Important Note: This Internet version of 7 News is a verbatum
transcript of our evening television news script. Many interviews on our newscast
are conducted in Creole. In the interest of clarity for our foreign readers,
we attempt to paraphrase the Creole quotes in English
International fugitive David Nanes Shnitzer, known locally as David Banes is believed to have skipped bail - after he failed to show up at the San Pedro police station yesterday. That was one of the conditions of his Supreme Court bail which was granted four days ago. Justice Denis Hanomansingh - who did not see Banes as a flight risk - granted the bail on the condition that he surrender his travel documents and check in with island police twice weekly. Monday November 23rd was the date for his first check in with police, and to the surprise of no one - except possibly the judge - he did not appear as required. As for his travel documents - which he also had to surrender - well, right now, his passport is not even worth the paper it was printed on because that was cancelled 6 days ago. So, even as the judge was ordering that it be surrendered last Friday - it had already been cancelled, according to the minister's words in the government gazette because he was, quote, "registered by means of fraud, false representation…the concealment of material circumstance and by mistake."
Now that he has officially failed to live up to his bail requirements, and very likely skipped bail - an avalanche of criticism has come barreling down the mountain of outrage. First to strike was COLA which issued a release this morning saying, quote, "The David Schnitzer matter deserves full and thorough investigation." Today president Geovannie Brackett said they question the judge's decision:...
Geovannie Brackett, President - COLA "We believe that the judgement within this case to have given this David Nanes bail, we questioned it because on so many levels; 1) we believe that this gentleman is a flight risk. The fact that he turned in his documents doesn't say much in our view. The reason why is because he has been found with so many other documents that have been found to be illegal. And so we believe that knowing that this gentleman is a fugitive and wanted and that he was caught by US Marshalls, that when the DPP's office was requesting for an adjournment, we would have hope that they've have gotten adjournment and given time to bring whatever the US or Mexican authorities to bring evidence forward. It also for us
on the lay-man terms, there was two women caught stealing underwear and they were denied bail and I believe that these women had children and a family as well. I believe there was much moral grounds to give them bail and I think they may not have even a passport to hand in. I think that we have to question judgements across the board and how it is being distributed and I think on a larger scale it has an international black eye on it as well. I think that this could leave a very bad mark on our credibility - on our justice system internationally. I don't want to imagine the US really wanting to capture somebody or have somebody that they captured, put in the government authorities hands and then you can't find them after that. I don't think that sits well in Washington."
And senior sources have told us that both the US and Mexican Embassies are taking a long, hard look at those case. They had cooperated to get Banes arrested on San Pedro - where US Marshalls in cooperation with Island police found Banes having a drink at Pirate's Bar on the north side of the island. As for the Mexicans - they have a 2011 warrant for his arrest and they were waiting for the paperwork to come thought so that they could transfer him as a prisoner. He is accused of defrauding Mexican investors of 42 million dollars.
The PUP has also come out swinging. The opposition released a statement saying, quote, "The People's United Party (PUP) records its deep dis-satisfaction with the handling of the case… by the Ministries of National Security and Immigration and expresses urgent concern with the apparent dereliction of duty by both those Ministries…" end quote.
This evening, Lisa Shoman, the Leader of Opposition Business in the Senate, told us that the Opposition intends to demand answers at the next Senate Meeting:
Lisa Shoman, PUP Senator - Leader of Opposition Business "The People's United Party as the main Opposition party in this country is deeply concern and very dissatisfied at the way that the David Nanes Schnitzer matter has been handled by the law enforcement authorities in Belize. But more importantly, how it has been handled by the ministries of National Security and Immigration. Consider that 2 weeks ago obviously in conjunction with the US Marshalls Nanes Schnitzer was nabbed and the ministries of National Security and Immigration at that point realize that this international fugitive who was living here under the name of David Banes, obviously had an assumed identity, had a fake name, a fake profile and obviously had obtained by fraud and deception not only permanent residency, but citizenship and a passport. And did they charged him with those things immediately? No. They sat on this matter for almost 2 weeks. Then cancelled on the 18th November the citizenship. Revoked the citizenship. Cancelled his passport on the basis that he had obtained it by fraud and deception and misrepresentation, but obviously they never bothered to take the matter any further. Apparently the DPP's office was not informed or notified to prefer any charges. This man was never charged with the most serious offence that he has committed in Belize which is the complete perversion of our national identity documents."
