By Ingrid Fernandez
The Belize Progressive Party (BPP) has condemned the Gang Suppression Unit (GSU) for what it describes as excessive use of force against unarmed Belizeans who gathered to peacefully protest Guatemalan-President-elect Jimmy Morales’ visit to Belize.
The BPP described the actions carried out by the GSU as a violation of citizen’s rights to freedom of expression and association.
“We call on Prime Minster Barrow and the Minister of National Security to answer the following questions: (1) Why were peaceful protesters treated in such fashion? and (2) On whose orders were the security forces acting?” the BPP wanted to know.
“The BPP denounces this patent act of aggression and demands an explanation. The blatant, irresponsible and potentially illegal actions carried out by the security forces are a clear indication of the intentional militarization of our Police Department, which is misguided, especially given the existential threat posed to our sovereign territory…”, the party declared.
It added: “This [the use of force] has occurred as a result of the Barrow Administration’s intentional and persistent coddling of a Guatemalan government which unreservedly claims half our sovereign territory.”
Activists from the Belize Territorial Volunteers (BTV), Citizens Organized for Liberty through Action (COLA) and the Belize Progressive Party, who felt Morales’ visit was a dismissal of public opinion, protested in front of Prime Minister Dean Barrow’s office on Coney Drive, where the meeting was scheduled to take place.
The protest climaxed when a GSU officer physically removed protesters as Morales’ motorcade approached.
In the chaotic confrontation, COLA President, Geovanni Brackett, was tackled, held at gunpoint and apprehended. He was later released without any charges but the BPP claims the GSU’s actions were unnecessary.
BPP Leader Patrick Rogers, who also demonstrated on Saturday, said: “During the visit by Guatemalan President-elect, Jimmy Morales, like all Belizeans, the BPP bore witness to the blatant abuse of power, against peaceful protesters, as demonstrated by the security forces.”
Activists were outraged about the visit because of Morales’ previous comments about Belize but also because they felt the public wasn’t informed about the visit until the very last minute, indicating some level of secrecy.
Shortly before winning the October 2015 Guatemalan elections, Morales infamously dismissed Belize’s sovereignty, pledging to try to reclaim what he described as Guatemala’s lost territory.