Special Rapporteur defends Caleb Orozco and demands action from GOB


Excellency,

We have the honour to address you in our capacity as Special Rapporteur on the  promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression and Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders pursuant to General Assembly resolution 60/251 and to Human Rights Council resolutions 16/4 and 16/5.
In this connection, we would like to bring to your Excellency’s Government’s  attention information we have received concerning the alleged attack against Mr. Caleb Orozco.  Mr.  Orozco  is  the  President  of the  United  Belize Advocacy Movement (UNIBAM), an organisation which works on Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGTB) rights in Belize.

According to the information received:

On the afternoon of 8 February 2012, Mr. Caleb Orozco was attacked on George Street, Belize City. Allegedly, Mr. Orozco was first threatened by unidentified men shouting anti-gay slurs. According to reports, one of the men then threw a beer bottle at him, hitting him in the face. It is reported that Mr. Orozco suffered damaged teeth and bruising to the face as a result of the attack.

According to  the  information  received,  Mr.  Orozco  has  filed  a police report; however, it is reported that the police have not identified the perpetrators.
According to the information received, Mr. Orozco has frequently appeared in national media in relation to UNIBAM’s advocacy work to remove a provision of the  Criminal  Code that  allegedly criminalizes same-sex sexual  activity. Furthermore, it is reported that he has been portrayed in an extremely negative light in the media by individuals and organizations who oppose his work.

Concern is expressed that the alleged attack against Mr. Orozco may be directly related to his legitimate human rights work and his legitimate exercise of his right to  freedom  of expression, particularly his  advocacy for  LGBTI rights  in  Belize. Further concern is  expressed  for the  physical  and  psychological  integrity of Mr.  Orozco, particularly in  light  of the  negative portrayals  of Mr.  Orozco  which  have allegedly appeared in the media.

While we do not wish to prejudge the accuracy of these allegations, we wish to  remind your Excellency’s Government that Belize, as a State party to the International  Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), has a duty to guarantee equal protection before the law and to prohibit discrimination on any ground. The words “or any other grounds” in article 26 of the ICCPR have been interpreted to include sexual orientation. Furthermore, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights has found in numerous cases  that  discrimination  on  the  grounds  of  sexual  orientation  is  not  permitted  under  international human rights law.
We would  like to  refer  your  Excellency’s  Government  to  the  fundamental  principles set forth in the Declaration on the Right and Responsibility of Individuals, Groups and Organs of Society to Promote and Protect Universally Recognized Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms, and in particular articles 1 and 2 which state that “everyone has the right individually or in association with others, to promote and to strive for the  protection  and  realization  of human  rights  and  fundamental  freedoms at  the  national and international levels” and that “each State has a prime responsibility and duty to protect, promote and implement all human rights and fundamental freedoms, inter alia,  by adopting such steps as may be necessary to create all conditions necessary in the  social, economic, political and other fields, as well as the legal guarantees required to  ensure that all persons under its jurisdiction, individually and in association with others, are able to enjoy all those rights and freedoms in practice”.

With regard to article 7 of the Declaration on human rights defenders, the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders has stated that the right to develop  and discuss new human rights ideas is enshrined in the Declaration on Human Rights  Defenders as an important provision for the ongoing development of human rights. This  includes the right to discuss and advocate for human rights ideas and principles that are not necessarily new but that, in some contexts, may be perceived as new or unpopular because they address issues that might challenge tradition and culture. In this connection, the  Special  Rapporteur has  encouraged  States  to  do  the  necessary to  guarantee the principle of pluralism and recognize the right of defenders to promote and advocate for  new human rights ideas or ideas that are perceived as new. She has further encouraged States to take additional measures to ensure the protection of defenders who are at greater risk of facing certain forms of violence and discrimination because they are perceived as  challenging accepted  sociocultural  norms,  traditions,  perceptions  and  stereotypes,  including about sexual orientation and gender identity.

We would also like to recall resolution 17/19 of the Human Rights Council, where the Council expressed grave concern at acts of violence and discrimination, in all regions of the  world,  committed  against individuals  because of their  sexual  orientation  and  gender identity.

Furthermore, article 12 paras 2 and 3 of the Declaration which provide that the  State shall  take all necessary measures  to  ensure the  protection  by the  competent authorities of everyone, individually and in association with others, against any violence, threats,  retaliation,  de facto  or de jure adverse discrimination,  pressure or any other  arbitrary action as a consequence of his or her legitimate exercise of the rights referred to in the Declaration. In this connection, everyone is entitled, individually and in association  with others, to be protected effectively under national law in reacting against or opposing, through peaceful means, activities and acts, including those by omission, attributable to States that result in violations of human rights and fundamental freedoms, as well as acts  of violence perpetrated  by groups  or individuals  that  affect the  enjoyment  of human  rights  and  fundamental  freedoms. In  this  regard,  the  Inter-American  Commission  on Human Rights (IACHR) has granted precautionary measures for LGBTI human rights  defenders in cases where they are faced with substantial threats to their physical and  psychological integrity, as provided for under article 25 of the rules of procedure of the  IACHR.

