming news and trend. The thirst of our killers has no bounds. Imagine! Reports are that the triple murder was as a result of a robbery gone bad … the quintuple murder, it is said, is narco-war related. Many don’t know the risk fishermen take on our waters and how desperate narco-traffickers use fishing camps or supplies from unwilling fishermen when in a bind. It’s dangerous out there, and it’s best these fishermen don’t resist.  To date we have not found the body of Evan Neal, the fisherman whose caretaker was found dead, but again his disappearance surrounds this same area. All of this happening around Swallow Caye means 24/7 Coast Guard patrol is needed.

“Ten years ago seven friends and acquaintances of mine went missing. One body beaten to death as a result of ‘blunt force trauma’ was found. He was Magistrate Richard Swift…. to date the other six have NEVER been found. They are Derrington Escobar, 48, a businessman of #1Poinsettia Street; Mauro Ismael Quiroz, 50, a businessman of #294 Guzman Crescent, Phase I Belama Extension; Abner Quiroz (son of Mauro Ismael Quiroz), 31, a rental agent of Avis who lives on Sarstoon Street, Belize City; Nick Egbert Nicholson, 53, an accountant at the Radisson Fort George Hotel and resident of #6204 Park Avenue, Buttonwood Bay; Gustavo Briceño, a computer technician of #5717 Lizarraga Avenue, Kings Park; and Elon Reyes, 25, a construction worker of #6276 Pike Crescent in Buttonwood Bay. And unlike speculations, no evidence was found to indicate their disappearance was drug-related. They were just avid amateur fishermen!

“My seven friends may have been murdered … but with no bodies, our statistics can’t confirm. Today’s 5 murders is different in that the bodies were found and by extension clues and evidence, but if our police are yet to get solving single murders, how will they cope with five as the body count keeps mounting up?

“It’s not like the killings stopped last week because we already reached our weekly quota; on the contrary, on Friday night there was the murder of 23-year-old David Martinez in Corozal! And in the midst of it all San Pedro Police are seeking assistance in locating two island residents, 27-year-old Silverio Cal and 26-year-old Melvin Montesino. The men have both been missing since Thursday, June 13, 2019.

“According to police, Montesino, Cal, and others were socializing when they received a phone call. Montesino and Cal left town en route to the north side of Ambergris Caye and have not been heard from or seen since. And to top it off the incidences of the narco-planes have not decreased…. they are only not reported at times to quiet the alarm and speculations of the involvement of our own government officials and law enforcement members. But these are the very planes that bring the guns, the laundered money and the million-dollar white powder that has taken control. They are also relevant to our crime situation! They are the legacy of our leaders and this government!

“Crimes abound in this country and they stem from all kinds of sources and motives, but they all have one thing in common…. sick minds willing to kill! Some are rooted in poverty, but others are rooted in power and greed! And all have 3% chance of being solved and securing a conviction. With poor police investigation and even lower rates of conviction there is no deterrence to crime!!!!”

This I wrote before there was the June 23rd double murder in San Pedro, Ambergris Caye, where a boat was used as the means to pass by and effect a shootout resulting in two deaths. The victims were Marion Nestle Jr. Graniel, 53, a Belizean tour guide, and Gary Swank, 53, a cardiologist at Carilion Clinic in Virginia. Swank was found floating face-down in a lagoon with several gunshot wounds, while Graniel was also found dead in his boat with several gunshot wounds. Imagine, we have moved away from vehicle drive-by’s, to bike ride-by’s, to now a boat pilot-by in carrying out a murder.  Now we have graduated to kidnapping and killing of a mother and attempted murder of a child! Women and children are even being shot and killed while at home in bed sleeping! Yes, sleeping!

Crimes to rob our resources

Now it’s really no turning back because we are not seeing any moves by our government to truly stop crimes. They are surely not stopping any crimes, much less white-collar crimes, in which even our political leaders are involved! The Police Department, regardless of who heads it, can NEVER abate the crime problem, so the crime situation is NOT an indictment against them, as often they truly try with the limited resources given to them! They can try to solve crimes to help the Director of Public Prosecution prosecute them, but they cannot prevent them or stop them.

