Criminalising Poverty: The High Cost of Security By Greg Nunez and Bryton Codd


Bryton Codd

Greg nunuez

Greg Nunez

Criminalising Poverty: The High Cost of Security

Citizen security remains a contentious topic in Belize as views increasingly coalesce toward the alienation of our young Black men from society. We are being asked to barter our voices and displeasure for silence and security without discussing important social, economic, and political issues that affect their daily lives.  Recently, this discursive process of “othering” has reduced complex social interactions to a rudimentary contrast of ‘us’ (the perceived law-abiding citizens) and ‘them’ (the monsters) by stigmatising them at every chance. The pronouncements by those in authority that they must learn how to live among us help to negate their identity as fellow Belizeans to justify punitive actions by the State. Meanwhile, our social media platforms are plastered with their images provided by our authorities in a clear attempt at labeling them as criminals before any criminal charges are levied. The final manifestation of this criminalisation by our criminal justice system is the implementation of a State of Emergency (SOE) that is nothing short of preventative detention, and therefore, deservedly should be a target of our criticism.

The reality of a growing economic disparity between the most disenfranchised people in southside Belize City and those of our affluent business and political leaders in the northside is grossly overlooked. The United Nations Rapporteur on Extreme Poverty, Phillip Alston, in his July 2020 report, boldly challenged our political leaders by declaring that “poverty is a political choice.” As advantages for those placed in better economic positions are multiplicative, so too are the disadvantages, which COVID-19 is sure to exacerbate, for those from the lower economic stratum. Since the former has more access to resources that will maintain their place in the stratification order of Belizean society, those who have less access are more likely to remain where they are as generational exclusion and disadvantage continue to make their climb an improbable one.

It is troubling that the attempt to retort the human sciences is based on a poor foundation that some members of our society choose to engage in criminal activity when, in fact, this classification is limited to people in inner-city communities, especially since many in our border districts and towns engage in an informal economy that is based on cheaper products and goods from across the border. So, perhaps a closer look at the social landscape of Belize City might yield a better understanding of what contributes to social violence, and can help to explain a recent trend in other districts. Many studies have confirmed the links between lower family socioeconomic status and higher levels of antisocial behaviour; or growing up in a gang populated environment and the likelihood of joining gangs; or struggling homes and impoverished neighbourhoods and the chances of interacting with delinquent peers; or adverse family environments and the likelihood of arrest at younger ages and number of arrests before age 17. Also, multiple studies, including the Country Poverty Assessment (2009), Gayle et al (2010) and an ongoing study (to be published) have found that young people in Southside Belize City have fewer years of schooling and are less likely to complete secondary school. We also know that the southside has the weakest ecological footprint that is unparalleled in Belize, with 83 percent of adolescents being aggressive or moderately aggressive. Though historically gangs have been concentrated in Belize City, their recent foothold and increasing influence in other districts have made it a concern for Orange Walk Town, Dangriga, and Punta Gorda. We are witnessing a rise in gang activity and homicide among young men as social and economic precarity threaten their ontological security. Hence, it is becoming a national issue and ought to be treated with greater understanding.

Having said that, our criminal justice system is increasingly demonstrating a lack of empathy and understanding of the complexities of the lives of the people they deal with, and what is most frightening is that they are teaching us not to. While many juveniles accused of a crime in Belize are unable to afford legal representation as found by the American Bar Association in its Rule of Law Initiative report of 2010, we are seeing a further erosion of their legal right to representation and defense under the SOEs, since 2018.  This is despite the Convention on the Rights of the Child calling for “children and youths who are accused of, being held for or charged with a crime, are extended the same rights of representation and appeal as an adult in Belize; from arrest to sentencing. It also requires that a distinct juvenile justice system be established for juveniles, which stresses positive rather than punitive motivation.” Instead, we are being asked to support a pretext that all these young men are directly responsible for the handful of murders and other crimes each time they occur. The legitimisation of this view always requires the grouping of crimes (murder, robbery, extortion, etc.) to compel our support with little explanation of the institutional deficiencies regarding criminal investigations other than a basic deferral to witness intimidation.

There is a reason we have one of the highest per capita ratios of police to citizens in the entire Western Hemisphere (with a 77 percent increase between 2010 and 2016, and continues to grow) but struggle to grapple with rising crime and violence that has metastasised beyond Belize City. It is because policing is not by nature designed to reduce crime, it responds to it. Therefore, we cannot ignore the statistics and social disadvantages of these young men as a way to discount their experiences and support our narrowed perspective from our privileged statuses. We bristle at the comments of our leaders when they can propose corporal punishment or the unmitigated abuse of our citizens because they think they are “monsters.” The suggestion that parents should physically punish their children to correct them so that those tasked to protect and serve would not have to beat or shoot them is deeply disturbing. Since the data on child abuse in Belize between 2006 and 2010 from the Department of Human Services (at which point many of these young men were children) suggested that Belize District, particularly Belize City, accounted for most of the child abuse referrals, we can juxtapose that corporal punishment and other forms of abuse within homes were not in shortage. The notion that corporal punishment is the solution for crime and violence in Belize represents an unfortunate lack of compunction by a generation that fails to understand that social inequality has and continues to be the primary culprit that the ‘village’ should rally against. Ironically, police officers who have had countless complaints that have plagued our daily news at a comparable rate as other alleged criminals, have received the benefit of formal investigations regardless of the nature of the accusations, including murder, rape, domestic violence, and other serious crimes. It seems, then, that corporal punishment was not a sufficient deterrent for those bad apples.

The Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement in the United States has influenced many other movements in different countries to confront their own contextualised injustices. What is perhaps most disappointing in Belize, is the lack of recognition that the BLM movement has real-life considerations in Belize. Undoubtedly, there is disproportionate police abuse toward young Black men and by extension their families in Belize. While most homicides in Belize are committed by young men, we must consider the effects of arbitrarily arresting and confining young Black men without the State’s complete transparency on the merit of those arrests. Legal representation in our democracy is one of the few ways that we can hold the system and those in authority accountable. The suspension of the rights of these young men, including immediate access to legal representation, helps to promulgate their dehumanisation and widen the gap between us and them. Yet, the SOE under its special powers designation, allows the State to abdicate its legal responsibility at the detriment of many who are deliberately caught in a dragnet, as seen with the recent release of two-thirds of the young men after the traumatisation of both themselves and their families. More disturbingly, it is not just about the “monsters” because systems of oppression are interconnected, so we all have a Black friend or family member who has been unfairly profiled and targeted with no probable cause by the police who “want a search” (i.e. Stop and Frisk). We are confident that our police officers are aware that this is in contravention to the Protection of Fundamental Rights and Freedoms section 9(1) that protects from arbitrary search or entry. Therefore, it is incumbent on us to explore the manifestations of systemic racism, classism, and sexism in Belize, and amplify the voices of the disadvantaged, rather than threaten them with brute force in response to their legitimate complaints of wanton police abuse and destruction of property.

Perhaps we should revisit our blanket support for policing as the solution. The reliance on the SOE is not a failure of the Belize Police Department (BPD), but a representation of the lack of polarity of thought in decision making and the poor involvement of the social sector to frame and remedy the underlying factors that affect our communities. The BPD has, therefore, been unjustly tasked to respond to deep-seated systemic and structural inequalities with an incongruent policing strategy. The organogram of the BPD treats community policing as a defined unit rather than a philosophy that informs the policies and practices of the BPD. The Commissioner of Police, Chester Williams, has an opportunity, unlike his predecessors, to implement community policing throughout the Department rather than a regression to hard-line policing that has resulted in frequent complaints of police abuse of authority, with mothers and children left traumatised, young men with serious injuries, and the property of the already destitute severely damaged. The adoption of such a hard approach ultimately overlooks our severely disenfranchised communities’ ability to self-actualise (Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs). As stated by Criminal Justice professor Kendra Hoyt, “the SOE bypasses all the mechanisms which constitute the criminal justice system.” This draconian approach undercuts all investigative procedures and expedites entry into the criminal justice system, regardless of status, starting with the interaction with the police and ending with their incarceration.

This process of labeling and criminalisation of our young Black men further compromises their future opportunities by deepening their social exclusion, including reducing their educational and job prospects, and severely limiting their social networks by further confining them to their neighbourhoods. It is not sufficient to call for attitudinal or behavioural changes without addressing long-standing economic and social inequalities that are the antecedents to social violence. Yet, despite decades of discussion on the implementation of restorative justice practices in our communities to serve as a mechanism to facilitate conflict resolution, reduce gang retaliations and recidivism, and facilitate the reintegration of offenders back into society, we continue to observe a reprisal culture led by the State. Therefore, in the absence of a clearly articulated strategy, we propose a return to the objectives of the strategic plan of RESTORE Belize that had the support and collaboration of governmental and non-governmental entities, though for whatever unspecified reasons were not realised. It is time we revisit the coordination unit tasked with addressing the risk factors that contribute to social violence in Belize by improving the quality of life of citizens through the restoration of law and order, community building, and restorative justice. We do not have to reinvent the wheel. We must quickly respond with retooling RESTORE Belize with strong leadership and highly qualified staff that can re-energise our partners and hit the ground running to operationalise the developmental objectives outlined under the three pillars of Human Development; Economic Development and Citizen Prosperity; and Democratic Governance and Citizen Security.

Greg Nunez is a final year PhD candidate studying Social Policy in the UK with a concentration on the permanent exclusion of young men from education, criminal offending, and wider social exclusion.

Bryton Codd is an MSc candidate studying in Canada on Leadership and Management with a focus on Polarity Management and Governance.

First published in Amandala Friday Issue dated July 17, 2020 and reshared with the permission of Greg Nunez. 



