Daily Dingleberry 10-11-12 Sedi Dun “Sed-it” Yu On Yuh Own


I know. I know. You haven’t heard from me in a long time…my squawk box was broken and I had to take some time so it could mend. Miss me? Didn’t think so. So now to business.

I am extremely grateful to the people of Cayo who have continued to demonstrate all that is good about Belize and our people. They have once again raised their voices in solidarity and solemn determination to fight against the sickening crimes crippling our country. They have been respectful, peaceful and firm in their convictions. They have laid out their concerns and have turned to the government, who promised that it is the choice of the people, the voice of the people and are of the people, for direction and support. AND WHAT DID ITS REPRESENTATIVE DO? Hold me back now!

nothin….nothin….nothin….

He sat there and basically blamed his people for where we are and told us to fix it ourselves….I can’t even imagine what a mother or father who has lost a child must have felt to hear those words. What went through their heads when it was confirmed by the gatdamn  Attorney General   himself….you will not be getting no justice no time soon people…sorry your kid died but uhm…das yo problem boo…so Mistah Sedi…wut u gone do when people staat tun up DED????? Hangin from the lamp post? In front of the court house???? Maybe your front door?

Because….people will only take so much. When people come to believe that no one cares and there is no hope, they take drastic measures. I don’t want this to happen. Of course not. But if we can’t support each other in what is a debilitating situation affecting everyone of us, what can we expect?

Here’s what: Mr. Sedi Elrington was cruel in his dismissal of people’s pain and their pleas for his help. He was callous in his judgement and cold in his attitude toward his own people. Shame on you Sedi. Shame on our government for mishandling such an opportunity to join hands with the good people of our nation in a fight for our children.

May this fight continue in the name of Jasmine Lowe, Suzenne Martinez and all the missing/murdered girls and boys.

Jackee Burns breaks the status quo “silence” by: Aria Lightfoot


Jackee Burns- Picture taken a day before her violent rape

Belize has a well-known secret that is an uncomfortable truth to talk about.  Many women are victims of child sexual predators and rape. It is estimated that one in four women are victims of sexual abuse.  After writing my piece about Jasmine Lowe, several people shared their personal abuse experiences with me.  Fayemarie shared her personal experience on Twocanview.armchair-psychologists-why-he-is-not-a-monster-by-fayemarie-anderson-carter-ma

The nameless and faceless victims shared stories of well-respected men in the society who fondled and abused them. They shared stories of family members, neighbors, shopkeepers and strangers who were never brought to light or prosecuted for their deviancy because they either never came forward or when they did, those who should protect them preferred to pretend the abuse never happened.   Belize has unknowingly and unfortunately created an inviting culture for vultures and predators to thrive while sexual abuse becomes taboo and shameful for the victim.  Every night in Belize some child has “dark shadows” lurking in their bedrooms.

My story today is a powerful survivor named Jackee Burns, a teacher in Belmopan.  She shared her traumatic and chilling experiences first as a child and then as an adult victim of a violent rape.  She finally opened up to her mother knowing she was telling me this story.  She feels that each time she shares her story, a part of her continues to heal within.

Jackee Burns is a respected teacher and has a compelling story to tell.  She in her own way is fighting the status quo of silence and emerging as a trusted entity for victims. Jackee endured two traumatic experiences in her life, one as a five year old child who was unable to articulate her experiences when she was violated by her very own uncle and another violent rape as a young adult charting out in her new life.

At the age of five years old, Jackee’s dad moved in his younger 13 year brother into his home.  The house was a modest house with three bedrooms and a family of seven.  Jackee’s teenage uncle slept in the living room on a cot. He did not stay there all the time, but when he did, she recalls a dark shadow entering her bedroom and lifting up her dress and fondling her.  As a young child she could not express what was happening to her and would not even open her eyes during the experience.  She recalls crying and the shadow would disappear.   She also has broken memories of being locked in a bedroom with her teenage uncle and remembering white substances on the sheet of the bed which she now knows was semen.

