In this paper, I examine the military of Belize, namely, the Belize Defense Force (BDF), in some detail. Descriptive rather than analytical, it covers the basic aspects of the BDF: origin, structure, training, and deployment, including participation in UN peacekeeping operations in Haiti.
Belize is the only country of the English-speaking Caribbean in which armed forces are used primarily for defense. This is to deter the Guatemalan army from marching into Belize and to control the infiltration of its borders by illegal immigrants. Moreover, with Belize being dubbed in 1997 the largest producer of marijuana, the BDF has become increasing involved in "police" operations, including the combating of drugs and maintaining order, thus leading to a blurring of the roles of the police and the military. Finally, Belize's military engaged in self-help programs and performs tasks normally done by civil organizations and is therefore used in civil military defense roles.
Scholars such as Ivelaw Griffith, Anthony Payne, Paul Sutton and Alma Young have examined the BDF, but always as part of a larger work. This paper focuses only on the Belize military, and perhaps is the first exclusive treatment of this organization.
Unlike the defense forces of Antigua and Barbuda, the Bahamas, Guyana, Jamaica, and Trinidad and Tobago, all of which were started to coincide with independence, the BDF came into being on 1 January, 1978, three years before Belize (earlier British Honduras)1 became independent, with the passage of the Defense Act by the House of Representatives.2
The BDF became operational on 3 January 1978, when 60 men, drawn mainly from the disbanded Police Special Force and the Belize Volunteer Guard, paraded at Price Barracks, Ladyville. According to Longdon, it started with a headquarters company and two rifle companies.3
It was established to assist the resident British forces in Belize with the defense of Belize against Guatemala. The Belize Government had from the 1976 budget given an earnest commitment of its intention by providing capital funds for that enterprise. In his statement to the House of Representatives, according to The New Belize, the then Deputy Premier and Minister of Home Affairs, Carl L.B. Rodgers said:
I am not saying that in the next three to four years our force will be able to replace the British forces, which are here to defend Belize in line with the UK Government's commitment and responsibility to do so. But this force will be able to play its envisaged role in defense once its up to its projected strength and will grow in size and effectiveness as finance and other circumstances relating to its growth demands.
At its inception, the small group of men was considered insufficient and so the British Loan Service officers, who were responsible for initial recruitment, instituted a recruitment program. In addition to radio broadcasts and newspaper advertisements, recruiting teams, in land-rovers, perused the towns and villages of Belize as well as Belize City and the capital, Belmopan.4 The first intake in 1978 was 30 males with subsequent intakes bringing the total to 187.
Historically, the first organized volunteer force was established in 1817 as the Prince Regent Royal Honduras Militia. This evolved into the Belize Volunteer Guard that was disbanded in 1977. The BDF set up a volunteer arm on 19 April 1977.5 It also included a Maritime Wing established in March 1982 and an Air Wing set up in 1983, the British government donating two Britten Norman Defender aircraft, the Toucan and the Tapir to its operation.
At the apex of the BDF is the 5-member Defense Board which falls under the Ministry of National Security (formerly Ministry of Defense). The Board is composed of the Deputy Prime Minister who serves as chairman, the Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Defense, the Commandant and Deputy Commandant (BDF) and the Head of the Defense Secretariat, Ministry of National Security. The Head of the Defense Secretariat acts as the Recording Secretary. Previously, both the British Military Advisor and the Chief of Staff served as members of this body, but unlike other Commonwealth Caribbean countries, Belize's Attorney General is not a member of the Defense Board.
Through the minister responsible for defense, the Commissions Board advises the Governor-General on appointments to commissions and promotions up to the rank of major/lieutenant commander. The minister responsible for defense, after consultation with the Prime Minister, recommends appointments beyond the rank of major. The eight-member Commissions Board has five permanent members: The Commandant, BDF; the chair of the Public Services Commission, Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of National Security, the Commanding Officer of the 1st Infantry Battalion, and the Force Adjutant, SO2 F1. The remaining three - the Commanding Officer of the 2nd Infantry Battalion; the Commanding Officer of the Maritime Wing; and the Commanding Officer of the Air Wing, serve as necessary to represent the land, sea or air elements. The Chairman of the Commissions Board is the Commandant, BDF and the Adjutant is its secretary.
The BDF is organized into the following principal units: Headquarters Company, Support Group, two regular battalions, one reserve battalion, an air wing, a maritime wing, a cadet corps and a band. Headquarters, located at Price Barracks, Airport Camp, nine miles northwest of Belize City, is responsible for the command, operation and training of BDF personnel. Unlike the defense forces of Jamaica, Trinidad and Tobago and Barbados, the BDF has never had a Defense Advisor stationed overseas.
The Support Company commands the specialist platoons of the force. They are the Administrative Company, Mortar Platoon, Signal Platoon, Reece Platoon and the Combat Engineer Platoon. The Combat Engineer Platoon, formerly referred to as the Assault Pioneers in the early days of the BDF, has heavy equipment at its disposal and is trained to renovate and erect buildings as well as engage in construction (Stamp, 1999). Part of the engineer unit is an Explosive Ordnance Device Team. Its role is to defuse or destroy bombs and engage in demolition work.
The 1st Battalion, headed by a Lt. Colonel, has a headquarters company and three rifle companies.6 The 2nd Battalion of the BDF, a second regular infantry unit formed in 1994, is too made up of three rifle companies and is headed by a Lt. Colonel. These two battalions rotate between the camps on a nine-month cycle and are involved in training, guard duties and defense. This latter element makes frequent jungle patrols along Belize's southern and western borders with Guatemala.
The 3rd or Volunteer Battalion is organized as an integral part of the BDF under the organizational command of the BDF's Commandant.7 It is headed by a commanding officer with the rank of Lt. Colonel and consists of a headquarters company at Price Barracks, three rifle companies, and two detachment platoons.8
The BDF has three outer command posts. There are Camp Belizario in the Center (west of Belmopan and formerly Holdfast Camp); Camp Eyles (formerly Orange Walk Drill Hall) in Orange Walk, Camp Fairweather (formerly Rideau Camp) in Punta Gorda near the coast of southern Belize.9
The BDF Band was formed on 1 January 1978 from the former Belize Volunteer Guard Band, under the mastership of the late Warrant Officer Class 1, Walter P. Lamb. The band was originally formed in 1947 from the North Caribbean Force (Battalion of Belize) fundamentally as a Drum & Bugle Corps, at Mount Pleasant Creek, Central Farm in the Cayo District. In 1952, it added the brass section to the Drums & Bugles Corps that was the nucleus of what would evolve into the existing BDF Band.
The BDF Cadet Corps, formerly the Belize Cadet Corps, was absorbed into the BDF in July 1981. It is headed by a Commander and is under the wings of the volunteer element.10
A Commander heads the small Maritime Wing of the BDF. In 1999, it was composed of two 20-metre (60 ft) Wasp vessels, the Dangriga and the Toledo. These two Brooke Marine patrol craft were gifts from the United Kingdom (Caribbean Insight, 1989). In addition, the maritime wing has a number of small assault craft which are regularly used to enforce the fisheries laws and assist in anti-narcotics operations. The British also assisted in the construction of a slipway and dredged a channel to allow the BDF coast guard vessels to enter Haulover Creek at the mouth of the Belize River on the east coast. Apart from its base in Belize City, there are three other operational bases: Punta Gorda, Toledo and Placencia.