We would  also  like to appeal  to  your  Excellency’s  Government  to  take all necessary steps to secure the right to freedom of opinion and expression in accordance with fundamental principles as set forth in article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which provides that “Everyone shall have the right to freedom  of expression; this right shall include freedom to seek, receive and impart information and ideas of all kinds, regardless of frontiers, either orally, in writing or in print, in the  form of art, or through any other media of his choice.”
In addition, we would like to call the attention of your Excellency’s Government to General Comment no. 34 of the Human Rights Committee, which urges States to “put  in place effective measures to protect against attacks aimed at silencing those exercising  their right to freedom of expression”; stresses that under no circumstance “can an attack on a person, because of the exercise of his or her freedom of opinion or expression,  including such forms of attack as arbitrary arrest, torture, threats to life and killing, be compatible with article 19” of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights; and affirms that “[a]ll such attacks should be vigorously investigated in a timely fashion,  and  the  perpetrators  prosecuted, and  the  victims,  or,  in the  case of killings,  their representatives, be in receipt of appropriate forms of redress”.

We urge your  Excellency’s  Government  to  take all necessary measures  to guarantee that the rights and freedoms of the above mentioned person are respected and, in  the  event  that  your  investigations  support  or suggest  the  above allegations  to  be correct, the accountability of any person responsible of the alleged violations should be ensured. We also request that your Excellency’s Government adopt effective measures to  prevent the recurrence of these acts.
In view of the urgency of the matter, we would appreciate a response on the initial  steps  taken  by your Excellency’s Government  to  safeguard  the  rights  of the  abovementioned person in compliance with the above international instruments.
Moreover,  it is  our  responsibility under  the  mandates  provided  to  us  by the Human Rights Council, to seek to clarify all cases brought to our attention. Since we are expected to report on these cases to the Human Rights Council, we would be grateful for your cooperation and your observations on the following matters, when relevant to the case under consideration:

1. Are the facts alleged in the summary of the case accurate?
2. Has a complaint been lodged by or on behalf of the alleged victim?
3. Please provide the  details,  and  where available  the  results,  of  any investigation, and judicial or other inquiries carried out in relation to this case. If no  inquiries have taken place, or if they have been inconclusive, please explain why.
4. Please provide  the  full  details  of any prosecutions  which  have been undertaken. Have penal, disciplinary or administrative sanctions been imposed on the alleged perpetrators?
5. Please indicate what protective measures have been or will be taken to protect the physical and psychological integrity of Mr. Caleb Orozco, in order to ensure that he can exercise his legitimate activities in defence of human rights.

We undertake to ensure that your Excellency’s Government’s response to each of these questions is accurately reflected in the report we will submit to the Human Rights Council for its consideration.
Please accept, Excellency, the assurances of our highest consideration.

Frank La Rue
Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of  opinion and expression

Margaret Sekaggya
Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders

Gay Rights Activist Physically Attacked

“Belize ”Boosts” School Attendance and Access to Financial Services for the Poor” : The World Bank


The deal is simple: vaccinate your children, send them to school; and, if you are pregnant, visit your public health center, regularly starting with the first 12 weeks. In exchange, the BOOST Program will give you a monthly allowance between BZ$44 and BZ$82 (US$22 – US$41) per person, up to a maximum of six per household.

The BOOST program, which stands for Building Opportunities for Our Social Transformation, provides small cash assistance to poor households subject to specific conditions.

A little over a year in operation, it already reaches 3,177 households (12.5% of all Belize poor households) and over 8,600 people, which represents about 6% of the poor population.

Despite the recent launch of the BOOST Program (February 2011), some of its current features already match or surpass best practices in the world. Recorded school attendance for children included in the program is at 97.3% (3238 of 3328 students, May 2012).

Thanks to this program, Rosario Chub from Punta Gorda, Toledo, is able to provide for the basic needs of her children and keep them in school.  “The Program is good. It is helping people. I am doing a lot with this little money. Now the children have shoes, food and uniforms.”

The program has also been positively received among school principals. Rossana Briceño, principal of St Peter’s Anglican School in Orange Walk, said that “at the end of the day, the kids are doing better.  Absenteeism is a lot less, and I see these children now and they want to come to school.”

I am doing a lot with this little money. Now the children have shoes, food and uniforms.

Rosario  Chub BOOST beneficiary

The program features a differentiated payment structure by grade and gender, to address relatively high drop-out rates for boys. These are added incentives to complete standard grades and advance into secondary education.

Access to bank services

The BOOST Program is also supporting poor households in accessing financial services, such as savings and micro-loans as a first step towards their financial independence.

BOOST is expanding membership of credit unions, and strengthening the savings and productive investment potential of beneficiary households. At present, 81% of the program beneficiaries receive safe, secure transfers at zero cost through the credit unions.