Jackee started complaining to her parents of a ghost that would come touch her from under her bed and so her father started to check in on her to make sure she would be okay. He would come in and make sure she fell asleep.   One fateful night, her uncle entered her room and was caught in the act by her father. Her father severely beat up his brother as Jackee recalls blood on the wall, and kicked him out the house.  Her father protected her by avoiding family members and never putting her in the situation again, however, it was never discussed. She was never asked the details of what happened.  Her own grandmother to this day refuses to believe the story.

Years later, Jackee viewed sex with shame. She recalls her first voluntary sexual experience and learning she was not a virgin. It was a devastating experience because it confirmed to her that at the tender age of five years old, Jackee was in fact raped by her uncle. In the U.S he would still be prosecutable. In Belize I am not sure how a victim can reclaim her power over her perpetrator.  We do not know if he is a child predator today. We do not know what deviancy continues to linger within him. He represents one of maybe hundreds of deviants walking around.  What became of this troubled young man?  He became a respected and published author who places himself in Jackee’s home as a teenager in his book. I perused his Facebook page and saw one picture with a young child in bathing suit. It concerns me when I see such predators in positions of trust around children.

Most children are resilient and many block such traumatic experiences.  Jackie I am sure completely pushed her abuse into the back of her mind.  It is the resiliency and survivorship of the human spirit that allows us to function in the face of very distressing experiences in our lives.  It is this spirit that Jackie carries within her as she is introduced to another type of predator, a predator that is violent, deadly and unforgiving.

Jackee decided to pursue a career in teaching. At the age of 21 years old, Jackee was now living in Corozal and was a popular teacher and enjoying her career.  On October 13, 2000 she met Peter Augustine for the first time. Peter Augustine was a well-known criminal and was only released from prison a week before.

In Jackee’s own words:

“I never knew Peter Augustine before, never even seen him ever. I lived in Corozal and was a very popular high school teacher at Corozal Community.  This was my forth year up there. I had a sweet lil house and prior to this year I had always had roommates.  Anyway, the morning of October 13, 2000, I got up and did some laundry. I got up around 5:30am. By 6:30 I went to the back door to put out the clothes. I had a bucket on the side porch.  I was pinning out one piece at a time and returning to the bucket for every new piece of clothing.  I wasn’t there very long and the back door near where I stood was ajar.

It seems that Peter Augustine hopped over the verandah and went inside when my back was turned.  When I went inside, he approached me. At first, I thought I was imagining him. I could not understand why a stranger was in my house.  I screamed and he placed a knife at my throat. I told him he could take whatever he wanted, just please don’t hurt me.  He didn’t answer me.  He started to pull me towards the bedroom and I understood what his intentions were.  I started to fight him, I bit him. I got cut in my hand as I held on to the knife fighting him. He punched me on my left cheek and I still continued to fight. He choked me by placing his thumbs on my neck. I started to lose consciousness and I eventually saw black and passed out.

When I woke up it was to the sound of my bed sheets being torn. He used it to tie my hands behind my back and blindfold me.  At this time I was having my period and that didn’t stop him.  He got on top of me and was having sex with me.  Even though I was blind folded, I saw a nipple ring on him. I disassociated from what was happening to me. I felt like I was watching him doing this to someone else. I mentally blocked out what was happening to me.  I believed he was in my home for about an hour.  When he was through, he took my jewelry. I thought he was going to kill me.   A student who lived behind my house came to the door and called my name repeatedly.  She saw my bathroom lights on and thought I was in the shower.  I pretended to be passed out so that he would not find it necessary to kill me. I heard the footsteps on the ground, he unlocked my door, which he had to have locked and he left.  When I was sure he was gone, I went to the front door with my hands still tied behind my back.  I had to open the door with my hands tied, I shouted to the student to run and I ran to my neighbor, an old couple in only t-shirts and they called the police.

Peter Augustine was arrested a few minutes after I arrived at the hospital in possession of my jewelry, with the bite mark on his shoulder and my blood all over him. My face was badly beaten and even today it still hurts. My lip has a permanent scar.”

Unfortunately, Jackee’s horrifying experience does not end there.  She relocated to her hometown of Belmopan.  A year later, she had to endure the criminal trial, which was done publicly.  She had to recount her story to a packed courtroom. She was crossed examined by the defendant. She said every time he said her name, she hated him more. She had to recount her entire sexual history in front of curious strangers; she also had to reveal her physical address to the court and defendant.  She was emotionally distraught by the entire ordeal.  She could not bear to stay for the outcome of the trial and later learned he was given 15 years in prison.  He only has three more years left on his 15 year sentence.

