7 News Belize

7 News Belize HeadlinesMonday, July 21, 2014

Friday Night Fire on Prince Street Leaves 3 Families Homeless
Tonight, 3 families, including 4 children are homeless after their residence on Prince Street was destroyed by fire on Friday night. But, the fire caused a scare in the general downtown...
Fire Department: Blaze Started By Child Playing With Fire
The Fire Department is particularly concerned about this fire because they've determined that it was an accident, where a minor is believed to have been playing with fire, which got out of c...
Crackdown on Quality of Life Crimes Causes Community Uproar
There has been public outcry from the community and the families of the victims of the recent spike in gang related crime and violence in Belize City. The police have been harshly - an...
Pedro Police Find Stash of Cash, Weed and Contraband At Cabbie’s Crib
San Pedro police followed up on a man who discharged a firearm in public and ended up finding a stash of cash, weed and contraband. Last night, police got a report that a town taxi...
Man Found Drowned At Fish Farm, Police Investigate
Ladyville police are awaiting the results of post-mortem which was conducted on Thomas Garcia, who was found in one the ponds belonging to the Fresh Catch Tilapia Farm, located in La Democ...
Worries Mount As Hattieville Village Chairman Missing
And while the discovery of his body is the worst news for Garcia's family, police are hoping that they will find missing Hattieville Resident Kevin Carcamo in good health. Carcamo, who ...
Man Caught In Accident Dies As They Try To Pull His Vehicle Out
2 men died this weekend, one of them in the bizarre and freakish aftermath of an accident. Police say that just after midnight last night, they visited an area of the North Ri...
Hard Talk In Sugarland
As we've reported, the sugar cane season turned out ok after all - even after a much-delayed start. But, sugar cane farmers still aren't happy; they scheduled a meeting with their asso...
OW Farmers Angry About Audit Revelations
And earlier this month, we told you how some of the employees of the Belize Sugar Cane Farmers swindled the association of approximately $78,000 dollars. As we reported, an audit of the ...
Cervantez Jr Not Satisfied With Compol’s Comments
One of the cane farmers who attend the meeting was Ramon Cervantes Jr, the politician son of the slain Ramon Sr. We asked him to react to last Wednesday's interview with Police Commiss...
IDB President In Belize
President of the IDB Luis Alberto Moreno is in Belize and he met today with Prime Minister, Dean Barrow. It is their second meeting in less than two months; they met in Miami at the end of ...
Smart Students At SPISE
Earlier this year we told you about 3 gifted Belizean high school students, selected to attend SPISE, a prestigious science camp in Barbados. Well, it started on July 19th and and SJC...
Songsters Take It To The Stage
The September festivities are about 2 months away, but the National Celebrations Commission is making sure that the songs you'll be jumping up to in the streets for Carnival 2014 are the bes...
New Ambassadors Present
Today, the Ambassadors of Taiwan and the Philippines presented their credentials to the Governor General in Belmopan. The Philippines Ambassador is Catalino R. Dilem Jr, and the Twaines...
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7 News Belize - News:
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

Friday Night Fire on Prince Street Leaves 3 Families Homeless

Tonight, 3 families, including 4 children are homeless after their residence on Prince Street was destroyed by fire on Friday night. But, the fire caused a scare in the general downtown area because at the particular location where the fire started, there were 4 houses clustered in the same yard. That yard is less than a block away from Albert Street, the commercial section of Downtown Belize City. Couple that with the fact, that we've seen block-burners in this exact area before, and that made the fire all the more dangerous.

That blaze broke out at around 8:30 p.m., just down the street from our Channel 7 studios, so we were on the scene shortly after. Daniel Ortiz has the timeline:

Daniel Ortiz reporting
The fire raged at this two-storey house on Prince Street, while the firemen got their hoses going. Even with civilian assistance, the first hose was not enough to douse the flames.

Another firefighter then climbed up his ladder and tried to get closer and smother the blaze.

The air around him was thick with ashes, still, he laboured on undaunted. That direct assault lasted for about 2 minutes, but then the water pressure dropped; and the fire was untamed.

