By Aaron Humes: A much-needed intervention among four of the city’s fiercest gangs held a few days ago has contributed to a reduction in violence in Belize City, say organizers.
But for the peace to hold, there must be wider support.
Long-time mediator Nuri Muhammad along with youth counselor Abdul Marin Nunez and others hosted more than 80 youths over 4 and a half hours in what even they admit was “a last chance,” with the threat of a renewed State of Emergency hanging if they failed.
On his Facebook page, Muhammad explains that an agreed pledge between gangs ensured there would be no violence for at least six months. It failed after five months, it was established, because of multiple factors but primarily that some so-called “street captains” are incapable of controlling their turf and disciplining, especially, younger wannabes.
The economic revival from COVID-19 has been slow in coming, resulting in opportunities to “find the cheese” through robberies, contract hits and so on. It is essential that the private sector play a more engaging role in changing the present paradigm by increasing their support for job opportunities using Stake Bank and Cisco Construction as successful models of what works.
Muhammad concludes, with a reference to sickness of the body, “Sustained interventions by way of behavior modification, job opportunities and community service, (giving back), have proven to have positive results, but needs to be supported and sustained… These problems will not go away with another SOE that puts these youths away for 30 days or 60 days or 90 days or even a year behind bars. Like a sick patient whose disease has spread over the whole body, amputation of one leg won’t stop the spread, you need a more radical, sustained, surgical approach to save the patient’s life. Belize City is the patient I am referring to.”