38-year-old, Joseph Budna is wanted by the Guatemalan authorities and was captured this morning in Camalote Village, Cayo District, as he made a quick trip to a nearby shop. Budna is a Belizean man who had been serving time in a Guatemalan prison prior to his escape from a hospital on Monday, May 27. This is Budna’s second escape since his 6-year sentence was handed down for several crimes including kidnapping and extortion; crimes he says he did not commit. Budna had given Love News an interview on May 30, appealing to the Commissioner of Police, Chester Williams to have mercy on him and don’t hand him over to the Guatemalans. For reference, we bring you this interview done with him a few days after his escape in late May.
Joseph Budna: “I am just hoping that the Government of Belize, I am calling upon the Government of Belize to please give me the assistance that I need. If you are in that position as Commissioner of Police Mr. Chester Williams I have nothing against you my brother but if you are in that position and the Deputy Commissioner of Police and those that head the Police Department in Belize as well as those in Congress and the Government of Belize. Please don’t try to even make an attempt to send me back to the Guatemalan prison because I would be a dead person returning back. I tried to make complaints but instead of them listening to my complaint what they did was punish me. They did not take me out for sun, they kept me in a little cell 4 x4 locked down like a dog. There was sometimes that they gave me food when they wanted, sometimes they give me water, one time or two times for the day when they are in their thing, that is like when they are mad. This happens in the Peten Prison and I did not get any help from human rights authorities. There was nothing much that I could do but when I had a chance to get loose from these people it was just to make my way either to Belize or somewhere that I am going to be safe until my Government receives me because I am a born Belizean you know and sooner or later I will be stepping home but I will need to get in contact with the authorities and also with the human right activist personnel in Belize, also I will need some sort of identification that will be able to assist me. My human rights have been violated over and over in prison, I was beaten. I want you to recall about two or three years ago I was brutally beaten when a young boy I think he was eleven or twelve years old was allegedly shot in the back by a BDF personnel and when that occurred and it was published in the Guatemalan newspaper and on the Guatemala radio, media and television, I was the one that was sent to prison in Granja Cantel, Texantinal. I was brutally attacked, I was almost killed. My head got 28 stitches, what does Joseph Budna have to do with that incident? I have absolutely nothing but just to be a black Belizean in that prison with all these colored skin persons and Guatemalan persons, I was brutally beaten and left to die. The ambulance took me out of that prison and took me to the hospital you know and nobody did anything. I tried to get assistance from Margarett at that time from the Belize Embassy but they just left me there on my luck so how could I continue to stay in that prison like that in Guatemala when there is no security, there is no security for inmates and worse for Belizean inmates in that prison.”
Prior to speaking to Budna, Police Commissioner Williams had briefed the media on the situation, saying that they are on the lookout for him and that in the absence of an extradition treaty other avenues could be sought to get Budna back to Guatemala.
Chester Williams – Commissioner of Police: “We were alerted yesterday by Foreign Affairs that he had escaped from some hospital in Guatemala or somewhere in Guatemala and is currently being sought by Guatemalan authority so yes we have also put up an all point bulletin here in Belize with a view to apprehending Joseph Budna. Once he is apprehended then we will go through the necessary protocols through Foreign Affairs to see where it goes from there.”
Reporter: “Do we have extradition protocols with Guatemala?”
Chester Williams – Commissioner of Police: “We don’t but we can have some agreement, there is no Extradition Treaty but by way of the protocol we can make arrangements.”
Reporter: “Is there any information from the counterparts on the other side that he is indeed trying to head to Belize?”
Chester Williams – Commissioner of Police: “He is a Belizean and so we will anticipate that he is trying to make his way back home with a view to elude the justice system in Guatemala. I will say that Guatemala for the most part, especially our counterparts in Melcher have been very helpful to us in Belize whenever we have Guatemalans who are wanted here in Belize. They have exercised that diplomatic channel with a view to assist us in getting those persons to Belize and so I think that as a matter of reciprocity that if he is apprehended it will be a matter for the Ministry Foreign Affairs and the Government as to how we will move from there.”
Budna was captured at around ten thirty this morning. His mother was at their home in Camalote Village and found out of his recapture when officers showed up at her home with Budna in cuffs and a team to search their house. Ms Williams spoke to our newsroom this evening with an appeal of her own.
Ms. Williams – Mother of Joseph Budna: “I though he was around because he went out. I thought he went to the shop to buy and then when I saw them coming with him handcuffed to the back.”
Rene Trujillo: “So he was caught in Camalote?”
Ms. Williams – Mother of Joseph Budna: “Yes but not at home here where he lived, then the men brought him here to search the house.”
Rene Trujillo: “So what is your message that you want to send to the Government and to the Commissioner of Police?”
Ms. Williams – Mother of Joseph Budna: “I would just want to ask them if they can consider him and not send him back over there because if they send him back over there it is just for them to kill him. I worry about him because I would not want them to take him back over there and then if we don’t move fast and try and do something they will kill him over there.”
Rene Trujillo: “Have you reached out to anybody? Have you spoken to anybody in authority that can help you?”
Ms. Williams – Mother of Joseph Budna: “Today in the morning Chester Williams was not here so I could not talk to him today so I don’t know whom to go to right now. The only thing we plan to do is to go to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs tomorrow if we meet him. I think he spoke to the Ombudsman.”
Rene Trujillo: “Do you have any idea what the Ombudsman said to him?”
Ms. Williams – Mother of Joseph Budna: “He told him to write a letter about what happened and send it to him but we haven’t done it yet.”
Rene Trujillo: “Ma’m do you believe that he is innocent of the charges brought against him in Guatemala?”
Ms. Williams – Mother of Joseph Budna: “Joseph went along with some other friends and after all only Joseph was the one that they held for these things, just him alone is being held and the others got away so I don’t know what really happened but then I wouldn’t want them to send him over there because the amount of mark that Joseph have on him I wouldn’t want them to send him to send back over there.”
The Belize Police Department held its bi-weekly press brief today but they offered no further details into the Budna case other than to confirm his recapture. We’ll keep following this story