Another hose arrived a short while later, and gradually, they firefighters started gaining ground.

Other firefighters started attacking the flames from other parts of the building.

Another 10 to 15 minutes later, the fire department managed to get the blaze under better control - but the whole upper flat had been gutted.

John Brackett - Next Door Neighbour
"I was in my bedroom watching television, I didn't know what was going on outside until I've been alerted by my wife that there is a fire at the upper flat of the building that is next to where I live."

Geovannie Brackett
"Clearly this fire was a threat to your house. How did you respond?"

John Brackett - Next Door Neighbour
"I responded first by dialing 911. I also respond by calling the different media houses and ask them to assist me with making calls to the fire station."

Geovannie Brackett
"In your view was the fire service department prompt?"

John Brackett - Next Door Neighbour
"The fire engine took a little while to reach here but as soon as they reach they manage they react pretty quickly in the sense of organizing themselves and do their quick assessment and start to put the fire out. When Mr. Smith came by, there were much more command and control of the crew though. I could say that he did a pretty good job or else my house and several other houses would have gone in the neighborhood, so I must commend him on that."

Geovannie Brackett
"I am not able to see at the back, but I think there are 3-4 houses in the yard. How many?"

John Brackett - Next Door Neighbour
"There are 4 houses total in the yard; there is 3 upper flat and the low house that I live in that is to the front."

The fire was devastating to those who lost property, but it could have been worse, because there were other houses clustered in the same yard.

John Brackett - Next Door Neighbour
"I haven't been to the back because I was busy establishing communication outside, but I got to understand that the house to the back had burnt a little as well. I know they got a lot of water damage."

But for the family living in that house where the blaze was concentrated, it's pretty bad - so much so that the City is treating the ruins of their home as a hazard.

Councillor Phillip Willoughby - Member, CEMO
"There are agencies on the ground right now as we have discuss that we will use extreme caution to negate anyone or prevent anyone from entering the premises until the investigation has been concluded because one; there has to be an investigation, and I believe that yes the structural integrity of the building has been compromise and we would need to take down that structure as soon as possible."


Fire Department: Blaze Started By Child Playing With Fire

The Fire Department is particularly concerned about this fire because they've determined that it was an accident, where a minor is believed to have been playing with fire, which got out of control.

That's the second time in two weeks that this has happened; the other case was in Hattieville. So, when we caught up with Station Manager Orin Smith today, he had a strict warning for parents.

Sharday Arnold - Fire Victim
"Around 8:40 I was in my room, I got a phone call from my aunt and after the phone call I was combing my hair - I was fixing to go out with my sister and at that time I began to smell smoke, so I assume that it was my metal fan. I plug it out of the wall but then I still continue to smell smoke. At that time I heard footsteps outside of my door, so I open my door and I saw my roommate two kids to my left and they were like aunty we need water. So I ask what do you need water for and I look to my right and their father came out of the room and he was crying asking for water. I look passed him at that time and I look into the room I saw that the entire wall was engulfed in flames, so my instinct was to run downstairs to get assistance from my ex-boyfriend who lives downstairs. So I went there and he came upstairs with a bucket and then the kids came down when he was going up. But when he got upstairs, I don't know if it was electrical wire or something pop and at that time the flames started to spread, so people just started to come out of the house and just waited for the fire engine to reach to extinguish the fire."

Orin Smith, Station Officer - National Fire Service
"The National Service received and responded to a call at #25 Prince Street Belize City. On arrival on the scene we found the upper flat of two story wooden structure engulfed in flames. The National Fire Service got into operations and extinguish that fire. Investigations revealed that the fire occurred on a bed in a room on the south west of the upper flat of that structure. The cause of the fire is classified as accidental as a result of a minor playing with a lighter tool. This is the second such fire in a very short time that has been the result of a minor playing with a lighter tool. The National takes this opportunity to once again appeal to the general public to please train the children that matches, lighters and lighted candles are tools for adults to use and not toys for children to play with. On out arrival the entire upper flat was already engulfed. We had the fire under control. There was butane tank that exhaust its content and for a while the fire went back up in a section of the building and was quickly controlled and extinguished after the tank has exhaust its supply. Naturally I would deem that building unsafe, but an engineer can more give you a direct and precise assessment on that."