"The People's United Party is demanding an explanation, but we are also saying that as an Opposition, we will be dealing with this in the upcoming House meeting and we will be bringing a motion again, so that the auditor general helps us to investigate what happened. We also have the power to bring the CEOs of both National Security and Immigration."
Daniel Ortiz "As just a citizen, instinctively suspect that David Nanes has left the country?"
Lisa Shoman, PUP Senator - Leader of Opposition Business "I don't know whether he has left the country, but let's put it this way - if the authorities don't know where he is, there is a good chance that he has already left the country. I would have expected even if he was on bail with conditions, there would have been some kind of surveillance on him so that he would not be able to slip. What to me as a citizen is a very low bail amount."
Another man who knows a thing or two about changing his name is Shyne Barrow. He changed his from Jamal to Moses - but, unlike Nanes-Shnitzer, he didn't do it because he was a fugitive; he did it because he was looking…for himself. And, now, he says he's found it, right in his Uncle Mike's Mesopotamia division. That's right, Shyne, the son of Prime Minister Dean Barrow, and the nephew of UDP Party Whip Michael Finnegan is joining the family business: he wants to run in Mesopotamia - and that's after his Uncle Finnegan retires. Now, Mesopotamia is one of the two safest UDP seats in the country - and with the blessing of Finnegan and his committee, it's seen as a turn-key operation. But that doesn't necessarily mean that it would be a cakewalk for Shyne. We asked him the tough questions today when we met him in front of his Uncle's divisional office on Amara Avenue.
Shyne Barrow, UDP aspirant - Mesopotamia Division "Officially my uncle told me listen "start to talk to the people, start to introduce yourself," because you will have my support to take over once he retires. I've been here informally dealing with these guys just as friends, just as comrades. So it's not a thing that just drop out of the sky. It's a relationship that has been there, that has been fostered."
Jules Vasquez "Do you support Shyne in his bid to be successor to Michael Finnegan?"
Rodney Lord, Chairman - Mesopotamia "Well that a view for me and the people of Mesopotamia. But we see views of Shyne what he can do for the division. But we will see what will happen in the terms to come."
Jules Vasquez "Now you and I know Michael Finnegan very well. You really believe that man will retire?"
Rodney Lord, Chairman - Mesopotamia "I think his time has come to an end. He has done his job, he has serve the people of Mesopotamia for almost 30 years and I think the time is near."
Max Finnegan, Shyne's cousin and supporter "My role basically is to stand on my cousin's side and I will be working along with my fellow friend Carlson and Brianne Tillett and we will be supporting the youths and helping the youths - like showing them the love in the area. My cousin I will be by his side and my father believes in him. I believe in him and I believe that he can run this area very well and he is there for the people. Because he is a people's person."
Jules Vasquez "Why would Shyne want to get into politics?"
Shyne Barrow, UDP aspirant - Mesopotamia Division "I have a genetic makeup to be not a politician but to be a servant. I was born in that. My aunt Denise Sister B, she helps people, she serves people. She is not a politician. She is not selling dreams. The reason I think the Rt. Hon. Dean Barrow has been successful for 30 years is because he's made a difference in the lives of the people that entrusted him to represent them in parliament. I am a natural as my father, as my uncle Finnegan, as my uncle Dean Lindo who was the first party leader of the UDP if I would recall correctly - as my great grandmother - as my grandmother Esmy Diaz who help founded the NIP with Philip Goldson. We are people in our genes that are inherently concern about the activities that are taking place around us and that seems to express itself most efficiently in what you would called politics."
Jules Vasquez "Now you know that a lot of people for various reasons may still have a negative impression of you or might feel like you are doing this because if you do this, they will wipe the slate clean and then you get back your VISA and you could go and live in the States again. How would you respond to those critiques?"
Shyne Barrow, UDP aspirant - Mesopotamia Division "That is outrageous. You beating a dead horse. You understand? You have to try something new. You have to come with another approach man. You have to be practical and that is not a practical criticism. Because if I am committing to serving my country and this community, the same way everyone else could have their VISA and travel, I should be free to travel wherever in this world. It's a matter of justice and freedom. It's not a matter of relocating to the United States. I have absolutely no intention and no desire to live anywhere except in Belize. I do have a desire to be free and to travel wherever, whether on vacation, whether to further the interest of the people in Mesop or in Belize. But other than that absolutely not. That's outrageous."
