It is not only reporters from the media at risk. Human rights observers in places like Mexico, and many other Latin American and Caribbean countries are routinely detained, threatened and even arrested. No wonder of course, hardened killers in police forces that answer to politicians instead of the voting public, know where the promotions and influence lie. Truth seekers like Amnesty International are definitely unwelcome, in places where massacres and torture are routinely tolerated. Like Peru, Chile, Guatemala, Mexico and Honduras. Even the politically controlled police force of Belize have many instances over the decades of brutality, beatings, false detainments, and torture ( such as beating prisoners around the eardrums ). Such things in Belize continue to be repeated, when the public make an outcry over some violent crime and the politician/rulers give carte blanche to find the perpetrators. Torture was last reported in Belize at the time of investigating the Hummingbird Highway bandit robbery, 1998/99. Suspected scapegoats were picked up from the Pomona Valley fruit pickers and their ordeal widely reported in the press. But this is not unusual in Belize. I myself witnessed the Belize police terribly beat a reporter from the old newspaper, The Billboard. If he had any testicles left that were working, I would be surprised. He left the country and went into self exile. Such things occur repeatedly in Belize because the police force is a national force that answers not to the voters, but to the controlling politicians in the winning political party, that gets five years of dictatorial autocratic rule. The standard response by Belize Police Commissioners, is to find scapegoats in the police force and promise things will get better. They never do, until the next time! It is the system that encourages it. How would you change the system?
Reminding the world of the ugliness that politically controlled interior police forces do, was just brought up in our consciousness once again, with the discovery of one of many police stations in Kosovo, where people were regularly beaten to death, girls were mass raped and victims dismembered with chain saws. Shades of Idi Amin in Uganda, another ex-British colony with our same political system. In Belize, it can get bad, but it has not yet to our knowledge, gotten that bad. The potential is very much there though.
In Colombia in the past year, more than 2000 persons have been killed by so-called security forces. You can find the description of victims, and perpetrators on the internet. Yet these unchecked thugs, some with uniforms and some without, bearing automatic weapons are all too happy to use them. These were just innocent people trying to earn a living for their families and stay out of trouble.
In El Amparo, Venezuela this last year, 14 fishermen were massacred. The soldiers who did it were absolved by the government. Four major perpetrators still walk the streets free as birds.
In Peru, the new Latin American hotspot for intolerance and political repression under Fuijmorro, more than 4000 people are incarcerated for "terrorism". The trials do not have any "due process" but are done by secret military tribunal. One Lieutenant reported to have murdered 62 people disappeared, but was found by an enterprising foreigner to be at a border post with a new promotion to "Major" and reported in the Miami Herald. If you are in Fuijimorro's political opposition, you are most likely to be found in jail.
It is the same story in Cuba, where 380 political prisoners, this means someone who expresses in voice, the opinion that everyone should have basic rights, or if you are a journalist and merely attempt to report the truth instead of the controlling party line, you will join 3 other journalists in inhumane conditions.
In the USA, you can end up in jail in inhumane conditions also. Even awaiting bail, or a hearing in the Dade County Jail in South Florida, you will likely be sexually abused and sodomized by other prisoners if you are a male and the bureaucratic system thinks this is normal, or all right.
What does all this have to do with Belize? It is my contention that the national police force of Belize operates within a political structure that allows abuse as a normal function of toadying to political bosses. That it has not yet been abused to the point of Fuijimorro of Peru, or Idi Amin of Uganda, or Mad Dog Milosevic of Yugoslavia is pure accident. That it will happen under this system is only a matter of time. How can we prevent it? What structure of policing in Belize would better serve the needs of the nation and remove as much as possible the possibility of police abuse becoming politically institutionalized? There are answers! Do you know them?
Does a responsive police force answering to voters instead of politicians effect development and investment in Belize? Of course! In the interest of economic improvement in Belize then, what should you do, to change the way we police ourselves in Belize?