Important Note: This Internet version of 7 News is a verbatum
transcript of our evening television news script. Many interviews on our newscast
are conducted in Creole. In the interest of clarity for our foreign readers,
we attempt to paraphrase the Creole quotes in English
The body of 58 year-old laborer Pedro Garcia, a resident of Arenal Village, was found just outside of San Ignacio Town on the Bullet Tree Road. Police observed multiple chop wounds on the face, hands, and neck area. At this time, it appears that he was attacked there and left to die, but at this time, there is no explanation as to why he was viciously chopped. Our news team was in San Ignacio Town today, and Courtney Weatherburne reports:
Courtney Weatherburne reporting
Only this blotched patch of grass and twigs remains after yesterday's murder 58 year old Pedro Garcia was killed in this empty lot early yesterday morning and his body was left among these bushes now stained with his blood Garcia's body laid there all day, partially shaded by this. It's only until the early afternoon that his body was found. According to a witness, he takes this shortcut to work every day…But yesterday - his daily route led him to this horrific discovery.
Voice of Witness "I was coming to work about 2:30pm yesterday evening when walking through here when one person came running frightened saying that he found a dead man. He was trembling. I came and saw the body there chopped up right there."
Garcia was hacked 4 times to the back of the head, the back of his neck was also cut. The palms of his hands were also cut, indicating self-defense.
According to police, Garcia faced his attacker and when he tried to run away, he received the blows to his head and neck.
So far police are still trying to piece together what might have led to his death.
Inspector Reymundo Reyes - Deputy OC, San Ignacio "The murder was yesterday. At 3pm information was received here at the San Ignacio Town Police Station that a body was found in the area Bishop Martin Primary School and the San Ignacio Town Hospital in an area where they sold lots on the Bullet Tree Road. Police visited the area where on arrival they saw the lifeless body of a Hispanic male person laying in a face up position and a close inspection of the body revealed that it had multiple chops wounds to the back of the head and to his back and both arms."
"The investigation commenced at the scene. We canvassed the area but due to the fact that the area is not a populated area, we were unable to extract or get more information about it. The only thing that we found on the person was a cell phone and based on that we started to contact persons. At this moment police officers are in the village trying to get as much information that they could. Yesterday, the only thing that we obtained is that he was last seen alive on Tuesday at 4pm by one of his family members when he made mention that he was on his way out from the village to Benque Viejo and the clothing that he was found on yesterday is the same clothing that he had on Tuesday. So, how he came out of the village and if he came straight to San Ignacio and he stayed, is something that we are trying to work on - as much information. We are doing interviews in the village by police officers."
Police continue to investigate the crime, but there are no leads to go on currently. Viewers will remember that the village of Arenal is famous for the fact that half of its main football field is in Guatemala and the other half is in Belize.
Also from Cayo, a mother sacrificed her life for her kids. 38 year-old Myra Carbajal, a resident of Santa Elena had just come out of a meeting at her church last night when a vehicle broke down the iron gate and slammed into her in the church compound. Carbajal was standing by the entrance of the church and the vehicle pinned her against the church. Seeing the vehicle coming towards her she grabbed onto and covered about 5 kids who were near the door. It's a story of both heroism and sorrow, and our news team found out more today. Courtney Weatherburne spoke with the police and her family:
Courtney Weatherburne reporting
A small altar was placed on the living room table in the Carbajal's Santa Elena house this afternoon. This candle was burning in the memory of accident victim 38 year old Myra Carbajal.
Her pictures were placed on either side and the bible was open to the page with her favorite verse. While this altar displays may portray a peaceful scene, but in the background pain and agony overshadows.
Elaida Carbajal, Sister "Yesterday I was at home in San Pedro and my cousin called me and she told me that Myra was in an accident. I ask her what had happened and she said that Myra was coming out of the church and a car hot her, but she didn't tell me anything else. Then she called me back and then she said Myra is dead, come quick. I told her that my sister cannot be dead, because I was just there a couple of days ago and I call and then they told me that the doctor said that she was dead already. I feel it a lot. She is my sister. I love her so much. My little niece and nephew also got hurt. We just have to be strong."
Courtney Weatherburne "Could you tell us what you've heard? I don't think you were there at the church when it happened. But what are people telling you, those who were at the church what happened?"
Elaida Carbajal, Sister "People were saying that she was coming out of the church, standing by the gate and when she saw a vehicle coming down, she held the kids that were there. So she put herself to save the kids and the car ran over her and that she had a bit cut wound on her stomach and a big hole on her leg and she was bleeding and the doctor couldn't stopped it."