Jules Vasquez "Now some people may also hold it against you because they say but how will be a representative and you got dipped?"
Shyne Barrow, UDP aspirant - Mesopotamia Division "I don't know there is any law against..."
Jules Vasquez "There is no law, but it's like...."
Shyne Barrow, UDP aspirant - Mesopotamia Division "Let me finish. Again, there is this stigma against deportees. Who are we as a society to determine that because someone made a mistake abroad and they were returned to this country their life should be over, their life should be cancelled? Everybody makes mistakes."
Finnegan didn't want to comment for our story. And while Shyne may have his Uncle's blessing, his committee may have its own ideas, and we have heard other names called, including Mark King's. King wouldn't comment - only telling us that he will inform the public of his political decision at a later date.
A teenager has been charged for the weekend shooting on Antelope Street Extension. The shooting took place on Sunday morning around 7:00. Liston Myers and his friend were walking on Pitter Street when 2 men shot at them. Myers was shot to the abdomen while his friend escaped unharmed. As we told you Myers was not the target - his friend was. Police say that the friend is known to them as a gang figure. Well, police caught the person they say is the shooter, he is 18 year Iguana Street resident Jaron Baptist. Baptist was charged with attempted murder, dangerous harm and use of deadly means of harm. He was denied bail and remanded to the Belize Central Prison until January 26th, 2016. Liston Myers is in a stable condition at the KHMH.
Last night, we told you about Melvin Hewlett, the Vice Principal of Wesley College, who was charged by the Gang Suppression Unit of allegedly trafficking cocaine on the school's Yarborough Road Compound. We've still not gotten any comment from the School or the Methodist Conference of Belize, but the Ministry of Education has taken note of this case as well.
A press release, sent just over an hour ago, says quote, "The Ministry…views with great serious the arrest and charg(ing) of Melvin Hewlett.. with drug trafficking… This is because the nature of the charge is contrary to the higher purposes of education and in the interests of professionalism." End Quote.
In that same breath, the Ministry says that it "recognizes and upholds the principle that a person is innocent until proven guilty after due process. The Ministry is also calling for this case to be dealt with in a transparent manner to ensure that justice is served, quote, "for the sake of the accused, and for the sake of the higher purposes (of) education and the interests of the profession". End Quote.
The release also reminds that the Managing Authority of Wesley may choose to initiate disciplinary proceedings against Hewlett and place him on interdiction with half pay by seeking the approval of the Teaching Services Commission.
The Principal of Wesley has refused to give any comment or information. The President of the Methodist Conference in Belize has not contacted us, since yesterday when we visited his office and found out that he had been out
As we reported last night, the GSU busted a small time drug peddler who offered to lead them to his main supplier in exchange for some leniency with the criminal charges he would face.
Last Week Friday, just before midday, a team of officers followed this informant to the Wesley College compound. They observed him making an exchange with Hewlett, who had been identified as this main supplier. They closed in to make an arrest, and that's when, according to the GSU, he threw a piece of crumpled white paper into the Wesley College Compound. The officers detained him, and retrieved the paper and found 2 bags containing 14 grams of suspected crack cocaine.
He was charged and arraigned on the possession of a controlled drug with the intent to supply, and he was released on bail of $7,000.
The owner of H2O Tierra tours rejects the post mortem results on tourist Edwin Simmons. As we have been reporting, 61 year old American tourist Edwin Simmons drowned trying to save his wife's life. Both Edwin Simmons and his wife Esther Simmons were on a tour at Shark Ray Alley in the Caye Caulker Marine Reserve. According to police, Simmons and his wife were both in the water but the sea current caused the wife - Esther - to drift away. Edwin Simmons went after his wife and that's when he disappeared. He was later found floating face down. Now as we told you Dr. Mario Estradabran certified cause of death to be "Asphyxiation by Drowning, Incidental". But today when we spoke to the owner of H2O tours Tom Wilson he said he completely rejects Estradabran's report and will be getting results from the US. Wilson told us that he rejects it because the examination itself took only about 30 - 50 minutes and based on what he understands that examination should last 1 - 2 hours - so Wilson questions the veracity of that report and says he believes it was a medical event because the family says that Simmons is asthmatic. Apart from the report, Wilson also rejects the comments about his tour. Yesterday someone who claims to have been on that same tour contacted us and said that the tour was very disorganized and that it was basically a safety hazard being out there. Well, Wilson told us his tour guides were well prepared. They had medical kits and 2 paramedics were on the tour as well. He also said that he always complies with the 8 guests to 1 tour guide regulation and that no one is allowed in the water without a swim vest. In terms of Simmons, Wilson told us that the family members revealed that Simmons was a strong swimmer.
