Legitimized in Belizean Society by: Aria Lightfoot

Lets forget about the notorious gangsters for a moment and lets examine society’s culpability in all this.  In the early 90s I moved from Belmopan to Belize City to attend St. John’s College Sixth Form and for a “country” girl like myself Belize City society was a remarkably different society than Belmopan.  My mom’s side of the family is from Belize City. I was born in Belize City and visited Belize City often for shopping purposes and social events such as ballets and concerts but I have never truly lived in Belize City until 1991.

The differences I can see are that Belmopan Society values order, structure, homes, education and social mobility and is very much still British in culture. Extremely orderly and boring as many describe it.  Belize City culture seems to value status, name affiliation, name brands such as clothes, shoes, cars etc. The society seems to  be very capitalistic and more reflective of an American type culture.

The gangs have existed pretty much since that movie “Colors” if I recall. In fact if you do a search on the history of the “Crips” gang in Los Angeles, it credits two Belizeans as founding members. Trying to pretend this problem has not existed for decades is bordering on the ridiculous. I remember the Itza and Tunan years.  In those days, murders were not as rampant and open as they are today. However, murders did exist and with the same ruthless and brutal nature.

I had a very good friend that was in love with the notoriety of the drug dealing gang members.  She carried on a secret relationship with Tunan and while I never personally met him, she gave tales of their escapades and every so often she disappeared when he was rumored to be in Belmopan. I remember back then Tunan drove a white car with some blue or green lights glowing under it and he was quite the flashy character. People who knew him loved him and those who hated him, eventually killed him.

When he died, I can recall my friend creating a scrapbook with newspaper clipping of his death.  She did not want to attend his funeral because she knew that she would get lost in the sea of women mourning his death, so she asked several of us to go view the funeral with her , which turned out to be quite a spectacle.

I remember Tunan funeral went through several streets of Belize City (not the normal funeral route) as music of  Boys to Men played on repeat. I remember all his street urchins walking behind his coffin pouring champagne on his coffin , dressed up and obviously well cared for by their boss. Behind all that was the sea of mourning women my friend predicted would be there. When the coffin reached the Church, to my amazement, the most prominent attorneys and politicians of Belize were in attendance.  I personally found the entire display ridiculous. Here you have a notorious drug dealer dead, after undoubtedly bringing miseries to the lives of many and after his ill gotten gain, being legitimized by our society.  I trust in Belmopan, he would not have been elevated to any legitimate social level and I guarantee that high level people would not be in attendance.

In the latter 90s and early 2000s I worked in the Prosecution Branch and I remember Pinky Tillett in a case we did when he was but a kid involved in a drug trafficking charge with other individuals. I remember the seriousness of the charge and this kid  facing the court and the fact that he looked already hardened at this very young age.  My friend Natalia and I would sit after court and try to talk to these young men about making better choices and choosing better paths. It was futile but we tried.

When I listen to the news of the death and mayhem befalling Belize, I can say that I am familiar with many of the names because they were all part of the revolving door of criminals that would take up most of our time in the Magistrate Court.  I specifically remember Arthur Young  because he was treated with kid’s glove.  He had a rap sheet so long, that the court would keep a copy with the Clerk of Court so they did not have the task of reprinting it every time he came up to court. I recall also he did not show up for many cases and instead of revoking bail, magistrates would call his infamous girlfriend, one of many women who signed bail on his behalf.

I also remember looking through hundreds of pictures of murdered victims and the common denominator was young black men.  Nameless but young , black and dead.  I believe in the past couple decades, the victims lost to gun violence must be over a thousand by now.

Fast Forward to 2012, and here we have another menace of society that was allowed to operate practically undeterred. Arthur Young  reputation was that he was a ruthless killer with a charming personality. I am sure no one has mentioned it, but he was a very good looking guy. He reminds me of the Rosado cousins back in the day, extremely handsome, light eyes young men with a thirst for murder and who became un-convictable because juries could not believe that these men were the criminals they truly were. One Rosado was shot dead during a robbery attempt and I am not sure what happened to the next.

