It has been a quiet week in San Pedro, my home town, where the coffee is strong, the barrier reef is good looking and the weather is above average.
My apologies to Garrison Keillor and “Prairie Home Companion.”
But it has been quiet and I think a thank you to the Government of Belize for its quick response to a bad situation might be due. When a drug related turf war flared up and innocent children were caught in the crossfire, enforcement came down on the island like a hammer.
I don’t know enough about the local players to comment but this seems significant.
Prime Minister Dean Barrow recently released a statement in which he ordered expanded enforcement support for Ambergris Caye, where loss of tourism could dig a deep hole in the country’s revenue base.
The prime minister noted the “ebb and flow” of gang-drug-related violence in Belize. All is quiet until someone is taken out and then the violence flares up again. While he expressed confidence on gaining control of the violence here he was brutally honest in addressing the nationwide problem: “The pattern is likely to continue. I don’t have the kind of answers that will see us tame this thing, but we will continue trying.”
Now that is discouraging.
The U.S. Embassy in Belmopan even sounds a bit more encouraging in its advisory to travelers, noting that Americans have not been specifically targeted in the violence — but also warning about spikes in robberies, hotel thefts, burglaries, purse-snatchings and petty theft. This spike also comes with High Season. Last year we heard about a few purse-snatchings, including some in which the victims chased the thieves down and recovered their goods. Not recommended. Better to hold your stuff close.
I don’t agree with all, like No.7 “Avoid public transportation.” On the mainland, that is the only way to go, short of leasing your own car. It is an experience which my friend Rebecca Coutant has written about in her blog San Pedro Scoop. In fact, it is about the only way she travels around the country. Do a Google search for “San Pedro Scoop, bus rides” and you’ll see what I mean.
The rest of the list is filled with common sense tips which means you — yes you over there rolling your eyes — should read and take note. Stuff like leave your flashy jewelry at home or in the hotel, dress to not stand out in the crowd, learn which areas to avoid and refuse offers to purchase drugs.
The last one has become second nature. If I sit in any one place for very long an offer to sell pot, cocaine or “anything else” is sure to arise. I’m a big fan of pot but until it is legal in this country I just say no. I mean, have you seen the prison in Ladyville? There should be a big panoramic shot of it in Immigration for tourists to look at as they await getting their passports stamped.
Crime in Belize is not all about gangs and drugs. We apparently have a more-sophisticated group that, according to the U.S. Security Exchange Commission, has made many millions of dollars off penny stocks that mysteriously soar, hover, get sold off and then plunge.
Check out this report from Bloomberg Business about the Cynk stink and the mysterious activity that seems to take place on the fourth floor of the Matalon Building in Belize City. Sounds like a sequel to “The Wolf of Wall Street” in the making.
CYNK trades at 3 cents a share now.
SEC claims that Belize-based Cynk Technology’s brief rise in value by 36,000 percent, before collapsing in its own bubble of weightless gas, made more then $75 million when operators quickly dumped shares at their peak. Not bad for an hour’s work.
How much in drugs does a gang have to push to clear that kind of profit?
Say what you want about stock fraud, nobody dies in a hail of gunfire and, if rumor has it right, some of the gains may have found their way into resort and condo construction here on Ambergris Caye.
Personally, I’d rather see the money come in the old fashioned way — from happy tourists who see a safe and clean country that safeguards its natural resources and wonders.
But that is just me.
Crime update: San Pedro Scoop reports that NBC Dateline is on the island to film a followup to its “groundbreaking investigative reports” on the congenial paranoid John McAfee … because soooooo much involving McAfee has happened here lately.
Can’t wait to see what they uncover. I’ll bet there will be a lot f B-roll of snorkeling at the reef, drinking at the Palapa Bar and college kids on Spring Break.