The Tourism Board, which regulates tours still has not reported on the findings of its investigation.
For the past few weeks we've been reporting on declining world prices for sugar, but on the other side of the agroindustry coin, local citrus could stand to benefit from higher global prices brought on by a crisis in Florida farms. It's the effect of citrus greening or "huanglongbing". New estimates say that the current harvest for the season that began Oct. 1 in Florida, could be down 24 percent from a year ago and the lowest since 1964. This would be the fourth consecutive seasonal decline, the longest slump since 1913.
That's driving world prices up sharply - as much as 43% in the last two months.
It's good news for Belize - which is not as gravely affected by citrus greening. The only worry right now is that the floods of a few weeks ago did not create too much losses in the groves along the coastal road. Damage form water logged tree roots for a period of time could reduce production.
Everyone knows that when you go to a barber shop or salon, you'll leave with a new refreshed look but you also leave with a whooole lot of updates on gossip and I mean - surely, on that chatter list you won't find pressing social or national issues. But the coordinators at YWCA want to change that. Today YWCA held a gender based violence workshop for barbers and beauticians from Belize City and Belmopan. The main idea is for them to translate the information and awareness they get from this workshop to their personal and professional life. We found out how it works:
Shellon Nunez, Coordinator "It's the 16 days of activism and so the YWCA has managed to garner some funds through the "Step it up" program. The "Step it up" program is a program that is run throughout 4 Caribbean countries and we have decided that we were going to target barbers and beauticians specifically for today and other women in the community that have been affected or are prone to violence against women."
Courtney Weatherburne "Tell us about the choice of inviting barbers and beautician. It's interesting. Usually when we hear about gender base violence, its women and young girls. Tell us why you are targeting barbers and beauticians?"
Shellon Nunez, Coordinator "We decided to target barbers and beauticians because we have run programs for them already here at the Y under a different program. But we invited them specifically for this program because we wanted the information to be disseminated. And so we decided that if we target barbers and beauticians, you know when you go to the hair dresser there is a lot of conversations - when you go to the barber there is a lot of conversations. So we wanted them to talk about violence against women and how it can be prevented and so we decide that we are going to target them so that the information can be disseminated and those who get the information can talk to their peers."
"The importance of this conference is to stop violence against women. That's what we want them to take away and we want them to really think about how they can impact the people that they come across. I have said earlier that barbers and beauticians, they have a lot of people coming through their businesses and we want them to really target these people and let them know that it's important for them to stop violence against women."
Sandra Diaz Cadle, Counsellor, Edward P York High School "Quite honestly you can never get tired of creating awareness and advocating against violence and I know you mentioned women, but we need to also bear in mind that when we talk about gender base violence, sometimes men are affected too. So we are hoping through these workshops to sensitize the entire public to gender base violence and how it impacts sustainable development. Because we need to remember that our young people are the future and so we need to ensure that the environment remains healthy for them."
Jack Martinez, Dale's Barber Sop "Well it's the first time to a workshop like this. It's something very good. It will teach you more or less how to deal with violence in terms of females being abused in the neighborhood. Sometimes you see things happened and you don't know where to go, who to go with."
Courtney Weatherburne "Tell us what you learned from this workshop you translate to your personal life and as well as your professional life?"
Jack Martinez, Dale's Barber Sop "Professional life: it's going to develop me a lot because I can tell you sometimes you see things and you don't know how to deal with it."
"Baber shop is social place where people come and speak about their life and what's not and sometimes they bring this up and you don't know what to tell them. So with this workshop now, I can be able to tell them more or less where to go and who to talk to."
20 barbers and beauticians attended. There will also be another session this afternoon at 3:30 for young women and girls. The barbers and beauticians will be given shirts and flyers to give to their customers.