So Arthur Young is another handsome, well-connected individual with a thirst for death and so many people are now jumping to his defense with stories that he was “such a cool guy” or that “I grew up with him and we were friends”.  To my shock, I read a prominent youth advocate claiming he was “painted wrong by our society” and it made me realize that we in Belize have legitimized the underworld drug dealing personalities.  If the person is able to elevate himself, regardless of the brutality of his nature, he has become an acceptable, almost revered character.  Forget that he would shoot you down dead in the middle of the street if you stood in the way of his next victim and forget he is a mass murderer. The fact that you drank beer, slept with, grew up with, partied with, smoked with, gave daps to, make you think that he is less than a monster and now the anger turns to the people in the society fighting to maintain your peace and fighting the war daily. We have some screwed up values Belizeans and unless you start treating these individuals like the parasitic, scum of the Earth they truly are, you are in effect legitimizing their existence. With that said, I question how can anyone be part of the whine crew demanding changes?  When our society is turned upside down by all the murder and mayhem, remember, you prefer to hang out and socialize with such individuals.  In fact it explains to me exactly why fighting corruption will take generations. How can we change our society when so many of us don’t even know what corruption is and what is inappropriate behavior?

13 thoughts on “Legitimized in Belizean Society by: Aria Lightfoot

  1. “There is a reason that these criminals are revered by some, and that is because as a society, as a Government, and as a country we have failed them. When we cannot provide them with basics such as food, education, and most importantly, hope that there is a better life ahead, then they look else where.”

    Most people in any society provide their children with basics such as food, education and hope for the future. Some, either born or raised as sociopaths feel entitled to jumping the line and helping themselves to what belongs to others, to rape, maim and kill other people only because they’re weaker and not able to defend themselves. Anyone who makes choices like that should be exterminated like a vermin he is.

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  3. There is a reason that these criminals are revered by some, and that is because as a society, as a Government, and as a country we have failed them. When we cannot provide them with basics such as food, education, and most importantly, hope that there is a better life ahead, then they look else where. It’s great that you can talk to them about changing paths, but if there aren’t any paths, or the paths lead nowhere then… well nothing is going to change.

    Now as Mike says, this is just a small number, but in such a small city, it seems large.

    Whilst there is always the “bottom up” approach – individually we stand against such behaviour, any real change HAS to come from the “top down”. Otherwise people will get swept away…

    Is it that wrong to employ people (not all of whom are criminals, let alone murders), to let them earn a small weekly salary for hard manual labour? When the benefits are less violence, less crime and people having a sense of worth? Not to mention the work that they produce. The only problem is the sustainability of this, and the fact that such employment opportunities are not available to everyone. Everyone says what price a innocent victims life – and then complain when things like this happen… let’s get real everyone, decades of social mismanagement by both governments have got us where we are today, and there is NO quick fix. Whilst there are some good initiatives out there, there is still a lot of work to be done… Stand up and be counted those who should be helping… NCFC – you have the National Plan of Action for Children as your responsibility… where are you?

    • Spotfire…not a thing wrong with employing people to let them earn a small weekly salary for hard manual labour. Wasn’t referring to that at all. Those are the work programmes where hundreds of persons from rt Loyola, for example, were put to work cleaning up the city. My biggest problem with this is that the jobs are politically tainted – meaning I’ll give you a job but you have to vote for me or else…but hey, if a poor Belizean gets to feed his family then good for him.

      What I was referring to is paying gang members a weekly salary for doing nothing at all…meaning that they can go to the bank and collect as much as $500 weekly for just the promise to not give trouble. Now that, to me, is bullshit.

      As you alluded to…our social organizations need to wake up. Our social department is understaffed (a joke)…under-resourced, under-trained and completely inadequate to deal with the myriad challenges facing them. One reason for this has to be in the budget allocation…we can spend millions on the newest, latest model, luxury SUVs for Ministers and cronies each year but only thousands on the critical departments which can truly help our people. And that never changes. Instead of land cruisers which cost 250,000 each and have heated seats for winter…our Ministers could be driving very adequate 4X4 pickup trucks for less than 75,000 each.

  4. And Aria in Belize things work from the top down…not the bottom up. I think it is unfair to throw blame on regular Belizeans for legitimizing scum. Blame should start from the top. Many of us are out here with a hard-earned education after much blood, sweat and tears and we can’t find a job. Yet the worst of the worst who have spent their lives brutalizing law-abiding citizens, filling our streets with drugs, spilling blood with reckless abandon are now suddenly being paid for it, and paid well. I notice in your entire piece you never once laid any blame at GOB’s door – any GOB not necessarily this one. If you want to be real then you can’t be subjectively real. Throw the cards on the table…ALL OF THEM.

  5. It’s all true. Excellent piece. Something which you touched on which has always troubled me is the corruption of our officials which aids in the legitimizing of the scum as you so rightly referred to them. How many times have we heard about young boys being arrested for crimes and when the mews report is given we realize that it is the 4th time they have been arrested for an illegal firearm…and we know that if the law had been followed they should have been behind bars. Many of our Magistrates are corrupt and easily bribed, and there is no oversight…or none that has become evident. The truth is that a lot of the corruption is politically based as well. Case in point the infamous girlfriend. I remember specifically a case where an affiliate of Arthur Young was arrested with materials for making silencers in a house rented by said infamous girlfriend. Any of us ‘commoners’ would have been brutalized by the most rigid enforcement of the law but because of political connections she wasn’t even questioned.

