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July 13
10:46 2018

The War Next Door    
Dear Editor:

This week the United States State Department’s travel advisory for Mexico listed the following states as areas not to travel in Mexico for US nationals; Colima, Guerrero, Michoacán, Sinaloa and Tamaulipas. For those who have not yet realized it, Mexico is in the middle of a narco-war and all indications are that it will spill over into tiny Belize. If the recent cache of weapons and illicit drugs that was found in Chan Chen is not an indication of this, then nothing will convince us. Belize, because of its geographic location, open waters and long shoreline has become the perfect transshipment point to get products to the United States and beyond.

In a recent article in the Economist Magazine, it is estimated that Mexico’s murder rate for 2018 will reach over 30,000 people. That’s the equivalent of every man, woman and child in Corozal Town, San Pedro, Benque Viejo Del Carmen and Punta Gorda…ok let that sink in for a while. This is a serious issue not only to our national security but also to the internal security of every citizen of this nation.

Belize with its limited resources and a weak internal and external security apparatus stands no chance if there is a complete spill-over of this violence in Belize. Additionally, with the decriminalization of small quantities of Marijuana, because that’s what it was, we just created a new open market for more illicit drugs. What our wise leadership and the liberal advocates failed to realize, was that like in the real legitimate business world as well as in an illicit operation, the law of demand and supply still holds true.

To curb any violence in any type of narco-war, it will take a massive amount of resources, both in human cost and financial resources. This is a war of attrition and one that the state will be unable to maintain but the cartels will. With their unlimited supply of cash and those willing to be employed as their foot soldiers, the cartels will be able to maintain it for years.

If the case of the power of the cartels in Colombia is not evidence enough of the capability of organized crime’s ability to paralyze a nation, then nothing else will convince you. If Colombia, with a population 128 times larger than Belize and a GDP 233 greater than Belize was unable to squash the cartels, how successful do you think Belize will be? The laws of simple numbers tell us that Belize would be at the deep losing end of any narco-war that is either imposed on us, or that we chose to create.

The challenge to the authority of the state does not begin overnight. The cartels don’t simply march in and take control. Their moves are strategic and technical like a military operation. They look for weakness in the social, economic and political structure of a nation and then they exploit it. Belize, in the vulnerable state that it’s in, is at a prime stage for this to occur. Belizeans at this point in our history are looking for solutions and are divided on every issue under the sun, and with a very partisan political system. These are the elements that make fertile grounds for any type of clandestine activities that target the young, the disenfranchised and the poor, which Belize is slowly accumulating in mass numbers.

But rather than presenting a future that is no doubt inevitable, the question is whether there is hope and the simple answer is yes. It’s not too late but time is slowly running out. The first task must be to root out corruption at every conceivable level – in the public as well as in the private sector. The foot soldiers of any narco-war are those who will see their crimes and the violence no difference from the corruption that is being done by others. In other words, our leadership and I am not only talking about those in government and the Public Service, but anyone in a leadership position has got to be one where they lead by example. Additionally, we must seek ways to lower the poverty level by teaching the man to fish and not by continually giving him fish. Poverty, for the most part in any capitalist democratic economy is a man-made creation that can be lowered if the resources of the state are invested in the right things. At almost 37 years into our young history, the challenges we face are many and great but are solvable. They are solvable if we place our collective efforts together to face that which is inevitably coming our way.

As Belizeans, we have failed to look at the long term and look merely down the road. We have not prepared the nation to succeed and even less have we examined what we are leaving behind for the next generation. The tendency to live in the present has allowed us to lose sight that we are also tasked with the patriotic responsibility of building a young nation. So far, we have desperately failed and if we are to move forward, we must re-evaluate the way we have been governing ourselves, the way we have been managing our resources and the way we have been allocating and distributing our wealth and natural resources. I weep for my nation if we fail to change.

It’s all about the people!!!!

Neri O. Briceño


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