Though it was too late for the house belonging to those 3 families, there were 3 other houses which were spared. The closest house was only inches away, but it was untouched. Station Officer Smith noted that as soon as the firefighters started getting the blaze under control, a valve for one of the butane tanks of the house ruptured, and that added more fuel to the fire.


Crackdown on Quality of Life Crimes Causes Community Uproar

There has been public outcry from the community and the families of the victims of the recent spike in gang related crime and violence in Belize City. The police have been harshly - and some would say unfairly - criticized for letting things spiral out of control.

So, police have taken a pro-active step - but one that's not winning them many fans on the street. It's a crackdown on petty crimes. The idea is not a new one: it's been tried successfully before in larger cities where it's called the "Broken Windows Theory." The idea behind it is that if you leave a broken window and don't fix it, pretty soon, the door will be broken, and then, eventually, the whole house will be falling down. So, it's law enforcement that's trying to fix the big problems, by starting with the small, often overlooked, ones.

But what happens when the small ones have been left so long that they've become a way of life? That happened on Friday night when over 10 people were picked up for breaking the traffic laws because they weren't using bells and lights. Now, you might be saying, bells and lights on bicycles - in 2014? That's like, so 1980's, right!? So on Friday night, it was like a throwback party - except no one was dancing or laughing.

7News was called out to the Raccoon Street Police Station by a few irate families; here's what they had to say:

Daniel Ortiz reporting
There has been public outcry from the community and the families of the victims of the recent spike in gang related crime and violence in Belize City. The police have been harshly - and some would say unfairly - criticized for the fall-out. So, police have been trying to become pro-active in their crime fighting.

In an effort to try and create an environment that breeds lawfulness and discipline, police have started to target persons hanging out on the street side, persons drinking in public, and bike offences. Petty offences, you might say but, bicycle offences are more serious because these have been used to commit murders.

Generally, though, police are trying to crack down on that class of offences collectively referred to as quality of life crimes.

FILE: July 18, 2014
ASP Calbert Flowers - Deputy OC, Police Precinct 2

"These are crimes that are in our laws, on our books and we are just starting to enforce them. These are petty misdemeanor offences that have been overlooked for quite some time. We have been trying all different approaches to try to combat this violence, this crime in Belize City. So we are approaching them from the smallest offence up to the largest. We won't overlook anything at this time. So we want to warn the public that riding a bicycle on a sidewalk is an offence, riding a bicycle contrary to traffic, without light, without bell, without brake, is an offense. And the police will continue to do this operation to target these people."

But, the new campaign hasn't gone down well with those being targeted for these offences which just last week, were a way of life.

Shama Palacio - Upset With Police Crackdown
"Really and truly they are going on bad for no reason. We understand they are trying to raise funds for this and that but if they really want to lock up people. They could stand up right at the boulevard and if they really want to charge people for bells and lights, they talk about how they want to start license bicycles. How can you license a bicycle that doesn't have an engine? My son little truck, I have to try to insure that at traffic on Monday because they might lock up my little son for light and bell and that is not right. If they really want to lock up people, they can stand up at the boulevard from end to end - from Port to civic center edge ad they can collect people whole day. If they really want to collect they can go at the market where people come every day. I counted about 10 people pass here without bell and light since we are here from 7p.m., but you think they will grab them? You think they will search them? The police is right here watching them and they will watch me in my face and laugh."

And that's just the beginning of Palacio's rage at the way police are conducting the quality of life crackdown. He says that officers are enforcing to the point of absurdity.

Shama Palacio - Upset With Police Crackdown
"Loitering, how my little brother could be loitering when he is front of a food stall buying food. We are 4335 and they are 4344, my brother didn't even walk a yard, it's just one stone throw away that he got charge for loitering and bell and light - that doesn't makes sense."