Peter Augustine escaped from prison after his incarceration which caused Jackee to fall to pieces because her address was publicly announced in the court case.   Peter Augustine was eventually recaptured in a village near Chetumal.  In that same village a girl was found raped and murdered however, he was never connected to the crime even though he was the only stranger in the village at the time.  There are no denying Jackee lives in fear knowing Peter Augustine will be released in three short years.  She says he gloats to people about raping a teacher and is rumored to have sodomized his cell mate in prison.

Jackee wants other victims to know that there is nothing wrong with them and they will survive.  It took Jackee a while to overcome her abuse and confront it.  She speaks to her students and tries to formulate support groups for rape victims but notes most people want to forget and move on. She sits with numerous rape victims who confide their pain in her.  One girl confided in her that she hated Christmas because she must associate with the men in her family that raped her.  Jackee welcomes anyone who wishes to discuss their personal pain with her.

There are many people who remain uncomfortable with this subject.  Jackee urges parents to speak openly to kids about sex. Teach them good and bad touches. Be a source for your children to run to. However it doesn’t end there. Our system must find a better way to protect the citizens of Belize. There must be a sexual predator website that tracks these predators when they are unleashed back into society.  Victims must be accommodated to tell their story. Their addressese should remain confidential. Our society must remove the shame placed on victims and reassign the shame to the perpetrator.  Our society need to start seriously monitoring men dating children under 18 years of age, even communities who have traditionalized pedophilia.

We must create a safe society for all our citizens especially our children and we must develop a social conscience and be protectors.  How can anyone ever truly claim to be a survivor when the society keeps people in victim status?  Unfortunately I was unable to find a picture of Peter Augustine, but be very uneasy that in three years a violent predator will be released back into society and there is no law stopping it and no picture to show you who he is!

Jackee’s Poems:

Pervert

He wrote about a time

I had long since buried

Six feet under

My sad horrific memories

His writing exumed

Buried memories

From the depths of hell

Where I thought

They coud never be dug up

But he resurrected

The stomach churning evil

That he did to me

He lifted my skirt

When I was a baby

And spoke adult language

To my innocent mind

In his dirty nasty language

Making his ugly body

Reveal itself

To my horrified eyes

His breath insulted my cheek

His smell chafed my stomach

His touch burnt my skin

How could this man be my kin

He hushed my objections

And covered my frightened eyes

With his huge hands

That covered my entire face

He ripped away

The pure white lace

And tore me to shreds

Now he is that monster

That vile monster

Who I cannot even

Look in the face

And now he dare writes

With enthusiasm and fun

About a time when

He lived in my daddie’s home

As if he does not recall

The ghastly deeds

He has done

I hate him

I have buried him

And I dont want him

Anywhere around me

 

Unwanted and uninvited

Bang! Bang!

The judge registered

Finality with his gavel

Pounding the end

Of the hearing i had to endure

15 years he got

15 years of free food

A guaranteed bed

He doesnt have to worry

His stomach will be fed

While I, his victim

Am traumatized and haunted

With a lifetime of nightmares

A lifetime of him

Haunting my days and my nights

Coming into my home

Unwanted and uninvited

Icy cold stares

In his strange eyes

Told me his temptations

And as my piercing scream

Eminated in goosebumps

All over my skin

And registered the

Metal blade

He palced at my throbbing throat

I saw my life

In flashes in front of

My scared eyes

Yes, I fought him

I sunk my teeth

In his steel muscles

And with all my fear

I bit in wid all my life

But he retaliated

And I saw stars

And felt the trickle

Of sticky blood ooze

Before darkness crept

Over me and wrapped me

In its tight bondage

Then gone I was

From my conscious self

As he invaded me

Entering unwanted and uninvited

I took back myself

I took back my power

And said he cannot

Have any part of me

That I am unwilling to offer

So as he entered flesh

In and out

My mind shut him out

Though I felt emotional distate

I looked from afar

As he hurt a body

But could not touch a soul

 

Handcuffing Justice: When Smart People Act Stupid by Fayemarie A Carter, MA


Handcuffed Justice

I have watched as a nation’s emotions kept building, anxiety reaching a fever pitch. Cries for justice rang loud and a demand for good police work, the utmost importance. We all held our breath as we waited for Bert Vasquez to be charged, fearing that he would walk away “as usual” prompting protest marches sending a clear message of “No! Not this time!” And the police came through. He was charged.