The Definition of Insanity by : Joseph Monsanto Joseph discusses the growing scandal of Guatemalans unconstitutionally granted Belizean Citizenship

Joseph Monsanto

Joseph Monsanto

I recently read an editorial on the Reporter’s website from last week’s paper. And honestly, while it makes some valid points about the need to resolve the situation with Guatemalans, who have Belizean citizenship illegally; I disagree with the position that the Opposition and the Government must accommodate them to be able to become Belizeans and keep their Guatemalan citizenship. The gist of the editorial is to find a fair and equitable solution for the Guatemalans, and Belizeans, so that the Guatemalans who wish to become Belizeans do not contravene Section 26 of the Constitution, can be Belizeans, despite not renouncing their citizenship from Guatemala.
There are several problems with this position, and while it is a sentiment I share that it must be fair, there are obstacles in the way of this happening. Namely, the position of the Guatemalan government, stating that every Guatemalan will always be a Guatemalan national, and that they will not do anything to render their citizens stateless. A very similar problem exists with the Guatemalan claim, in which despite recognising Belize as an independent nation, Guatemala’s congress cannot or will not repeal their claim to our territory, and their courts have made such constitutional amendments in the past notoriously difficult.
Let’s start with why is it that the debate is so prominent. As all of you know, the visa and immigration scandal that erupted in 2013, which many of us know as Pennergate, exposed the corrupt dealings of various government ministers in the Dean Barrow Administration, and exposed the practice of granting Guatemalan nationals Belizean citizenship, and this was done to pad voter rolls in general elections. Let’s be honest, this happened during the Musa Administration as well, but it was especially pronounced during this period, and we are dealing with the consequences of that today. The Senate Select Special Committee has exposed quite a bit of illegal activities taking place under Elvin Penner’s watch as Minister of State for Immigration. Among those is granting Guatemalan nationals, who did not renounce their nationality to Guatemala, Belizean citizenship. Dianne Locke, the Immigration Director, testified in 2017 that before changes were made by the Immigration Department in the wake of the scandal, there were no efforts to verify that those Guatemalans who became Belizeans took any steps to formally renounce their citizenship in Guatemala. And even after those changes, she testified that absent any notification that the Guatemalans would reject the paperwork from the immigration committee, that the Guatemalans would not respond to anything that the department would send to the Guatemalan Foreign Ministry, regarding renunciation of Guatemalan citizenship. This was further complicated by the response to the Government’s inquiry to the issue before us. Guatemala believes once someone is Guatemalan, they are forever Guatemalan, and that even if it was to facilitate Belize’s process of nationality, they cannot render a citizen stateless. If one views Guatemala’s reply through their history, then such a stance, especially in context of what is happening in Myanmar(Burma) with the Rohingya makes sense. But if you look at their official policy position regarding Belize, and their ongoing claim, then you would be of the belief that such a policy is used to infiltrate Belize, to influence their politics, and their policy, so they can be friendly to Guatemala. Such a goal was the reason why the prohibition on Guatemalans becoming Belizeans exists, outside of the exceptions of being married to a Belizean or being born in Belize.
Let’s come to the crux of my disagreement with the editorial. The Government has not displayed any willingness to work with the Opposition, or civil society on this issue, or for instance, the 9th Amendment. The Barrow administration in 2011, pushed a constitutionally dubious amendment, that would have stripped the right of judicial review from the courts on constitutional amendments, as well as other provisions that would have allowed the government to control Belize Telemedia Limited. The provision that would have stripped judicial review was declared unconstitutional some time later. The Government has also been unilaterally signing agreements with the Guatemalan government regarding the change to the referendum law, and de-linking the referenda for Belize and Guatemala, without consulting the Opposition. Since 2015 GOB and the Opposition have not seen eye to eye on the matter of the Guatemalan dispute, with the Government consistently saying that the People’s United Party is playing politics. The facts however speak to the politicisation of the dispute being the handiwork of the governing United Democratic Party, and therefore the bungling of the referendum result, as well as Belizean discontent surrounding the Sarstoon river and isle is squarely on their hands. I do not have the confidence that the Government believes that it is in the best interest of Belizeans and Guatemalans who have Belizean citizenship, through the schemes of ministers during Pennergate, or otherwise trying to become Belizeans legally, to resolve this, by working with the Opposition. Their history on the 9th Amendment, and the history of the Government working unilaterally on what was traditionally a national issue is the guide here. I believe that the Government will rush through an amendment that will nullify section 26 (3), and allow Guatemalans to keep their citizenship, as they become Belizeans. Appeasement is the order within the Government, especially if you consider the representation Belize has on the dispute with Guatemala. The Opposition, while they believe that any one who is a Belizean must be able to vote on this issue, would be remiss not to challenge this glaring problem, especially given the controversy this caused from 2013. However, given the statements from the Leader of the Opposition, do not hope for a productive solution for this issue.
Given the complexity of this issue, I have a few solutions to this issue, should they be taken seriously. Guatemalans should be allowed to become Belizeans, should the paperwork that acknowledge the renunciation from Guatemala City is given to Belizean authorities. This is the easiest and clean solution for those Guatemalans who legally go through the process of becoming Belizeans. But given Guatemala’s Congress, their courts and their government, this is unlikely to happen. Another solution is to clean up the voter registration list and scrutinise it for Guatemalans who have gained citizenship during Pennergate. While this seems to be what the Government is doing, I am not going to hold my breath, because there has yet to be a case tested in court over a Guatemalan gaining citizenship during that time. And the fact that they announced the date for the referendum, and the voter re-registration exercise, suggests to me that they have not taken this issue very seriously at all. We must also look at the possibility of disenfranchising those Guatemalans who have gained citizenship through Pennergate. While it is a potentially unconstitutional move and very controversial, there is a valid national security reason for it. Given the fact that the Government has facilitated this activity, albeit through the illegal activities of some government Ministers, one could make the case that such a move to disenfranchise this group of Guatemalan-Belizeans is a necessity. But the editor is right. It is a complex issue that requires an elegant solution to this problem. However, given the past 10 years, and recent history, I do not believe that the Government is one for elegant solutions, unless it is expedient and benefits them.