Prevention of crime is really a socio-political problem. The social aspect is that it is in childhood development that our children develop the propensity for a criminal life, and as they are unable to have basic needs met through childhood to adolescence they develop the ability to seek to survive through crime. A mind well-developed comes from a child well cared for, nurtured and positively stimulated. A child provided for and raised in an environment that stimulates productivity, not criminality, will help develop a nation. It’s so basic, yet our leaders got it wrong! We are breeding and raising criminals now, and we are failing miserably to place resources where needed to create a new crop of seeds to plant. We have not developed the political will to allocate the nation’s resources to the benefit of the masses of this nation and to creating wealth for our people so adults are able to help raise their children in homes that are nurturing and led by parents who were themselves nurtured!

We cannot say there is any report that shows better housing for our people, more land allocation for our farmers, more schools built for our children, more day care centres for child care for working parents, a better more advanced family court that is less adversarial and more able to help families, less teenage pregnancy, less child abuse and molestation, less domestic violence, less school dropouts … etc.  You get the point!  The point of no return is upon us and our budget is not geared at human development!

However, amidst all of that we hear at a press conference that the Prime Minister is trying to disassociate himself from knowledge of any involvement directly or indirectly in the Sanctuary Belize enterprise also known as Sittee River Wildlife Reserve or Eco-Futures Development. This is despite findings from the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). This is a scam where millions of dollars in stamp duty and tax were evaded, as those monies involved in the sale of Belizean land never reached our shores, and neither our Central Bank nor FIU did anything to intervene.

A news brief on News5’s website states: “The allegations are related to the Sanctuary Belize scam, described by the Federal Trade Commission as the largest real estate scam in its history. Lead scammer Andris Pukke and associates, such as Luke Chadwick, convinced U.S. citizens to pay tens of thousands of dollars for prime land in southern Belize, known as Sanctuary Bay or the Reserve. Turns out, everything was a scam and Pukke and his associates made off with tens of millions of dollars. The F.T.C. began legal actions on Atlantic International Bank Limited, which has been shuttered down by the Central Bank. As part of its civil claim, on June tenth, the F.T.C. filed documents in which serious allegations are made against government officials, including the Prime Minister. On page thirteen of the claim, the F.T.C. claims that the government supported the fraud. In fact, the claim goes as far as to say that Prime Minister Dean Barrow met with Sanctuary Bay Enterprise representatives in August 2014 after the development’s problems were widely known. It says that A.I.B.L.’s C.E.O., Ricardo Pelayo, provided Sanctuary Bay Enterprise a quote it could use in a white paper presented to Barrow about the development’s significance to Belize.”

My people, these scams are as much crimes as the murders, and they rob us of monies in our treasury — monies that can be used to budget towards social programs, education, health and all the basic needs of our children. Therefore, I have to see how this will play out, as I know from firsthand knowledge that I went to court against these scammers, and the attorney for Sanctuary Bay, Sittee River and Eco-Tours Development is no other than the law firm of Barrow & Williams, and the two attorneys making appearance for the firm were Rodwell Williams in person and Tanya Moody in person.

Sadly, the news reporters don’t do their homework to check so many public records that would paint a true story of who is who and who knows what!  Don’t forget Prime Minister Barrow, despite conflict of interest issues, has NEVER removed himself as partner and still benefits financially from his law firm and he has admitted that previously in media interviews. Our ethics laws are weak; otherwise this kind of thing could not happen! Then we want to know why crime at the bottom cannot be solved! Our resources are not allocated to develop the poor, but to enrich the powerful and crooked and cronies and politicians!

My people, if we do not address crime at the top, don’t expect it to get better at the bottom, and if the highest office holder, in the person of our Prime Minister, can stand up and explain away a crime and defend those involved or even try to say he was not aware despite the court papers filed and the mounting evidence, do you expect any better from the criminals below? I rest my case!

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Deshawn Swasey

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