By Alexis R. Milan, Staff Reporter
There has been much concern over the Police Commissioner’s decision to lift all checkpoints country-wide and now one San Ignacio resident claims Guatemalan bandits were almost able to get away with his vehicle on Friday night because of it.
According to Nigel Espat, he was socializing at the Sunset Bar in San Ignacio with a group friends around 7:00 p.m. when they exited the establishment and as he approached his 2007 Isuzu D-Max a Hispanic man ran up to him and pushed a nine-millimeter pistol in his face. Espat said the man demanded his keys and his phone so he gave up both.
As the man with the gun got in, Espat said, two other came running from across the street and got in the truck before they sped off. After the bandits fled in the truck, Espat got into another one of his friend’s car and the group set chase, calling the police as they did so.
According to Espat, the bandits drove towards Bullet Tree, where there is usually a checkpoint set up but since the Commissioner’s orders, the checkpoint has been removed. He said, though, that eventually police mobiles caught up with them and helped to pursue the D-Max along with them.
The truck was found abandoned shortly after, bogged in mud about half a mile from the Guatemala border, he said. The police did a quick search of the area but it was dark and raining hard so they men managed to escape. Espat, however, said that if the checkpoint were in place, he believes the men would have been caught.
The Belize Chamber of Commerce and Industry (BCCI) has also voiced its concern over the Commissioner of Police’s directive to lift all checkpoints across the country fearing it may facilitate the black market.
BCCI President Arturo Vasquez said he had voiced the Chamber’s concerns over the decision with Prime Minister Dean Barrow on Thursday and was assured that the checkpoints would be restored after election day.
The Chamber called on the government to continue all possible measures to mitigate the detrimental effects of the black market on local businesses. They added that the recent suspension of vehicular checkpoints opens the doors for a plague of contraband and illicit goods to be transported uninterrupted throughout the country as well as continued human trafficking.
The Chamber agreed that the current method of checkpoints causes undue delay and excess fuel consumption for commuters and freight transport but saidhe Police Department, rather than completely suspending all checkpoints, should seek a solution that allows for effective monitoring and interception of illicit movements without excessive gridlock.