“I am now a member of the credit union and I want to start saving money for the children”, says Rosario Chub, who, like other beneficiaries, has also increased her access to saving and other financial services.

“The BOOST Program has achieved a level of financial inclusion of program beneficiaries that far exceeds similar programs that have been in operation for 15 years”,  said Rogelio Gomez Hermosillo, the former Director of the Oportunidades Program in Mexico, which reaches 30 million households.

In fact, a new report by the Consultative Group to Assist the Poor (CGAP) finds a much higher rate of beneficiaries with access to bank services in BOOST than in the two largest conditional cash transfer programs in the region, at 43% in Brazil and 25% in Mexico.

The first step of a larger movement

For the past two years, the World Bank has provided technical assistance to support the design of the BOOST Program, including knowledge exchanges with conditional cash transfer experts from Jamaica and Mexico.

The new phase of technical assistance aims to provide flexible support to address the central operational challenges of the Program and make recommendations on different approaches to strengthen program operations.

“The BOOST Program represents a significant step forward to develop a smart social safety net that promotes human capital growth, savings, and productive investments by poor households, but it is only the first step of a larger movement that is needed to strengthen the quality and accountability of social spending in Belize,” says Sarah Berger Gonzalez, World Bank Social Protection Specialist.

Despite the advances, operational challenges remain, resulting from the rapid ramp-up, limited financing and small number of program personnel. Limited financial envelopes have resulted in the number of qualified, eligible households exceeding enrolment by 30%.

Other challenges include the need to strengthen communication of program objectives and responsibilities, coordination of actions across ministries, and monitoring of information to assess program impacts.

Source: http://www.worldbank.org/en/news/2012/06/28/belize-boosts-schoool-attendance-and-acces-to-financial-services-for-the-poor

Here is a discussion of the program when the PM was interviewed by Twocanview. https://twocanview.com/2012/03/26/an-interview-with-the-prime-minister-of-belize-by-aria-lightfoot-and-fayemarie-anderson-carter/

“What A Day”: Written, Produced and Performed by: Phillip James Tremblay


 

Check out the Website to purchase new CD : http://www.pjtmusic.ca/

 

My name is Phillip James Tremblay (PJT) and I am a musician, videographer, graphic designer, visual artist, writer and mental health worker. How did I get started with music?  I started off making beats at age 18 with a $50 casio keyboard and a computer program called Audioview 32.  Always being a fan of hip-hop, I eventually started writing and rapping to my beats.  Later, I picked up the guitar and started singing.  From there I experimented with all kinds of different styles of music and started using Fruity Loops and Adobe Audition.  I kept making music off and on over the next several years and learned how to use recording programs such as Cubase and Pro Tools.  After many studio additions and upgrades, more experimentation and practice, and a whole lot of inner-searching and life-changes, I now know where I want to take my music. In addition to my own music, I also run my own recording and production studio, Breaking Audio – offering a wide variety of services for other artists.  This allows me to learn from, and with other talent.  It’s easy to get “song blind” when consumed with your own stuff for too long, so I really enjoy working on creative projects with others.  No matter how much music I make I always feel as though I’ve barely started!  I know the sky is the limit for myself or anyone out there who simply believes they “can“.

 

 

Made in Belize by: Aria Lightfoot


Bert Vasquez aka Haylock suspected murderer of Jasmine Lowe

On June 20, 2012, the situation in Cayo reached a fever pitch point as a weary society felt powerless by ineffective laws and tormented by prevalent crime. Hundreds displayed their discontentment with Jasmine’s death by demanding vigilante justice. The crowd chanted, made speeches, cheered, jeered and made rope nooses. Their actions made authorities nervous and the riot police was called in the event of pandemonium.  Facebook lit up as people posted pictures and repeated rumors of notorious stories of this allegedly cold and callous individual.  Many are not feeling confident that the system will be able to prosecute this “monster” as people classify him as a well- connected criminal that has been operating mostly undeterred for many years.   One rumor said the police have always suspected he was Jack because of compromising situations with children and his repeated violent arrests. However, due to feeling indimitated by family connections, further investigation and prosecution became impossible.

So who do we blame for this alleged monster who has fed off the innocence of our children for so many years?  Let’s start with the family, because growth begins at home.  The family has tolerated, defended, enabled and excused the behavior of

 

this individual for years. Did they know what he was capable of? If they did, they are as culpable as the monster they raised.

