On Monday, we told you of a shootout between the Belize National Coast Guard and suspected drug peddlers, north of Ambergris Caye, near the Belize/Mexico border. One of the perpetrators was wounded in the cross fire and transported to the a local Polyclinic. While that was the central story, what occurred on the way back from the clinic made headlines.
Senior Reporter at the San Pedro, Sun Jorge Aldana, whom the Newspaper assigned to cover the incident, claims that members of the Coast Guard assaulted him.
When we contacted the Vice Commandant, Commander, Elton Bennett, he informed us that the incident was being investigated by the Coast Guard, San Pedro Police and the San Pedro Sun. The news outlet too had the same response, affirming that a statement would be released after adequate information was gathered. Well yesterday, Editor Tamara Sniffin, issued a lengthy report, recounting what allegedly took place. According to Mr. Aldana, he followed a police truck transporting officers and two civilians from the clinic. He snapped several photographs of the individuals in the pan of the truck, but was shortly pulled over and approached by three Coast Guard Officers. Here’s what he describes on what happened next :
” Three of the Coast Guards pointed their rifles at me and one approached me and asked what I was doing. I identified myself as a senior reporter with The San Pedro Sun Newspaper. I was then told to put my hands over my head.”
Mr. Aldana claims that one of the officers confiscated both of his cell phones, removed the chip from the Digicel phone, put it into his phone and then returned it to Aldana. The officer then reportedly deleted all of the contacts from Aldana’s SMART phone. He says they then asked me to lay on the ground, and put his hands on the back of my head. Aldana claims that during the ordeal, he was repeatedly threatened and cursed at. While on the ground, the officers allegedly rummaged through his personal items, which were on his golf cart. He recounts “Another Coast Guard officer went through my carrier bag placed of my golf cart, removing everything. While he tried to figure out how to delete the photos on my camera, I turned my head to look at what he was doing. Then, the Coast Guard holding the gun to my head used the point of the rifle to push my face away from observing what was happening.” They eventually removed the chip from his camera. When Aldana Mr. visited the Police Station about an hour later, the memory card from his camera was returned to him and all photographs were deleted. Meanwhile, statements from at least one other officer who witnessed the incident challenges Mr. Aldana’s version. He claims that while Aldana was instructed to put his hands over his head and searched, at no time did the Coast Guard pull their guns on Aldana and that he was not asked to lay on the ground. The San Pedro Sun says it continues to work closely with the Belize Coast Guard on investigating the matter.