BCG Commander Says Transporting the Bandits Is Not Illegal

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Updated: May 30, 2017

Belmopan’s Area Representative and the Minister of Defence, John Saldivar, owner of the Bandits Sports has been taking much criticism lately surrounding the use of the Belize Coast Guard vessels to transport the players to their games in San Pedro.  Members of the opposition have referred to is as an abuse of his position since he is the Minister with responsibility for the Belize Coast Guard.  Earlier today the Ministry of Defence issued a government release which reads, in part, “Ministry makes clear that the deployment of armed forces assets are the responsibility of the Commanders of the armed forces who are completely aware of the purpose of which they are to be used.  In cases where these assets are donated for the primary use of deterring and detecting illegal activities which are in line with the Defence Mandate, the commanders of BCG and Belize Defence Force (BDF) may deploy them for other activities as they see fit, providing that these activities do not contravene any local or international laws or military standing orders.” End of quote. This is what exactly Commander of the Belize Coast Guard, Admiral John Borland told us this afternoon.

JOHN BORLAND

“Well the assets as you said have been used for the same purpose as you described but I wouldn’t say that it is a wanton waste. For example in the past when these assets were used to support the Bandits Basketball team we have been reimbursed the fuel for conducting these operations and is the case with the last evolution that was conducted last week where we have been reimbursed for the fuel. We have not only supported the bandits but other teams in basketball, in other sports, we’ve supported many other entities in our partnership with the community at large where we support NGOs, schools, other government departments and these requests come to the Coast Guard and by and large the main concern is always fuel and we always ask for fuel to be provided or reimbursed whenever these requests are carried out.”

LOCAL REPORTER

“In this particular situation did Minister Saldivar request that favor or did he give an order?”

JOHN BORLAND

“It’s not an order, its perhaps requesting a favor.”

LOCAL REPORTER

“He did so, he requested for the vessels to be used to transfer the team?”

JOHN BORLAND

“Yes in this case we are talking about his team he is the one who asked me if it was within our purview to do so and I said it’s a part of the enduring partnership that we have not only with the bandits but with other sporting organizations. The vessels are donated to the government of Belize under certain conditions but they are the property of the government of Belize and as such we use them as we see fit as long as we are not doing anything illegal or illicit. I have been at the helm here for a very long time, I have been a professional all my life 30 years in uniform and I have not done anything illegal or illicit. If anybody have an issue with the way I conduct my operations then you are free to speak with me about it and I am guaranteed that I can justify all my actions.”

One entity that is looking into the matter is the donor of the vessels, the US Government through its embassy in Belize.  One local media had asked the US Embassy for their input on the situation considering that they have contributed significantly in acquiring the vessels for the Belize Coast Guard.  Their response was, quote, “The U.S. Government has provided boats to the Belize Coast Guard. The primary purpose of these vessels is to deter and interdict criminal activity, particularly in support of counter-narcotics efforts.”  End of quote. Admiral Borland says he has yet to receive any formal complaint from the US Embassy.

JOHN BORLAND

“The US government through their organs of SouthCOM and the group here in Belize along with the embassy donated these assets to the government and laid down the rules as to what they should be and should not be used for. I go back to saying that we were not using it for anything illegal or illicit and if the US government has an issue with us using them for the purpose of supporting the community in this case a sporting organization then let them say so and if they say so we shall discontinue it; we don’t have an issue with what their desires and requests are.”

LOCAL REPORTER

“And until the US embassy or any US agency relates any complaint they have with the use of these vessels then these favors will continue?”

JOHN BORLAND

“No I wouldn’t say so. If there is such an issue with it at large then there is opportunity for us to look at what we are doing and how we are doing things. Except that we are not doing anything illegal or illicit but if it is of such grave concern to everyone else perhaps it is time that we start looking at the way we are doing things.”

There is also the criticism that Minister John Saldivar is only allowing this contribution to sports because it involves his personal Bandits team.  In his defense, Saldivar noted that they have also done the same for the team, Smart Hurricanes.  The cost of fuel for doing such favours is at least one thousand dollars per round trip.