7 News Belize

7 News Belize HeadlinesWednesday, June 28, 2017

Immigration Officer Ady Pacheco Says They Never Vetted Any Documents
Last week the Senate Select Committee called Immigration Officer Ady Pacheco to testify. Her name is called about 94 times in the Auditor General's reports and the Senators called her b...
Boots “Bex” Because He Was Called To Testify But Sent Home
There was supposed to be one more witness for the day. UDP Minister Anthony "Boots" Martinez was summoned by the Senate Select Committee to testify, and he was no doubt more than will...
PC Florencio Rash Hauled Before a Police Tribunal
Last night we showed you footage of a cop, identified as PC Florencio Rash, laid out on the ground at the Belmopan bus station. The video quickly went viral on social media, provoking h...
SIB: Unemployment Up
The Statistical Institute of Belize has released the latest unemployment figures, and they show that a higher unemployment rate.   The Labour Force survey of April 2017, showed that...
SIB: Economy Grew
And there are probably more jobs because the economy grew in the first quarter of 2017. That's an improvement over last year, when it contracted. Statistician Jefte Ochaeta outlined the...
Economy Grew On Strength Of Sugar Output
The economy usually shows good growth in the first quarter - and that is owing in no small part to cane harvesting and sugar production - which are at their peak during that time.   ...
Bad News For Bowen: Beer and Soda Production Down
Notably, production of beer and soft drinks was down for the second successive quarter.  That's Bowen and Bowen's market, and Ochaeta said the beverage producer is being affected...
Overnight Arrivals Up, But Hotel Occupancy Isn’t
And the folks at Belikin aren't the only ones singing the blues due to a disruptive marketplace. Overnight tourism interests are also feeling the bite - but not from imports, most likely f...
Imports Down, Exports Up
Turning now to external trade, imports were down while exports were up.  And that, again, is due mostly to a strong out-turn for sugar.  Here's more:… Tiffany Vasquez - Statist...
Exports to The US Declined In First Quarter
And while exports were up - notably, there was less being exported to the United States - which looks to Belize for Citrus concentrate.  Here's why: Tiffany Vasquez - Statistician...
Managing Business In A Natural Disaster
Today BELTRAIDE and the Latin American and Caribbean Economic System, abbreviated in Spanish as "SELA," hosted officials from throughout Latin America and the Caribbean to talk about c...
Son of “Sabe” In Jail
Sebastian Nunez is no stranger to the news - and many times that he's been on here, it's because he's accused of a crime.  But that hasn't happened for a while - and when we ran a ...
DOE Backs Up The Mayor and City Council On Noise Pollution
Last week, the mayor made waves when he declared that City Hall would finally start adhering to the letter of the law, and stop granting 4:00 AM extensions to bars and nightclubs that ...
A New Belizean SITCOM
No Matta What: it was the first hit Belizean drama series in the early 2000's. Characters like Tomasa, Lisani and Jaime certainly captivated the Belizean audience and their sto...
Chester’s Last Southside Meet And Greet
As we mentioned earlier in the news, ACP Chester Williams will be vacating his position as Officer Commander of the Eastern Division - South, and moving over to Belmopan to take charg...
Will The Gang Truce Hold In the Vidal Era?
Williams also gave us an update about the state of the gang truce which he and community activist Dianne Finnegan orchestrated earlier this year. Williams's transfer has caused some dist...
Williams’ First Duty At Professional Standards
ACP Williams still has a couple more days as the Southside Police Commander, and apparently still has a few more things to strike off of his to-do list. Williams told us about his plans f...
A Real Ride For Charity
Since 2004, the management and staff of the Social Security Board have been holding the Ride Across Belize fund raising event. Participants from various organizations and businesses take p...
Immigration Officer Ady Pacheco Says They Never Vetted Any Documents
Last week the Senate Select Committee called Immigration Officer Ady Pacheco to testify. Her name is called about 94 times in the Auditor General's reports and the Senators called her b...
Boots “Bex” Because He Was Called To Testify But Sent Home
There was supposed to be one more witness for the day. UDP Minister Anthony "Boots" Martinez was summoned by the Senate Select Committee to testify, and he was no doubt more than will...
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7 News Belize - News:
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