The BDF Air Wing is based at the Philip S.W. Goldson International Airport with a complement of 5 aircraft.11 A 767260 Slingsby Firefly is still used to screen potential pilots and for basic flight training prior to sending students for formal military pilot training in Canada. According to Dortch, it also serves as the Air Wing's training aircraft for qualified pilots. Although the BDFs aircraft are all fixed wing, the "Gazette" helicopters of the 25 Flight Army Air Corps, part of the British Army Training Support Unit Team, provide key logistic support for the BDF.
In 1996, the Combat Engineers Platoon was placed under the command of the Air Wing for administrative reasons. Apart from the Philip S.W. Goldson International Airport, there are some thirty landing strips in Belize, some of which are privately owned and not registered.12
Table 1: Estimated Strength of the BDF: 1978-1979
Starting with 60 men, two years later the force had grown to a strength of 285 regulars and 300 volunteers. By 1987, its total strength had increased to 700, with the maritime wing 46 and the air wing 15. By 1990, the BDF was 760 in strength, and 4 years later (1994) had grown to 850. In 1997, nineteen years later, the strength of the regular army numbered about 1,000 and the reserve around 381. The air wing had a staff of 45 and the maritime wing 36. This amounts to an overall strength of approximately 1,381. There were plans to progressively increase the BDF's strength to about 3,000 regulars and reserves combined, however, its size has been cut by 10%.
Any Belizean (aged 18 to 25) can enlist in the BDF after proof of citizenship and character references. After basic training of 16 weeks, army personnel sign initial three-year contracts with a possible maximum of nine years in the reserve.13 One can also enlist from the start for nine years of regular service with three years in the reserve. According to Amandala, in February 2000, forty-three BDF members left the defense force and transferred to the Belize Police Force! Officers have to produce a high school transcript and pass a selection examination. They are commissioned for an initial period of six years.
Training in the BDF can be divided into five broad categories: initial training, field training, exercises and exchanges and overseas courses.
The training syllabus is similar to that of the British Army's with only minor deviations, owing to the differences in terrain and situation with which the Belizean soldiers are faced. Recruit training lasts for 16 weeks. The main course of training consist of drill, weaponry, map reading, tactics, field craft, military law and signals. In terms of the Maritime Wing, all ranks, including officers, are required to undergo initial training as soldiers at Airport Camp, Ladyville, after which training is carried out by the BDF Maritime Wing both ashore and afloat. Training ends with a graduation or pass out parade for privates.
Field training, both for the regular and reserve, is a high priority of the BDF. In addition to the week-end exercises and bi-weekly sessions, the BDF and in particular the Regular Battalions are trained in general war, jungle and internal security operations at the Force's Jungle Warfare Camp at Maskall. The BDF offers three jungle courses, namely, the Jungle Survival Basic Course, the Junior Warfare Basic Course and the Jungle Warfare Instructors course.14
The Force conducts two annual international camps at August Pine Ridge and the Salamanca Camp.15 These camps have included students from the Singapore Police Force, the Mexican Armed Forces and the BDF.
In reference to the BDF Volunteer force, since 1978, two regular NCOs, called permanent staff instructors, assist in the training and running of volunteer companies. This training is very much the same as that for the regular soldiers.
There are exercises and exchanges with armed forces of the United Kingdom, the United States of America and others. The BDF has hosted soldiers from the 5th Battalion 87th Infantry Light who participated in Jungle Warfare training. In January 1994 and 1999, a short training team from the School of Infantry, Warminister, England, conducted a three-week training course at the Airport Camp, Camp Belizario and Baldy Beacon ranges for the BDF's mortar platoon (Selgado, 1999). Also, in 1996, the BDF embarked on a military exchange with the U.S. Army South (Usher, 1996). A platoon, under the command of 2Lt. Mervin Reyes, went to Panama on 6 February for 3 weeks of Jungle Warfare Training.
The BDF also participates in Exercise Trade Winds an annual U.S. exercise with forces from the Regional Security System and from the United Kingdom. This pattern was begun in 1991 and continues to the present time with Belize hosting the exercise in 1998 (Requena, 1999). This exercise included both an evacuation plan as well as a series of practices in close country setting at the BDF's Jungle Warfare School at Maskall and its environs at Salamanca, Toledo.16
Training is also offered to individuals, depending upon their aptitude and educational qualifications, at overseas military institutions. BDF personnel have attended schools in the United Kingdom, the United States of America (including Panama), Canada, Mexico and Guyana.
All in all, between 1978 and 1997, 41 Belizeans have attended Sandhurst,17 two of whom, Earl Arthurs and Lloyd Gillett in 1980 and 1984, have won the overseas cane.18 The British Forces Belize, prior to its departure in 1995, also provided training.19
Six individuals attended the Staff College between 1981 and 1997.20 The first to do so was Major Tom Greenwood (1981) who rose to the position of Deputy Commander. Two other majors who attended, both of which become Commander, BDF, are Major Alan Usher and Major Earl Arthurs.21 Captains Tom Greenwood and Bernard Adolphus were among the first to complete the Platoon Commanders courses at the School of Infantry, Warminster.22
BDF officers have received training at the U.S. Army Infantry School (formerly the School of the Americas which was transferred from Panama in 1985), Fort Benin, Georgia as well as the U.S. Military Academy, West Point, New York. In reference to the last, the first to do so was Alexander Scott Croft Graham who graduated in the class of 1993.23
Canada has provided junior staff training for junior officers at the Canadian Command and Staff College in Kingston, Ontario. The junior staff course trains commissioned officers in the duties required to fill operational staff positions at military headquarters.
Relative to the Maritime Wing, training at foreign naval and coast guard establishments was started in 1989 and persons have completed the Mid-shipman's course at the Britannia Royal Naval College, Dartmouth.24 Personnel from the Maritime Wing have also attended the Coast Guard Reserve Training Center in York, Virginia. As for Canada, between 1983, and 1991, twenty-four Belizeans have attended the Coast Guard College in Nova Scotia.25 Since 1983, pilots, technicians and ground crew of the BDF Air wing have received training at the Primary Central Flying School and the Protonge in Canada (Shephard, 1997).26
Between 1991 and 1997, the Secretariat of National Defense of Mexico awarded twenty-nine scholarships in Mexican Military Schools to the BDF. In 1998, two Belizeans attended the Escuela Military De Materiales De Guerra and another the Escuela Military De Transmisiones. The air wing sent 2Lt. Lopez to flying school there and Dr. Gough received training to become the BDFs force surgeon in Mexico.27 Relative to Central America, a Belize delegation that included officers from CARICOM participated in a Humanitarian Allied Forces Disaster Management Exercise as well as a peacekeeping humanitarian exercise in El Salvador in 1997 and in Fuerzas Aliadas in Guatemala in 1997.