Open Letter to the Prime Minister of Belize and Leader of the Opposition





June 16, 2017


The Rt. Honorable, Dean Barrow, Prime Minister

The Honorable, Johnny Briceno, Leader of the Opposition

Belmopan, Belize


Dear Sirs,


Belizean Citizens Abroad (BCA) is an organization committed to bringing together Belizeans living abroad in a non-partisan manner. Our goal is to empower and strengthen the democracy of Belize by working with ALL Belizeans at home as well as the Government of Belize on solutions and issues of concern to the community of Belizeans living overseas. As such, we are currently advocating for the equal rights of born Belizeans with dual citizenship.

We are asking for bi-partisan support for an amendment bill to remove the discriminatory provisions in our Constitution limiting the citizenship rights of born Belizeans who gain dual nationality and to reintroduce the same amendments as section 4 and 5 of the BELIZE CONSTITUTION (SEVENTH AMENDMENT) ACT, 2009 that purported to amend Sec 58(1) and 63(1) of the Belize Constitution. These discriminatory provisions in our Constitution limit the POLITICAL rights of born Belizeans and hamper our ability to solve many of the problems that Belize face in an ever-changing globalized world.

The Constitution of Belize contradicts the idealism of equal rights and equal protection under the law by establishing underclasses of citizenship.  Furthermore, the Constitution is in contravention of the very idea of human rights.  According to the United Nations Human Rights International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights Article 25 – every citizen shall have a right to take part in the conduct of public affairs and to vote and be elected in periodic elections.

It is a travesty that foreign-born individuals who become Belizean dual citizens have more rights than born Belizeans who gain an additional citizenship.  This literally means that born Belizeans are second-class citizens in our own country.  Currently, there are thousands of born Guatemalans who have acquired Belizean citizenship enjoying more rights than born Belizeans who have acquired dual nationality.  This is so even though our Constitution bars Belizean citizenship to members of any country that claims Belize.  How can it be that despite a clear constitutional prohibition, a born Guatemalan with dual Belizean citizenship status can become Prime Minister, set policies, hold national decision-making positions determining Belize’s future, but a born Belizean with “dual citizenship” cannot?

BCA is ready and willing to work with both the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition to table a historic, bi-partisan legislation to remove sections of the Constitution that limit rights for born Belizeans. We further ask that individuals originating from any country that claims any part of Belize be prohibited from attaining Belizean citizenship with only few, if any, exceptions. BCA strongly believes that the ministerial discretion granting citizenship to members of countries that claim Belize should be restricted with much clearer and narrower guidelines.

Finally, we urge Belizeans at home and in the diaspora to contact their respective Area Representatives and encourage them to support a national bi-partisan effort to amend the Constitution of Belize protecting the equal rights of ALL born Belizeans.


Belizean Citizens Abroad


President: Mario Lara

Vice President: Joseph Guerrero

Treasurer: Al Smith

Communication Director: Debbie Curling

Secretary: Aria Lightfoot

Dear Teenage Girls….by: Kiah Pastor



Kiah Pastor

Dear Teenage Girls of Belize,

There are a couple tragedies currently in the media that has hit close to home therefore I’d like to speak on one. There was a situation that occurred where a 13 year old female sent nude photos to a man and he then threatened to expose them if she did not have sex with him. Well she ended up having sex with him twice.

We live in a Society where men glorify women and their bodies but there is a very fine line between being human and appreciating a woman’s natural physique and then just being out right disrespectful. In Belize, most cases it’s being disrespectful. But as a child having your body go through changes, you’re left some what confused. Why should I as a teenager not show off my newly developed breasts if they’re so many older and more developed women on social media also showing off their bodies and getting glorified by not only men but other females as well. Do you see my point? Nudity has become a part of pop culture. Nudity has become art. Nudity has been accepted in every case EXCEPT when it has been shared against your will. The amount of guys I’ve seen preaching about “having self respect” and telling girls to stop sending nudes to young boys are the same guys I recall have asked me to send them a nude when I was between the ages of 12-16.

