Belize PM defends decision to speak with gang leaders
BELMOPAN, Belize (CMC) – Belize Prime Minister Dean Barrow has insisted that his administration did not negotiate with known gang leaders following last week’s murder of four people whose bodies were found in an apartment building.
Barrow has also distanced his administration from reports that the gang members were paid BD$40,000 (One Belize Dollar = (US$0.50 cents) to keep the peace and not involve in any retaliation for the murders.
“There was no negotiation on this occasion. Getting these people to Belmopan and securing from them a commitment that there will be no effort at retaliation against the state by going after innocent civilians. I don’t think that constitutes a negotiation,” he said.
Last week, Prime Minister Barrow told reporters that he led a delegation that included National Security Minister John Saldivar for talks with the leaders of the George Street Gang and that an arrangement had been reached for them to leave the area and not seek to retaliate against people they believe committed the murders.
“I said they went under an arrangement with the government, they went completely of their own free will as a consequence of the discussion we had,” Barrow said, adding that the delegation made it clear during the talks “that it would be absolutely unthinkable for there to be any attempt at retaliation against innocent citizens”.
Barrow said that he was surprised at the “wild statements” about the State paying the gang leaders, adding “you know as well as I do that that money would have to come from somewhere within the public service out of the Ministry of Finance and there are so many watchdogs there that the paper trail would have been disclosed and certainly people would have tipped off the media and the public”.
The prime minister added that it was critical when he faced the public last week in the aftermath of the slayings that he was able to assure them that the authorities had the situation under control.
“The engagement with the gang leaders and the securing of their commitment that they will not try to target innocent civilians backed up with the presence along with me of the Minister of National Security...backed up therefore by the implicit and unspoken ...position that look the State is absolutely determined and resolved not to make this happen,” he said.
Prime Minister Barrow also said that if he had do to it again “I would do absolutely the same thing”.