The Year in Review 2012 Print E-mail
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Thursday, 10 January 2013 00:00


The second half of the year closed on a real down note and with the presentation of his budget at the end of June, the Prime Minister, Hon. Dean Barrow tried to inject some optimism in the electorate. The 2012-13 budget, which would be normally be presented in April, was delayed by about eight weeks because of the General and Municipal elections.

Prior to presenting the budget, Prime Minister Barrow noted that it will be a challenging budget because of extreme aftershocks being put on the country by international pressures.

One of those pressures is as a result of declining world oil prices, which will reduce the revenue from the oil industry by as much as $30 million. But the international pressures are not the only ones which will affect the budget; the vaunted Super Bond will take a huge chunk of the budget on August 20th with a payment value of $46.9 million. Because of the pressure those payments have on the country’s budget, Government decided to tell bond holders that it simply cannot pay and negotiations must take place.  Those negotiations would prove successful later in the year.

The budget featured relief for home owners and students when DFC will be writing off over one thousand loans. There will not be an introduction of any new taxes and the budget for National Security will be increased. The Education budget is also not expected to be greatly affected and the Prime Minister has pointed out that the Pro-Poor initiatives, which are benefitting thousands upon thousands of Belizeans will continue. Those initiatives include the BOOST program as well as the Food Pantry Program.

July also saw Belizean entertainers coming off a weekend of performances at the Bliss to raise funds for the Inspiration Center, the brainchild of Special Envoy for Women and Children, Kim Simplis-Barrow and CARE Belize. The goal was to raise $1 million to build the center, which will be built in 2013.  The state of-the-art Inspiration Center will cater specifically for children with disabilities and special needs. As Global Ambassador for Special Olympics, Mrs. Barrow has worked extensively with children with special needs. She led the charge for the ratification of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. The goal is to reach full inclusion of people with disabilities in our public institutions. More special needs children are in primary schools across the country than ever before, but still there is no place that provides the type of psychological and physical therapy needed by many Belizeans living with disabilities.

The Inspiration Center will be located 1.5 Miles, Western Highway. It will offer basic medical care and various therapies to children with special needs. Though the center is built specifically for the children population with special needs, other children will not be excluded. The center will also serve as a community center with after-school classes for children from the surrounding communities. The building will cost roughly $3 million to construct. The Gobie Foundation has already pledged $1 million towards the construction of the center. The telethon raised $1,093,368.66.

July also saw the commitment by the Government of Belize act on its promise to keep the cost of power down. The PUC made the announcement after the April 2nd submission by the PUC and the initial decision a month later.

BEL asked that new rates for Commercial 1 customers, be set up as well as a reclassification of Commercial customers who do not qualify as Commercial 1 be classed as Commercial 2. They also proposed a formula for the determination of rates for a proposed Industrial 3 customer category.  BEL also requested that certain fees and charges be removed, to increase some and to introduce new ones.

In its final decision, the PUC accepted the proposal to establish new Commercial 1 and 2 customer categories. Consumers, who use on average 2,500 kilo watt hours or less per month, are now classified as Commercial 1. Those using more than 2,500 kilo watt hours per month are classified as commercial 2 customers. The request for an Industrial 3 classification was denied.

On the issue of Fees and Charges, there are in essence 4 new fees were added. BEL had proposed a $50 dollar fee for reconnection of customers who have been disconnected from the pole as a result of meter tampering. The PUC decided to allow for a $100 fee instead. There is now also a 40-dollar Replace of Meter due to Service/Meter Tampering provided that the customer is convicted of the offence. Pole rental fees for Telecommunication operators, Cable Operators in cities and towns are also now being formalized. Previously, fees were charged to the operators; however, these were only done so as a form of gentleman’s agreement. The new formalized fees will see telecom operators pay $2.70 per pole per month while Cable operators in Cities and Towns will pay $1.46 per pole per month. In Rural areas, cable operators will pay $1.16 per pole per month. The last fee to be approved is a late payment charge of .83% per month on arrears of 30 days or more, in excess of deposits held for customers in the Commercial 2 and Industrial categories.