Why would I blame the family you would ask? We can start by examining the first public record of his violent behavior.   We do not know at what point he started to exhibit wanton and reckless violent behavior but the first time he made the news was in May 2008 after an altercation with a taxi driver where Vasquez pulled a gun on him due to road rage. According to News 7 story http://www.7newsbelize.com/sstory.php?nid=11081  the victim states “This guy had all intentions. Why he didn’t use the gun, I don’t know but he went wherever he went and he got his mother and his mother gave him a gun to come after me and she accompanied him.”  And like a “good” mother Debbie Vasquez stands and defends her son’s actions as justified. According to an interview with Debbie Vasquez she stated: “I did have my licensed gun on me and at no time did my son touch my gun or I touched my gun.”   (See http://www.7newsbelize.com/sstory.php?nid=11082).  Think about this. Who would have more reasons to lie in this incident? And if Vasquez never held the gun, how would the victim even know a gun existed if it was never showed to him?  So we have an enabling mother who excuses away her son’s bad deeds instead of teaching him to be a social human being who respects rules. There was of course no follow up story on this incident, and we do not know what the outcome was of this case.

Second on the blame list is our courts. Our courts have also tolerated his bad behavior by not recognizing his repeat offences were growing more violent and by repeatedly offering him bail,  especially after offending while on bail for the first offence.    In February 2011, Vasquez was arrested for allegedly imprisoning a young woman and holding her at knife point while sexually assaulting her. (See: http://edition.channel5belize.com/archives/48840  or http://www.7newsbelize.com/sstory.php?nid=18942&frmsrch=1). At that time the prosecutor submitted he was convicted of a similar offence and bail was denied. Anyway, at some point he received bail so that in three short months later, May 2011, (see http://www.7newsbelize.com/sstory.php?nid=19714&frmsrch=1 or http://amandala.com.bz/index.php?id=11505 ) Vasquez was out of jail again so he could allegedly assault a new 16 year old victim. This victim claimed Vasquez pistol whipped her and attempted to kill her but the gun misfired. I am surprised he was not charged for attempted murder.  However, the police did add additional charges to the initial charge and then there was nothing more from the media regarding Bert Vasquez.  We do not get an update from the media as to what happened to him in the legal system but we do know he was once again released on bail.

Jasmine Lowe, who went missing and  found dead two days later, allegedly crossed path with Vasquez. Vasquez was allegedly caught with another minor and allegedly engaged in another violent sexual assault for which charges may be pending. Jasmine’s ring was said to be found on his possession which police feels ties him to the Jasmine’s case. (See http://www.7newsbelize.com/sstory.php?nid=22742&frmsrch=1). Yesterday Vasquez was formally charged for the murder of Jasmine and police claims there may be about 11 other girls that have come forward to make claims that Vasquez attempted to solicit them in some way. Charges may are also be pending on those claims.  If Vasquez committed all these acts (whether or not we can prove him guilty), he is one mentally disturbed individual and could be the very “Jack” who plagued Belize society for over a decade.

The media did a very poor job following up on this alleged predator, knowing children were falling victims to an unknown predator. The media must develop a sense of social purpose outside sensationalism. They need to assign writers to stories and task themselves to follow a story to the end. Maybe if the media had followed up on Bert Vasquez and asked the relevant questions,  the public would have been more familiar with his face and wary of his presence.

According to Asa DeMatteo a clinical psychologist who has testified in similar matters in the US, he stated after a review of the news stories regarding Bert Vasquez:  “I have done a few forensic evaluations of these characters for the courts, and Vasquez follows a typical pattern: compulsion to commit these crimes in ritualistic sexual acts, with increasing frequency usually ending in a frenzy of killings that end up giving them away. They are deeply disturbed pathological narcissists on the edge of psychotic. There is nothing to do with them but remove them from society.”

So who else is left in the blame game? What about his friends? I skimmed Bert Vasquez’s friends’ list on Facebook. He is friends with Patrick Jones (probably to keep updated with this case and revel in his work). He is also friends with several politicians and prominent society members who undoubtedly interacted with him and may even have been privy to his violent tendencies.  The friends of Vasquez, who knew his sordid history, saw no need to develop a social conscience over this individual. BTW, is his mother the same Debbie Vasquez who ran on PUP city council ticket in 2003? Is his uncle the prominent news man Ramon?  Is his father the well-known custom officer Haylock?  I could not verify but I bring it up to signal something that is also pervasive and corruptive in our society. The law is neither blind nor balanced in Belize!

For too long, these well connected spoiled brats have been making a mockery out of our legal system, with the help of the police, attorneys, magistrates and family members.  I have personally witnessed brat after brat get off for their misdeeds because of their family connections and with the help of politicians and and some prominent bar members. On the other end of the spectrum, the court system throws the book at the “nobody” petty offender or scapegoats them into a stiff penalty. When I left prosecution in Belize I was disgusted with the level of corruption I personally witnessed. There was no accountability in the system.  The failure of the “justice” system, until it is remedied, will contribute to our spiraling crime rate and chaotic society.