Immigration Officer Ady Pacheco Says They Never Vetted Any Documents

Last week the Senate Select Committee called Immigration Officer Ady Pacheco to testify. Her name is called about 94 times in the Auditor General's reports and the Senators called her back today to discuss a lot of administrative irregularities exposed in the reports. One topic they did bring up again was her comment that she didn't closely inspect the files she accepted as a frontline immigration officer. She said that it was not her duty to spot fraudulent documents being submitted as part of applications for visas and nationalities. 

Well, the Senators wanted her to explain why she didn't see that as part of her responsibility, and she made some surprising claims. According to Pacheco, no one at the Immigration Department did any kind of verification of whether documents were authentic or not. 

The Senate didn't exactly accept that explanation, and here's how they challenged her on that:

Hon. Aldo Salazar - Chairman, Senate Select Committee
"When you were accepting documents, why did you not go back and reference that nationality certificate to verify if it was legally issued?"

Ady Pacheco - Immigration Officer
"Because that was practiced at the time. Nothing was verified at the time."

Hon. Aldo Salazar
"I understand that it wasn't part of the procedure to do so, but in terms of for your own personal due diligence, you didn't see it necessary to do that?"

Ady Pacheco
"At the time, no, sir."

Hon. Aldo Salazar
"You were the one who was accepting the documents, as the frontline personnel."

Ady Pacheco.
"Yes."

Hon. Aldo Salazar
"And you were the one who was being given that blame by the people up top, saying, well, you accepted it. You verified them. You verified their authenticity, and therefore, you are the person responsible for accepting fraudulent documents. You see what I am saying?"

Ady Pacheco
"I understand."

Hon. Eamon Courtenay - PUP Senator
"Is it that documents presented to you were simply accepted, and a visual check or when you say face value, you mean no independent verification or corroboration was done?"

Ady Pacheco
"What I mean was - and I told the other senators last week - we compared whatever copies that were brought in to whatever originals were presented to us."

Hon. Eamon Courtenay
"And no independent verification?"

Ady Pacheco
"No."

Hon. Mark Lizarraga - Business Senator
"Were you ever recommending files at any time in your career there?"

Ady Pacheco
"Yes."

Hon. Mark Lizarraga
"So in this case, you recommended this file."

Ady Pacheco
"Yes."

Hon. Mark Lizarraga
"Was it not your responsibility to verify them?"

Ady Pacheco
"No. We - at the time, there was no verification of anything. We went by whatever was in the file, and at face value. There was no set procedure that said that we have to verify extension stamp, residency stamp, work permit stamp, or even arrival stamp. This recommendation is no way or form a verification of any of the documents in there."

Hon. Mark Lizarraga
"So, who would be responsible for verifying these documents in the whole process?"

Ady Pacheco
"This is what I am trying to make you understand that there is no set person, or section that dealt with only verification. There was no verifications done at the time. If, let's say, they saw the need to verify something then the investigation section would be the one to do it. But, they weren't tasked with that. Investigation section helped us with the interviews too."

Hon. Mark Lizarraga
"So, you paid no attention to trying to see if what was presented to you was in fact authentic. This is the picture you're painting to me."

Ady Pacheco
"Yes, neither me no anybody who was recommending at the time."|

Hon. Eamon Courtenay
"When now, you're performing the "recommending" function, you are required, are you not, to vet. And by that I mean, if the person says, permanent resident in Belize from October 10, 2012, you are required to go and find out whether or not, in the register, that person was issued permanent residency."

Ady Pacheco
"No, sir."

Hon. Eamon Courtenay
"Why do you say no, So, how do you vet, then?"

Ady Pacheco
"We simply tell the person who that file is going to - to the Director - that this file contains - this is what is in the file."

Hon. Eamon Courtenay
"But how do you vet? You said you were performing a vetting function."

Ady Pacheco
"That was basically what we did. There was no verification. There was no going and checking if -"

Hon. Eamon Courtenay
"Why?"