Daniel Ortiz
"So you are not with that how they are trying to crack down on the small crimes to deal with the big crimes?"

Shama Palacio - Upset With Police Crackdown
"No, because they are bigger crime that people are walking off literally. You and I know that. For these little small crimes here - no man. This is what you call a waste of time. If they really want to make up time they can go at the market where people are buying their fish and their vegetables, onions and the whole works. Have them pose up, have 3 troopers out there and collect all riders if they really want to make money from the little poor people pocket. They want to charge us $100 - don't forget that."

Daniel Ortiz
"How many people you think are you sure of were picked up tonight?"

Shama Palacio - Upset With Police Crackdown
"Over 12 people, young men who just came from work. The young man who was buying food along with my brother has his son and his daughter - his two kids in his hands full of cement and they grab him and leave his kids right there - that is not fair."

Sharmaine Copious - Nephew Was Arrested
"A barrage of gunshots and rivalry in our neighborhood which is the far Pen Road, Faber's Road, Raccoon Street Extensions and they are not looking for the right people. We are saying that they are not getting the job done. This law that they implement about this bicycle system - why at this moment they will set these rules and regulations for poor people. Come on, we have our young children where we are suffering in this. The Prime Minister doesn't know what poor people are going through. They have to send the officers at the back of these places that are deep in darkness where they are taking innocent children life. I am unhappy tonight because I've been up and down. Things are not working the way it should, we've been up and down at the station for our family and we are not getting answer. My nephew, he lives in Mahogany Heights, he just came over to find out what's going on with his family down here. I sent him to the shop and on his way back they said that he have a bicycle without a bell and light."

Police commanders understand the effect of these operations, but they are pleading with the public to cooperate.

FILE: July 18, 2014
ASP Calbert Flowers - Deputy OC, Police Precinct 2
"We know that some innocent people will be inconvenienced, but we urge people to come on board and do the right thing."

FILE: July 18, 2014
ASP Calbert Flowers - Deputy OC, Police Precinct 2

"We want to sound the message that it is not legal to drink alcohol and to hang out on the street side in Belize City."

We note that today, quite a number of people were taken to Magistrate's Court for bike offences, loitering, public drinking, and assembling to gamble in public.


Pedro Police Find Stash of Cash, Weed and Contraband At Cabbie’s Crib

San Pedro police followed up on a man who discharged a firearm in public and ended up finding a stash of cash, weed and contraband.

Last night, police got a report that a town taxi man had fired his licensed pistol in front of a bar. License or not, that is an offence, and police went to search his home in the San Pedrito area. They found 30 year old Juan Menjivar and a 15 year old male relative in the house and recovered the loaded Sig Sauer pistol without incident. But a search of the premises then turned up more than $10,000.00 in US and Belize currency, (8) liters of Hennessy and 3 brown parcels containing 1.4 kilos - or about three pounds of weed.

Both Menjivar and the 15-year-old were arrested and charged for Drug Trafficking while Menjivar was additionally charged with Discharging a Firearm in Public, Uncustomed Goods and for the possession of over $10,000 dollars believed to be the proceeds of Drug Trafficking.

He will be arraigned tomorrow.


Man Found Drowned At Fish Farm, Police Investigate

Ladyville police are awaiting the results of post-mortem which was conducted on Thomas Garcia, who was found in one the ponds belonging to the Fresh Catch Tilapia Farm, located in La Democracia Village. At this time, it's an apparent drowning, but police are following up to ensure that it is.

Garcia, a 58 year-old Guatemalan National of Cotton Tree Village in Cayo, was found floating face-down in the pond, and his body was nude.

Today, we spoke with police about what information they have so far:

ASP Chris Noble - Rural Executive Officer
"On Friday, we did get that information sometime after 7p.m. to say that a gentleman had been found in one of the ponds in the tilapia farm. The body was located and we had people go up there to look into it. The gentleman is an employee of the farm and we're expecting the results of a post mortem later today. We, at this stage, are very young into it, we did some work over the weekend into it and we hope that we could put closure to it by day's end."