We definitely need to blame the Bar Association of Belize. There are way too many attorneys in both parties to have such an archaic criminal legal system (both PUP and UDP are led by prominent attorneys). The Bar Association in Belize is inept.  We need to demand more from our Bar Association. Tax payers have spent millions educating most of them into a cushy lifestyle.  How many today are financially benefitting from technicalities in the criminal legal system? How many rushes to defend notorious criminals and use the weaknesses and loopholes to give criminals a free reign in society? How many have you heard trying to change the system? Not even the political attorneys have attempted to effectively tackle this issue and they claim to have our best interest at heart.  One attorney admittedly didn’t even pay taxes last year and claims it is a protest on how his taxes are spent. Oh the irony!  Can the average tax payer protest against our wasted taxes and demand back their educational fees? Thanks to the generosity of tax payers, they owe no one anything (or so they think).  They mock our system, they adhere to no social responsibility and they are not held accountable.

Finally, where do we leave ourselves as individuals?  We in the society pretend there is no blatant inequality in Belize system. We turn a blind eye to the mistreatment of  the vulnerable while we defend and befriend individuals because of who they are related to or which political party they are affiliated with. We do not give a damn of how corrupted or evil some people we associatewith truly are. And let me not forget those people fighting for the defendant’s rights without any thought of weighing the victims’ rights. The ones among us that tell us things like creating a sexual offenders website would infringe on the reputation of the defendant, failing to see that these predators enjoy a lax criminal environment while they tear our children’s innocence to shreds.   Ultimately many more monsters exist and will emerge in this broken criminal friendly system.

Children are the most vulnerable in our society because they are dependent on us; they are defenseless; their voices are small; we tell them to shut up; we regret them; we do not listen to their concerns, and they cannot vote. So if you think a politician will solve this crisis, think again. The will of the politician must come from the people. Our children are becoming casualties of a corrupted system.  Bert Vasquez is a product of all of us in Belize. We all contributed to this alleged “monster”.  We had to power to stop him from the first offense. His mother had many opportunities to show him corrective behavior but instead defended his violent tendencies. We allowed this monster to grow among us and possibly kill many innocent lives.  Shame on us all! Let’s start rebuilding Belize and demanding the needed reforms for the sake of our children!

Another Missing Child in Cayo District – Please share


Michaela Parham- MISSING

Missing :  Michaela Parham of Santa Elena Town

Description: 4 feet 3 inches tall, Long black hair wearing black T-Shirt and khaki shorts
Age: Reported around 13-15 years old
Last Seen:  around 9am on the morning of Monday June 18, 2012 in Benque Viejo Del Carmen
Please Call: 665-7898 or 624-1599  parents or 911 for the police department

Belize is worth fighting for by: Aria Lightfoot


Map of Belize

Jasmine Lowe is affectionately known as JLowe by her family and friends. She has only been gone for ten days; however the Belize news is so inundated with murder, mayhem, sexual predators and shootings that her memory is already fading in some people’s mind.  Unfortunately, victims in most cases do not get more than two days of air time. There is no mechanism in place to follow the progression of investigations by the police;  except  two years later in a failed court trial when most people hardly remember the circumstances of crime or the names of the victims, a final epitaph stating “Two more get away with murder of X”.

The news presented to Belizeans are poorly researched stories with catchy headlines and just enough information to tell you what happened, without actually explaining what or why it is happening. The media creates a disconnection with the victims by reporting their situation in a clinical statistical manner. “Three shot this weekend” while desensitizing the populace  with explicit images of dead blood ridden bodies or decomposing bodies. Ultimately people tune out crime news and express hopelessness in finding solutions.  The victims’ families are left powerless and many times faceless and voiceless except for the two days of initial coverage.

Just a couple days ago the Prime Minister of Belize opened himself up to the media and the questions were wanting. The media houses are heavily dependent on Jules Vasquez to ask the tough questions while they feed off his questions to present their stories.  When individually given the opportunity, they shy away from asking the tough necessary questions to help Belizeans understand what is happening in Belize. One person commented on our blog that the Prime Minister is insulting or vindictive. So what? That is a challenge of being a reporter. Ask the questions and stop taking things so damn personal.  If you cannot handle the heat, get out the fire and make way for someone who will.  (See Faye’s daily dingle berry: https://twocanview.com/2012/06/15/daily-dingleberry-06-15-12-why-uno-fraid-fi-dean-barrow/ ). The media must remember that they are a very important function of democracy. They have an obligation to present accurate unbiased information, ask the tough questions, research their stories and follow up and keep us apprised of the state of the country’s affairs.

As a people, we the citizens of Belize are also failing to be effective and productive citizens. Brent Toombs wrote an excellent article why we are failing as a society. (https://twocanview.com/2012/06/13/we-need-tougher-laws-but-not-for-me-by-brent-toombs/ ).   We are too caught up in our personal narcissistic ways to contribute to the success of Belize. We say we want change, but we expect the government to implement changes as long as the changes don’t affect us personally.  We vote for representatives, but we only claim that representative if he is from our political party. We fight; quarrel, point fingers; question people’s agenda; categorize them; and call people names. We lack basic respect for each other’s opinion.  As a  people, we are left blaming everyone  and failing to see our own role in socieity.  Ultimately, we will sink or swim as a nation.