But that wasn’t the end, rather it is the beginning. Just like the public feared he wouldn’t even be charged, now it fears he won’t be convicted. But instead of putting pressure on the police by standing together and making the effort to ensure that he is convicted, instead of helping the police and participating in the process of justice, we have people allowing their fear and lack of faith  to derail justice in a most egregious way. Having convinced themselves that because of his family name and influence he will not be convicted, they are calling for vigilantism. One of these people is my own partner, Aria Lightfoot. Yes, Aria. I am calling you out. So sue me.

Take a look at her Facebook status posted a few days ago:

“All you people of waiting for civility and the justice system to condemn this monster among us, question: how do you convict a well connected criminal in a society that doesn’t prosecute well connected criminals? Do we wait for the system to become fair as our children continue to fall victim? Do we wait until personally affected to become angry? All you proponents of fair play how do you get rid of a unprosecutable monster from your midst?”

At first, I tried to give her the benefit of the doubt, so I simply asked: “What are you inciting here?” She responded with a pretty mild answer saying she was just looking for solutions but as the conversation became more involved and other people put their two cents in, it became clear what was being said. We should kill Bert Vasquez and not bother with the process of justice, after all it is a “joke” as one person said. So I sarcastically said:  “Well let’s just kill him and get it over with! Goddammit! Screw the justice system. Let’s just be as evil as he is! Who needs rules?” Unfortunately, some people thought I was serious and concurred. No biggie. Next time, I’ll be more clear and put *sarcasm next to a statement intended as such.

Further down Aria makes her point very clear, much to my concern and disappointment: ” I guess people don’t realize that he was in the “allegedly” in process of violently sexually violating another child when he was caught. Do I need a jury to assure me he is guilty. Probably not! And victims are really afraid to come forward in this case because of who he is. So I ask all the proponents of fair play. Give me a solution Please because I feel this monster will walk and he will be one of several that continue to plague our country until the justice system catches up or people take matters in their own hands. What does a society do to protect itself?” Having a jury convict a person accused of anything is NOT for the assurance of his guilt but rather an exercise in justice, you know, that process we need to make sure INNOCENT people don’t go to jail?

I get it. You don’t believe that it will happen. It hasn’t many times. And many murderers and rapists walked free of consequences because of their status in society; bribes paid to key players; intimidation of witnesses; lost evidence because of incompetence and gross mishandling. I GET IT! As other people challenged Aria  to clarify her position, she kept saying she was only asking for a solution but when given them, she was adamant that families of victims couldn’t wait for the system to change and asked basically what are we to do in the meantime? She  suggested that these “monsters” will walk and plague us if we don’t take matters into our own hands. What does that mean Aria? Kill everybody we “know” is guilty? Remember the poor taxi guy everybody “knew” was the murderer? HE WAS INNOCENT. What would have happened if society had decided to “take matters into their own hands”? How would you have felt if society had killed this man and come to find out it was someone else? How is that a “solution”?

Let’s make something clear hear. Your statement on Facebook was insulting and condescending. Just because everyone isn’t out there screaming about justice or waving a noose around, doesn’t mean they are not as passionate as you, or as concerned or as “affected”. We just choose to do it in a different way and there is no reason we as a society can’t do both. Protests serve a purpose. It is a time to vent. It is a time to feel connected with others. It is a time to bring attention to an issue of great concern. BUT it is merely the beginning of anything. Protests in and of themselves do little to change anything. They can prompt change but the change will be brought about people who take the time to write proposals, present them and have others vote them into policy, law etc. So, killing Bert Vasquez takes care of one person and “a” situation for just a brief moment. The system will still be broken and others will then continue to “get away”. You will basically have NOT affected change and you most certainly will NOT have come up with a solution. Rather, what about the other issues you have now created? Liiiiiiiiike: WHAT ARE WE  TEACHING OUR CHILDREN? Where the hell are your beliefs in god now? What kind of god is he/she who allows YOU to kill but not others? Have you thought of what kind of reputation this will give to Belize? How does that kind of behaviour influence investors? TOURISTS??? And lastly, since we seem to have forgotten her: what the hell does this do for Jasmine’s memory? She was a Girl Scout. She worked with her father in her community. Everyone who knew her, liked her. DO YOU HONESTLY THINK THIS IS WHAT SHE WOULD HAVE WANTED? I can emphatically tell you “No!” She was about helping people, not turning them into hateful, demonic beasts seeking vengeance in her name.