Geovannie Brackett
"What do you know about what happened to your father?"

Byron Garcia - Son of Deceased
"Right now I don't know."

Geovannie Brackett
"When were you alerted?"

Byron Garcia - Son of Deceased
"Friday night at 8p.m."

Geovannie Brackett
"What kind of person was your father? What kind of memory will you have of him?"

Byron Garcia - Son of Deceased
"Good person that didn't have problems with anyone."

Thomas Garcia was the father of 5 children.


Worries Mount As Hattieville Village Chairman Missing

And while the discovery of his body is the worst news for Garcia's family, police are hoping that they will find missing Hattieville Resident Kevin Carcamo in good health.

Carcamo, who is the Chairman of the village, went to work early yesterday, and he hasn't been heard from since.

The rural executive officer spoke to us about what information investigators have at this time:

ASP Chris Noble - Rural Executive Officer
"They came to us late last night, early this morning several things have been done to attempt to locate him. We are hoping that the gentleman is located alive and in good health. He works for the company in that area and that requires going into the bush. We believe that there might not be cell service in that area, so we have sent personnel into the area that is working with the BDF, the K-9 Unit and ourselves, along with villagers and the company he works with."

Geovannie Brackett
"When was the last time you saw him?"

Voice of: Shawn Banner - Wife of Missing Man
"Sunday morning about 5:45a.m. When he left to go to work. That's the last time I saw him."

Geovannie Brackett
"Now is there anything that gives you the impression that may be foul play?"

Voice of: Shawn Banner - Wife of Missing Man
"I don't know what happen because nobody is telling me what happened."

Different teams of law enforcement officers have teamed up and formed search parties to look for him. He is employed with Discoveries Oil Company, and the hope is that he is just too far out of cellular service to get in contact with his family back home.


Man Caught In Accident Dies As They Try To Pull His Vehicle Out

2 men died this weekend, one of them in the bizarre and freakish aftermath of an accident.

Police say that just after midnight last night, they visited an area of the North Ring Road where they saw this silver Mitsubishi Sport Utility Vehicle, owned by 62 year-old retiree Alfonso Manzanero. Manzanero was driving his vehicle and lost control just a short distance from his home. He ended up landing in a ditch, and that's when 3 men allegedly offered to help him.

They reported to police that while they tried to pull Manzanero's vehicle out of the drain, their Ford Pickup instead lunged forward and knocked him down when the towing chain snapped. He suffered injuries to the face, abdomen, knees, legs and hands. He was taken to the Western Regional Hospital alive, but he passed away while undergoing treatment.

The accident is a bizarre one and bears some scrutiny, so police say they are waiting for the results of the post-mortem examination. The other fatality happened yesterday morning at around 2 in the morning. 43 year-old Rejemio Botes, a resident of Christo Rey Village in Corozal, was travelling in this vehicle along with his wife, Vianny Botes; his 7 year-old son, Emmanol Botes; and his 9 year-old daughter Giselle Botes. It is believed that Rejemio Botes lost control of the vehicle in San Jose Village in Corozal, and he slammed into a big rock. The force of the impact caused him to smash his head against the windshield, and that injury may have led to his death. We're told that his daughter pulled herself out of the vehicle, and dragged herself out on the road to get help for her family and herself. All other passengers were hospitalized after the accident.


Hard Talk In Sugarland

As we've reported, the sugar cane season turned out ok after all - even after a much-delayed start. But, sugar cane farmers still aren't happy; they scheduled a meeting with their association to discuss bagasse.

As we've told you, the agreement for amicable industrial relations ended, two weeks ago, and by that time, the cane farmers and the factory owners were supposed to have arrived at a signed agreement for a bagasse payment. That never happened, but the factory owners have since moved from a flat out no to an offer of 51 cents per tonne of sugar delivered.