So back to JLowe.  I have been following this story very closely.  Only thing I am sure of is that there is a deviant sexual predator that lurks out there. One that will attack more victims until he is caught and prosecuted or die of natural causes. I have been asking questions from attorneys, doctors and police officers. I am very interested to know about the investigative process. I want to know why so many of the court cases are failing. I want to understand so I can explain it to you.  We need to understand what ails us as a society so we can undergo the process of healing our society

Jasmine Lowe- Murdered victim

Here is what I found out as an avid follower of JLowe’s investigation:

  1. According to Belize law, we do not need a forensic pathologist to examine a murdered body, just a medical doctor, therefore, Dr. Estradaban do not need to investigate death, just certify it.  I was additionally told cause of death is not necessarily important to present a murder case. I personally find that very hard to believe because reasonable doubt is immediately created when the state cannot prove cause of death.
  2. Belize do not have the facilities to handle decomposing bodies, so many autopsies are done on the site.  According to one doctor I spoke to here in the U.S., crucial evidence could be lost performing autopsies in the field. Autopsies should be done in a lab setting.  Unfortunately, until we have the facilities to handle decomposing bodies, as a health safety procedure, bodies will continue to be handled in this manner.
  3. I was flabbergasted when I found out the crime scene was burned. The reporter only reported the scene was burned; but had he done some more digging rather than just report this fact, it would have negated a lot of speculations from the public.   I sought the counsel of an old teacher who is now a criminal defense attorney for the State of Texas. I asked him if burning the crime scene of a decomposing body was protocol in the cases he dealt with in the U.S. He stated that he has never heard anything like that and wondered why the doctor would order such a thing.  Well here is the answer. According to Clyde Williams, investigator in JLowe’s case, Belize does not have the necessary equipment to sterilize these crime scenes and because it is human remains and there is blood, it creates a hazardous environment, so burning the scene after evidence collection is protocol.
  4. I was also interested in knowing why cases fail in our court system.  According to Anthony Sylvester, the Irish Parliament did a review of their criminal justice system in 2006 (a system similar to ours) and found out that the justice system is skewed in favor of the defendant because in the past many people could not afford a defense attorney. Unfortunately, many laws are implemented in our system in an ad hoc manner without an evaluation of the justice system itself. So in other words we are implementing laws when we should actually be conducting a serious review of our legal system and restructuring our criminal laws. Belize is attempting to fight 2012 criminals with outdated, ineffective and poorly written laws. I think the Bar Association could play a vital role in addressing this issue.

There are some positives resulting from our dire situation in Belize. Mary Cariddi has successfully lobbied the government to have a ‘Jasmine Taxi Law’. The government is now in the process of changing the taxi laws and implementing an identification mechanism and background checks to register taxi drivers.  This is necessary because we trust that taxis will take us to our destination without harm.  The state will be providing safety procedures to ensure they can be held accountable and they are safe drivers.

Also, a group of interested citizens are creating a system called “Jasmine alert” to quickly update the public with information for missing children. The system will be a database that will keep people informed of when and where children go missing, their picture and background information. The idea is to galvanize the public into quick action to help locate vulnerable children before any harm befall them.

The First Lady of Belize, Mrs. Kim Simplis Barrow, has additionally indicated that the laws involving children are being revamped and we should see stiffer sentences and more protections for child victims. As it is right now, children are at a disadvantage in the court system and because of their innocence, they are many times re-victimized through the testimony requirement of the court system making prosecutions difficult.

The society seems mobilized against criminals as the theme “enough is enough” is being resonated by law abiding tax paying citizens.   Citizens are realizing the limitations and difficulties the police face when investigating crime. People are trying to find ways to assist them.  The time is now to become part of the movement to influence the changes we want in our society.  This is not a political issue Belizeans, this is a Belizean issue.

Until Belizeans know what need to be changed and lobby their leaders effectively, we will continue in a downward spiral until we have no other choice but to suspend our all our laws and start over from scratch. In such a scenario, many innocent lives will be lost.  I appeal to the media to stop with the half ass reporting and begin to dig deep. Research your cases and explain to the Belize people why things are the way it is. You are the watchdogs of our society. I also appeal to my fellow Belizeans to become proactive citizens and become part of the movement for your children’s sake.  I implore Belizeans abroad to network and find ways to donate to Belize to improve our society.  We are all Belizeans and Belize is worth fighting for!

Belizean Flag

More Questions as the Investigation into Jasmine’s Death Continues by: Aria Lightfoot


Jamine Lowe-murdered

Today marks only eight days since little Jasmine has been gone and the country is plagued with so many other homicides that Jasmine’s may become a fading memory to some.  The trail has seemingly gone cold as the entire investigation seemed focused on a white taxi that turned out to be a dead end maybe. Rumors are swirling of a new focus in the investigation. Could the police be pulling at straws?  Additionally, according to Plus TV, someone burned the area where the body was found undoubtedly burning away crucial evidence in Jasmine’s case, especially if some expert decided to go back and restart the process.  However, I want to go back and review the information that we actually know.Jasmine went missing on June 4, 2012 at around 2 pm.