Almost every male will vow they’ll never associate themselves with younger girls but they’re so many of them who love it! It’s the idea of being with a female who doesn’t have a set of boundaries mostly because they don’t know what the boundaries should be. The idea of not being with a female you need to break all sorts of walls to get through to because she hasn’t been scarred by other men in order to build those walls up in the first place. And lastly it’s the idea of having a body that hasn’t been touched. The inferior feeling of taking it all away. Men love dominance.

Now let me redirect my energy. It’s not solely the men of our society’s fault but also the women. We should work hard as women to be advocates of true self confidence and self love. We should be more willing to reach out to the younger girls around us and be a big sister figure to them and be there to advise them so they don’t need to figure it all out on their own. This is very hard because there’s a lot of adult women themselves who don’t have self respect nor show true value of themselves as women but that’s okay! You don’t need to be in that space forever! You don’t need to be vulnerable to these men. You don’t need to use sex to feel powerful and you don’t need to showcase your body to get attention. You do what you’re confident with not what you feel is pleasing to others. Where do you think promiscuous women are stemmed from? Sexual acts that occur in early stages of life. Let’s make an effort to be the best examples to younger girls and to show them how they should react when put in compromising positions! You’re not alone!

From a young woman building herself back up,
Kiah Lisani Pastor 💓

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TWO Missing Belizean Children have been found safe !

Update #2 : 

8 year old Nehemiah and 9 year old Fanny Romero who were reported missing more than ten days ago have been found. The children are now in the protection of their father, Felix Romero who had to travel to Copan, Honduras to look for them. It was initially reported, Juan Jovel, the grandfather, had abducted the siblings, but now Felix Romero has stated the children followed their grandfather who had no choice but to take them with him to Honduras. It’s a huge misunderstanding surrounded by miscommunications says Romero. Whatever the case may be, the children are in the safe hands of their father and they are scheduled to return to the country tomorrow. (source Capital Newspost Facebook Update 7/31/2013, Belize)


UPDATE: Children are suspected to have been abducted by their grandfather Juan Jovel with the assistance of an unknown and unidentified woman (source Capital Newspost, Belize) 

Juan Jovel - believed to have abducted his grandchildren

Juan Jovel – believed to have abducted his grandchildren

Missing: Fanny Romero – girl

Missing: Jairo Romero – boy

Name of Parent: Felix Romero

Missing From Cowpen Area, Stann Creek District, Belize Central America

Last Seen: Wednesday July 17, 2013

Reports: Reports of two children of similar Description with older man in Western Belize however Belize is small so they could  be in any area of Belize.

Please look at these children faces carefully. Many times the kidnapper may attempt to change appearances by cutting hair or changing clothes. Please be on the look out and if you see anything suspicious:

call the nearest police station by dialing 911

or call ( 011-501)-624-4051.

Jairo and Fanny Romero

Jairo and Fanny Romero

TWO Missing Belizean Children- please share with everyone.

Missing: Fanny Romero – girl

Missing: Jairo Romero – boy

Name of Parent: Felix Romero

Missing From Cowpen Area, Stann Creek District, Belize Central America

Last Seen: Wednesday July 17, 2013

Reports: Reports of two children of similar Description with older man in Western Belize however Belize is small so they could  be in any area of Belize.

Please look at these children faces carefully. Many times the kidnapper may attempt to change appearances by cutting hair or changing clothes. Please be on the look out and if you see anything suspicious:

call the nearest police station by dialing 911

or call ( 011-501)-624-4051.

Jairo and Fanny Romero

Jairo and Fanny Romero

Sheree’s Dream – Lets Adopt a Classroom or School!




Early this year Sheree Arnold approached me with a novel idea- Lets Adopt a Classroom.  I really loved this idea.  Many Schools in the US are getting rid of the Valedictorian System and implementing a Cum Laude System instead. It is a system that rewards many children instead of just one child.  This Adopt a Classroom or School is something like that, it benefits many kids instead of just one.

I have personally sponsored a child in Belize thru Restore Belize and while it is fulfilling to be able to help a child see a child progress, I actually like Sheree’s proposal better.  Instead of benefitting one child, let’s enhance all their learning experiences.


             Here is a bit of the history behind the idea.


Two years ago Sheree ‘s sister passed away in Belize leaving behind her children, two of which are young children still in primary school and in the care of an older sibling.  Sheree is now financially supporting her niece and nephew.  It was the first time she was confronted with the struggles children in Belize are encountering in the educational system.