The defense forces of Guyana and Jamaica have assisted the BDF with training. Between 1981 and 1997, fifteen officer cadets have graduated from the Colonel Ulric Pilgrim Cadet School at Camp Stephenson, Timehri, Guyana.28 Glenn Arthurs was the first to do so (Gomes, 1995; Stabrock News, 1993; Stabroek News, 1994). In terms of more advanced training, Belizeans completed the 13-week staff and command course in Jamaica designed by the Canadian forces for senior lieutenants and junior captains (Tomlinson, 1994). Earlier on, Lt. Col. Richard Eyles attended a short course in Jamaica.
Before 1980, there were no females in the BDF. Its Female Platoon was started in July 1980 when a batch of 30 responded to the first call for recruits. Twenty-one of these were part of recruit intake number six. They serve as clerks, storeroom keeps, medics, signalers and force police. Women are also found in the Volunteer Force, the Maritime Wing, the Air Wing and the Cadet Corps. In 1997, the BDF Female Platoon was 50 strong and the highest-ranking female officer was Major Jean Lucas.
In order to set up and train the new force, the British government dispatched a British Loan Service Team to Belize. It comprised 4 officers and 4 senior NCOs who came in 1977 and worked in close cooperation with the Ministry of Home Affairs.29 These Loan Service Officers organized the recruitment and training of the soldiers, the layout and building of Price Barracks, the scaling, provision of equipment and stores for the Force. The original team was replaced and the size of the group reduced by one. Nevertheless, loan service officers continued to be attached to the BDF for the next 20 years.
In 1988, at the height of this attachment, there were 15 officers and warrant officers.30 In addition, there was a lieutenant colonel based at the Belizean Ministry of Defense in Belmopan who served as a military advisor.31 The role of this officer was to advise the Government of Belize on logistic matters, including offshore procurements and liaison between the Ministry of National Security, Belize, and the Ministry of Defense in the United Kingdom. According to Marshall, though training and defense assistance has continued, the British Loan Service Team was disbanded on 30 November 1997.
In 1992, the decision was made to withdraw the British Defense Garrison stationed in Belize since 1948, and place a greater responsibility on the BDF. This resulted in a significant increase in training by the United Kingdom in the form of in-country training assistance teams. These teams were meant to expedite the Belizeanization process and prepare the BDF for its eventual role of the entire defense of Belize.
The process of Belizeanization was phased over a 15-year period. The seventh commander of the BDF was a Belizean, Lt. Col. Alan Usher, and the first Belizean to hold this office.32 In its formative years, the Maritime Wing had six commanders, four of whom were from Britain. Major Hubert H. Cain was the first Belizean to head this unit in 1990.33 In regard to the Air Wing, which has had five commanders, Captain Rupert Diaz was the first Belizean to head the unit.34
On January 1995, in view of the fact that the BDF had acquired the necessary skills needed to sustain its own operational capability, British Forces withdrew and the BDF took over the responsibility for the Defense and security of the country. However, as shown in the next section, Britain still has a substantial military presence in Belize.
Prior to the departure of the British garrison, a British Army Training Support Unit Team was formed on 1 October 1994. Stationed at Airport Camp, which it shares with the BDF, the role of the team is to advise, assist and provide administrative and logistics support to Native Trail, a company jungle exercise mounted from the United Kingdom and Germany (Silvester, 1996).35 The unit also runs the British Forces Adventure Training Center in St. George's Cay and since 1995 the Royal Engineers led Military Works Team.
Additionally, the British presence in Belize includes a Royal Engineer Squadron of 150 men. This squadron is engaged in construction projects to improve the infrastructure of Airport Camp as well as carry out a number of community projects.36 Also, though with reduced manpower, there is a British Army Support Unit Medical Center as well as the "Gazelle" helicopters of the 25 Flight Army. These two entities respond to request from the Government of Belize for casualty evacuation, and the helicopters provide important logistic support for the BDF in the remote areas that are inaccessible by road (Silvester, 1996).37 In addition, the West Indies Guard Ship provides naval support.
The BDF is funded by three sources. In addition to local sources, the United Kingdom provides military assistance (Times of the Americas, 1988) and the USA offers help through a military aid program.38 The U.S. Military Liaison Office is responsible for coordinating all U.S. military activities in Belize. In addition to the Foreign Military Sales Program, other programs are The Distinguished Visitor Program, the National Guard State Partnership Program, Unit and Personal Exchanges with the U.S. military as well as the International Military Education and Training Program.39 The last provides scholarships for BDF soldiers to attend formal military courses in the U.S. (Doss 1977).
In 1982, defense spending in Belize accounted for only 4% of the GNP. However, in 1987, Belize spent 10% of its 1987-1988 national budget on defense (BZ$22.64 million or US$11.32 million). Most of this was spent on the development of a third rifle company as part of the announced expansion of the BDF. In 1994, the defense budget dropped to BZ$19.36 million or US$9.68 million that accounted for 3.5 percent of the budget. In 1996, the defense budget was BZ$15.53 million.40 Against the backdrop of a slash in the BDF budget, it received a gift of $475,000 in equipment in February 2001.
The BDF protects the territorial sovereignty of the country, controls drug smuggling and infiltration of its borders by illegal immigrants, protects the fishing rights of Belizeans and guards against illegal logging. It also assists the government in several domestic projects. Finally, it has played a role in the peacekeeping in Haiti to restore President Aristide to power.
Belize is the only country of the Commonwealth Caribbean in which armed forces are primarily responsible for external defense. In the past, the bulk of the responsibility for defending the country rested on British troops. The United Kingdom had a permanent military garrison in Belize from 1948 to 1995. After the departure of British troops, the BDF assumed full responsibility for the entire defense of Belize in 1995.
The British military personnel, commanded by a Brigadier, comprised a ground force of an infantry battalion of about 700 men, an armored troop, one field artillery battery and one engineer squadron. The Royal Air Force (RAF) included a flight of Harrier jets, four Pumas, three Gazette helicopters and half a squadron (four fire units) of the RAF Regiment with Rapier missiles. Usually, air crew were detached to Belize for two months at a time (Defense Committee, 1987-1988).
The RAF in Belize was smaller but more visible than the army. Pumas carried out regular support and supply runs to border outposts and Harriers carried out frequent patrol missions along the border. Also, the RAF Hercules made regular flights to Belize City airport in order to bring the essential supplies that were needed to maintain the British forces there. These soldiers and airmen, who numbered approximately 1,600, were stationed at four camps. In addition, a vessel from the Royal Navy visited Belize and still does every six weeks. Hence, at any given time, substantial British military forces were stationed on Belize. These forces were stationed there to guarantee the territorial integrity of Belize against Guatemala's claims on the country, as well as to deter leftist rebel groups from using sparsely-populated Belize as a base in their battle against the Guatemala government. The hosting of British troops in Belize also presented an unparallel opportunity of realistic training that is of considerable value, even better than that of Borneo in south east Asia, a mecca for jungle training (Armed Forces, 1985).
Guatemala, through Spanish inheritance, claims rights over the sovereignty of Belize. Guatemala tried to prevent Belize's independence in 1972 by sending troops into the area. The British responded with their own force until the Organization of American States interceded. Again, in mid-1977, there was another threat from Guatemala as its troops massed along the border it shares with Belize. Also, when Belize applied to join the United Nations in 1981, the vote to accept it was 130 to one, the only negative vote coming from Guatemala. However, there has been a softening of the Guatemalan position as borne out by its decision to recognize the sovereignty of Belize in August 1991. Also, the two countries established diplomatic relations the following month.