"My sister was a loving person. I could come and talk to her about anything. She understands me and she would come and we were best friends. She was like a mother to me. She and I grew up together. Me and my brother came in last week for my niece graduation. When I arrived, we were having fun here celebrating. We were laughing and everything and a church came on and like how she goes to church, we went to lie in bed and we were singing the song and then she told me that one of these days she knows that she will go - to let me play that music for her. Last night when they told me the news, I couldn't explain it, I don't have words to say. I just remember that when we were in bed lying we were singing that song. It's hard."
Inspector Reymundo Reyes - Deputy OC, San Ignacio "Information was that there was blue pickup parked in front of the gate of the church compound and the driver, after the services, went inside her vehicle and all of a sudden it is alleged that the vehicle moved off by itself, running into the gate and thereafter towards the church itself trapping a female between the building and the vehicle itself. So, the vehicle had to be removed so that the female could have been removed from between both the building and the vehicle. She sustained injuries on the left side of her hip. Immediately the person was rushed to the San Ignacio Town Hospital, but she died whilst undergoing treatment."
"Also, due to the fact that when the vehicle ran or moved off and knocked the gate completely off the fence itself - the gate ended up fallen on some kids and a lady. So there was another adult who sustained minor injuries and 4 other kids who are injured due to the fact that the gate fell on top of them."
"There are witnesses who were saying that the vehicle was parked face in front of the gate with the front portion facing the gate. So that is where the investigation is. We are still interviewing people and getting statements to establish what was the actual position of the vehicle before it moved of hitting the gate and then running into the direction where the persons were near the entrance of the church."
Courtney Weatherburne "So you are saying that the vehicle turned into the church from that "9 to 4.1" sign?"
Voice of Eyewitness "Exactly."
Courtney Weatherburne "When you got there they had already taken the kids and the mother?"
Voice of Eyewitness "They told me that the lady was bleeding. I saw all the blood. That kind of got me frightened and I wanted to stay, because I knew the people in the church. She (driver) told me that she sat in the vehicle and she didn't touch anything and the vehicle just spun off and went into the gate and caused the accidents. She is my friend, but I don't believe that could happen."
According to the driver of the vehicle - 37 year old Sharon Rojas - who is a fellow church sister. She didn't press the accelerator pedal or the clutch or anything for that matter and that the vehicle just sped off. And that is what is baffling the police, her family and the church community because the vehicle is a standard vehicle. Carbajal was the mother of 4 kids - a 5 year old, a 7 year old, a 10 year old and a 13 year old. When we got there this afternoon, the 10 year old daughter had just found out that her mother had been killed. The police say that the driver might be charged with manslaughter by negligence and other charges after the investigation has concluded.
Santa Elena resident Owen Parham is already spending time in prison for firearms convictions, but today, he got more bad news when he found out that he will get more jail time. That's because he was convicted of burglary today in the San Ignacio Magistrate's Court.
The Prosecutor made the case against him that on July 24, 2012, he broke in to the home of Shahira McKoy in Camalote Village. Once inside, he stole $4,436 in cash.
It seems a simple enough case to prove, but the law enforcement had a tough time with him as a defendant because he fled Belize before any criminal action could be taken against him. He only faced prosecution after he was deported in 2014.
Right now, a jury of 12 is deliberating today in the court of the Chief Justice Kenneth Benjamin to see if it can reach a verdict for 30 year old Donicio Salazar, aka "Life', who charged with the murder of Rodney Richard August. The incident occurred between 2:30 and 3 p.m. on June 28, 2004.
According to the evidence, August was sitting on the bank of the Macal River in San Ignacio socializing with a female friend, Janelle Longsworth, when his assailant chopped him in his back. August succumbed to his injury shortly after 11 P.m. at Western Regional Hospital. Before he died he told 3 persons that it was "Life" who chopped him. The 3 persons testified. They included his mother, Elizabeth Mejia, Justice of the Peace Desol Neal and Pedro Ical, who was a police corporal at the time.
In his defence, Salazar testified that at the time of the incident he was at home recovering from a stab wound he had received about a month before the incident. He called 2 witnesses to support his alibi. They included his mother, Soledad Salazar, and Verona Chacon, a family friend. Both of them said that Salazar was at home at the time of the incident.
