The killing of Special Constable Danny Conorquie has sparked outrage especially since he died at the hands of Guatemalan Nationals.That, coupled with the revelation that Belize’s Forward Operating Base, being built at Hunting Caye, Stann Creek District, is being constructed exclusively by Guatemalans has provoked further disgust within sectors of the public domain.
On Thursday the Ministry of National Security sent out a press release informing that operations at the construction site at Hunting Caye have ceased. According to the Ministry, “…the United States Army Corp of Engineers, the US agency responsible for the construction of the Hunting Caye Forward Operating Base, has issued a letter to the Guatemalan company BINARQ which has had the effect of causing all construction at the Base to cease. This action came about after consultations between the Ministry of National Security, the Belize Coast Guard and the United States agencies in Belize.”
The Ministry of National Security is insisting that it remains on hold until a satisfactory policy decision can be reached among all parties considering the sensitivities raised by members of the public.
Questions have also been raised as to why only Ministry of National Security knew of this forward operating base, since it is clearly a matter that also involves the Immigration and Finance Ministries. To that, the Ministry responded that the Guatemalan Company BINARQ was contracted in 2011, months before the current Minister of National Security came into office; therefore the Minister had no obligation to report the status of the ongoing project to Cabinet. The Ministry ended by reiterating its commitment to full transparency and said they will keep the public informed once an agreement has been reached. Of note is that part of the requirements for any foreign company to operate in Belize is to source local labour as much as possible.
Interestingly this is also mentioned in the Department of the Environment’s Environmental Compliance Plan which was “approved” for the project at Hunting Caye. It is listed under the Cultural and Social Issues and reads “As long as there are qualified and available Belizean workers, no labor force will be imported.” But reports so far have indicated the base is being constructed exclusively by Guatemalans.