In July, work really got underway by the Belize City Council to work on city streets in dire need of upgrading. Under the stewardship of Mayor Darrell Bradley, six streets were completed and many more were being worked on.

CISCO Construction and M&M Engineering did work on the streets, which include Cemetery Road, Glenn Street, Ferrell Lane, South Street, Belize Bank Street, Daly Street and Calle al Mar, Thomas Vincent Ramos Street in the Belama Phase 3 area. Work also began on Queen Street and Treasury Lane, which is immediately in front of the Supreme Court Building.

Notably in the street works, the contractors are ensuring that the work is being done in a labor-intensive fashion and as much as possible, manual labor is being employed. According to the Belize City Council, M&M Engineering has hired over 60 workers while CISCO construction has employed another 65 workers.

Belize also met an important milestone in healthcare. The Karl Heusner Memorial Hospital’s Director of Medical Services, Dr. Adrian Coye, performed the first open heart surgery in Belize made history on Monday, July 16th.

Dr. Coye operated for four hours on a 73-year-old man who suffered from coronary artery disease. The surgery performed was a cervical revascularization. A surgery such as the one conducted by Dr. Coye would cost around US$100,000 in the United States. That is because of the highly inflated cost of medical services there.  Dr. Coye said that since the massive capital investments have been done for us already as a gift (mostly by the Carolinas Health System), this surgery in Belize should cost no more than $10,000. Dr. Coye conducted a second open heart surgery on Tuesday, July 17th. A 56-year-old woman suffered from a severe mitral valve disease. It took 3 hours for Dr. Coye and the team to conduct a mitral valve replacement surgery. That surgery too was a success.

Also in July, Minister of National Security, Hon. John Saldivar empanelled an 8-member committee to make proposals for the decriminalization of marijuana. The Committee began receiving input from the public.Comments have come from bodies such as the Chamber of Commerce. After the consultation process, recommendations will be prepared as a Cabinet paper for consideration. If it is accepted, it will be forwarded to the Solicitor General’s Office for draft legislation to be prepared, thereafter it will be sent back to Cabinet for approval and further deliberation at the National Assembly. The entire process is expected to run up to 2013.

Mayor Darrell Bradley gave the word ‘bond’ a whole new meaning. By this time, Belizeans were inundated with the negative connotations of the Superbond and when it was revealed the Belize City Council wanted to “float a bond”, many observers were concerned.  Even with that, Mayor Bradley and the Belize City Council pressed ahead with the issuance of a $20 million municipal bond, which will be used for infrastructure development in Belize City.

The bond would be issued in two tranches: the first will be comprised of two issues; one being for 3 million dollars bearing interest between 3.5 and 4.5 percent for 2 years. The second issue on the first tranche will be for 7 million dollars for 5 years and bearing interest at between 4.5 and 5.5 percent.  The second tranche will be for 10 million dollars for 8 years and will bear interest at between 5.5 and 7.5 percent.

Mayor Bradley said that the Bond program was designed in such a way that the average Belizean will be able to invest and as such, they will be offering bond certificates in 200-dollar denominations. For the two issues of the first tranche, payments to holders are proposed for February and August of each year for the life of the bond while the second tranche will see payments in May and November. And for those who choose to invest in the bond, payments are guarantee to the holders. A sinking fund would be established, which is to be financed through existing secure revenue streams that include government’s yearly subvention to the council as well as the BTB’s head tax that is paid to the Council. These two revenue streams will secure the first tranche of the bond. The second tranche will be secured by asset-backed collateral and the Council is looking at putting the Commercial Center and the NICH parking lot on Regent Street as that collateral.  The bond would prove to be very successful with one of the tranches being over-subscribed later in the year.

 Frustration was perhaps the understated feeling Belizeans had when it was revealed more border encroachments by Guatemalans entering illegally saw more of our natural resources being pillaged. It was happening in the jungle of the Chiquibul Reserve. In the past, we’ve become accustomed to hearing about xate and hardwood, but we learned in July that gold was part of the pillagers’ kitty.

