Ministry of National Security briefing on detention of Belizean farmers by Guatemalans

Today the Ministry of National Security and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs held a joint press conference to explain their perspective on the Plett and Ayala abduction to Guatemala by Guatemalan Military. This incident which happened last week Thursday, has been brought to the public’s attention by the media, which has visited the site of the incident and interviewed the two men who were taken to Guatemala.  The Belizean authorities have been quiet about it, until today.  CEO  in the Ministry of National Security, George Lovell, spoke first regarding the receipt of the message that Plett’s son was in a situation with Guatemalans.

George Lovell, CEO in the Ministry of National Security: What I want to say to the Belizean Public is that hours after the encounter that the CEO in the Ministry of Forestry, Dr. Collin Young, and myself had communication with George Pletts, the father of Roger and later onvlcsnap-2016-05-19-12h05m52s586 that evening when Roger was released, I personally along with Collin Young spoke directly to Roger and he explained to me precisely what had transpired and the concern that he had for Mister Ayala who was still at that time in Guatemala, but he did that himself when he made mention at the press brief that they had all that had transpired, and I am quite certain that the media knows exactly how his story is in terms of what he had experienced.

CEO Lovell says that he tried to find out if there was someone on the Guatemalan side who could collaborate Plett’s story.

George Lovell, CEO in the Ministry of National Security: I immediately also tried to establish if there were anyone on the Guatemala side who could collaborate the story that it was in fact a military organization who had intercepted and held Roger Pletts and Mister Ayala. I was given word that the military had no patrol in that area, but we still continue to look into these kinds of information and answers that we received from our sources. I was pleased when I learned from the OAS also that the individuals who were held and their equipment were also released that evening. And so I didn’t see it much of an issue thereafter, my only concern was the fact that Mister Ayala who was still over there reportedly helping Guatemalans to contain the fire, was over there on his own accord, but my concern was the fact that Roger had reported to me that Guatemalans were in fact recording, they had video records of the incident, and my fear was that they would have used that to prove that these individuals were in fact working over on the Guatemalan side.

Plett and Ayala had told the media that went to the site of the incident on Monday ,that  none of the investigative bodies, no police had visited the area for further investigation into the matter and that the media were the first on the ground. But according to CEO Lovell, police were on the vlcsnap-2016-05-19-12h10m52s365ground with Plett and Ayala the day after the incident.

George Lovell, CEO in the Ministry of National Security: I can tell you that as we speak my police officers, and this is what I have done subsequent to establishing that Mister Ayala was in fact safe in Belize. They did a detailed investigation…an investigation which is still ongoing. I had asked that they go on the ground along with Roger and Mr. Ayala and try to walk over the ground and confirm what happened and where it occurred. I was told that was done on the thirteenth, the day after the incident, and that as a result of that encounter and those interviews that they had with Roger and Mr. Ayala decided that they were going to do further investigation which is still ongoing

A debriefing was done by Ambassador Guerra from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in presence of the OAS with the two men who were taken over to Guatemala.

H.E. Lawrence A. Sylvester, CEO in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs: To make things doubly sure, I directed Ambassador Guerra who serves in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and assist on some of the councilor, the matters, and the cooperation of Guatemala to seek out and find the individuals in Spanish Lookout and arrange for a prompt debriefing. I asked that this debriefing be done for all practical reasons, in the presence of an official from the OAS. I believe Ambassador Guerra is here with us was tasked with this at about 10:30 or 11 on Friday. Contact was made by telephone. I found that the individuals were rather elusive in making themselves available for this debriefing and it wasn’t until about – it was after close of normal business on Friday that some type of debriefing or statement…that they made themselves vlcsnap-2016-05-19-15h22m20s711available to give a statement at the San Ignacio Police Station. Ambassador Guerra would have been there to listen in, and an official from the organization of American States was there to listen in. So as far as we were concerned the necessary processes to ascertain the facts were being put in place, albeit the unusual delay from the Mennonites in making themselves available or in reporting it to the Police. There are Police in Spanish Lookout. There are Police in Georgeville. There are Police in San Ignacio, and we wanted to do that debriefing.

Reporter: Why the use of the word elusive Sir? I ask because when you use a word like that it seems to cast blame on these persons like if for some reasons these persons are trying elude or trying to evade the Police

H.E. Lawrence A. Sylvester, CEO in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs: Sir I will not get into that. I will not get into that. How long does it take to travel from Belmopan to Spanish Lookout? And the people didn’t make themselves available until late afternoon. I would have thought that perforce they would have reported this unfortunate circumstance to the Police

Plett said that as he was giving his report to police, they were taking his statement at first just as he was saying it, but when Foreign Affairs representatives got into the picture, the wording of his report was changed.

vlcsnap-2016-05-18-16h09m17s781Reporter: Mr. Plett is saying that when he went into the police to give his explanation of what happened the police began to put Guatemalan military on the report. However after officials came in including officials from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs they refused and to put on the report Guatemalan military and changed it to men in camouflage. Explain to us the role of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in affecting the report of a person who was detained in Guatemala in determining the wording that would go on such a report.

George Lovell, CEO in the Ministry of National Security: The Ministry of Foreign Affairs have no role in that and that’s my shortesvlcsnap-2016-05-19-15h51m09s560t and only explanation I would like to give to that question that you asked. The police should take statement from individual, the police should not tell the individual what should be in the statement and should not put in the statement anything the individual had not say.

CEO Lovell says they would have to look into that angle of someone actually influencing another person’s police statement if it is indeed true.  He also responded to questions about Plett’s version of events and the differences reflected in the police statement.

Reporter: Both Plett and the employee that was detained, about to be charged or being told that he could be charged for a mischievous act, they indicated that the police had them go over their stories over and over and over. And now you are coming here and I would have thought that you would have seen the police reports, but the information that you yourself have at this point isn’t even complete.

George Lovell, CEO in the Ministry of National Security: I have a report here right in front of me, which is suggesting certain things that are not consistent with what you are saying to me. I am saying that having heard what you are saying and seeing this report, I am obligated to go back there and look them in the eye and say to them that this is what was said to me at this press brief, this is what you are saying. Please confirm or deny these things so that I can get to the bottom of this. I make a promise that I would do just that

Meanwhile, according to CEO in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Lawrence Sylvester, GOB  has requested formal verification into the incident reported by the Pletts.

H.E. Lawrence A. Sylvester, CEO in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs: The government of Belize yesterday 17th of May requested of the Office of the Organization of American States in the adjacency zone a formal verification into the incident reported by the Pletts which allegedly occurred in the Green Hill area of the Cayo District. We are aware the Ministry of Foreign Affairs is aware of an ongoing police investigation into the matter and we await the outcome and the findings of both parallel processes. The next action, the next appropriate action the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Government of Belize will do, will be dependent on the findings to be reported by the OAS and the police.vlcsnap-2016-05-19-12h47m59s300

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