So you asked for solutions. You are not going to like the answer but tough. You will help undo the damage by advocating for new legislation and abolishment of defunct, unjust old ones. You will inspire others to seek education in areas critical to justice system. You will demand that proper funding is allocated to fighting crime so that we will get better equipment and facilities aimed at proper gathering and storing of evidence. You will show your support for the hard working officers who put their lives on the line by participating in  fund raising efforts and cooperating wherever needed. That means calling the police when a crime is committed, appearing in court when you are called as a witness and teaching yourself and your kids the law and ABIDING THOSE LAWS. You will demand that investigations are made into allegations of misconduct, police brutality and corruption. You will exercise patience and serve as an example of calm, well thought out convictions. You will be a symbol of hope in yourself and Belizeans, that we know the right thing to do and that we will do the right thing. And you will start by reining in your rhetoric and realizing that you have to stop being irresponsible with your words. You need to realize your power. When you do, maybe you can start being the change you keep demanding everyone else makes.

*FYI: “Incitement” comes under “Effecting a Public Mischief” which comes under ‘Perverting the Course of Justice” which comes under “OBSTRUCTION OF JUSTICE” punishable by up to life imprisonment…. yeah…I would say getting people to murder Bert Vasquez falls right under all that………

A victim relates to Jasmine Lowe : Reprinted with the permission of Marisa Alamilla


Marisa Alamilla

 Just musing Belize………..

As I sit to write my article … I just could not get the images of this beautiful little girl out my head.  I am to write about a far more casual topic but thought that it was more important to weigh in on what is going on in our beautiful country.  Jasmine Lowe has become the face and name of a people who are absolutely fed up with crime. She is not the first child to have died by no means of a violent crime but at a time when we have been screaming for an end to the violence, at a time when it has become like one a day vitamins, at a time when mothers weep and a country is lost it seemed to be the straw that broke the camel’s back.

 

I grew up in a Belize where we felt safe to play, where our children could play in the drains in the rain, where they could be left to enjoy a little thing called “freedom”. Gone are these days!  Not today, yesterday, the last few weeks or months but for some years now. As I listen to the public at large screaming for justice and screaming for an end to violence I wonder how many of them have really sat down and soaked it all in, soaked in the stench that has been building from their inaction, their lack of parenting, their lack of will to make everyone accountable or for their short memories.

 

In 1998 I was a victim of crime awaken at the wee hours of the morning from my sleep by an intruder into my home that was built to protect me. Burglar bars and dead bolts on all the doors and windows.   I remember thinking in the first instance “how did he get in?” to be followed quickly by “how will I get away? What does he want and then more importantly “will he kill me?”  The sharp knife he held in his hand glistened as he made it clear that he had every intention to use it if I did not do as he said. I remember looking around my room thinking of ways to get away it seemed so impossible paralyzed by fear he seemed so huge in my eyes, standing at over 6’ and 190 lbs. His crazy yet focused eyes made me beg and plead for my life but to no avail. After a fight that seem to last for hours and being badly beaten and raped, he made be take a bath saying that I will wash the evidence off me. I remember clearly trying to preserve the evidence by trying not to let the water hit all the parts of my battered body that I thought might have some evidence of his presence.  I remember thinking that even if he carried through on his promise to cut my throat that the police would be able to catch him. I was so disillusioned then. I know now that had I not lived and had I not been strong enough to pursue him and ensure he was captured and arrested and see this through to the bitter end he would be walking amongst us, free to do what he did to me to so many other women.  I remember his mother threatening me and visiting my home and screaming at my windows that if I continued to pursue this in court she would have one of her other sons finish the job. I remember one police officer telling me to ignore the threats because if I returned threats I could be arrested for verbal assault. Go figure!