Rafael Manzanero, Executive Director of Friends for Conservation and Development (FCD), released a report saying that as many as 300 Guatemalans are operating in the Ceibo Chico Drainage System. That number also includes a large amount of women and children. The Ceibo Chico Conservation Post and the South Chiquibul Joint Enforcement Unit was inaugurated just a couple weeks ago to monitor and enforce the protection in South Chiquibul. That unit is in need of additional man power. Patrols by that unit have led to encounters with multiple groups of illegal gold panners. Their shortage in resources and man power does not allow them to push the immigrants back across the border with any serious effect.

He said at the time that the situation is still controllable but Belizean authorities must act immediately. He suggested the deployment of additional troops to the area and collaboration with counterpart Guatemalan authorities. Manzanero says that if action is not taken soon, it may get out of control because the operation is becoming “a highly lucrative venture” for them. According to reports, the Guatemalan immigrants receive up to 250 quetzales per ounce of gold or about $70, which is way below market value but plenty of money for a poor Guatemalan. 

August began with the startling revelations by the Prime Minister in the House of Representatives in the final days of July about one of the Opposition’s representatives; before then, Belizeans had no clue how vast the number of properties that were attached to the family of Hon. Florencio Marin, Jr.

A company, Belcor Industrial Limited, for example, held 195 acres of land along the sea coast in Sarteneja. What’s worse is that each acre was purchased at a mere $91 dollars each. And there are others dozens of other parcels being held or once held by companies, such as Coromex, and other company names in the Corozal Free Zone. 

Through research at the Lands Department, the evidence on Marin, Jr. however, gets bigger. When his name is entered into the system his name pops up and there are 106 entries, which show his name - and all attributing land of 1/4 acre each to him. All of the land is located in San Jose Palmar.

San Jose Nuevo Palmar has a storied history where the original inhabitants arrived there in 1936 and settled on 2,500 acres of land that was specifically allotted to them, after they were forcefully removed from the village of San Jose in the Yalbac area by the then Belize Estate and Produce Company. The villagers at the time endured severe hardships both during and after they were removed from their home village. When they finally received the land on the southern periphery of Orange Walk Town, it was with the specific understanding and in fact, laws were drawn up that no one other than the original villagers of the old San Jose could have tenure to the land in the new settlement.

That has been how it has worked out for decades so, it is a wonder to everyone how it is that Florencio Marin Junior’s name appears at the Lands Department as having tenure or having had tenure to the lands. We can only surmise that indeed, anything is possible.

While that was a major scandal, the officers of the Police Department received some great news,  after the public clamoring by the Police Association, which saw two members of its leadership hierarchy, Corporal Eldon Arzu, and Sergeant Edlin Lorenzo, being at odds with the Ministry. 

Starting on August 1st, all officers of the Patrol Branch began receiving an additional hundred dollars ($100.00) in their pay. Also, officers’ living allowances will increase from $147.00 to $200.00. The increases came after Commissioner of Police, David Henderson visited with officers at the Eastern Division and invited officers to share their concerns. Improving the work environment was one of the top concerns. As a result of those discussions, money has been allocated for the rehabilitation of the police barracks at Eastern Division and in Hattieville.

The Belize Police Department was also under the Public Service’s allowance review. Following the review, the officers will see the true bump in their salary retroactive to August 1st.

Belize also was spared the wrath of Hurricane Ernesto in the month of August. The National Emergency Management Organization (NEMO) had been monitoring a tropical cyclone in the Caribbean Sea since for at least a week prior to making landfall. That cyclone strengthened into a Tropical Storm named Ernesto. On Monday, August 6th, NEMO released a public advisory declaring that Belize was under Hurricane Warning Red II. At the time, Ernesto was still a Tropical Storm with maximum sustained winds at 65 mph. It was moving west northwest at 12 mph. Meteorologists forecasted strengthening before the storm made landfall because the sea in front of Belize and Mexico had favorable conditions for tropical cyclone strengthening which are warm sea temperatures in excess of 26 degrees Celsius or 79 degrees Fahrenheit and high relative humidity.