    Another case in point – George Street – admittedly one of the most vicious and active gangs in the city. They enjoy the protection of the political directorate…up to and including get out of jail free cards.

    There are many such cases. The man accused of killing businessman Jason Coombs was protected by his Minister even though Police have told me they knew he was the killer. He ended up as one of the high-energy gang members that was sent out to Orange Walk with a fully furnished house and lucrative salary at the Ministry of Works.

    And Aria…in terms of legitimizing scum, what say you about putting gang members on the government payroll? How’s that for legitimization? GOB two months ago was spending $50,000 a month to pay gang members…that figure is now allegedly much higher. The message – once you become a threat you will be handled with kids gloves and will be able to go to the bank every Friday to collect a salary.

    The reality – being a member of a gang is against the law. We know who the gang members are. We know who the gang leaders are? Belize is a tiny country. We know the gang hotspots with great accuracy. Why haven’t we rounded them all up?

    If our government legitimizes these scum-sucking monsters, then how can we be maligned for doing the same?

    • Because we are the government…there is no distinction…we the people, by the people, for the people…we do not get to remove or separate ourselves from our institutions…they are our brothers, sisters, cousins, parents, friends….US. WE are responsible for who we vote for, who we allow to be our leaders in every way from teachers, preachers, doctors…if we know that they are being unethical and we look the other way: WE LEGITIMIZE THE CRIMINAL. For example Mike, when I graduated Std VI, I received my diploma from Mrs. So and So, wife of a renowned drug lord, not months after she had returned from serving time in a US jail for conspiracy and smuggling. She had donated money to the CATHOLIC school I attended, provided musical accompaniment for our ceremony and in return, she was given the honour of Mistress of Ceremonies…THAT is what we mean by LEGITIMIZE…dig deeper Watson…we aint only talking about street thugs here.

    In March 1963, Profumo stated to the House of Commons that there was “no impropriety whatsoever” in his relationship with Keeler and that he would issue writs for libel and slander if the allegations were repeated outside the House.[5] (Within the House, such allegations are protected by Parliamentary privilege.) However, in June, Profumo confessed that he had misled the House and lied in his testimony and on 5 June, he resigned his Cabinet position, as well as his Privy Council and Parliamentary membership.

  7. Aria, it is so funny you write this. Just last night my mom and I were talking about how gang bangers are elevated and revered and even defended by our society. How ironic is it that people decry the violence and crime, criticise the government, play the helpless innocent victim and then turn around and make these murderers into martyrs when they meet their own violent end? It is astonishing but I dare say that the reason is that Belizeans still operate within the mentality of “fuck the man” where crime is excused if you can benefit from it…there is an admiration for someone acquiring fancy cars, houses, clothes because its like sticking the finger to the man…this is a very immature societal attitude that is akin to a teenager fighting his parents.

    • I think using the word people is a generalization. The people who revere these notorious scum are those in their circle who benefit. The vast majority of us fear and revile them. These men are not, as you say, ‘elevated and revered and even defended by our society.’ They are elevated and revered and defended by those in their immediate clique, be it a couple dozen or a couple hundred. That is not society by a long shot. Where is the blame which should be placed at government’s door? They are the lawmakers and decision makers and power players. And we shouldn’t criticize them when an innocent child is riddled with bullets during a drive-by? Your comment is way off point. There are two very different and different sized sectors of society…those few which coddle the scum and us many who despise them, decry the violence and crime, criticize the government and yes, play the innocent victims (a role we play superbly because it is true).

      Just my thought.

    • Aria piece is so riddled with inconsistencies first gangs in Belize started with the movie colors, that’s a joke. Second, Belmopan was more like the British. Kindly show me where that exist please. It is apparent that her notion of gangs is based on her own interaction with friends that began in 1991. She offers zero evidence to show that all Belizean society legitimize gangs. Her story is based on innuendos and hearsay. A girlfriend telling her stories about a gangster she never met. Now that’s an appropriate authority to based your story on. I suggest that Aria do way more reading and research to get a better handle on understanding the nature of gangs in Belize and stop preaching down to the Belizean people this nonsense that they are to blame for the gangs in their communities. Her use of classicism( Belmopman v.Belize City) to make a point only helps to underscore her limited understanding of the subject matter.

    • This is Aria commenting. I see you miss the point. I can’t help what you understand from the piece…comprehension is really left up to the individual!

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