Thousands of Belizeans today marched in a peaceful protest against high crime in Belize and shut down businesses and schools prompting a quick response of promises from the Belize government to implement new anti-crime measures. The protest was concentrated in the twin towns of San Ignacio and Santa Elena in western Belize and had the participation of some three thousand people from the area and also from the City of Belmopan. The protest was sparked by the murder of two young university students within the space of a week – one in Belmopan and one in San Ignacio and Santa Elena. To date 33 murders have been recorded in western Belize this year.
The government has been taken to task by charges that it is doing little to stem the rising tide of crime while spending money on other projects such as bailing out bankrupt government utilities. An attempt to quell the protest by sending attorney general Wilfred Elrington to address a meeting last night in the area, did not succeed as protest organizers walked out of the meeting.
Reacting to today’s civil unrest, Prime Minister Dean Barrow this evening sent out a press release promising reforms including:
1. Immediately provide additional resources (including vehicles) to the Cayo Formation of the Belize Police Department;
2. Implement a sexual offenders registry and monitoring system;
3. Operationalize immediately after the official handover of the technology and equipment by the Canadian Minister of State in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs this Friday, the Integrated Ballistics Identification System (IBIS);
4. Ensure, together with the Magistracy and Judiciary, the proper enforcement of the laws governing denial of bail in cases of sexual and other serious offenses;
5. Fast-track the efforts with the Government of the United States to finalize arrangements for an expert in DNA Science to be attached to Belize’s National Forensic Science Service to mentor our local analysts as well as to act as a professional witness for cases having to do with forensic evidence.
6. Strengthen the Police Prosecution branch and institute greater coordination between the Police and the Office of the Director of the Public Prosecution to ensure more effectiveness in the investigation and preparation of cases for prosecution
The press release concludes with a statement from the Prime Minister:
“The Prime Minister of Belize, the Hon. Dean Barrow, has offered his congratulations and thanks to the thousands of Belizeans from the Cayo District and across the country who participated in the San Ignacio-Santa Elena peaceful protest against crime. The Prime Minister views this latest mass action against the greatest scourge in our country, as a continuation of the same Cayo spirit and resolve that he highlighted in his Independence Day Address.”