At 1 p.m. on Monday, NEMO was activated countrywide and Belizeans were urged to put their hurricane plan into action. The organization immediately instructed all employers to give their workers time off on Tuesday morning to secure their families. Since Ernesto featured Tropical Storm force winds up to 125 miles from the center, people living along the coast and in the outer cayes were advised to move inland voluntarily. The activation of NEMO meant that all local emergency management organization was to become operational.

The Belize City Emergency Management Organization (CEMO) held a meeting with the media at 2 p.m. on Monday afternoon. CEMO wanted to assure city residents that they were extremely prepared for any storm that posed a threat to Belize City. CEMO established its headquarters in the building that Channel 5 received during the previous owner’s shredding of Telemedia. The names of shelters on the north and south side of the city were announced and four were opened on Tuesday.

Fast forward to Wednesday, August 8th. NEMO released an advisory warning people in the “North of Belize, San Pedro, Caye Caulker, Orange Walk and Corozal Districts to be cautious as they may experience some gusty winds with showers.” NEMO also advised all mariners to keep their boats in harbor and all water taxi runs were delayed until further notice.

Despite the interruption in business activities, Belizeans are once again counting their blessings as our country was spared from the wrath of another powerful storm. The National Emergency Management Organization and their regional counterparts were impressive in maintaining order while facilitating the evacuation process. On the following Wednesday, Prime Minister Barrow issued a press release in which he congratulated NEMO, DEMO, CEMO, the security forces, the Ministry of Health, Red Cross, public officers, the Chief Meteorologist and the media for a job well done.

Also in August, it was reported that three Belizean businessmen were blacklisted by the U.S. Department of Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC). On Tuesday, August 7th, the State Department sent out a release calling  “John Zabaneh and two members of his drug trafficking organization, who are based in Belize key associates of Joaquin “Chapo” Guzman Loera, and other members of the Sinaloa Cartel.” The Sinaloa Cartel is reportedly the most powerful drug trafficking organization smuggling all manner of drugs including cocaine, methamphetamines, heroin and marijuana into the US.

Through the designation which was done by the U.S. Narcotics Kingpin Designation Act, persons are prohibited from conducting financial or commercial transactions with the individuals and their companies. Their assets that are held in U.S. jurisdiction are also frozen.

While Zabaneh was placed under that designation, so too are his nephew, Dion Zabaneh, and Daniel Moreno. The release is accompanied by an organ-gram which squarely lists John Zabaneh as the head of the Sinaloa Cartel operatives functioning in Belize. It also lists 4 of Zabaneh’s companies including Mayan King Ltd., which is one of the largest banana producers in the country. Also designated are Crown Paradise Enterprises LTD., which is a building contractor and property consultant company and Mid South Investments Ltd., a resort management and marina company. Also designated is Belize Chemicals Ltd., which is a pharmaceutical company. This company operates out of Belmopan while the other three out of the Stann Creek District. Along with Zabaneh’s company is D’s Supermarket Co. Ltd., which is owned by Moreno and operates in Corozal Town. 

The release by the state department said that John Zabaneh’s drug trafficking activities and his organization’s ties to Colombian sources of supply and Mexican buyers make him a critical figure in the narcotics trade. By designating Zabaneh, OFAC is disrupting those activities and continuing its efforts, alongside those of our law enforcement partners, to expose operatives of Chapo Guzman and the Sinaloa Cartel, including their businesses. According to the OFAC, Zabaneh has been involved in drug trafficking in Belize since 1980’s.

The announcement by the State Department is a major one and is perhaps the first time that businessmen and their operations have been specifically named as being involved in the drug trade between Latin America and the U.S. Because of the large interests that the businesses hold in the country, in particular as it relates to the exportation of bananas, it is uncertain how the designation of the Zabaneh businesses will affect Belize’s economy.

