SANTA CRUZ, Orange Walk District, Fri. Aug. 28, 2020– One of three border jumpers was captured in Santa Cruz yesterday evening by police. Three men had come across the Rio Hondo River from Mexico in a boat filled with contraband goods.
When the boat docked in Santa Cruz on the Belize side, the men ran when they saw police coming, but police ran after them and one of the men was captured.
The man arrested is Walter Morales, 39, a farmer of Santa Cruz. The other two men have not yet been found.
Morales was immediately taken to Orange Walk Town and handed over to the Ministry of Health, and he was put into mandatory quarantine.
Commissioner of Police Chester Williams said that when Morales is released from quarantine, he will be charged with violation of the Quarantine Regulations under the new Statutory Instrument, which mandates stiffer penalties for border jumpers.
If found guilty, he will be imprisoned for one year.
Police said that at about 7:00 yesterday evening while patrolling the area they saw Morales and the other two men loading goods into the boat on the Mexican side of the river. The men then crossed the river into Santa Cruz and docked, and as police approached them, they ran into the bushes.
The Ministry of Health said that border jumpers are contributing to the spread of the COVID-19 virus, since the number of COVID-19 infections in Mexico and Guatemala is very high, and there is a high chance that the infections will be brought into Belize. Hon. Michael Peyrefitte, Attorney General, has said that border-jumping is being classified as a very serious offense, and under the new Statutory Instrument (SI), Morales will be charged three times the value of the contraband goods found in the boat, in addition to being given a 1-year jail sentence.