 

I say that to say this. It took two years after this to bring him this young man of 19 years to court and that was not an easy thing to do. At times I felt alone, tired, abandoned, and disheartened by the entire process. I never felt once that the system was on my side. I always felt that I was fighting to win and fighting to get justice. It was not easy not ever.  His defense attorney tried everything to get him acquitted and if I was not the woman I am he would be a free man today.

 

Every week women and children are assaulted in Belize. Most never make the news because most never get reported. Many women and children feel ashamed and broken by this act of violence and feel as if they lack the strength to handle being persecuted after they have been denigrated in this manner.  In this case little Jasmine died. As a country we are hurt and feel some disdain for her alleged killer. I cautiously warn Belize, not to feel comfortable that he has been caught that is just a small tiny step towards justice.  Justice is long and drawn out road and the onus of responsibility to prove him guilty is on the country. He is presumed innocent.  We are a country high on crime because our social decay and our smart lawyers have gotten us here. One case will not save us as much as I know it may feel that way now.

 

As I watch the mob and their cries for justice I think “how little they know of how difficult it is to gain that little word”. It takes commitment on many levels and their cries will not affect the ruling of the court if the wealth of evidence is not there to carry the charge. Our people are so distraught and so tired of watching our children die in such senseless and meaningless ways that we fail to realize we have so many alive that we still need to save. Our actions are being looked upon. How we carry ourselves and what we say and do is being absorbed by the little eyes and ears around us. Violence begets violence. We need to aspire for higher ground and I know it’s not easy I was there but I know it’s not impossible. I have nothing against the death penalty just abide by the law that’s what we want to teach our children to do and therefore we must teach by example.

I am a passionate and emotional woman! It’s who I am. I understand rage, I understand the want for revenge, I understand the want for blood because that is what I felt for many years. I also understand the need for true justice, for calmer heads, for good example.  All I am saying Belize is two wrongs won’t make a right! If he is guilty then we must put our energies into ensuring that the system is brought to the highest standards, that we hold each and every one accountable for its failure and that we begin to search ourselves for where we might have added to the demise of our country.  Don’t be fooled where we are today as a society is the direct result of past and present action, whether it was our selfishness by not being our brother’s keeper, by not treating others with the same love and respect we would want to dealt, by turning a blind eye, by our ignorance or our irresponsibility. We played a role in the demise and destruction of our country. Own it! It belongs to each and every one of us.  Change it today, it’s not too late and our children are depending on us to do so!

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!

Suspect Charged With Jasmine Lowe’s Murder 06-20-12


Taken from Love FM’s Facebook Page:

 

 

 

Burt Vasquez Haylock will be arraigned on several other charges tomorrow following 11 separate reports made against him by young girls who allege that Vasquez had attempted to pick them up and offered them money in the Cayo District. Sr. Supt. Chester Williams says they are moving carefully as they do not want to move haphazardly as that can jeopardize the court process……Compol Henderson is hesitant to get into the details of the evidence so as not to jeopardize the investigation. Williams says he is positive that they have the person they are looking for regarding Jasmine Lowe’s murder. It is anticipated that more young girls will be coming in to make complaints against Burt Haylock…..Williams says that he is thankful to members of the community who assisted and mobilized with the Police as their cooperation has led them to where they are today with this investigation. It is to be noted that when Burt was apprehended he was in the company of a minor….

Daily Dingleberry 06-16-12 Belize Is Definitely Worth Fighting For


Unlock Your Mind

It is a sad truth, that just like an insecure beautiful woman knows not her worth, so are Belizeans when it comes to Belize. She bats her eyelashes, beckoning her man, wishing only to serve. She is hopeful HE is the one, the one who will worship her and take care of her, make her feel special.  Little does she know that the man she lets climb atop her is undeserving and has no intentions of appreciating her delicate beauty. He is only with her to exploit, take his fill, casting her aside broken and used, unloved, uncherished. Desperate, she lets another one in and so on and so on until she has nothing left to attract them. She is but a shriveled shadow of herself, eyes blankly staring out. All because she didn’t know how special she was. Sounds  much like what we Belizeans do, advertising our Jewel to tourists and investors, hoping they will be the ones to alleviate our poverty and social ills. Are we going to let that happen to us, Belize? Are we going to throw up our hands and hang our heads in shame, waiting and waiting for “the one” to come rescue us?