According to the release by the State Department, the OFAC has designated more than 1,100 businesses and individuals linked to 97 kingpins since June 2000. For those found in violation of the Kingpin Act, there are heavy fines and penalties including millions of dollars and many years in prison.

Also in August, the Court of Appeal handed down a very important ruling in favor of the Government in its fight against the Ashcroft Alliance. Readers will recall that in December 2010, the Ashcroft Alliance had claimed a major victory against the Government of Belize when it got a judgment by Justice John Muria in the Supreme Court in Belize. The judgment basically gave the Ashcroft Alliance the right to enforce a $40 million arbitration award, which it was given by the London Court of International Arbitration (LCIA) in 2009. That award was related to the vaunted Accommodation Agreement which saw the former PUP government make numerous concessions to the Ashcroft Alliance.

The UDP Government had always maintained that the Accommodation Agreement went contrary to Belize’s national interests and did not even made representation at the tribunal. That allowed for the Alliance to get a judgment against GOB. That however, did not matter as the Ashcroft Alliance proceeded to have the award enforced in Belize and Justice Muria gave them a favorable ruling. The Government of Belize appealed the judgment however, and on August 3rd, Justices Manuel Sosa, Douglas Mendes and Duke Pollard gave their decision.

In that decision, both Justice Sosa and Pollard agreed with arguments put forward by Senior Counsel Michael Young, who successfully argued that the matter was taken before an international panel based on a treaty called the New York Convention. However, the Convention is not a valid instrument in Belize since it was never ratified. The Convention was extended to Belize by the United Kingdom when Belize was still a colony, but as a sovereign nation after independence, Belize has not yet ratified the convention making it invalid. Justices Sosa and Pollard ruled that the judgment by Justice John Muria in the Supreme Court be set aside meaning that the LCIA arbitration award is not enforceable in Belize.

In August, Government of Belize announced that it will not be able to make a coupon payment on the Super Bond, which is $23.5 million, which was due on August 20th. This was one of the final steps made before the negotiation with bondholders began later in the year.

At this time, Government presented three possible alternatives for bond holders. The first scenario sees holders giving the government of Belize a 15-year grace period and a 2% rate of interest and a maturity date of 2062. The second scenario has a 45% discount on the original amount. There is no grace period and principal payments are to be made at 1% up to 2019, 2% through to 2026, and 4% through to 2042, which will be the maturity date of the bond. The third scenario also sees a discount of 45% of the original value with a 5-year grace period and maturity date of 2042. Interest rate would be at 3.5% throughout until 2042.

Later on, Belize’s Economic Ambassador Mark Espat, and Financial Secretary, Joseph Waight, left for the United States to meet representatives of the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and United States Treasury Department.

In his address to the nation, Prime Minister Barrow expressed hoped that the IDB may assist Belize by partially guaranteeing the restructured bonds through a policy-based loan. By this time, Belize has already shown willingness to comply with requested reforms from the IDB by introducing several financial legislations at the House of Representatives. Those legislations, including the Commercial Banks and Financial Institutions Amendment Bill, which was to go back to the House for second and third readings on Thursday, August 23rd.
The Government would then broker a deal with bondholders later in the year.

2012 was a happy and fruitful year for Ronny Hernandez after he won the biggest single jackpot in Belize’s history. Fantasy 5’s jackpot on August 21st was $468,000 and Hernandez, who is from Corozal, collected his historic prize. Hernandez said he has been purchasing Fantasy 5 for some time now. He began by playing quick pick numbers but recently changed his strategy to buying two sets of numbers, which he came up with. In the end, it paid off after he made his most recent purchase at Ranchito Store in Corozal Town. The husband and father of two children said he would use the money to build and house and the rest he will save in the bank.
After taxes, Hernandez took home $397,800.

Naturally, in September, Belize ushered in the celebrations of the Battle of St. George’s Caye and on September 1st saw the King and Queen Competitions. The Carnival King and Queen competition took place at the MCC grounds. A total of 34 kings and queens contested against one another for four hours for the right to be the overall winner.

