BELIZE CITY, Sat. Mar. 28, 2020– Heavily armed policemen descended on a property in Belmopan this afternoon, where attorney Arthur Saldivar was spending time with his young sons.
Brandishing their semi-automatic rifles, the cops, who were dressed in paramilitary uniforms, escorted Saldivar to the Belmopan Police Station, where he was charged with spreading false rumors via a Facebook post.
The post for which Saldivar was arrested made allegations that a UDP politician had been facilitating the entry of a group of persons from an area in the US that is hard-hit by the coronavirus, and he urged the media to go to the Santa Elena border.
The subsequent arrest of Saldivar can be considered a forceful assertion by the Government of Belize that those statements are untrue.
Saldivar was released on station bail and is expected to be arraigned on Monday on a charge that is based on a complaint made by a police officer, Mateir Carrillo, who provided the information that was the basis of the charge.
Before the first COVID-19 case was confirmed in Belize, the Belize Police Department issued a press release warning members of the public not to spread false rumors about COVID-19.
The police press release quoted from a section of the law and warned that it is an offense to spread false rumors that could cause public panic.
Recently, an Orange Walk woman was charged for alleging in a Facebook post that some persons in an Orange Walk village were infected with coronavirus.
Since Saldivar is the second person to be charged for a Facebook post, it is evident that the authorities are monitoring social media posts.
In his live Facebook appearance, Saldivar insisted that he was provided information that he felt he had to share on his Facebook page.
Following his release from custody, Saldivar said that his arrest had traumatized his young sons and their friends, and also that the charge sheet did not list his legal name, but used the name “Arthur Anthony Saldivar” when referring to the person against whom the charge had been brought.
“I do not know that person,” Saldivar said in his live Facebook appearance, as he held up the charge sheet.