Why do we do that? Why do we tell ourselves we don’t know what to do? Why do we give up control to others? *sigh*

We didn’t get ourselves here. We really didn’t. We were a colony that was ignored and treated like crap for over 300 years. They sent politicians and Lords who “behaved badly” to Belize as a punishment- remember, the asshole of the world? No one invested in us…they took everything and then left us to rot in filth and squalor, basic needs unmet and unaddressed. We were treated as unimportant, ignorant and less than human. After all, we are uncivilized animals who steal, cheat and wreak havoc on all that is sacred and holy. HEATHENS! We have sex like monkeys and all our babies have different fathers. Our men are drunken blackguards,  thievin’ n’er do wells and our women are loose sex pots to be had for a pint of beer, wooden coins, empty promises of a new life in England.

Fast forward to 2012. We are independent for just 30 years, trying to keep up with the rest of the world and in some ways doing remarkably and in other ways, failing miserably. Let’s look at why. What is the one thing that hasn’t changed? Unfortunately, our mentality. We still behave like the colonized, waiting for massa to do it for us. There is no “Massa“. We is MASSA! SO THEN WHY ARE WE STILL LIVING ACCORDING TO ARCHAIC BRITISH LAWS?????EVEN THE BRITISH DONT USE THOSE FRIGGIN’ LAWS CAUSE THEY DON’T WORK!!!!

And so here we come back to Jasmine Lowe. Her case is a magnifying glass on all that doesn’t work. And why did this happen? Why were there no change in the laws that might have allowed for a better investigation, prosecution and justice for this little girl? Because we don’t understand that we are worth it. We, Belizeans, are worth demanding better laws. We, Belizeans, are worth demanding better protection. We, Belizeans, are worth demanding a sound justice system. This is more than gangs and guns. This cuts to the core of what we stand for, what we represent. Our laws are who we are. Our laws tell the world what is important to us. The problem is we don’t even know that we are important so how could we know what is important to us?

My partner Aria Lightfoot just wrote an article further commenting on all this…take a look and then start reflecting…do you know you are worth it? Do you know you are worth fighting for? Only until we get that, can we be ready to build Belize and be the change we wish to see.

https://twocanview.com/2012/06/16/belize-is-worth-fighting-for-by-aria-lightfoot/

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

We need tougher laws. But not for me by: Brent Toombs


Jasmine Lowe – murdered

Another young girl is dead.  The country is momentarily galvanized by outrage and grief.  Another vigil will be held.  People are calling for protest marches.  “Enough is enough!” we cry.  And ultimately what will change in Belize? 

Absolutely nothing.

 

I hope to God I am wrong.  I really hope I am underestimating the people of my nation.  I hope that one day soon we will look back at the tragic events of this week and remember Jasmine Lowe as not just another unsolved mystery, but as an angel sent to bring real change to our beleaguered country.  That her death was the tipping point when society finally moved to take real concrete action and accept the burden required for change.  That in the wake of this young girl’s murder, Belizeans finally decided they would become part of the process required to return our country the “tranquil haven” we love to sing about.

 

Unfortunately, recent history has shown that once the emotions subside we will not only return to our apathetic ways, but we will actively resist any attempt to improve the situation.

 

I remember attending a vigil and rally for the victims of “Jack”, five young girls who were sexually assaulted and murdered in a short period between 1998 and 1999.  The murders of those children remain unsolved.  But back on that day the most recent murder was still fresh in our minds and the emotions were raw.  When one of the speakers called for the “immediate ban on heavily tinted vehicles” the crowd roared back with its support for such a simple measure that would be one very small step towards making the streets safer for women and children.