Sheree’s nephew is struggling with reading. One day her older niece decided to visit the classroom and sit in with her younger brother’s class to see what a day of school was like for him.  She reported to Sheree that many other children in the class were facing the same predicament. Poor reading skills, lack of supplies and an overwhelmed and under equipped school to handle the special needs and supplies for  children. Some kids are kicked out of class for not being able to purchase supplies. This is outrageous!

Sheree decided to shop at the discount stores in the U.S and ship books to alleviate her nephew’s  struggles with reading. She decided to shop at the dollar store in the United States for books to help with his reading and math skills , she realized that helping her nephew was not sufficient, due to the minimal cost associated with learning materials here in the US, she decided to adopt her nephew’s entire class and also asked a few friends to do the same.  She thought the idea could take root among the Belizean American community and Belizeans at home who may have the means to help out.

I personally reached out to several people in Belize who wanted to help and were more than willing to  help but organizing such an event would require full time participation. A luxury I don’t have.  I felt disappointed.

So I discussed with Sheree and we thought everyone who shares in a dream for a better, restored Belize could begin organizing their own Adopt a Classroom School drives.  Lets face it, education is very expensive in Belize. Families complain about spending 300 BZD  per child on school supplies that does not include uniform, shoes or lunch money.  Walmart and discount stores sell school items for a fraction of the cost in Belize.  Belizeans can make a positive difference.

The Belizean Association of Central Florida (BACF) embraced Sheree’s Dream and will be hosting a fundraiser/Picnic on July 6, 2013. I have also shared the idea with several people who are interested in doing something similar. Sheree is hoping this message resonates with our Belizeans home and abroad.  While researching online, I found that many schools in the U.S. already have a similar program and depend on the generosity of parents to help out kids who are less advantaged.

The following are some suggestions :


How to Adopt  A School or Class Room


Step 1: Identify the School or Classroom you are thinking about  adopting, preferable a school whose students are financially challenged.


Step 2: Reach out to the Teacher or Principal for the supply list that  each students would normally need


Step 2: Organize your fundraisers and own your adoption.




Ideas for Fundraisers


Idea #1:

Ask your organization such as your workplace or church to allow you a drop box where members can contribute school supplies.

Ask if they would be willing to match a dollar amount for contribute a stated amount.


Idea #2

Have a pool party/BBQ or get-together and ask your friends to provide school supplies when they come over



Start Collecting School Supplies today at any discount store


Idea #4

Organize with neighbors and friends to box items and mail to one of the following Belize Schools via one of the Belizean operated Shipping agents:


Idea #5

Have a bake sale and use all proceeds to buy classroom or school supplies.


Come on my fellow Belizeans and friends of Belizeans we have all summer to work on this idea- It will be fun, it will be productive and we can make a difference in lives of our future leaders in Belize.  Let’s organize and educate Belize. Please become part of the movement of positive changes and share with your friends and family.

Should the Belizean Diaspora participate in elections and elected office?



The Belizean Diaspora contributes an estimated 200 million USD to families and organizations in Belize. Amendment 7 is a legislation which clarifies the rights of Belizeans who hold dual citizenship. This is a very important legislation for the future of Belize’s survival. Nuri Akbar delves deeper into this legislation and its implications for Belize. Please read, share and discuss. 
The resurrection of the 7th amendment and Belize survivability in the 21st

28 May 2013 — by Nuri Akbar


On June 19th 2009, the Prime Minister of Belize,  the Hon. Dean Barrow, while addressing the proposed 7th amendment to the Belize  constitution in the National Assembly uttered the following words:

“Because our laws recognize dual citizenship how  then will you turn around, recognizing dual citizenship, providing for dual  citizenship but impose a limitation on a dual citizen. It makes no sense at all  and if a little bit of history and background are necessary, we didn’t always  recognize dual citizenship. The recognition of dual citizenship came about as a  consequence of the advance in legislation that was promoted by national hero  Phillip Goldson. But we turn around and we leave intact in the constitution for  all these years this impairment on the rights of the Belizean who have acquired  a second nationality. I say therefore, Mr. Speaker, that it is utterly and  completely contradictory. I also say it is inconsistent, and let me tell you why  it is inconsistent, if you are a Belizean who has acquired second nationality  you are disqualified from sitting in the National Assembly, but the Governor  General, whose office is from a protocol point of view the highest office in the  land, there is no such disqualification. The Governor General can be a Belizean  who has acquired a second nationality. He is not barred from being Governor  General and that is the highest office in the land. “

Recently a prominent Diaspora Belizean, Mrs.  Muriel Laing-Arthurs, asked me to comment on the 7th amendment to the  constitution proposed in 2009 that would have given full citizenship rights to  Belizean-born natives who happen to possess dual nationality. Since I am not a  card carrying member of any political party, my trajectory on this issue is not  skewed by the inordinate local partisan rhetoric that has taken on a life of its  own in Belize, but rather influenced by the realities we are facing as a people  and nation and the fact that we have thus far failed to strategically maximize  our human capital among our Belizean brothers and sisters in the Diaspora.


