Posted: Tuesday, March 21, 2023. 9:55 pm CST.
By Aaron Humes: The 2022 report of the United States Department of State on Belize’s human rights country practices continues to report significant human rights issues.
It points especially to “serious corruption by government officials,” finding that while “The government took steps to prosecute some public officials who committed abuses, … there were few successful prosecutions. The government did not effectively implement the laws on corruption, and officials often engaged in corrupt practices with impunity.”
However, in the section dedicated to corruption in public life, it stated, “Allegations of corruption in government among public officials, including ministers, deputy ministers, and chief executive officers, were numerous, although in most cases no substantial proof was presented.” The three instances cited, however, concerned past administrative figures – former Deputy Commissioner of Police Marco Vidal’s “negligence and administrative failures following the involvement of four of his subordinates in drug airplane landings during 2021;” former Prime Minister Dean Barrow presiding over payments of up to $5 million from 2011 to 2020 to his law firm for services rendered to the government, including from clients suing the government; and the return of Rene Montero to face charges of “wilful oppression” relating to alleged misuse of government property for personal and private use, which he denies. Not mentioned in the report were the sanctions visited on John Saldivar by the State Department for significant corruption, nor the arrest of Ambassador Alexis Rosado on charges of unlawful sexual intercourse among others.
Other red flags listed by Washington include credible reports of “abuse and inhuman treatment by security and prison officers; arbitrary arrest and detentions; refoulement (repatriation) of refugees to a country where they would face threats to their lives and freedom…and substantial barriers to accessing sexual and reproductive health services.”
In introducing the reports, which are prepared for every country in the world with which the U.S. has diplomatic relations, on Monday, U.S. Secretary of State Anthony J. Blinken stated, “Human rights are universal. They aren’t defined by any one country, philosophy, or region. They apply to everyone, everywhere. This report makes a factual, objective, and rigorous accounting of human rights conditions around the world, looking at nearly 200 countries and territories. And, importantly, it applies the same standards to everyone: our allies and partners, and countries with which we have differences.”
He added, “The goal of this report is not to lecture or to shame. Rather, it is to provide a resource for those individuals working around the world to safeguard and uphold human dignity when it’s under threat in so many ways. And while this report looks outward to countries around the world, we know the United States faces its own set of challenges on human rights. Our willingness to confront our challenges openly, to acknowledge our own shortcomings – not to sweep them under the rug or pretend they don’t exist – that is what distinguishes us and other democracies.”
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