Over the years the UDP policy on crime has varied greatly during their tenure. Obviously, the approaches have been unsuccessful and in many cases counterproductive. There has been utter failure to address the root causes of crime, poverty and unemployment. In 2011, PM Barrow met with Gang Leaders to broker a truce to stem the wave of violence that wrecked, especially, the Old Capital. That meeting gave rise to two initiatives; that of relocating known Gang Members, most with a violent criminal past to other areas of the country, and the other was to provide them gainful employment at work sites close to their new homes. By 2012, all Normal Belizeans discovered that in fact this employment initiative was no more than ransom paid to gangs who have since held the entire country captive in their grip of violence, death and havoc. This experiment in futility cost taxpayers twenty thousand dollars weekly and totaled more than 1M by the time the fiasco had finally ended. In 2017, there was another Gang truce this time spearheaded by our very own Compol and even featured repentant gang leaders in a Peace March.
The reward for bad behavior was not a lesson lost on gang members and affiliates. The UDP reinforced the notion that crime does pay in Belize. It is known that the UDP are willing to pay for peace, bargain with criminals, and negotiate with home grown terrorists. The relocation program was used to plant seeds in other districts that have now formed clusters and are just now beginning to demonstrate pockets of violent activity. The money UDP used to bribe criminals was positive reinforcement and spurred major increases in the membership of existing gangs and also sparked the creation of more gangs looking to cash in on a good thing. The money used in these harebrained schemes could have been put to use battling: poverty, hunger and unemployment, and getting children back into the education system. It is fact that investment in these areas significantly reduces crime.
The big question is where were Saldivar and Faber when these decisions were taken? Surely these monies could have been put to better use in the Ministry of Education or at least surely they could have been used to better equip the police force or other security forces. The rumor mill has been working double time suggesting that the funding for NHI has dried up and all referrals including tests and imaging must be put on hold until the beginning of next month. The KHMH has fired at least three specialists due to lack of funding. We can clearly see that UDP interests do not align with the best interests of Belizeans. We cannot lay the blame solely at the feet of the PM. Collectively all those in the UDP Cabinet bear the weight of this folly, after creating “little monsters,” the UDP et all have now no idea what to do with them.
The Compol may have gone soft during his years away at Law School. His solution is to lock away citizens for their own safety. Clearly the Compol and the police department know who the gang members are and exactly where to find them. We wonder whether it is the political will, intellectual acumen or physical apparatus which is lacking to render these detentions into lawful arrests, charges and convictions. Perhaps it is all of these and the dysfunction and impotence has cost us many innocent lives many of them children in their own homes. It is time to stop putting Band-Aids on festering wounds. It is time to do meaningful work and rebuild a Belize that Works for all of Us!