The association's negotiating team took that offer to the membership yesterday, and 7News was there for that marathon 5 and a half hour meeting in San Roman, Corozal. Daniel Ortiz reports:

Daniel Ortiz reporting
910 cane farmers and their families gathered for their AGM, the first since the 2013/2014 crop season finished. One of the main items on the agenda was an update from the negotiating team on the bagasse dispute.

Their CEO briefed them on the offer currently on the table of 51 cents as a payment for a tonne of sugar delivered.

When it was time for the cane farmers to address their peers, the overwhelming sentiment was a resounding no to 51 cents for bagasse. They verbalized quite a bit of distrust for the factory owners.

Cane Farmer 1 (male)
"Ladies and Gentlemen, it's clear that BSI is not playing with us how it should be. BSI is lying to us; it is another. They lied to us when they told us that they were going to pay 16 dollar per tonne of sugar. They never fulfilled their promise."

Cane Farmer 2 (female)
"Let's not accept that 51 cents. That can only buy one egg, and if we have 6 children, how are we going to provide for all of them?" "And I would like to tell BSI, that I know he is a giant company, and he is chancing us cane farmers. He doesn't know that at 3 o'clock these men are already out, and the women. And that 51 cents can't even buy a soap to watch the shirt and the pants that the men dirty at the fields. Please try to give us a just payment for our bagasse, because you know that you are making money out of our bagasse. Mr. Carballo, I'd like you to know that we are not fools. We know what our bagasse is putting into all your pockets."

Cane Farmer 3 (Male)
"How does that saying go, (dog eat dog). Belizeans are walking all over the same Belizeans."

Cane Farmer 4 (Female)
"We will not accept that 51 cents. Let's stand up, men and women. We are many. Those people are eat us all. They are also eating our brains, because they know how to talk pretty."

Cane Farmer 5
"Why are the people so dumb? People, let me tell you something, if we continue the ignorance, or continue to arguing, or do too much, we will never reach to a point."

Some 50 minutes later, the cane farmers passed a motion asking their representatives to go back to BSI and continue negotiating for a better price. They had turned down BSI's offer of 51 cents for Bagasse.

Alfredo Ortega - Vice-Chair, COM, BSCFA
"The farmers didn't accept the 51 cents. What they have pass motion for is that we look forward to SICB to seek their intervention into this situation and for them to look forward for exports that will find a way or a solution to this situation where we are at this point."

Reporter
"The farmers have set a deadline of October 15, what is that in relation to?"

Alfredo Ortega - Vice-Chair, COM, BSCFA
"It is in relation to this, so that we can finalize this situation by October 15th so that whenever the upcoming crop is about to come we don't have interruption and we should be clear out of this situation."

Reporter
"What are you expecting SICB to play? Are they going to take the place of the association to make negotiations with BSI?"

Alfredo Ortega - Vice-Chair, COM, BSCFA
"As you know within the industry we have 3 stakeholders which is the cane farmers, BSI as the miller and SICB that represent the government, so whenever two of the three cannot solve their problem then comes the third one. In this case it is the SICB we are looking forward so that we can become like the referee between us."

The letter that BSI had written to the farmers giving them until August 1 to decide on 51 cents per tonne of sugar was perceived as, quote, "disrespectful".

Alfredo Ortega - Vice-Chair, COM, BSCFA
"From the very fact that the farmer's didn't accept the 51 cents that means that we are not accepting their deadlines. I think that it is total disrespect for them to come to say we give you a deadline until August 1st, if you accept this then we want to have a clarification that who is the owner of the product of this and what's not. I think that is why we are in negotiations and we should finalize our situation into a negotiation in which we have been asking from them from last year. We started our proposal to them from since 2012, but we started last year between them and us. I think putting a timeline as they have done is total disrespect. With the magnitude of this matter, I think that we need to be very clear and very frank and respectful to each other."

The farmers are looking for a better deal than 51 cents, but their current figure is nowhere close to what BSI is prepared to concede.

