After a total of 14 drug planes have landed in various parts of the country over the past 11 months, the Department of Civil Aviation has promised that by the middle of 2022 the country will be better equipped in their fight against narcotraffickers through the acquisition of a primary radar system, which will be able to effectively detect drug planes as they enter into the country’s airspace. This week CEO in the Ministry of Civil Aviation Kennedy Carillo, who is on a working visit to Columbia said that discussions are already underway for the state-of-the-art equipment by way of a gift from the US Southern Command. “It is a radar that is going to more advanced than the one that we were exploring from Spain because it is a 3D radar that can provide surveillance beyond 265 nautical miles. It will provide both aerial and marine surveillance and also in terms of meteorology it is going to off scale what we presently have. So for us what is important for us is that the radar will come with the committed support of COCESNA to provide the technical services and maintenance of this radar which is obviously an important part of this agreement,” said Carillo.
Carillo said that immediately after her team took over the Ministry of Civil Aviation they recognized the importance of bringing Belize up to par with other countries in the region, with the acquisition of an updated radar system. Carillo said that they immediately got in contact with COCESNA to acquire a US$6 million radar from Spain; however, those arrangements were stalled when the US Southern Command contacted the Ministry of Civil Aviation and expressed their desire to gift one to the country in an effort to assist in the fight against narco trafficking. According to Carillo, while it is not the Department of Civil Aviation’s duty to track drug planes, but rather that of the security forces, the department thought it important to assist due to the persistent call from the public who has been calling on the government to do something about the drug planes landing in the country undetected. Carillo said that while the radar will be able to assist the ministry in carrying out their air control duties, the fact that it will also be able to track narco planes is a plus. She said that the Ministry will be the ones who will be responsible for manning the radar while any information gathered from there will be passed on to the security forces for follow up.
In a previous interview with the media, Prime Minister John Briceño had stated that apart from the increased surveillance, his government will be making every effort to strengthen the intelligence gathering capacity of the various security forces to be able to visit potential landing sites and carry out the destruction of those. Additionally, according to Briceño, his government will also be seeking to increase air cover of suspected drug planes which will be able to closely monitor and follow these unwanted aircraft as they enter into the country. Based on official data compiled from the JIOC headquarters in Ladyville, a total of 14 suspected drug planes have landed in the past 11 months, leading to the seizure of 84.5 bales of cocaine and the detention of 28 persons in total. Of that number of suspected drug planes, a total of six landed in the Toledo District, followed by two each for the Stann Creek District, Corozal, Orange Walk and one each for Belize and Cayo. Of those numbers, only in three instances authorities were able to detain and charge persons who were found in the immediate area.