By Marion V. Ali
About 200 Belizeans protested peacefully at the western border in Benque Viejo on Tuesday to demand justice for Special Tourism Police Constable, Danny Conorquie, who was shot dead on his job at Caracol Archaeological Reserve last Thursday.
Led by Neferteri Juan of Belize People’s Front, attorney and activist Audrey Matura-Shepherd and a few others, the protesters, who came from as far as Punta Gorda, Belize City and Corozal, started off at the Macal River Park in San Ignacio with a motorcade to Benque Viejo. They included activists from the Rod of Correction (ROC), the Citizens Organized for Liberty through Action (COLA), the Belize Grassroots Youth Empowerment Association (BGYEA), the Cayo Tour Guide Association, officials of the opposition People’s United Party (PUP), staunch supporters of the incumbent United Democratic Party (UDP) the Belize Territorial Volunteers and a couple political movements. Along with the group was Conorquie’s mother, Jean Conorquie, and his aunt, Jennifer Conorquie.
“Every morning Danny get up for work; he always tell me ‘ma I wah see you later’”, the lawman’s mother recollected. “That day he never came home. I want to say thanks to everybody who supported Danny…I feel much better, even though I’m crying because I miss Danny,” she told the crowd.
In Benque, speakers called on the government to do more to strengthen Belize’s presence at the border points, to treat Conorquie’s killing as more than just a mere homicide with no definite suspects, and to address his murder at the foreign affairs level with Guatemala.
“We are asking for justice for Danny”, said Juan. “He is the first lawman killed in the line of duty by Guatemalans…the family needs to be respected. They need to be compensated…and we need a stronger foreign policy. We need to protect our borders,” Juan emphasized.
Matura-Shepherd told The Reporter that she is concerned not only by the incursions by Guatemalans on our territory to pilfer our natural resources, but also over the fact that Belize’s Constitution allows for Guatemalans to be able to become Belizeans. Shepherd explained that it should never be that citizens of a nation “that has an adverse claim against you” could become a citizen of your country.
“We have allowed a legal incursion because we have legitimized Guatemalans who cannot denounce or they refuse to denounce their citizenship to become our citizens as well,” Shepherd said.
A third form of incursion, Matura-Shepherd explained, is that Belize allows Guatemalan children to attend our schools near the border areas at our expense. She told us about school buses, bearing Belizean license plates, purported to be maintained and operated with Belizean taxpayers money, that shuttl Guatemalan school children from the school they attend on Belizean territory to their homes on Guatemalan territory for lunch and returning them for classes again. This, according to people who operate at the border area, is a daily occurrence.
Matura-Shepherd also paralleled her concerns with the fact that Belize Defense Force soldiers are given assignments to work with policemen among citizens in urban streets when our borders remain porous to invaders. Coupled with that, she pointed to the last budget allocated for the BDF, which reflects a decrease of around $10 million.
The protest ended with a march around the circular on the Belize side of the border next to the Border Management Agency building. Throughout the process, upstairs on a nearby balcony, two men, believed to be Guatemalans, videotaped the proceedings. A third man, who stood in the “no man’s” land area in the adjacency zone, recorded the event. One vociferous Belizean man who was demanding immediate action by the government was asked to tone down, which he did. Aside from these, the protest ended without incident.