But, Salazar, has done this dance before having gone through 3 Supreme Court trials now. At the first trial, which occurred in 2006, he was convicted of murder and sentenced to life. He appealed and Belize Court of Appeal set his quashed his conviction, set his sentence aside and ordered a retrial. The retrial was ordered on the ground that the main witness, Janelle Longsworth, did a dock identification of the accused and the trial judge did not address the jury regarding dock identification.
At the second trial Salazar was acquitted on a no case to answer submission. It was during that time he was arrested and charged with another murder. The DPP appealed his acquittal and Belize Court of Appeal allowed the appeal and ordered a second retrial. Also at that second trial. the main witness, Janelle Longsworth, was out of the country and a transcript of the trial was admitted as evidence. But at this current retrial, the transcript was not admitted as evidence. Salazar is being represented by attorney Oscar Selgado while the Crown is being represented by Crown Counsel Linsbert Willis.
Just before news time, the jury exited telling the Chief Justice that they were unable to come up with a verdict, and so he ordered them to retire once again. If they come out with a verdict with our newscast is in progress, we'll share it with you.
And Just before our commercial break ended, we received word from the court that the jury has acquitted Salazar of murder and the alternative charge of manslaughter. He will remain in custody, however.
Tonight, Belize City Police have 6 men in custody, while they are preparing firearms charges for them after they were allegedly caught at sea by the Coast Guard with an unlicensed firearm.
21-year-old Everon Teck, 43-year-old Emilio Camara, 29-year-old Geovanni Murillo, 52-year-old Goldburn Goff, 21-year-old Dion Usher, and 33-year-old Jerome Bowen were on Turneffe Island today when a Coast Guard team decided to search their camp. That led the officers to find a 9 mm pistol, and so, all 6 men were detained and transported to the Coast Guard Base.
They were handed over to police who are preparing charges for them them. They will be arraigned at the earliest convenience.
Government's wage bill - every year it represents a huge chunk of the national budget and over the past two years it went up by almost one fifth. That's a result of the wage increase given to teachers and public officers in successive years.
How much does it all cost? The prime minister and minister of finance gave an overview at Friday's house sitting:
Hon. Dean Barrow - Prime Minister "Our teachers and public servants, our police officers and soldiers - all 12,000 of them will benefit from an 8% salary increase and for most, 10.5% salary surge when the annual increments are taken into account. The value of this upward salary adjustment is estimated at an astonishing $43 million dollars for fiscal year 2015/2016. This $43 million is one and half times larger than the size of last year's salary increase and increment. In that fiscal year 2014/2015, teachers and public officer shared a bounty of $29 million dollars more in salaries and increments, representing at that time a 6% salary increase in addition to the 2.5% increment. So then in 2 fiscal years since a partnership was forged between Government and the unions, this UDP administration will deliver a cumulative 19% salary and increment increase for teachers and public officers. The equivalent of $72 million more in the collective pockets of public servants."
That 70 plus million now passes into government accounts as a recurrent expense meaning it has to be paid annually.
Keeping on unfinished House business, the Minister of Agriculture and Natural Resources announced last Friday that the Sugar Season is coming to a close. He declared that even though there is less sugar cane delivered when compared to last year, more sugar was produced. Here's his explanation in the House of Representatives:
Hon. Gaspar Vega - Ministry of Natural Resources/Agriculture "Last year we milled 1,152,000 tons of sugarcane and produced a 125 thousand tons of sugar. It is clear that this year the cane farmers and the entire industry is having a huge increase in production of sugar. At the end of the day we won't be able to deliver as much sugarcane than last year but by far reproducing much more sugar. Mr. Speaker, last year in the 2010/2011 crop, we delivered 843,786 metric tons and this year to the 24th of June we have delivered 1 million 63 thousand 148 tons of sugar cane. We have been falling short almost a 100 thousand tons of sugar compared to last year. The crop this year is going to come to a closure 1 day prior to last year's. So we are not going to be able to blame the weather. It's simply because of the lateness on the start of the end of crop."
The sugar season official ends next week Tuesday, and we'll have the story on the ground on that day.
On Tuesday's newscast, we told you about the vacant post created when Melvin Hulse resigned as the Stann Creek West Standard Bearer for the UDP. Delroy Cuthkelvin wants to run in a convention to replace him, but the Prime Minister says that he ought not to.