Alfredo Ortega - Vice-Chair, COM, BSCFA
"We have presented to the farmers a proposal. When we first made our proposal it was ten dollars and we demonstrated to them how is it that we reach to that ten dollars. There was a farmer that came out this morning and he said that he has made his own investigation and within his investigation he saw that the price would be in the vicinity of eight dollars per tonne. What we are looking forward and what the farmers are looking to is something above the 51 cents. We clearly know that we can get a better price than 51 cents, so that is where we are at this point. Farmers want a just payment for bagasse."

As you heard in our story, the farmers have given their negotiating team further instructions to go back to the negotiating table with BSI and try to bargain for a higher bagasse payment. They've given them until October 15 to come up with a signed agreement. The farmers also approved another $50,000 in their budget for negotiating expenses.

One criticism brought against the cane farmers is that they haven't been approaching these negotiations with the level of seriousness required to reach a realistic payment figure. Today, the Vice-Chair told us today that they're attempts at negotiating with BSI for a bagasse payment has been so real it is costing the farmers money - as much as 150 thousand dollars up to this point:

Alfredo Ortega - Vice-Chair, COM, BSCFA
"We have already invested in the vicinity of $130,000.00 into this year that has passed with the lawyer and our expert that we have. As you know it's an investment that the association is doing so that we can get benefit out of this bagasse. Its $130,000.00 that we have invested and we have ask the famers for $50,000 more to see what will happen in the future of the negotiations."

Reporter
"When that October 15th comes and the SICB cannot come to an agreement and BSCFA, what action possible are you guys looking into?"

Alfredo Ortega - Vice-Chair, COM, BSCFA
"That is where this $50,000 will kick off if SICB don't want to work with us then the association need to kick over again and seek more experts so that we can find what the forward - a just payment for the bagasse."


OW Farmers Angry About Audit Revelations

And earlier this month, we told you how some of the employees of the Belize Sugar Cane Farmers swindled the association of approximately $78,000 dollars.

As we reported, an audit of the association's finances revealed that one of the supervisors had been paying herself and other employees' bonuses on each pay cheque.

It was quite a lucrative scheme, and they got away with it for over a year, until it was revealed by a spot-check audit.

Yesterday, the management of the cane farmers association revealed the details to those 910 cane farmers, and they were understandably upset that they had been ripped off by their own:

Alfredo Ortega - Vice-Chair, COM, BSCFA
"In any place whenever funds are misused it is not taken lightly by the members. I think that we have come with a clear presentation to them based on the audit report that we have. There will always be people who will jump here and there based on certain things that are there, but we are coming clear to them. We are not hiding anything. We have presented the names of the people who were involved and what we are looking forward to is to recuperate the funds that were not used properly from these people who are involved in the situation."

Daniel Ortiz
"How much have you recovered and how much more is necessary?"

Alfredo Ortega - Vice-Chair, COM, BSCFA
"I think we have recovered in the vicinity of $6,000, so we need to recover about $72,000 to complete the $78,000."

Reporter
"We understand that three of the employees have already repaid their share of what was stolen, and the other three have yet to do so?"

Alfredo Ortega - Vice-Chair, COM, BSCFA
"Yes. We have three of them who have already repaid. It was the smaller numbers in the audit report. So three of them have cleared their names and there are others who have already committed to how they will be paying. It's only three persons that legal action will be taken upon them."

Daniel Ortiz
"Does that absolve them of all wrongdoing? Are they forgiven? Are they fired? What's their status?"

Alfredo Ortega - Vice-Chair, COM, BSCFA
"Well they have been fired from the organization based on the lawyer's advice. We have fired these people and legal action will be taken against them."

Because of the revelation, the cane farmers association is on a 6 month probation with Flow Cert, the body that oversees compliance with Fair Trade Standards. Flow Cert is in charge of auditing the BSCFA's books to ensure that there is proper accountability. It is an oversight body related to Fair Trade - which sends the premium of $60 dollars per tonne of sugar cane. This audit of financial irregularities which exposed these paycheque scheme has repercussions for the farmers because it is treated as an act of non-compliance, for which a suspension is in order.


