Monday, February 18, 2013

Organized Crime and Insecurity in Belize

Julie López recently produced a report on Organized Crime and Insecurity in Belize for the Inter-American Dialogue. I highly recommend the report as one rarely comes across this type of in-depth investigative reporting on Belize.

López describes Belize as a small country poorly equipped, both financially and institutionally, to grapple with the challenges that it today confronts.
Belize’s low profile in Central America’s Northern Triangle—next to Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador—masks a startling reality. With a population that is at least 15 times smaller than any of its Central American neighbors, 43 times smaller in the case of Guatemala, Belize is threatened by the same problems that plague the region: a growing homicide rate, gangs, and role as a drug transshipment point, plus a budget for citizen security that is not proportional to its needs (on average, the government spends US$150 per person, per year, on citizen security).
Simultaneously, other symptoms of violence are overlooked outside of Belize, but their impact is just as dire: the scarred communities that cases like Suzenne Martinez’s murder leave behind and the sense of vulnerability that comes with an average of one theft, robbery or burglary occurring every three hours or less. In the hardest-hit areas, some Belizeans feel that if this is not rock bottom, they do not know what is. However, their struggles will remain unnoticed as long as other challenges in the region overshadow Belize’s security needs and the country remains unable to join its Central American neighbors in a regional and transnational approach to combating crime and insecurity.

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