The man who the PM hopes will emerge victorious is career Educator Walter Garbutt. He undoubtedly has the respect of the Prime Minister, and so, that piqued our interest to find out what type of man he is. That opportunity presented itself last night, and we asked him why politics now, while he's in his 60's. He explained it to us:
Walter Garbutt - Aspirant, UDP Standard Bearer, Stann Creek West "My profession, my career, my passion: education and fishing and I have had the best of both worlds. I spent 50 years in education and I am 65. I'll be 66 next week Wednesday and I am so proud of my age and I have spent about sixty five and a half years fishing. So, I've been fishing longer than I've been teaching."
"It was difficult. Even now sometimes I almost had a nightmare about a night or two ago, because I was getting into politics - "really all that crowd and that noise and I am not accustomed to that, but Stann Creek West calls and if Stann Creek West or Toledo East or that kind of area calls me - Belize call. Most of my family have moved to the states, not because Belize isn't great. But for me I have nowhere to go and so to move into politics, my friends on both sides of the political divide or the three, because I have some good friends. My friend Wil Maheia, in Belmopan Mr. Morgan - people I admire and respect and so I never had any political divide. I've never been treated when I go anywhere because I am short and I am fat and I am from Monkey River - I've been honored and respected and so politics for me was something that - and I hope that politics could at some point reached where my vision of it is. That's if it's not that in 2015, I will not settle that that is what politics must remain and I will try and if I get into any position I know you can't disagree outside of Cabinet, but in Cabinet I'll argue like hell and try to persuade to do the right thing and make the right decision and if I reached a point where I felt that I can't succeed in there or out there - at most jobs I worked I have a resignation written out and if I can't, I won't try to bad mouth my prime minister or my colleagues outside, but to themselves or inside the Cabinet I will."
Daniel Ortiz "Talk to us about what you believe your chances are. You have the respect of the Prime Minister and you have the as you say the respect of those on both sides of the political divide in Stann Creek West going forward and tell us what is the arrangement between you and Mr. Nathan Young?"
Walter Garbutt "Eric Donaldson says "the love of the common people" - that is what is most important to me. That's what drives me and common is not used here in negative term. Common means the ordinary people - that's what propels me, not people with degrees or people with fame or people with big three story houses. What drives me are humble people, ordinary people with extraordinary capacities and dreams and visions and attitude. That is what drives me."
"What are my chances? In every race, one must win, one must lose - that's a sad thing in a way. I would like a situation where nobody loses. The party or the people that lose will benefit. They will get their just share of whatever Belize has to offer - this great country Belize."
Daniel Ortiz "The urgence with Mr. Nathan Young. Are you all both going to a convention or have you all worked out whose stepping forward?"
Walter Garbutt "Say a prayer for us tonight. I hope I am not presumptuous and if the people in Stann Creek West and they are the people that's going to make the decision. From all that I have seen and heard I am the person that should be at this time."
The other man who is poised to contest Garbutt's candidacy is Nathan Young. But as they say, in politics any number can play, so we won't count Delroy Cuthkelvin out just yet. He has to convince the party why they should allow him to run in an open convention.
For some time now, we've been receiving low profile grumbling from the fruit and vegetable vendors who set up shop in the open Belize City lot owned by Arun Hotchandani. That's right next to the Michael Finnegan Market, and the complaints have been that there is an unsanitary buildup of garbage. So we went out to see it for ourselves over the last two days. We spoke with a few of the personalities who frequent the area, and they told us what's been causing unsanitary situation where food is being sold:
Brian Reneau - Customer "I think the market is in deplorable condition. The vendors pay their money every week and Government have to send help to send the health department in here. You see all the dirt in here and the stench all over the place. This is not humane. I think they should sent some health inspectors to see what is happening in here."
Javier Cocom - Customer "The proper authorities they are not doing their job because time and again I go and come from San Pedro. I would pass by to buy some fruits and things, but looking at this whole mess here, it doesn't give me that enticing thing to buy food and vegetables because to me it's not healthy. So I guess that proper authorities should look into it and do something because I have a friend here also. He says that he pays his dues so that the place could look good."
Marie - Vendor "The garbage affects everyone here inside the market, but you know something most of the garbage comes from outside. People from off the street that comes into the market leave their garbage inside here, while we are trying to keep the place clean. All of us that works here pay so our garbage can be dispose, but what sense does it make that we are trying to keep the place clean and others don't, and it's a problem that affects the business."
Vendor "When we leave from here we take all our garbage with us in our vehicle to go throw away to the dump site, so we leave here practically clean. The problem here is that the people from the busses do not participate, The bus area is always fill with garbage and when the north
breeze starts to blow all the garbage this side. Like I was telling him the other day a bus parked right here and the bus driver took out 2 bags of garbage and leave it there, and I told him "old man are you going to leave that garbage right there?" and he answered and said if I thought he was fool, so I told him I was just asking a question because if the garbage is left there we are the ones responsible for it."