Nevertheless, Guatemala maintains some territorial claims over its neighbor (Barbados Advocate, 1994).41 Although Belize authorities continued to warn that Guatemala remains a threat to Belize, coupled with the fact that British military spending in Belize accounted for about 15% of that country's national income, Guatemala's alleged change in policy to Belize provided Britain with a "window of opportunity" to withdraw British Forces.
In light of Britain's wishes for Belize to play an increasing role in defending itself from Guatemala or from any other substantive threat for that matter, the BDF was established in 1978, three years prior to Belize's independence. However, in spite of the improved security climate between Belize and Guatemala, as well as the growth and relative maturity of the BDF in the ensuing years, Belize continued to request Britain's defense presence. Nevertheless, given the financial straits in which Britain found itself as well as its military commitments to collective security in Europe, the British gradually reduced its garrison in its former Caribbean colony of Belize and ultimately withdrew British Forces from Belize in 1995.
In the absence of British Forces Belize, the BDF conducts a 24-hour operational patrol and man observation posts for the purpose of identifying and reporting signs of movement across the border or any unusual activity. It also gathers information on normal activities in operational areas so that the unusual may be more easily detected. This familiarizes troops with operational areas, shows a military presence, maintains "tract" and related information, services helicopter-landing sites and promotes goodwill among the civilian population.
On October 19, 1999, then Prime Minister Said Musa of the People's United Party learned that Guatemala wanted to openly state its claim to Belize once more. This time Guatemala wanted the dispute to move away from its claim of half of Belize to all or substantial parts of the country. In support of this view, Guatemala sent troops to its eastern border with Belize. Accordingly, a joint army-police patrol operated in the Sapote area. In this heightened atmosphere, in February, a BDF patrol shot and killed a Guatemalan national in the Sapote Camp area of Mountain Pine Ridge.
On the morning of 24 February, the conflict escalated when a BDF/police border patrol team encountered a 25-member Guatemalan army patrol in the area of Tree Tops, south southwest of Jalacte Village in the Toledo District. The BDF/patrol team established itself within Belizean territory, but the Guatemalan patrol disputed that claim. In an effort to avert an incident, the BDF/police team agreed to move to the Guatemalan post of Santa Cruz, along with the Guatemalan patrol, to await the arrival of senior officers from both sides to verify the location of the encounter.
On their arrival at Santa Cruz, the BDF/police team was transferred to San Luis and placed into custody of the police where they were informed that they would be charged with illegal entry and possession of prohibited firearms. They were later moved to Santa Elena, where there is a district court to await the arrival of a magistrate (Daily Gleaner, 2000; Reporter, 2000; Amandala, 2000).
In March 1981, Great Britain and Guatemala reached agreement that cleared the way for the country's final independence. Violent demonstrations followed in Belize as citizens there felt that the British Government had not considered fully enough the legitimate security interests of Belize. From March to May, the country was under a State of Emergency at which time the BDF helped to maintain law and order in Belize City, including extinguishing fires (Arthur, 1981, Amandala, 1981).42
On May 8, 1991, five farmers from the Menonite religious community were kidnapped by a group of eight kidnappers from a Spanish Lookout near the Guatemalan border. A $US100,000 ransom was demanded, but the men were released after a massive search by a joint British/BDF/Police party with the use of ground and aerial reconnaissance (Amandala, 1991). The BDF was again activated on the occasion of a strike by the South Stann Creek-based United Banana Workers Union in Fyrees in Southern Belize in August when 60 soldiers and police officers were used to round up and deport banana workers, breaking their strike in 1995 (Amandala, 1996).
Once again, on Monday, 30 July 2001, the BDF was again deployed. This was triggered by a delay in the renewal of permits for the Tillet and Castillo buses to transport their northern passengers to Belize City. This conflict resulted in a violent confrontation between bus riders and a BDF-police party on the Tower Hill Bridge at Mile 50 on the Northern Highway. After two BDF soldiers were injured, Captain John Boland and two others open fire resulting in human injury. Two civilians were shot and several others, including 9 BDF officers, were wounded (Chavaria, 2001; Flores, 2001).
The police routinely calls on the BDF to provide support twice a year. The first is during the festivity period of National celebration in September and the second during the Yuletide Season. This is done to mitigate the effects of crime on Belizeans for both residents and visitors. This task is mostly carried out by the resident infantry battalion and the force support group. They are deployed from the Eastern Division Police Force station and involve foot and vehicle patrols for 24 hours per day (Smith, 2001).43 In 1997, the BDF responded to two prison service requests within six months to assist in recapturing escaped prisoners, and in September of that year, the BDF launched a manhunt in support of the police for notorious Winsworth Mangar (Amandala, 1998). In addition to the above, a BDF officer serves as the aide-de-camp for the Governor General of Belize, in his capacity as commander-in-chief.44 The aide-de-camp's duties include personal security, serving as escort officer and as translator.
British forces and the BDF, in conjunction with the US, have been active in the Belize marijuana eradication program which included excursions into the fields and physically hacking down the marijuana plants. Marijuana is cultivated mostly in the North and West of Belize, in small plots of one acre or less. Significant cultivation began in the 1960s, and by early 1980s Belize was the fourth largest supplier of the crop after Columbia, Mexico and Jamaica. The Belize government, with help from Mexico and the US, in 1982 began spraying that continued in 1983.45 In 1984, the BDF destroyed up to 20% of the marijuana crop, about one million plants. However, environmentalists, farmers and others became worried about the toxic effects of paraquat and spraying was stopped in 1984, an election year, by the then George Price government after protests that other crops (sugar and maize) were being affected.46
In 1985, when Curl Thompson, the then Minister of Home Affairs of the Esquivel-led government, threatened to arrest the top figures involved in drug trafficking and gave the go ahead for the resumption of aerial spraying, his life was threatened by drug barons (M. Estrada, 1985; Belize Times, 1985).47 Spraying eventually resumed in 1986 when the new government took power (Sharma, 1986). Prime Minister Esquivel stated that the "marijuana industry had become all-powerful and it was a real threat to the independence of that country a more urgent danger than the Guatemalan claim" (Young, 1986; Manning, 1987).
The manual and aerial crop destruction was so successful that in 1994, the U.S. Department of State boasted: "Belize, once the fourth largest producer of marijuana in the world, has reduced production to negligible levels through an aggressive aerial eradication campaign using U.S. Government spray aircraft and GOB (Government of Belize) manual eradication operations" (International Narcotics Control Strategy Report, 1994; Griffith, 1996). However, the BDF's first involvement in joint anti-narcotic operations with the police in the eradication of drugs was in 1995 during operation code-named "Ocean Cordon." This took place at Orange Walk, San Pedro and in Corozal. Again, in 1996, the BDF, local police and foreign law enforcement agencies, carried out anti-narcotic operations in the Chiquibul Forest Reserve.
