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Prime Minister of Belize, John Briceno. (Photo via CMC)

Belizean government clamping down on gangs

June 13, 2024

BELMOPAN, Belize, CMC – Prime Minister of Belize, John Briceño, has expressed his disappointment at the decision of the court to impose a fine of BDZ$,1, 500 (One Belize dollar=US$0.49 cents) on two men who admitted that they were members of a criminal gang.

Briceño has hinted at the possibility of amending existing legislation to further tighten the penalties given to the courts to deal with criminal gang members.

He told reporters that once individuals are found guilty of being gang members, there might have to be an amendment to the law to require those people to be imprisoned.

“The law is very clear that if you’re a gang member, you can get 10 years imprisonment, and if you’re a head of a gang member, you can get as much as 20 years.
“Unfortunately, for one reason or the other, in San Pedro, and I have to be very careful how I say this, for whatever reason, the police department took two gang members to court in San Pedro. They admitted, or they have accepted that they’re guilty, and they were just given a $1,500 fine.
“And I believe that, that we can’t – that’s a slap on the people of San Pedro because these people have been – these gangs have been terrorizing the people in San Pedro. So we have said that we are going to go after them.”
Briceño told reporters “we cannot allow a small group of people to terrorize this country, and we’re even talking about maybe even amending the law to ensure that once you’re a gang member and you’re found guilty, that you are going to go to jail”.

Briceño acknowledged that medical doctors are also being terrorized by gangsters, saying that the situation is not confined to Belize.

“It happens in the United States. Just yesterday in the United States, they hijacked a public transport bus. So for you to say, it’s a failure because something like that happens in every society – now the failure would be if we refuse to act.

“If you look at what we’ve been doing over the years, we’ve been strengthening the police department, we’ve been giving them more equipment, we’ve been getting more police,” he said, adding that the government has approved more funds for the law enforcement officials “to be able to continue to monitor the northern borders to ensure that Kaborga gang or cartel cannot come into Belize”.

He dismissed suggestions that “something is broken in the Ministry of Health,” saying “the problem was that these doctors were terrorized by these people and were afraid to speak out, and they finally did.

“So by the time you got your video, we were already acting. We were already hunting down these two individuals. And also now we’re going after all of those that were outside in the compound, in a threatening manner.

“We have been acting, and I don’t see how you could hold the minister in charge of the police responsible for something like this. If you have people that do not want to work, and want to terrorize our citizens, then we have to deal with them accordingly.”

Earlier this week, the government expressed its “outrage”  at an incident that occurred at the San Ignacio Community Hospital earlier this month when several men, described as gang members, stormed the health facility shortly after David Galindo was admitted to ward with life-threatening injuries.
Galindo, 44, who has been described as “no stranger to the law,” and had been targeted by gunmen on a previous occasion, was shot multiple times while purchasing food and was rushed to the hospital located in the province of Cayo in western Belize
Soon after his arrival, Galindo’s relatives and friends showed up and reportedly terrorized the staff with the incident raising serious concerns about the safety and wellbeing of medical personnel working at the hospital.  Galindo has since died.

In a statement on Tuesday night,  the government said that it shared the “outrage of the Belizean people at the incident,” adding “Cabinet is grateful that medical practitioners, staff and patients were not harmed by those criminal elements who stormed the facility” on June 1.

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