Today, when we spoke with land owner Arun Hotchandani, he told us that he had only just been briefed of the situation, and that steps are being taken to remedy it forthwith. He stressed that even though this garbage issue has caught the attention of the press, he and his companies have done much to attracted commercial activity near the Pound Yard area. He notes that with the completion the complex near the bridge, business activity has picked up.
A 17 year old girl is missing. Loani Alvarez left her Ladyville home last week Thursday morning and hasn't returned since. According to her mother - Marisela Galdamez, Loani called her moments after she left home that Thursday to assure her that she was okay. But it was yesterday's phone call that has Galdamez in distress. Galdamez came to our studios this morning to plead for her daughter's safe return home.
Marisela Galdamez, Mother of missing girl "Last Thursday, I left home 8:10 am and when I came around 8:20 am she was missing already."
Reporter "So, that same morning you came back....?"
Marisela Galdamez, Mother of missing girl "The same morning. Yes, I went to the Ladyville Police Station to do the report. Now, she called me 10 minutes after I did the report. She called me and told me that she was waiting for the bus and then she shut down the phone. Then she called station and said she's with a friend but she didn't say where."
Reporter "So, your concerns right now is that she is with bad company or she is in danger?"
Marisela Galdamez, Mother of missing girl "When she made a call yesterday and she said they got her in a room locked up and she said they tied her up and beat her. My husband said he doesn't know if somebody called. Her voice, it sounded like she was crying. I don't know if it's her voice. So I'm worried about her now. I'm asking that anyone who saw her to ask her come back home. She got me worried too much. I need to know if something bad happened to her or if she went to stay with someone, she should come back to tell me. Don't have me like this because I really think about her."
According to Galdamez this is not the first time her daughter has run away, she left home in March and was found weeks later in a house in Ladyville. If you know the whereabouts of Loani Alvarez you can call her parents at 660-5212 or 607-1246.
In recent years the number of new cases of infection from dengue have been low, but the Ministry of Health is trying to eradicate it completely.
For that, they need the public's help, and so, they're trying to change the behaviors which causes the perfect breeding grounds for the disease vector, the mosquito. Today, the Central Health Region held a workshop to unveil a new program funded by the European Union.
Petro patronage… right now, the debate over the misuse of the Petrocaribe money - whether real or perceived - is focused on the Mother's Day Cheer Program… And, Collet Area Rep., Patrick Faber remains the point of the debate - or ridicule - depending on who you're talking to, simply because he decided to host a Mother's Day outing in the Corozal Bay.
It came up once again at yesterday's Senate Debate, and here's what the representatives from both sides of the floor had to say about it:
SO, that's the new term for it, Petro-tacos, and while she had the opportunity, PUP's Lead Senator took a jab at Godwin Hulse, the Senator in charge of Government Business. She was quite candid in her criticism of his recent positions as a member of the Barrow Administration:
That seems a bit unparliamentary, but, he kinda confirmed it when he was asked a few weeks ago about the Corozal Petro-tacos outing. Here's how that back and forth with the press on it:
Hon. Godwin Hulse "One can criticize the use of funds, one can say it shouldn't be used for this, it shouldn't be used for that - but remember that use of funds is something that is determined by government and determined by budget that go to the national assembly. And we can criticize the use of funds in lots of ways. What we cannot criticize is that there's any non-transparency in the use and I wanted to make that difference."
Reporter "You say one can criticize, do you criticize the use of that funds? If is consolidated fund, Petrocaribe funds be used for an outing, a one day outing in Corozal for a certain sector of a constituency?"
Hon. Godwin Hulse "Why did I know that question will come? If I were outside the cabinet of Belize, you would have heard my view on it. I am inside the cabinet of Belize and cabinet works collectively. So any decision that is made by cabinet with respect to finance etc. I support."
Reporter "I'm not asking you cabinet decisions sir, I'm asking your opinion."
Hon. Godwin Hulse "You can't do that to me. How can I give you my decision when I am inside the team? When I was outside the team that's a different thing - I'm inside the team. So my view outside the team doesn't count. When I'm outside the team that's a different view. I'm inside the team and that's how it works collectively as ministers of government. Any time I disapprove of anything that is major in the government, I will walk away from the cabinet."