Jasmine body was discovered on June 6, 2012 in an advanced stage of decomposition.

The fact that her decomposition was described as advanced after only two days have my brain in knots.   I did some research online and found some information from a forensic research lab called the body farm.  The research facility is geared at creating a body atlas for law enforcement to help them determine the time of death based on decomposition of the body.   See more at http://www.environmentalgraffiti.com/chemistry/news-afterlife-human-corpse-stages-decomposition?image=0  (Be warned the graphics are graphic).

Here are some questions I have regarding the investigation.

  1. What hour was Jasmine actually last seen by her parents?  Did mom check to see if she was at home before she left for the day?  Many times parents walk out assuming the child is safely and soundly sleeping.
  2. Did anyone see Jasmine leave home?
  3. Did Jasmine actually leave her home and walk the path described, or was she just supposed to walk that path?
  4. Is it possible she was offered her a ride to her destination and she was picked up at home?
  5. Is it possible she took a different path that day?
  6. Could she have stopped to visit a “friend” along her journey?
  7. Did she ever complain of getting unwanted attention from some adult?
  8. The people who claim to have seen her that day; could they be mistaken with the time of day?
  9. Is it possible she died earlier than stated?
  10. How long was she away from all supervision?
  11. Is it possible that the abductor rode around with her in the trunk while creating an alibi?
  12. Did anyone check her phone records?
  13. Did the police walk the same path she was supposed to take and take note of the regular faces along her path and question all the potential witnesses that would see her take that route the day?
  14. Will the police get any international expert help in this case?

I realize that the police are overwhelmed by the deteriorating crime situation in Belize and they have limited resources.  I also appreciate that we have limited facilities to help aid with this investigation; however, the life of a child is gone. There is a predator out there.  If we create a chart with all the missing young girls and the areas along the western highway where their bodies were dumped, maybe a pattern will start emerging of a possible serial killer who moves with invisible dangerous stealth along the highway looking for a moment to strike at a vulnerable young victim. We need to start asking, who among us can move and pick up young girls without creating an air of suspicion?

Consider this serial killer in Columbia, who after this story was written, was released from prison and remains at large today.  Get an insider view as to how a serial killer hunts their victims:  http://www.trutv.com/library/crime/serial_killers/notorious/pedro_lopez/1.html

The Mishandling of Jasmine Lowe’ Investigation Part 2 by: Aria Lightfoot


Jasmine Lowe

I spoke to my source close to the investigation last night to get a feel of what is happening now. The pathologist (not forensic pathologist) could not determine a cause of death.  Not surprising, he is not an expert in that field of forensics, so I learned last night.  And BTW, Belize law does not require a forensic specialist to examine murdered bodies; only a medical doctor is needed. Meaning, he was never trained to determine cause of death that is not obvious. I feel like my head is spinning. I feel like screaming WTF.  Can this murder even be solved, if they cannot establish a murder even happened? Everything following that evaluation seems to be a big waste of time.

According to my source, the police are looking for blood and fingerprinting evidence in the car they impounded to find clues that may link little Jasmine presence in the taxi.  Sounds good right? WRONG.  Let me remind you that they didn’t take any evidence from Jasmine. No fluids or fingerprinting, no rape kits, nada so making that link would be a feat even gods would find impossible. Not to mention, as Faye stated in her dingle berry,  the investigating officer is making wide assumptions about what happened based on observations he can neither prove nor disprove.

So now they have a “suspect” who may or may not be the murderer. The public fears are somewhat alleviated. Please don’t let your guard down now. At this stage, the public need to be very cautious and aware as to the person the police presents to them.  The police is desperate for a solution making the environment ripe for a scapegoat.  Criminals in Belize laugh at our poor investigative skills.

So we reach the point where we take the defendant to court. Enter the defense attorney.  Remember, a person is innocent until proven otherwise. It is the State’s job to prove him guilty.  The state cannot even establish a murder happened. According to the pathologist, he cannot establish a cause of death.  How do we know how she died? She could have died from a sunstroke! I don’t mean to be facetious but in court, it is not what you know, it is what you can prove.  The most essential part of the case is ruined unless they can determine conclusively that she was in fact murdered.

My Belizeans, it is not only about attending the vigils and crying and complaining. It is about asking the right questions, demanding action and becoming an active and vigilant member of society. Political will comes from the people.  When people are arrested for murders, find out what the pathologist did; what evidence and procedures were followed. Ask the police what protocols they followed. Find out the applicable laws. We cannot allow “professionals” to be beyond reproach anymore, since I recently discovered the man reporting on’ causes of death’ is no professional in forensics. Our children, families, neighbors and fellow citizens’ deaths are turning into sad unresolved statistics.  Your family WILL be next  if this continues unabated.