In the junior queen competition, Sunshine Masqueraders’ Mayan Rain Goddess took home the first place. Second place went to Pickstock Carnival Band – Queen Fauna and the Third Place was captured by Western Paradise – Queen Florecenta. 

In the Junior King Category, Jump Street Posse’s King Kent took home the first place with the second place going to Jump Street Posse – King Gus; and third place to went to Sunshine Masqueraders – Mayan Moon God.

First place finishers in the Junior King and Queen competition took home 4 thousand dollars; second place received 3 thousand dollars and third place got 2 thousand dollars.

The competition continued with the Senior King and Queen which saw 11 entrants in the Queen category and 9 in the King Category. At the end of fierce competition, it was Mahogany Masqueraders who took home the first prize with their Queen Ruby. Second place went to Soca Warriors – Queen Ixchel and third place was taken by Oceana Soca Moca – Queen Tia Dalma.

The Senior King Competition also saw fierce competition with 6 bands submitting 9 competitors. At the completion of the competition, Mother Nature’s King Combo took home first place. Second place went to Oceana Soca Moca – King Kraken while third was taken by Mahogany Masqueraders – King Cashka.

In the senior King and Queen competition, first place finishers got 5 thousand dollars, second place received 3 thousand dollars and third place got 2 thousand dollars. The DJ of the year was Wave Radio’s Floyd “Pinky” Flowers of Evolution Sound.

The 67th Queen of the Bay pageant was held at the Birds Isle on Saturday, September 1st. The Queen of the Bay title is the most prestigious of Belizean pageantry because it is synonymous with Belizean nationalism. It started back in 1946 when Guatemalan warships were seen in the harbor of Belizean waters. Public Meetings were held to discuss the threat and seek help from Great Britain. During those same meetings, the Loyal and Patriotic Order of the Bay (LPOB) was formed. Nothing developed from the Guatemalan threat but the LPOB had the desire to show Guatemala that we are different here on this settlement and we are a proud people. Therefore, the idea arose to start the Queen of the Bay Pageant.  The first Queen of the Bay was Rita Lewis in 1946. There has been a Queen of the Bay Pageant every year for the last 66 years. Yadira Argueta, who represented the Stann Creek District, was selected as the most fit to be the symbol of love for the jewel. If there is any reason she is unable to carry out her duties as Queen of the Bay, Ivory Mendez, Queen of the Bay Corozal, will act as our source of nationalistic inspiration. Gorlee Marin, Miss Caribbean Sea, also impressed the Queen and her advisors. She is the second runner up to Queen of the Bay Designate, Miss Yadira Argueta.  Argueta was crowned by her predecessor, Amanda Taylor.

“Hezbollah in Belize – Is JP Involved?” When that headline appeared on the front page of our paper on September 16th, a lot of people were surprised that such a notorious network would have extended its tentacles in Belize. As we reported, Yasser Safa is one of two naturalized Belizean men, who were captured in Mexico along with United States fugitive, Rafic Mohammad Labboun Allaboun on Saturday, September 8th, after a successful operation by the National Migration Institute (INM) and the State Police.

Allaboun is an American citizen, who has lived in the States for over 30 years. He was convicted of credit card fraud and after serving time in prison, he was released on parole. However, he violated the terms of that parole when he left the United States.  Mohammed Labboun was deported to the U.S. a few hours after his arrest, because there was a warrant out for his arrest in Houston, Texas. He appeared before a judge in Texas for violating his parole and was returned to California for imprisonment. 

According to officials, Mohammed Labboun identified himself at the time of the arrest using a Belizean passport with the name William Dyck. The Belize Police Department is currently engaged in an investigation to determine exactly how it is that he got the passport. The Guardian spoke to the Senior Public Relations Officer in the Ministry of National Security, Delroy Cuthkelvin, who explained that the matter has been turned over to the Criminal Investigation Branch. Authorities have determined that William Dyck was born in Shipyard in Orange Walk on February 8th, 1976.