Earlier on, you heard what COLA had to say about the court's decision to bail David Nanes Shnitzer. But, the president of the activist group also had something to say about Ernesto Alonso de Miguel, known as "El Espanol." As we told you the man the Mexicans called the czar of contraband flagrantly broke every rule and lived in the Cotozal Free Zone. Chetumal's Por Esto newspaper reports that he had a wine cellar and a ball court on the compound as well. It's an arrangement that dates back to the mid 200's and persisted for probably as much as ten years. COLA says it bespeaks a culture of corruption:...
Geovannie Brackett, President - COLA "This was gentleman who was living in the Free Zone. An area that you are not supposed to have residence. You are not supposed to live in there. But he had a bunker. He had dogs. He had a big house, a big fence, a basketball court. He was living the life of a superstar within the Free Zone and you are telling me that the police authorities did not know? Immigration did not know? I mean from our accounts he was frequent by many politicians and police and other public officers. These people are well connected and you want to question whether or not if money plays such a huge role in Belize that you can get anything."
Local sources tell us that under Miguel - with a few well connected importers, Belize became the hub for contraband cigarettes in the hemisphere - taking over from Panama.
Earlier in the news, we told you how Jamal "Shyne" Barrow wants to replace his uncle, Michael Finnegan, as the UDP Standard Bearer in Mesopotamia. Well, equally of interest is PUP's Lisa Shoman who wants to be the next Leader of her Party.
She one of 5 potential candidates including Cordel Hyde, Julius Espat, John Briceno, and Kareem Musa, but she is the first woman to express an interest in leading a mass party.
She's also unelected but this evening, she told us that she does not believe that being an elected member of the House is a pre-requisite for the leadership of the Party. Here's how she explained it:
Lisa Shoman, PUP Senator - Leader of Opposition Business "It's a job that no woman in Belize to my knowledge has ever aspire for either of the 2 mass political parties. But I think it is an idea whose time has come, not just because I am a woman, but because I have invested my time, my energy, my dedication into this party and I care very deeply about the People's United Party. Not just as an opposition, but as a potential future administration of the country and so I think the time has come to think a little bit outside the box, think radically and think of the party leader as somebody who is concern for the next two years. Because that's what it will be until there is another national convention to focus on the direction that the party is taking, look at it, hopefully infused some energy and some revitalization into it because we constantly have to keep working and I don't think that that demands that I be in the house of representatives at this point. If I choose to continue to aspire to the job of the People's United Party leader, then yes. I would think that past the next convention I would have to make that decision and take that step. But at this point in time, my hope, my concern, my aspiration is to the best possible leader for the People's United Party and to work very closely with the leader of the opposition in reorganizing the party, refreshing and revitalizing it and of course I would want to remain in the senate as Leader of Opposition Business. Because I think I have the experience and the capacity to continue to be a strong voice."
Daniel Ortiz "The persons who have come out as sort of the person to look at are all elected representatives and so one would make the assumption that that gives them an advantage. They already have support from the people and that they have a major role to play in the party as well."
Lisa Shoman, PUP Senator - Leader of Opposition Business "I don't dispute any of that. However, as you know the leader of the People's United Party would be chosen by members of the People's United Party in a delegate's convention by secret ballots. So it would really be up to the individual members of the People's United Party who they wish to lead the People's United Party."
When we asked Shoman about her past failure as a politician, she told us that she is undeterred by that first unsuccessful attempt.
Christmas is about a month away, but Unicomer, the Parent Company of Courts and Tropigas, have been getting a head-start on the gift giving. They've been making donations to Homes for the Elderly around the country. Today, they invited us to the handing over of items to the My Cielo Blue Elderly Home in Gardenia Village.
Today, we spoke with the donors and the recipients:
The total donation to the Elderly Homes is valued at $15,000.
Earlier in the news we told you about the local citrus industry, and how it stands to benefit from a major downtown in the citrus harvest in Florida - where the disease called huanglongbing has decimated crops. But, that same disease has also been in Belize since 2009, and in March, Courtney Weatherburne travelled south to the citrus belt to find out how it's being managed:...
There is about 40 - 45,000 acres of land under production for citrus in Belize. 80% is set aside for oranges and 20% is for grapefruit.