Therefore, on this particular issue I am in  agreement with the Prime Minister and endorse the concept and spirit of the 7th  amendment. However the contradictions and hypocrisy in our actual  behavior/thinking surrounding the re-embracement of the Belizean Diaspora must  fundamentally change if this initiative is to be successful.

Belize national  hero, the Honorable Phillip Goldson, lost his physical eyesight in the later  years of his life, but arguably he possessed one of the most clairvoyant visions  we have ever produced in an indigenous leader. From the inception he saw the  critical role Belizeans in the Diaspora can and should play in the overall  national development of Belize, and understood that national allegiance and  patriotism were not limited by one’s geographical location. Hence, his efforts  over the many decades to engage, reconnect, claim and maximize the Belizean  human capital of the Diaspora toward Belize national development have been one  of the most remarkable progressive legacies of Phillip Goldson.

The issue of migration has been with the earliest  human creatures as they began the trek out of Africa and eventually crossed the  Bering Strait millennia ago into the Americas. These migrations were often times  prompted by the need of share survival and in search of water, food and shelter.  Other times by war, oppression, natural disasters and protection against the  unrepentant natural elements.

As empires rose and fell over the millennia,  human beings were captured and used as slaves to build these empires. In modern  times much of Europe as we have known it was obliterated by two world wars that  killed millions and displaced entire populations. During the revolutions that  engulfed the Central American isthmus in the 70’s and 80’s, hundreds of  thousands of people were displaced, forced to flee, and many became  refugees.

In Belize’s case large migration can be traced  back to the building of the Panama Canal and World War II. After the 1931 and  1961 hurricanes that devastated the country and killed many people, Belizeans,  via a designed policy, were granted refugee status and were allowed to migrate  into the United States. Over the ensuing decades this migration pattern  continued officially and unofficially, eventually creating a brain drain that  has had an adverse impact on the nation’s long term development. Today thousands  of these same Belizeans and their offspring have acquired various life-affirming  skills and experience that have benefitted the host countries.

This perennial movement /exodus of masses of  people has been a part of human nature as a result of curiosity, mobility,  circumstance, oppression and conflict. To this end, the life and times we are  now living in 2013 have therefore imposed upon us the necessity to reclaim this  reservoir of natural resource.

A brilliant Diaspora Belizean sociologist who is  an expert on migration, Dr. Jerome Straughan, raised the issue of the  transforming definition of the modern nation state and its increasing mobility  of people and how governments will have to implement policies that take these  new dynamics into account. Accepting the reality that half of Belize’s  population reside abroad, creating the bridge/mechanism to harness this human  capital toward the development of the mother nation is not only logical, but is  in keeping with the transforming definition of modern nation states and  globalization. Given Belize’s geographic location, population size and history,  isolationism has no place in the 21st century. There is no question that the  nation’s future direction, national development and very survivability hinge on  its ability to reclaim its Belizean Diaspora and incorporate the human capital  into a long term strategy for maximum benefit.

The vulnerability of small, developing and  peripheral economies like Belize’s is the burden of external debt. When a small  country becomes totally consumed by debt, her natural resources then become  collateral and held hostage to the creditor nations and institutions. Local  governments are pressured into compromising the national patrimony, which  includes putting the country’s vital industries, raw materials, and even the  scandalous selling of passports, on the chopping block in a desperate bid to  raise revenue. This global trend will not change anytime soon, but given the  continued contraction of the metropolitan economies, Belize’s natural resources  will remain a premium for exploitation.

In Belize there have been many noble causes taken  up by various local and foreign finance advocacy groups and organizations  relating to the physical environment, wildlife, social and cultural issues, but  not a single organization dedicated to reconnecting and reclaiming the Belizean  human capital from abroad. Over the years, Belize’s leading newspaper, the  Amandala, has editorially supported the Hon. Phillip Goldson’a vision of  proactively engaging the Belizean Diaspora and encouraging the cross-pollination  of Belizeans at home and abroad, but this vision is yet to reverberate across  all sectors of the society.

The most valuable natural resource our nation  will ever produce is our people. Hence, any attempt at reclaiming this natural  resource should be paramount on any platform for national reconstruction and  development. It is now estimated that the number of Belizeans (first and second  generation) residing abroad in North America, Europe and elsewhere is equal to  half the three hundred thousand plus residents in the entire nation of  Belize.

The arguments presented in 2009 for abolishing  the discriminatory and apartheid era law dividing our people, and for providing  the legal instrument allowing Belizeans who hold dual nationality access to full  citizenship rights, participation and inclusion in elected public office, were  and are a visionary, progressive policy option.

There is no excuse for not initiating and  quantifying the various experiences in creating a skill bank of Belizean  citizens abroad toward national inclusion. This should be relatively easy since  globally the platforms already exist using tools such as Linkedln, Facebook,  etc., where thousands of Belizeans are actively interacting and networking with  each other. TheFortune 500 corporations and many countries  already use these various platforms for global recruitment of talents, skills  and experience. Since the rapid growth of the Internet, the competition for  human creativity, talent and experience has indeed gone global.