The birth registration was confirmed by the Vital Statistics Unit. Police visited the listed address for Dyck and, according to Cuthkelvin, they spoke to Dyck’s sister and she informed the officers that William Dyck died two months after birth in 1976. Both of their parents have since died as well. Police then visited the Vital Statistics Unit but could not find documentation of the baby’s death. They then focused the investigation on the application and issuance of the identification documents. Mohammed Labboun was also found with a Belizean driver’s license.  

Police investigation has revealed that a copy of William Dyck’s birth certificate was issued on August 29th. Anyone can request a person’s birth certificate. However, their name must appear on the application form. The application form for Dyck’s birth certificate has not been found at the Vital Statistics Unit since police started their investigation. Therefore, it is not known who applied for the document. Police investigation has also revealed that, on the same day the birth certificate was issued, a passport application was filed. The applicant paid $100 for express service and received the passport the following day, on August 30th. The driver’s license that Mohammed Labboun had was issued by the Belmopan City Council. Subsequent checks at the Belmopan City Hall revealed that the license identification number already belonged to another Belmopan resident. A further check showed that Belmopan licenses had reached the 12000 series as yet. As part of police’s investigation into the validity of the passport, police have spoken to Juliana Arana who was the Justice of the Peace that signed on the passport application. In a striking bout of coincidence, Juliana Arana’s house was burnt on right around the same time. Just like the case with the Vital Statistics Unit, the Immigration Department is experiencing difficulties tracking down the passport application form. Cuthkelvin says that if it is not a culture of negligence, it is a practice of poor filing techniques because old application forms at both departments seem extremely hard to locate. The application forms would answer very important questions like who applied for the documents; who accepted the application form; who issued the document and who received the document. Cuthkelvin says that police have confirmed that Mohammed Labboun visited the immigration office himself to apply for and receive his passport. How he got into the country in the first place is another question still unanswered.

The tragedy that struck Belizeans perhaps the hardest with the murder of two-year-old Kaylee Burgess. She’s the toddler who was found dead in a bucket on September 4th and murder charges were to have been levied on her aunt. 

The child’s death is prefaced by a string of allegations and counter allegations between the child’s mother, Deidre Pratt and her father, Kevin Burgess. It is alleged that Deidre Pratt made her way to her ex-common law husband’s house and set it on fire. An hour later, he is said to have gone to Pratt mother’s house and punched three louvers causing damage to them.

A post mortem conducted on the baby girl determined that she died as a result of suffocation, adding even more speculation to the incident is that family members had gathered at Dr. Mario Estradabran’s house following the outcome of the post mortem.  That case remains unsolved.

More than two dozen Belizean patriots were honored for their hard work they put for Belize in various fields of excellence.
This year, 20 individuals received Meritorious Service Awards; four received Orders of Distinction and Justice Manuel Sosa was honored with the Order of Belize for his contribution to the Belize Judicial system.

The four individuals that received Orders of Distinction are Cynthia Henry, Audrey Courtenay, Benjamin Nicholas and Sabino Savery.

Twenty Belizeans received Meritorious Service Awards. Included are educators, politicians, athletes, entertainers, community organizers and a doctor. Leotine Gillett Lewis was honoured for her contributions to education. Hortence Wade was also an educator. She has held several key positions in the education system, including General Manager of the Government Primary Schools. Hadie Gomez was honoured for her contributions to sports and education. Mapye Yolanda Smith received the award for her contributions to the community as an educator and mentor for young interns from the YWCA, ITVET and the Department of Human Services. Dr. Gilda Lewis has served as an educator for many years. She taught at the University College of Belize from 1989 to 2000 as well as other schools in Belize and England. Brenda J. Armstrong, who is the longest serving secondary school principal of this era, 23 years at Wesley College, was also given this honor. Geraldine Elizabeth Joseph received the Meritorious Service Award for her community service to Bermudian Landing and surrounding communities. She was a breast feeding counselor for over ten years before she went on to become a counselor for the Belize rural Women’s Association. In the association, she promoted the importance of self employment for women from 1990 to 1999. She is still an active member of her community today.