Also, in view of the fact that Belize's long, uninhabited shoreline is ideal for small craft engaged in drug trafficking, several boats have been caught jammed with cocaine. One such incident took place on the 24 March 1997, when a team consisting of BDF soldiers, Fisheries and Customs department officials and members of the Police Dragon Unit, in an operation labeled "Ides of March" intercepted and seized over 1,300 kilos of cocaine. It was packed in 52 sacks containing 1,250 parcels (Amandala, 1997).
In March of the following year, the BDF and the police discovered and destroyed a small plantation that contained 300 marijuana plants in the vicinity of Eyles Camp. The maritime unit works closely with the U.S. Coast Guard and the West Indian guard ship in counter-drug operations. In regard to the former, Belize signed the Ship Rider Agreement on 23 December 1992 giving the U.S. leeway to enter Belizean territorial waters to intercept U.S. bound cocaine and ganja shipments (Blenman, 1990). Belize also has an agreement with Mexico for improved narcotic cooperation, including intelligence exchange and Mexican assistance with prevention, rehabilitation and crop eradication.
Belize has a population of 155,000, but it is believed that there are another 80,000 illegal immigrants from Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras, including those recognized by the U.N. High Commission for Refugees. This has been a problem for the government of Belize and has resulted in the need for the BDF to work closely with Belize's Ministry of Foreign Affairs as well as with the Forestry Department. Also, there has been at least two cases of Cubans attempting to enter Belize illegally.
In August 1992, a group of Guatemalans settled on Belizean territory in the remote Rio Blanco area in the Chiquibul Reserve. These Guatemalans may have been unaware that they were in Belize as the border is poorly marked. And so, a government release stated that the 18 families were being given "an appropriate time" to respond after being officially informed that they were on Belizean territory. The release indicated "should they choose to remain in Belize, the villagers must follow proper procedure in applying for provisional residency and fly the flag." (Jamaica Daily Gleaner, 1992)
Two years later in July 1994, an estimated 1,000 Guatemalan families were discovered living and farming at Machquilla Village. This particular area of settlement, a remote western border region inside Belize, is a joint forest reserve between Belize and Guatemala where settlement is restricted even to nationals of either country. The Guatemalans had burnt more than 1,000 acres of forest in preparation to plant. Prime Minister Manuel Esquivel accused the Guatemalan government and military of systematically encouraging Guatemalan nationals to settle in Belizean territory and took a swipe at the British saying that British forces (then resident in Belize) appeared reluctant to deal with Belizean government requests to help in aerial patrols and airlifts to the areas occupied by Guatemalan incursions.
In February 2001, two separate BDF patrols prevented a new settlement and discovered an illegal one, both in Edwards Central.48 Twelve Guatemalan nationals, who had cleared land in Belize approximately 4 kilometers from the Western border, were ordered to cease and leave Belize. Two days later, in the same area of Edwards, an illegal settlement approximately 2.9 kilometers in Belize was found. The settlement consisted of 35 families and 29 dwelling huts (Belize Times, 2001).
In March 1996, twenty-three Cubans from a camp in the Cayman Islands landed at the Ramada Hotel Pier in two small boats and were taken into custody and kept at the BDF Barracks at Camp Belizario in Central Farm until April 5 where round-the-clock security was provided by the BDF's echo company. The Cubans were initially cooperative; however, after they were denied refugee status, they began an 8-day hunger strike. Eventually, under Immigration, Police and BDF escort, they were transported to the Philip S.W. Goldson International Airport to board a Cubana Airlines plane for Cuba.
One week later, on Tuesday, 2 May 1996, ten Cubans drifted ashore on Dead man's Caye in Turneffe Atoll. They were held at Goff's Caye (12 miles southeast of Belize City) while they two wooden boats were repaired and made seaworthy. An eleven-man BDF squad was posted to ensure that no members of the press or public disembarked on the cay (Amandala, 1995).49
The BDF conducts spot checks for illegal logging operations along the Guatemalan border. In March 1993, logs were felled by civilian bandits in the Peten territory of Guatemala and were transported over the border on Belize's western border near Gallon Jug. They were found by the Multi-Agency Patrol, which included the police, customs, forestry, immigration and the BDF (Amandala, 1993).
The Marine Wing has assisted in protecting Belize's territorial waters. This includes maintaining a pollution free environment as well as search and rescue at sea. This surveillance includes the Sapodilla Cays, a string of tiny islets that restrict Guatemala's access to the sea from its short Caribbean coastline, including it southern port of Porto Barrios.
This limits Belize's territorial waters in the south to three miles, but it extends to 12 miles for the rest of the coastline as allowed under international law. In 1997, the air wing began working in conjunction with the maritime wing to locate and report foreign vessels fishing illegally in Belizean waters.
The BDF, through the Office of Disaster Preparedness, provide relief and rescue services to civilian populations in times of hurricanes, floods and fires.50 It was very much involved in Hurricane Greta on 18 September of 1978 when regulars and B coy volunteers assisted the Belize City authorities, while D coy volunteers carried out a similar task in Dangriga (The New Belize, 1978). In the case of Hurricane Janet, detachments were sent to the badly affected areas of Sittee River, Gales Point Village and Mullins River Village.
Also, during the floods of Cayo, in December 1979, the BDF was tasked to help take provisions to the isolated communities of Bullet Tree, Santi Fanilia and Spanish Lookout. Again in 1995, Hurricane Roxanne brought heavy rains to Belize. The Rio Hondo River, which forms Belize's northern border with Mexico, was flooded.51 In cooperation with the civilian authorities, Echo Company evacuated residents and secured the affected area. Also, when a reconnaissance team confirmed that the flooded river bank was continuing to rise, a crew from the Maritime Wing with a rubber inflatable boat joined in the operation by conducting shuttle runs up the river. Echo company was committed to the operation for an entire month after the water subsided. It supported the National Fire Service and the Heath Department in disinfecting villages (Mossiah, 1996). Since Roxanne in 1995, the BDF has responded to three other hurricanes, Mitch in 1998, Keith in 2000 and Iris in 2001, all in the month of October. As a result of Mitch, the BDFs second battalion, the air wing and the volunteer were involved in the biggest evacuation ever witnessed in Belize's history. The Maritime Wing did quite a number of rescue operations from various cays in the Belize District. The two BDF vessels stationed in Hunting Caye evacuated 112 persons from San Pedro, Caye Caulker and other cays. The force was also tasked by the NEMO to assist in food preparation and delivery some 500 persons were provided breakfast, lunch, supper and snacks by the force's catering department. With respect to Hurricane Keith, the hardest hit areas were San Pedro, a tourist resort in Amergris Caye and Cay Caulker (Barbados Advocate, 2001).
Over the years, the British Forces Belize, have taken part in relief operations in other Commonwealth Caribbean countries, namely, Hurricane Gilbert, Jamaica in 1988 (Medhurst, 1988) and Hurricane Andres, Bahamas in 1992. However, as of 2001, the BDF is yet to provide relief to another Commonwealth Caribbean country, though it has given assistance to its neighbor Honduras in the aftermath of Hurricane Mitch. A section of the BDFs combat engineers, along with other members of the force, were sent to Honduras to assist Honduras in its clean up.
