In an attempt at making the Caracol Archaeological National Park safer for all persons who work and visit the Mayan monument, the National Institute of Culture and History (NICH) has opened a facility called the Caracol Conservation Post. The official opening took place on Friday of last week, bringing to reality an adequate security response to the area. Present for the opening were the Minister of National Security the Hon. John B. Saldivar, Minister of State in the Ministry of National Security the Hon. Frank Mena, Minister of Tourism the Hon. Manuel Heredia, the Director of the Institute of Archaeology Dr. John Morris as well as the Executive Director of the Friends of Conservation, Rafael Manzanero.
The Caracol conservation post was built at a cost of $100,000.00 with the approval of the Ministry of Finance and was the product of a collaborative effort between the Ministry of Tourism, Culture and Civil Aviation, the Ministry of National Security, the National Institute of Culture and History and the Forestry Department. Capable of hosting twelve soldiers of the Belize Defense Force, the facility is equipped with showers, bathrooms, radio and can be used as sleeping quarters.
Belize Defense Force Deputy Commander, Lieutenant Colonel Louis Sutherland, assures that the new post is part of an operation commitment, where there will be enough manpower to provide three proper rotations to protect the Caracol site and surrounding areas. At any one time there will be 12 soldiers, and these 12 soldiers will be complimented with four personnel from the special patrol unit of the Police Department as well as one person from the tourism police unit. Additionally, personnel are on standby “…at 30 minutes to move and also one hour notice to move,” he said. All these men will need protection from the elements and to rest when needed so as to provide an adequate response to a challenging task ahead; thus the Conservation Post is being received with great welcome.
Minister of Tourism Manuel Heredia stated Friday that “It is hoped that we place more infrastructure and presence in this area that looting, pillaging and exploitation of national forest and heritage will cease. It is also very important to address the tourism aspect of this particular initiative…this conservation post will go a long way in making our guests, our tour operators, our tour guides and our valued partners to feel much safer, knowing that our security forces are nearby to assist in any way,”
As was largely accepted last Friday, the efforts to build the Caracol Conservation post had been fast-tracked by the September 24, 2014 killing of Belizean Special Constable Danny Conorquie. On that day, the nineteen year old was sitting underneath a thatch shade just before midday, and was facing the Ka’ana Structure, while tourists were doing a tour at the top of the temple. But Danny Conorquie’s dreams to become a police officer were taken away, when a male attacker came from behind the bushes and fired a shot at him at 11:56 am. The young Special Constable fell to the ground and that was when one of the men stood over him and fired 9 millimeter Luger brand shots to different sections of his body.
The Hon. John Saldivar told reporters on Friday that in the immediate aftermath of the killing, the Guatemalan authorities had agreed to do their best to assist with the investigation, but unfortunately that has not brought any results.
“We believe that the perpetrators have fled back into Guatemala and we don’t have any jurisdiction there…” he said.
During the last ten months, the Ministry of National Security has heightened security in the Caracol Archaeological Park and within the Chiquibul Forest Reserve, resulting in a decrease in incursions from the nearby Guatemalan border. These additional security measures were for added reasons, since Dr. Allan Moore, Associate Director from the Institute of Archaeology, reports that some 10,787 paying visitors were at the Caracol Park in 2014, from which 7,731 were foreigners.