Marie S. Kos is another community server. At an early age, she became a nurse and midwife and worked in the rural districts of Belize. However, her calling was to inspire other young women to serve their country similarly. She grew up in the Girl Guides Association, going from member to leader. She was elected Girl Guide Commissioner for Belize South and represented Belize at the 1993. Rita Maehetibel Flowers from a very young age was a Sunday school teacher, Sea Ranger Officer and playwright. She became the owner of the Minorettes and changed it to a children’s band in 1963. She has trained and developed many marching bands in schools across Belize. Daisy Olga Marin was the first female Mayor in Belize. She opened the first spare parts business and kindergarten in Corozal in the 1960’s. she ran for Mayor of the Corozal Town Board in 1981 and won. Under her leadership, Corozal saw several accomplishments; such as, the establishment of a Carnival Committee. David Nicholas Ruiz of Benque Viejo del Carmen is an educator and writer. He has been a teacher, principal, project coordinator and education officer. Kenrick Alexander Halliday is one of Belize’s most decorated cyclists. He began his cycling career in 1970 and won four Cross Country titles from 1974 to 1978. In 1977, he led the race from beginning to end, winning all station prizes. David G. Dakers has fought in over 48 amateur and professional boxing tournaments locally and internationally and has only lost 6 fights. He fought for 20 years and is the former Middleweight Champion of Belize, a Pan American Games silver medalist and a Central American Games bronze medalist. Dr. John Waight returned to Belize in 1976 after studying medicine abroad and has been serving his country since. He has held positions such as Surgeon of the Ministry of Health, KHMH Superintendent, Director of Medical Services and Medical Officer for Orthopedic Services. He has been the coordinator of the Medical Internship at the Ministry of Health since 2010.

Bredda “David” Obi is the creator of “Kungo Muzik”. In the United States, he was introduced to reggae music and was inspired by the positive message. He then returned to Belize and formed a band with some of the best musicians and came up with a new genre, realizing every country needs its own sound. Hilberto “Hilly” Martinez is the General Manager of the Belize Brewing Company. However, more than being a huge player in Belize’s beverage market, Martinez is a champion for sports in Belize. He served as Chief of Mission for Belize in several international competitions. He served as the Secretary General of the Belize Olympic and Commonwealth Games Association for 30 years. Israel Jacinto Alpuche was a member of the Corozal Town Council for three consecutive terms, late 70’s up to mid 80’s. He served as Mayor and Deputy Mayor and secured funding for the Andres Campos Civic Center and founded the Corozal Free Zone project. Godsman Celestino Ellis led the charge in developing professionals in agriculture here in Belize. He worked on the radio show “Farming in Progress” and pioneered the National Agriculture and Trade Show and Belize School of Agriculture. Rudolph Ellis received a scholarship from the Belize Sugar Industry in 1967 to study agriculture in Essex, England. His entire life has been dedicated to the advancement of the Belize Sugar Industry, where he still works today. Jeffery Perriott was the Chief Finance Officer of Belize and serve as finance Officer of numerous ministries of government. He retired from the public service in 2002 but was hired as the interim General Manager of RECONDEV in 2008.                                   

Also in September, Belize announced that it was going make the way for visa wavers for citizens of a number of countries in Central America. Visitors from Brazil, Argentina, and Chile will no longer need visas to visit our country. The Statutory Instrument waiving visa requirements for visitors from these countries to Belize was signed in August 2012. The Ministry of Tourism and the BTB view this as a major accomplishment as both have been working tirelessly to change the previous legislation.

Minister of Tourism, Hon. Manuel Heredia, Jr. said that the visa waivers will allow for ease of entry for travelers from South America. This will encourage more visitors from these South American countries to travel to our jewel as we make travelling to Belize a more appealing and easier experience. North Americans have always travelled to Belize without visas and we are extending this courtesy to some countries in South America as well.

It is expected that these visa waivers will increase the flow of tourists from the South American countries to Belize benefitting both the tourism industry and the economy.  WTO statistics have verified that countries such as those from emerging economies within Latin and South America, and a few others, have been doing well economically and their populations have more disposable income and are travelling more.