As for fires, in April 1991, a massive forest fire raged through the Mountain Pine Ridge in Central Belize. The fire, which burnt from the Baldy Beacon Range to the Macal River Valley, was tackled by the Forestry Department's fire fighters, who were assisted by 100 members of the British Forces and about 60 from the BDF (Amandala, 1991).
The BDF has been involved in a large share of government projects. These include the construction and renovation of buildings (including school buildings); as well as improving roads, playground and parks.
For example, No. 2 platoon of the BDF constructed a playground and painted the school at Burrell Boom Village. Also, similar projects were undertaken by platoon 2 and 3 at the Pineridge School and the Ladyville Roman Catholic School. In September 1994, Foxtrot Company was involved in community projects as well as the organization of the Military and Fire Service Tattoo for the San Ignacio Town Board.
Again, the BDF, in conjunction with the ministries of Works, Education and Health, have worked closely with the U.S. Army Engineers to build school buildings, improve roads, provide free medical screening and treatment for thousands of Belizeans. Also, with the equipment that was gifted to the BDF by the British Forces Engineers, its engineers engage in road construction.
The BDF has also provided training assistance to the Belize Police Force and the Prison Department during the period.
The BDF is involved in several self-support projects, including a pig farm, housing for soldiers and a pre-school and Day Care Center. The pig farm was started in 1996, with the intent of generating revenue that would contribute to the BDF Welfare Fund for the benefit of all soldiers. From a start of six sows and a boar, the farm had a total of 98 pigs in 1997.52
Beginning in 1996, the BDF Housing Group began providing housing for soldiers. Initially, twenty-five lots of land were acquired. Then, a further 27 were surveyed and in the third phase, an additional 153 lots were distributed. Beyond this and in view of the demand, a plot of 60 acres of land was leased to the BDF for further subdivision into lots for members. In 1997, up to 45 houses were so far built (Borland, 1997).
The Valgarten Pre-School and Day Care Center, constructed in September 1995 (using funds from a private donor) is located in what was previously the Officers Mess. In 1997, it had a staff of four, all BDF wives, and a student enrollment of 20. BDF wives have also started the "Families Shop" at Price Barrack for their own use and other members of the force.
Other self-self projects in which the BDF has been involved are its own museum, a library, its own canteen as well as the refurbishing of parks.
One other way in which the BDF assists government is that the Force Hospital, which provides medical attention to the BDF and their families, also accommodate emergencies from Ladyville and surrounding areas.53
The BDF's only overseas operation has been to Haiti to restore President Aristide to power. It was part of CARICOM battalions I, II, III and IV. In each case, it contributed around 35 soldiers. Both Captain Juan Teck and Major Reynolds Lewis served as head of BDF contingents and Lt. Col. Hubert Cain of the BDF was the commander of the CARICOM IV contingent (Jones, 1996) around Married Quarters and the new Parade Square.
In 1994, Belize was part of Caribbean Battalion I, II, III and IV drawn from six other CARICOM countries, namely, Jamaica, Trinidad and Tobago, Barbados, Guyana, Antigua and Barbuda and the Bahamas. The battalions served in Haiti from 12 September 1994 to January 1996. The first two Battalions were under the command of the U.S.-led multinational force and the last two were under the auspices of the United Nations Mission in Haiti.
BDF soldiers, under the leadership of Captain Juan Teck, were part of CARICOM I whose Contingent Commander was Lt. Col. Linton Graham, Jamaica Defense Force. They were stationed first in southern Haiti and later at Cap Haitien in the north. Between October and December, they were in charge of security operations at the main port complex and surrounding areas where the U.S. landed equipment and supplies for 21,000 forces; assisted in the repatriation of over 6,000 Haitians from Guantanamo Bay, Cuba and the Bahamas; mounted a buy-back program which yielded more that 800 weapons and adopted a public school, the Ecola National Republique in Bols Petite. On the return of the first batch in December, seven of its members were awarded medals of achievement.
The second contingent of BDF soldiers, under the leadership of Major Reynolds Lewis departed for Haiti on 28 November 1994. They too were stationed at Cap Haitien, a city about 400 km north of Port-au-Price. Seven of its members were awarded medals of achievement and returned home to a motorcade through the principal streets of Belize on 13 March 1995 that ended up in a reception at the Militia Hall in Belize City.
Unlike the first two contingents that served for three-month stints, the third and fourth were deployed directly from home countries to Haiti. Training which familiarized the soldiers with their areas of operations was conducted in the theatre.
In Les Cayes, the forces engaged in synchronized training. However, the role of CARICOM III was to provide aid to the civil powers. In specific terms, this entailed VIP escorts, convoy and foot patrols as well as assisting with the preparation for the elections.
Lt. Col. Hubert Cain of the Belize Defense Force commanded CARICOM IV. Belize also had a contingent stationed at Ganive and participated in peacekeeping and civil duties. In regards to the latter, members built furniture for a local school in Les Cayes; cleaned the interior and exterior of a church and were instrumental in the beautification of a garden.
1Known as British Honduras until 1973, eight years before it gained independence from Britain in 1981, Belize occupies a strip of land 174 miles (280 km) wide on the eastern side of the Yucatan Peninsula between Guatemala and Mexico. The country is located on the north-east coast of Central America and is bordered on the east by the Bay of Honduras (of the Caribbean Sea), on the south west by Guatemala, and on the north and north west by Mexico. The coast is swampy while the interior is dominated by tropical jungle growth.
2In addition to Belize, three other Commonwealth Caribbean countries established regular defence forces prior to independence. There are Dominica (1975) under Premier Patrick John three years before independence; Grenada (1951) under Premier Eric Gairy 23 years before independence and St. Kitts and Nevis (1967) by Premier Robert Bradshaw 15 years before independence.
3A third rifle company was added in 1987.
4Recruitment took place at schools, colleges, community centers and even homes in the following areas: Corozal, Orange Walk, San Ignacio and Santa Elena, Dangriga and Punta Gorda Town; in Blue Creek, Pueblo Viejo, Benque Viejo del Carmen, Guinea Grass, Douglas, Cattle Landing, Jacintoville, San Antonio, San Pedro, Liberated, San Estevan, Pomona and Progreso.
5Between 1817 and 1978, the military force in Belize has had ten different names: The Prince Regent's Royal Militia (1817-1866), The Belize Volunteer Force (1866-1868); The Belize Volunteer Corps (1868-1883); The Belize Light Infantry Volunteer Force (1897-1905); British Honduras Volunteers (1905-1916); British Honduras Territorial Force (1916-1928); British Honduras Defense Force (1928-1944); British Honduras Home Guard (1942-1943), British Honduras Volunteer Guard (1943-1973), Belize Volunteer Guard (1973-1977); D.N.A. Fairweather, A Short History of the Volunteer Forces of British Honduras (now Belize), publisher & year of publication, unknown: 43
6The three rifle companies are Echo, Foxtrot and Sierra.
7The headquarters of the Volunteer Force is made up of eighteen (18) personnel who are members of the regular force, led by a captain.
