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Can $97 million effectively police Belize? Minister of Home Affairs discusses challenges including tourist security and interdicting drug planes

Posted: Friday, March 17, 2023. 7:55 am CST.

By Aaron Humes: While it is an increase of $2 million, the budget of the Ministry of Home Affairs and New Growth Industries, coming in at $97 million, seems a drop in the bucket compared to what is needed to modernize the institutions under its remit, especially the Police Department.

But this week, Minister Kareem Musa outlined the priorities under the heading of citizen security: “I think Cabinet has realized that there is a lot of potential in the multi-sectoral approach that we initiated over a year ago. … We also have two hundred and fifty additional police officers we will be recruiting subsequent to the passing out of the current recruit squad 96 that is at the Police Training Academy. So, there is an additional budget for two hundred and fifty more police officers to enrol this year. Additionally, we are looking at the National Forensics Science Service. We recognize the importance of having a good lab for doing testing, whether it is ballistics or DNA. So, you can look forward to some very meaningful and impactful changes coming at the National Forensics Science Services.”

Two areas under constant review are tourist security and arresting international drug trafficking. Last week, an American family was vacationing at Sirenian Bay on the Placencia Peninsula when their beach house was invaded by four armed assailants. The burglars didn’t get away with much, but they left the family in a state of shock, prompting them to scramble back to the U.S. that same day.

And while Belize occasionally suffers these black eyes, the Minister maintains that “I do not think it will have an overall impact on tourism, tourists, by and large, are safe, extremely safe when they come to Belize and so I do not feel that it will have that effect.” He added that the suspects continue to be hunted by Police.

Also being hunted by Police – much more than people think – are drug planes. It has been about seven months since the last confirmed landing in Crique Sarco, Toledo District, but Musa contends that it is certainly not for lack of trying on the narcos’ part: “Just this week, and if I were to give an interview anytime a plane comes into our region, it would be every single day. Every night our police officers, and our operations team, receive intelligence and information that illicit aircraft have left South America coming to our region we spread out all across this country to the known points, we have a good radar system, and we do have joint cooperation with other countries in the region who provide us with intelligence and information and that I would say is the number 1 reasons that we’ve been able to deter those aircraft from landing in Belize.”

Musa added that while nowhere is truly safe for the narco regimes, they seem to prefer Guatemala as a landing destination, though one was caught and apprehended last week.

 

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