Cervantez Jr Not Satisfied With Compol’s Comments

One of the cane farmers who attend the meeting was Ramon Cervantes Jr, the politician son of the slain Ramon Sr.

We asked him to react to last Wednesday's interview with Police Commissioner Allen Whylie. Specifically the part about those police officers who's names were called early in the investigation of Cervantes' abduction, torture and murder.

Here's what Cervantes Jr had to say:

Daniel Ortiz
"Are you satisfied with his response?"

Ramon Cervantes Jr., Son of Deceased
"Not really, I am not satisfied."

Daniel Ortiz
"The matter with these officers - how certain are you guys, the family and friends that those handcuffs - how certain are you that those were found when your father's body was found?"

Ramon Cervantes Jr.
"Well I saw my father's body when he was exhumed from the grave. And he was handcuffed. He had on handcuffs, he was duct-taped and the handcuffs had chains that ran all the way to his feet too. So I saw it. We all saw it who were there."

Daniel Ortiz
"How certain are you that these handcuffs are connected to the Police Department."

Ramon Cervantes Jr.
"That's a very tricky question in that officially nothing has been said about it, any ties linking the handcuffs to the officers, but yes - the people in the Police Department know it is so."

The last time we checked with DPP Vidal about those officer and that handcuff, she had responded saying, "my understanding is that that aspect is still under investigation."


IDB President In Belize

President of the IDB Luis Alberto Moreno is in Belize and he met today with Prime Minister, Dean Barrow. It is their second meeting in less than two months; they met in Miami at the end of May.

According to a release, Moreno confirmed the IDB's commitment to partner with the Government of Belize on a number of projects. This year IDB spending in Belize is focusing on the education and transport sectors for a total of $30 million US dollars. The first is the "Education Quality Improvement Program" - a 10 million US dollar project approved by the IDB in June.

The second project is for the rehabilitation of sections of the George Price Highway to bring it up to international standards, while ensuring better climate change resilience. That is expected to be approved in November.

After meeting with the Prime Minister, Moreno visited the Cayo Welcome Center in San Ignacio and Santa Elena, a project funded by the IDB as part of the 13 million US dollar Sustainable Tourism Program.


Smart Students At SPISE

Earlier this year we told you about 3 gifted Belizean high school students, selected to attend SPISE, a prestigious science camp in Barbados. Well, it started on July 19th and and SJC 4th form graduates, Siian Rancharan, Mishek Musa and Digna Ramirez of Escuela Secundaria Tecnica Mexico have joined 18 of the best young science minds from the region at the Cavehill Campus of the University of the West Indies. The camp is called the Student Program for Innovation in Science and Engineering, and it includes a four-week session of university-level math and science. At the end of the program, the students will demonstrate their projects and present their business plans. It will end on August 16th. The camp hopes to groom the next generation of science, engineering, business and technology leaders in the Region.

Songsters Take It To The Stage

The September festivities are about 2 months away, but the National Celebrations Commission is making sure that the songs you'll be jumping up to in the streets for Carnival 2014 are the best.

They're doing it by holding their annual National Song Competition, but this year, they're doing things a bit differently. Starting from Last week Thursday, they've been holding knock-out rounds in the Northern, Western, Southern and Central Parts of the Country.

Those who make past the knock-out round, gets to compete in the finals. On Saturday night, the Commission Hosted the Central preliminaries at the BTL Park, and 7News attended. Here's a few highlights from that competition:



The Northern knock-out round was held in Orange Walk on Last Week Thursday, while the Western knock-out was held on the San Ignacio on Friday. The Southern knock-outs happened on Sunday, and though we've requested the results of these competitions from NICH we haven't gotten them.

Of note that defending champs Nello Player, Ivan "TR" Shine and Jael August - last year's winners, automatically qualify for the finals as the defending champs.


New Ambassadors Present

Today, the Ambassadors of Taiwan and the Philippines presented their credentials to the Governor General in Belmopan. The Philippines Ambassador is Catalino R. Dilem Jr, and the Twainese Ambassador is the already much publicized Benjamin Ho.




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