In recent months, the Belize Coast Guard has been in the news not so much for carrying out their mandate but for unfortunate incidents that have brought into question, the character of some of the coast guard men and women as well as the leadership of what has always been considered an elite and extremely disciplined unit of the country’s national security. The most recent situation includes the detention of five Coast Guard men for the three men missing at sea. Deputy Commander of the Belize Coast Guard, Elton Bennett spoke on this incident.
“As it relates to the detention of the Coast Guard men the investigation is being done by the police. As it relates to the three missing men at sea the information reached the police and the police had asked us for certain information which we provided to them, we gave them all necessary information for them to conduct their investigation. We have nothing to cover up we will cooperate completely with the police. As a result of that the police pin pointed some personnel from the Coast Guard which they had in detention last week and did their questionings. I believe that all five men were released a few days ago.”
Deputy Commander Bennett assured the public and families of the three missing men that the Belize Coast Guard has been professional in all encounters with the three men despite their repeated offences.
“We don’t retaliate, we are a professional organization. It is true that we had two recent incidents with one of the same individuals and the Coast Guard was very professional in handling those two incidents one of which we charged one of the individuals for firing at the Coast Guard; the Coast Guard did not return fire. They went and detained the persons professionally brought them in and charged them accordingly. The most recent case the Coast Guard again went to one of the fishing camps of those individual and found the fire arm, again we handled the situation professionally and we handed them over to police for prosecution. Yes we’ve had run ins with those individuals but I don’t see the Coast Guard or any individual in the Coast Guard taking to the extent of having anything personal against those men. We’ve always handled those three in particular professionally and we’ve shown that we’ve done so but if there is an indication or any information at all that we may or persons in the Coast Guard may be involved then we hand it over to the police to investigate and that is exactly what happened over the last few days. We called in the police and told them what we have, we prefer for it not to be rumored around and have us do a proper investigation to find out the facts and if that is the case, if there are persons involved then I’m sure the police and the Coast Guard will facilitate that investigation.”
The second incident entails the arraignment of officers for the offense of extortion as the result of a sting operation carried out in northern Belize.
“That investigation is being conducted by the police. I was made to understand it was a sting operation the police launched in the Consejo Area; that is an area where the Coast Guard is operationally based along with the Customs Department and we conduct joint patrolling and operations in that area. It was an unfortunate incident where the three Coast Guard men allegedly got involved with extortion and the the police did an operation and apprehended the three men. They were brought in, charged and they are now out on bail. As it relates to that particular case I know that there is a criminal case but we will also mirror that internally as well to maintain our level of discipline.”
“So, in the meantime those men are on interdiction?”
“We are in the process to have them interdicted that takes a few days to get done but that is the plan for them to get interdicted because they were charged.”