 

Over a decade later, when government finally brought in legislation to limit the level of tint the majority of Belizeans balked.  The talk shows lit up with callers complaining that they should be allowed to tint their vehicles as dark as they please.  The opposition party openly ridiculed the government and dismissed this regulation as useless whimsy.  People, as they are prone to do in our country, simply thumbed their nose at yet another attempt to regulate anything in our society.

 

Now I am not suggesting Jasmine Lowe would be alive today if people complied with the law on vehicle tinting.  It’s not that simple.  But it is a perfect example of how we seem to resist every attempt to regulate society as soon as those regulations impede in the slightest on our own personal freedoms.

 

It’s absolutely useless to demand change and march in protest if we then turn around and fight the very authorities we call upon to change things.  We all want proper enforcement of laws and regulation, but we don’t want to actually comply ourselves.  How can any central authority be expected to effectively manage society if we resist every effort to impose regulations on us as individuals?

 

It’s time to face the fact that many of us are part of the problem.  It’s time to admit that everyone of us who disregards the simplest effort to bring order to chaos contributes to the wider problem of crime and violence.  Every time we expect to be exempted from the rules that govern our society, every time we resist additional regulations we undermine the entire system of law and order in Belize.

 

The police put up a checkpoint and we grumble about the 3-minute delay in our commute.  The law says we can’t serve alcohol to minors but we let the teenage girl drink in our bar or restaurant because the men buying her drinks are good (or well connected) customers.  The government says we must pay our taxes and duties yet we hide our transactions or use our connections to avoid contributing our fair share.  Most destructively of all, we turn a blind eye to those around us who operate outside of the law.

 

Every person in Belize seems to have a justification for why the rules are for everyone except themselves.  Political affiliation, economic status, family lineage, social network, race, gender, attitude, even level of attractiveness and physical prowess all seem to be legitimate exemptions to the laws and regulations that only ever apply to someone else.

 

You say you want to live in a safer society.  You want the government and law enforcement agencies to crack down on law-breakers.  You demand change.  But are you willing to play your part in that process?  Will you abide by increased regulation and enforcement efforts, or will you push back as soon as law and order becomes inconvenient for you?  Will you help pay the cost of public security or will you continue to work outside the system in order to benefit yourself?  Will you use your ballots to elect people of integrity to manage the affairs of our nation, or will you sell your vote to the candidate who offers you special favours?

 

A good friend of mine once described Belize as a “wonderful balance of order and anarchy”.  The problem now is the scale has tipped way too far in favour of anarchy.  It’s not just the gang-bangers, and drug dealers, and sexual predators who are destroying Belize.  We are all part of the problem whether we actively contribute to crime and disorder, passively resist attempts to improve the situation, or simply stick our heads in the sand.  Belize is broken. It’s seriously f*cked up.  There is nothing unpatriotic about saying that out loud.  The first step is always admitting you have a problem.

 

Yes, it’s a long and dotted line that connects the cyclist who rides against traffic, the bar owner or shopkeeper who does not abide by the condition of their liquor license, and the business person who cheats on their taxes, to the animal who would kill 13-year old Jasmine Lowe.  But how can we expect a society that cannot even adhere to the most basic tenants of order and governance, to protect our most vulnerable citizens?

 

I am encouraged to see Belizeans come together in this moment of national grief.  I am comforted by the fact that despite the overwhelming amount of senseless crime and violence we are exposed to daily, something can still touch our collective soul.  By all means, please take to the streets to march in protest.  Hold vigils in remembrance.  Flood the talk shows with angry pleas for justice and improved security.

 

Then take a moment to look inward and ask yourself, will you work to improve our society or resist those efforts once they become inconvenient for you as an individual?

Archbishop of Canterbury takes interest in Jasmine Lowe’s Case


Archbishop of Canterbury

The Archbishop has taken a special interest in the matter of Jasmine Lowe.  He stated that : “I can well imagine how devastated the entire community must be, and it’s particularly tragic that it should happen as she was about to share in a Jubilee celebration, which must have been such a cause of pride and happiness to her and her… family and friends. If you are in touch with friends there, do let them know that she and all her family will be remembered in prayers here at Lambeth Palace. I shall be in touch with the Royal Household.”
I will provide further updates regarding this emerging story.