By Marion Ali
Belize’s national security features at archaeological sites will see a marked improvement, which will include added manpower, mobility and even a helicopter (whether purchased of gifted) to monitor intrusions.
The news came out of Thursday’s special House sitting which dealt at length with the situation at the Caracol Archaeological Reserve last week Thursday when Special Constable, Danny Conorquie was ahot and killed on the job at the site.
If none of Belize’s allies such as the US, the UK or Taiwan is able to donate a helicopter towards the cause, Barrow said Belize will find the $8 to $10 million that it will cost, and one source from which he intends to look for that funding is the Petrocaribe Fund, he announced.
Prime Minister Barrow pledged to improve Belize’s security features at Caracol and other border sites and to address the ongoing daily violation of Belize’s territorial integrity. He was responding in agreement with Leader of the Opposition, Francis Fonseca, who pointed to the many accounts where Guatemalans illegally take our natural resources from our protected areas.
Fonseca called on the government to do something about the “travesty” and offered his party’s willingness to stand united with the government to address this issue of national concern.
Minister of National Security John Saldivar announced that his Ministry has conducted a review of the events and circumstances that led up to the murder of Special Constable Danny Conorquie.
That review has revealed a number of things: that the BDF escorts that normally accompany visitors to Caracol experienced mechanical problems on that day and did not accompany the visitors to the site, leaving the site less than adequately manned.
Saldivar said that approval has now been given for the acquisition of two vehicles to escort visitors to the site. He added that the ministry is also reviewing the procedures to be applied when the BDF is unable to escort visitors to the site. Further to that, no confiscated animal or item will be kept at the site to attract the owners to return for them.
In terms of the manpower, Saldivar said that the number of tourism patrol officers will be increased to six and they will be outfitted with weapons-handling training.
A total of 12 additional tourism officers will be assigned to the unit to ensure that the number of officers on site is always six.
Additionally, a team of police and BDF soldiers will be deployed to Caracol to provide permanent perimeter and on-sight security, similar to that at Xunantunich, Saldivar continued.
To accommodate the additional personnel on site, the Archaeological Department will construct a building. Other archaeological sites in border areas will also be looked at as well, Saldivar said with a view to improving their security features.
The Belize Tourism Board is also going to play a key role in recommending access routes to compliment the improvements.
Meanwhile, with respect to last Thursday’s murder of Danny Conorquie, Saldivar indicated that while our law enforcers are convinced that the perpetrators are Guatemalans, there is no evidence to prove this. He assured Conorquie’s family and Belizeans that his ministry will do all that it can to bring the perpetrators to justice and mentioned that Guatemala has offered to help since the killers fled to that country.
In terms of the loss to the family, Saldivar said that the Ministry of National Security and the Belize Police Department will arrange, along with the Belize Tourism Board and the Ministry of Finance “a substantial financial contribution to the family of Danny Conorquie.
During the sitting, members of the Cayo Tour Guide Association protested outside the National Assembly building to call on the government for some of the same improvements that were mentioned in the meeting.