8The locations of the volunteer rifle companies are as follows: Company B at Belize City (on the East coast), Company C at Dangriga, Company D at Corozal (in the north). The detachment platoons are found at Orange Walk, Punta Gorda Town (in the south), San Ignacio Town, Cayo and Stann Creek, the latter in the south.
9Also, there are three observation posts: Cadenas in the South western corner of Belize, overlooking Guatemala, Cayo, near the mid-western coast of Guatemala (close to Arenal) and Jalacte in the South western coast of Guatemala (near San Antonio), Cadenas, on top of a pinnacle of rock above the Sarstoon river, with its largest hut, is the sole living accommodation on the post.
10The Cadet Corps was formed in 1977 by Cadet Colonel (Ret) Alex Allen. Its headquarters is at Price Barracks with detachments at the following locations: Belize City, San Ignacio, Orange Walk Town, Corozal Town, Dangriga and Punto Gorda.
11The fleet of the BDF air wing is made up of two propeller-driven Britten-Norman Defender aircraft that were acquired at the Air Wing's inception; a Cessna a gift to the Prime Minister of Belize by the Governor of Quintana Roo, Mexico in August 1995; a Slingsby T3A Firefly which was gifted by the British government in March 1995 and a T67 260 Slingsby "Firefly" used as the basic pilot screener and trainer.
12Major airstrips are found at the following locations: Gallon Jug, Punta Gorda, Belize City Municipal area, San Pedro, near San Ignacio, and Savanah.
13Between 1978 and 1979, over 6,000 men and women have passed through the BDF.
14The 38-day Jungle Warfare Instructor's course is designed for officers and soldiers of the rank of sergeant and above who are interested in becoming jungle warfare instructors at sub-unit level. The second is a 14-day Junior Warfare Basic Course designed for soldiers of the rank of corporal and below. Its graduates are able to work as a subunit in a jungle environment. The third is a 3-day Jungle Survival Basic Course for military, aircrew and civilian personnel. Its graduates are taught the basics of living and surviving in a jungle environment.
15Guacamallo, in the Mountain Pine Ridge, is ideal for dry training; Hill Bank for Watermanship and Salamanca in the South for jungle training.
16Part of Exercise Tradewinds '98 was an evacuation plan from Dangriga, Belize City, Burrel Boom, Ladyville, Sandhill and Hattieville to Belmopan, Santa Elena, San Ignacio and as far as Peten in Guatemala and Chetumal in Mexico. The BDF's evacuation plan is the key component in the National Plan to mitigate associated effects of coastal natural disasters.
17Correspondence, T.A. Heathcote, Curator, RMAS Collection, The Royal Military Academy, Sandhurst,Camberley, Surrey, 12 July 1994.
18The first officer cadet to attend Sandhurst from the BDF was 2Lt. John Loskot in 1978, following by 2Lts. Alan Usher, Earl Arthurs and Hubert Cain in 1979, though the latter withdrew.
19In terms of the latter, the following persons have received such training: S/Sqt. Leonides Yama, 2Lt. Francis Marin and 2Lt. Henry Baizar, BDF personnel have also completed the Junior Command and Staff Course in Belize, one such person was Captain Juan Teck.
20The Joint Services Command and Staff College came about as a result of the closure of four former Staff colleges in the United Kingdom the Joint Services Defense College and the Royal Naval College at Greenwich, the Army Command and Staff College at Camberly and the Royal Air Force Staff College at Bracknell.
21Correspondence, Major (Retd) A.C. Boyce, Staff College, Camberley, Surrey, 21 January 1994.
22On retirement, Captain Bernard Adolphus became Superintendant of Prisons, Belize.
23Correspondence, Judith A. Sibley, West Point, New York, 30 June 1994.
24Prior to 1995, the course title was the International Midshipmans Course. This one-year course was slightly different to the course taken by Royal Navy students. However, since January 1995, the course taken by foreign students is titled "The Royal Navy Officers Course" and involves the same training as those from the Royal Navy. It now lasts for 16 months; Personal correspondence, C.P. Young, Directorate of Foreign and Commonwealth Training, Ministry of Defense, 9 August 1988.
25Correspondence, David G. Parkes, Director, Coast Guard College, Sidney, 2 November 1993.
26Local air crew training involves preabinito for potential pilots, co-pilots and conversion training, captaincy training and currency check rides.
27In 1990, a Lt. Col. was appointed as the first military and air attache to the Embassy of Mexico. Since then, one Brigadier General, three lieutenant colonels and three majors have been accredited to the mission.
28I am grateful to Major General (Ret'd) Joseph Singh for supplying this information.
29The original loan service officers were Lt. Col. Graham Longdon, Major M. John Edgar, Captain Bill Saunders, W02 Jim Bain, W02 Graham Jones, WOI T. Nolan and W02 R. Walker. Thanks to Brig. General Earl Arthurs.
30Seven, including the Commandant of the BDF, were in the infantry or land unit. Three each, including their commanders, were in the maritime and air wings.
31Before the position became redundant in 1997, three such LSOs served in this capacity. There are Lt. Col. Charles Joint (1989-1992), Lt. Col. Michael Bradley (1992-1995) and Lt. Col. Ian Marshall (1995-1997); Correspondence, Brig. Gen. Earl Arthurs, 19 November 1999.
32Belizeanization at the top came in June 1990, thirteen years after the BDF's inception, with the appointment of Lt. Col. Alan J. Usher. The first change of command for the BDF from one Belizean commander to another took place on 3 December 1994 when the reins of command were passed to Brigadier Earl Arthurs.
33The Maritime wing has had six commanders, four of which were British, namely, Lt. Commanders, N. Roberts, D. Prichard, R. Whiteway-Wilkinson and M. Chase. Major Hubert Cain, the first Belizean to head this unit for two years, beginning in 1990, was replaced by Captain Andrew Lewis.
34The air wing has had five commanders, three of which were British, namely, Sgn. Ldr. Dick Woodhead, Jeff Bullen and a Serj. Captain. The name of the last is unknown to the author.
35Exercise Native Trail, which usually last for six weeks, is an ongoing series of jungle training. Typically, it consist of three days of acclimatization in Airport Camp, one week each on basic jungle training; one week each of intermediate jungle training and live firing on Mountain Pine Ridge and adventurous training at St. George's Caye. The exercise will normally finish with a final jungle phase of seven days, followed by post exercise administration and local leave.
36One such project is assisting in the renovation of the Belize Zoo.
37The 25 Flight Army is primarily for the casualty evacuation of British military personnel and for the support of exercise Native Trail.
38In respect of the last, a U.S. Military Liason Office, subordinated to the U.S. Southern Command in Miami (formerly Panama), is located at Airport Camp and has served the BDF since 1982.
39The Foreign Military Sales Program provide grant funding for military clothes, ammunition, spares and equipment.
40I am grateful to Francis Arana and Jaime Alpuche, Central Bank of Belize, February 1997.
41This century old claim was revisited in March 1994 when Guatemala's foreign minister Marithza Ruis de Vielmas sent a letter to United Nations' Secretary-General Boutros Boutros-Ghali. It stated that "an interim agreement signed in July 1992 setting out Belize's land borders must not be taken as a renunciation of Guatemala's claim to Belizean territory." Regarding maritime boundaries, she said "There are differences existing between Belize and Guatemala which can only be finally resolved by the conclusion of a treaty between the two countries," Guatemala Revives Claim to Belize," Barbados Advocate, 26 March 1994: 10.