The continued dragging of the feet and denial of  thousands of Diaspora Belizean-born citizens from total participation in the  development of their homeland is now viewed as conspiratorial, and even racist,  by many. If a Belizean-born citizen is disqualified from full “citizenship  rights” and his or her allegiance is questioned on the basis that they hold dual  nationality, this is not only myopic but hypocritical, primitive thinking. The  intense passion and interest which many Diaspora Belizeans have demonstrated  regarding the ongoing Guatemalan claim and the proposed ICJ option is a clear  reflection of the love and fraternal relationship they hold toward Belize. If  the nation of Belize were to be militarily invaded/attacked, there is no  question a vast segment of the able-bodied Belizeans with military and actual  combat experience living abroad would volunteer to fight for their homeland.


What greater betrayal and damage has been done to  the nation state of Belize over the past quarter century than by those who swear  to defend and uphold the national patrimony and sovereignty of the state but  hold more allegiance to a political entity effectively subordinating the state?  Indeed, the actions, behavior and policies that have seen most of the nation’s  arable land sold to foreign interests, vital industries usurped, selling of  Belizean citizenship (passports), oil drilling concessions with ties to cronies  and family members, and outright pillaging of the national treasury for personal  gain – who is the real enemy of the Belizean state?

As I sat with one of Belize’s sages and  historians recently, Imam Ismael Shabazz, and asked for his insight on the 7th  amendment, Shabazz in his wisdom reminded me that the real substance of the 7th  amendment should not only include the right to hold public office, but indeed “voting rights” of Belizean citizens in the Diaspora. This idea is not new.  However, it has been resisted by the political elite, including many of the  so-called progressive thinkers among us. The arguments made were that Belizeans  living abroad would not be familiar with the issues on the ground and therefore  they were uninformed and out of touch. This argument was made in the early  1970’s and perhaps had some validity forty years ago. However, the world has  drastically changed over the past quarter century and the speed, access and  advancement of technology and cyberspace have essentially obliterated this  argument. Belizeans regularly interact with each other via social media,  participate in call-in radio/TV talk shows, and have access to the various media  outlets online.

Over 100 nations, large and small, allow their  Diaspora the right to vote in local elections. These include Mexico, El  Salvador, Venezuela, Britain, Germany, Spain, Denmark, Norway, Switzerland,  United States, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, the Philippines, and France.  Given the share size of the Belizean population living abroad and the  decades-old impact of remittances to families back home, the vast majority of  Diaspora Belizeans have maintained a solid relationship with their homeland.  According to the World Bank remittance report, the remittances to Central  America, which included Belize, in 2007 had reach a colossal US$ 12.1 billion.  The report also stated that in some of these countries the remittances are equal  to some 10% of the entire GDP. In the case of Belize, the report shows, for  example, that Belizeans in the Diaspora in 2004/05 had made remittances  estimated to be over US$ 160 million.

Whether the current administration (or future  ones) will move swiftly and strategically to reclaim its citizens living abroad  as an integral component of its national developmental platform, remains to be  seen. But whether the political elite act or not, the Belizean people, along  with progressive grassroots movements should take the lead. Belizeans abroad  have been actively engaged in supporting grassroots organizations like the  Belize Territorial Volunteers and BGYEA, among many other charitable efforts on  the ground. This kind of fraternal collaboration and operational unity must be  supported and encouraged between Belizeans at home and aboard for the sake of  our self-preservation and survival.

It is my opinion that much of the resistance to  the 7th amendment was essentially the result of the way in which it was crafted  and presented. The original (amendment) was presented to the Belizean public in  2009, and tragically, in keeping with the typical ad hoc/ top down fashion in  which policies are formulated in Belize, provided the ideal climate for  speculation and misinformation. No real engagement with the community, from the  inception of the idea stage to formulation and proper public education so the  people could understand the purpose and benefit of the proposed change, was  carried out.

Secondly, at no stage of this proposed 7th  amendment fiasco was the constituency most affected, the (Diaspora Belizeans)  themselves, invited to participate in the process. They were essentially left  out of the actual discussion. Not only would it have made perfect sense to have  included the Belizean Diaspora in the formulation of the policy proposal, but  most importantly in the public and educational dialogue with their brothers and  sisters in Belize.

As a consequence of the flawed approach,  propaganda and partisan rhetoric took over and subsequently the merits and  demerits of the actual amendment became completely lost in the process. The  vitriol that ensued was reflective of the deep-seated residual effect of  colonialism that still permeates our worldview. Talking points filtered via  partisan bickering became the norm, instead of dialogue and constructive debate.  So yet again, because of the choke hold of petty party politics on our  perceptual apparatus, a shameful law that discriminates against thousands of  Belizeans and relegates them to second class citizenship status in the place of  their birth, remains intact and activated to this day.