I make a desperate plea to members of the Belize Bar Association with police background to come on board and help fix our broken system.  I call on all politicians to take off their political hats and put on their Belizean one to solve this crisis. As I write this, two more bodies have been found, possibly the two teenage boys missing. Their cause of death will be obvious, since it appears they were shot. What about little Jasmine?  We still have no idea how she died and what she endured.

We are a part of a greater plan in this world, even if we don’t know our purpose.  It seems that it took the murder of little Jasmine to move us as a nation; she is the sacrificial angel we needed to realize that our antiquated laws do not equip the police and prosecutors to fight these murderers who rein free in Belize. I am mad at everyone, including myself, to be in slumber for so long, but finger pointing causes this. It takes away your personal responsibility and cast it elsewhere.  Please do not lose sight of this movement for Jasmine.

Tonight the nation will mourn collectively as vigils all over the country are taking place. All will begin at  6pm. Everyone is asked to bring a candle and a white T-Shirt to show solidarity. Let the conversations begin there.

San Ignacio/Santa Elena – in front of Police Station

Belmopan – National Assembly

Belize City – Battlefield Park

Punta Gorda- Central Park

Placencia – in front of Police Station

The Mishandling of Jasmine Lowe’s Investigation by: Aria Lightfoot


Jasmine Lowe – murdered victim of a child predator

Today I am overwhelmed with so many emotions.  I spoke to someone last night on the condition of anonymity (have not slept since then) who revealed some information about the investigation of Jasmine Lowe that causes me to believe that Belize is heading down a very dire path.  I trust this source, so I am going out on a ledge with my rant. When a state can no longer protect its citizens, people will become dangerous citizens of the state.

I was told that the forensic expert could not make a determination as to the cause of death just two days later. He did not extract any fluids from the child to conduct a DNA analysis. No fingernail analysis, no rape kit…nada.  I really cannot believe that “Mr. Death by asphyxiation” did not make at least that determination. In fact, in all my years I can remember, his “expert opinion” has mostly been inconclusive or asphyxiation, unless it is obvious the bullet is exiting the brain.

I have watched enough autopsy stories by Dr. Baden on HBO to know that Belize needs to start replacing inept and dysfunctional entities from top decision making position with post haste.    Two days later, they cannot extract evidence and the child is hurriedly buried?   What is the point of having an incompetent person leading our forensic investigation?  Does he lack the necessary up to date training? Has he seen so many dead bodies that each death means nothing more to him?  Is he just lazy and complacent?  Did this death inconvenience his schedule? WAKE UP! People are seriously upset over this child’s death and the authorities NEED to understand this.

I was also told  that the police contaminated the scene and failed to collect the tire track marks. They failed to effectively preserve the crime scene and trampled all over it. I heard they were playful and were slow to initiate the search for the child.  If I were the Minister of Police, heads would be rolling right now. Everyone would stand in my office and justify to me why they should keep their jobs!  People blame the lack of prosecution, but how can you prosecute incompetence before a trained  defense attorney?

The Government is setting themselves up for a dangerous vigilante society.  As a former resident of the Belmopan, Cayo District, I can tell you growing up in our small gossiping society, we have a close family bond with our kids and residents. How do you think John Saldivar won Belmopan? He is a product of Belmopan. We look out for each other and I know San Ignacio and Santa Elena are no different. We are NOT like Belize City (sorry my city residents) where someone’s worth is measured by placement in society or economic status. We love all our residents and this monster killed one of the well-loved children of the Cayo District society.

Here is the synopsis my Belizean authorities. Even if someone is caught, based on the information I received, he WILL NOT be prosecuted; there WILL BE NO death penalty.  The evidence seems to have been mishandled and trampled. The memory of an angel may remain just that, a fleeting memory. These complacent individuals have become robots and lack empathy when investigating.

Do not stare in the camera reassuring Belizeans that this perpetrator will be caught, knowing that the investigation at this stage is useless.  Someone go and get evidence from that child before it is too late.  Someone hire a new forensic expert and my God get the police who actually give a damn to investigate every death; the ones who believe each and every life is important.  Reach out to the US Embassy and British Embassy for expert help and not just vehicle donations. It sounds like the father of the child may be an American citizen, if that is the case, the US should have an interest in investigating this case.

I have made this child my spiritual daughter.  She is haunting my thoughts and dreams. I speak because she no longer has a voice.  She expects and demands that the authorities in Belize properly investigate this crime,  respect her memory and take this monster off the street. The clues are within her….

Candlelight Vigil for Jasmine Lowe; We need your support.


The Cornerstone Foundation and the Scouts Association will be holding a candlelight vigil in memory of young  Jasmine Lowe.

When: Saturday 9th June 2012

Where:  In front of the San Ignacio  Police Station

Time:  Starting 7pm sharp

We need all to attend and support. Bring your candles and white t-shirts!  Let’s pray for our country and children.