42The BDF was deployed under the overall command of Major Oswald Gillette. On the occasion, no. 1, 2 and 3 platoons of A company were under the command of three second lieutenants, namely, Earl Arthurs, Henry Baizar and Leonidez Yama, respectively.
43In 2001, unlike previous years, soldiers did not carry guns, probably in an effort to avoid a recurrence of an incident in April 1999, involving a BDF soldier, Thomas Chi, who shot Rodwell Tasher with his M-16 rifle in an attempt to apprehend him and almost killed him. This event was the first recorded incident in which a soldier on patrol with the police shot a civilian in an attempt to apprehend him.
44Between 1980 and 2001, Belize has had three heads of state who simultaneously serve as the country's commander-in-chief, namely, Sir James Hennesy (1980-1981), Dame Minita Gordan (1981-1993) and Sir Coville Young (1993-Present). I am grateful to Amelia Poornananda, Office of the Governor General, Belmopan, Belize, for this information, 6 December 1995.
45A publication by the name of "supercream" on 26 November 1991, reported that the BDF was used in the initial months but was under the command of corrupt officers which took bribes from the big ganjeros. However, six helicopters piloted by Americans and Mexicans sprayed Orange Walk weed fields with paraquat, a serious poison (Supercream, 1982). It was also noted that the U.S. Federal Government sprayed a few fields with paraquat in the state of Georgia on Friday, 12 August 1983 possibly in an attempt to convince Latin American nations that the deadly chemical is safe to use. However, the U.S. Supreme Court ordered a halt to the spraying. Paraquat is a chemical component that some sectors argued destroyed other valuable agricultural crops along with the marijuana (Belize Times, 1985).
46It is believed in some quarters that the loss of the 1985 elections by Prime Minister George Price and the People's United Party was due partly to anger generated by aggrieved farmers.
47In a radio and television exercise "Face the Nation" on 10 April, Curl Thompson stated that he was satisfied that members of the court, the public service and police were involved and had been recipients of bribes, in the drug business.
48Edward Central, found in the Toledo District, is located in the Columbia River Forest Reserve.
49An attempt by Audrey Matura of Television Station Channel 7 to interview the refugees was physically rebuffed by the security forces. Also the deportation drew angry protest from Cuban-American exiles in Florida who demonstrated.
50Interestingly, it was a result of the devastation of Hurricane Hattie in 1961 that the government of Belize was persuaded to move the administrative center of the island from the port of Belize City to Belmopan.
51Affected villages were Blue Creek, Douglas, San Roman, San Antonio, and Santa Cruz (Mossiah, 1995).
52It was built under the direction of Major (Ret'd) John Loskot and with assistance from the superintendent of prisons, camp maintenance and the volunteers.
53The BDF Hospital has been in operation since 1992 and operates on a twenty-four hour rotation. The hospital's operating theater is in service to the BDF and the general public. There is a medical staff of three doctors, a medical administrator, two civilian nurses, a physiotherapist and a laboratory technicain.
Amandala, "The Gallon Jug Contretemps," 26 March 1993: 1.
... , "Belize Border Patrol Prisoners in Guatemala?" 27 February 2000: 1, 27.
... , "Cubans Held Incommunicado," 5 May 1995: 1.
... , "Former Belize Defense Force Officers Join the Police Department," 13 February 2000: 8.
... , "Funes' Fire Sparks Furor," February 1996: 1, 24.
... , "In Belize, Cocaine Now Comes by the Tons... ." 30 March 1997: 1.
... , "Menonites Released, Say no Ransom Paid," 17 May 1991: 1.
... , "Pine Ridge Ablaze," 26 April 1991: 1.
..., "State of Emergency: Guv'na da di ruler," 3 April 1981: 1.
... , "Winsworth Mangar Dead," 22 May 1998: 1, 27.
Armed Forces, "Guarding Belize," no. 4, no. 11, 1985: 419-420.
Arthur, Earl (2Lt) "The Story of the BDF During the State of Emergency." The Belize Soldier, vol. 1, no. 2, 1981: 20-21.
Barbados Advocate, "Guatemala Revives Claim to Belize." 26 March 1994: 10.
Barbados Advocate, "Tourism Island in Ruins," 6 October 2000: 28.
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Belize Times, "BDF Prevents New Settlement and Discovers Illegal Settlement." 14 February 2001: 30.
Belize Times, "Thompson charges Judiciary, Police and Civil Servants," 21 April 1985: 1.
Benguche, H. (WO1) "The Force Museum," The Belizean Soldier, vol. 1, no. 7, July 1999: 34.
Blenman, Rose. "Belizeans being 'persuaded to sign Shiprider'." Barbados Daily Nation, 18 December 1990: 19.
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Caribbean Insight (United Kingdom). Belize, vol. 7, no. 12, December 1989: 3.
Chavaria, Leonard. "Trouble at Tower Hill," Belize Times, 5 August 2001: 1 & 4.
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"Defence: The Belize Defence Force. A New Dimension - A New Reality", The New Belize, January 1998: 8-11.
Dortch, G. (Lt.) "The Belize Defence Force Air Wing," The Belizean Soldier, Vol. 1 No. 4, July 1996: 10.
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Estrada, M. "More on "Thompson-Face the Nation Issue," Belize Times, 19 April 1985: 3.
Flores, Melvin "Children of Canul clash with cops, soldiers," Amandala, 5 August 2001: 1 &4.
Gomes, George (Lt. Col.) "The Officer Factory," Scarlet Beret, The Journal of the Guyana Defence Force, November 1995: 10-11. 1995.
Griffith, Ivelaw. Drugs and Security in the Caribbean: Sovereignty under Siege, The Pennsylvania State University Press, Pennsylvanica 1996: 32-24.
House of Commons, Eight Report, Defence Committee, Session 1987-1988, British Forces in Belize, Report and Appendices, together with the Proceedings of the Committee, Minutes of Evidence and Appendices, London, Her Majesty's Stationary office, 1988: vii.
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Medhurst, Crescenia "Its 34 Field Squadron to the rescue," Jamaica Daily Gleaner, 7 October 1988: 22.
Mossiah, "Douglas Flood 1995," The Belizean Soldier, vol. 1, no. 4, 1996: 17 & 35.
Payne, Anthony "The Belize Triangle: Relations with Britain, Guatemala and the United States," Journal of Interamerican Studies and World Affairs.
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Reporter, "Guatemala at it again. Crisis over Sapote shooting," 6 February 2000: 1 & 5.
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Selgado, O. (Capt) "The Mortar Platoon in Training," The Belizean Soldier: The BDF Annual Magazine, vol. 1, no. 76, July 1999: 25.
Sharma, Yojana "Belize Breeze: Target of 'war', Barbados Daily Nation, 27 November 1986: 32.
Sheppard, R.W. "Flying in the face of Change, Belizean Soldier: The BDF's Annual Magazine, vol. 5, no. 5, July 1997: 35.
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© Dion Phillips, 2002.
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