Ady Pacheco
"That's what I met. That was the way it operated."

Hon. Eamon Courtenay
"It can't be so."

Ady Pacheco
"Yes, I worked in that section."

Hon. Eamon Courtenay
"So, why did it go to you all? The person at the front desk might as well send it to the Director. Why go to a verification department?" 

Ady Pacheco
"I can't answer that, sir. That was the way things worked back then."

Hon. Dr. Carla Barnett - UDP Senator
"Given that evidence, Miss Pacheco, why would you suppose that the Department would have taken its time to train its staff in fraudulent document identification, if you were not expected to you use that knowledge to vet documents?"

Ady Pacheco
"We did try to use it whenever possible. It's just that there was no verification done at any point."

Hon. Dr. Carla Barnett
"I think she can only speak for herself. Maybe she didn't do verification, but I don't know that you can say that nobody else used that knowledge."

Ady Pacheco
"Correct, ma'am."

Hon. Eamon Courtenay
"If what you are saying is true, then there was no need for political intervention. There was no need for financial intervention because whatever was sent, it was sent, and it just goes through the system. There is no need to call on a minister. There is no need to pay any money. And, we know that there was a culture of corruption that was embedded in the department. So, I am finding it difficult to believe that in fact, verification was not performed."

Ady Pacheco
"Sir, I went by what was in the file."

Hon. Mark Lizarraga
"Last week, my colleague Senator Chebat referred to you as the ultimate facilitator, and I am going to ask you this question. Was it possible that most people knew that you did not verify, and that's why they came to you?"

Ady Pacheco
"No, I wouldn't say that."

Hon. Mark Lizarraga
"But, you did not verify."

Ady Pacheco
"Nobody verified at the Department."

Hon. Mark Lizarraga
"Nobody, but you specifically did not - you said you did not verify. So, is it possible, Miss Pacheco, that - because you feature prominently in this book. There is another case on page 211 where the same thing, BNA file was forwarded by Ady Pacheco, although the application was incomplete, and had inconsistencies. Is it possible, Miss Pacheco that you were the ultimate facilitator?"

Ady Pacheco
"In those cases, when an application was sent incomplete, it would have to be that someone higher up the ranks was requesting that specific file."

Hon. Mark Lizarraga
"Does it surprise you that you feature so prominently in this report?"

Ady Pacheco
"No, I was working at that section during that time. If this report would have been done on a different time frame, if would probably be somebody else who would be featured prominently in that report."


Boots “Bex” Because He Was Called To Testify But Sent Home

There was supposed to be one more witness for the day. UDP Minister Anthony "Boots" Martinez was summoned by the Senate Select Committee to testify, and he was no doubt more than willing to come forward because he wanted to respond to the allegations that Alvarine Burgess made against him.

A few weeks ago, Burgess went before the Senate and said that back in the days when she was an immigration agent, she went to "Boots" Martinez, where she paid him several thousand dollars in bribe money so that he would write recommendations for Chinese visa applicants, guaranteeing that the visas would be approved. He told us that she is telling a lie, and most likely would have repeated those comments for the Senate's record, but he didn't get the chance. The Committee inexplicably decided that they couldn't take his testimony today.

He granted us an interview complaining that the Committee wasted his time and offered him no explanation:

Hon. Anthony "Boots" Martinez - UDP Minister
"Today, well prepared to go. I was informed that the committee is not ready for me yet. I have some fundamental difficulty, I think this senate inquiry to me begins to become a kind of circus, I don't know, I don't know."

Daniel Ortiz
"Have they given you any explanation as to why they haven't given you this summons today that they cancelled?"

Hon. Anthony "Boots" Martinez
"No explanation at all, I mean taking me out of my busy schedule, today is my constituency day and you summoned me and I think that if you want to -  in my humble opinion the meat of the matters and I think that readily anticipated for ministers to be called and testify."

Reporter
"So you've been informed of another date when you should reappear?"

Hon. Anthony "Boots" Martinez
"I have never been informed of another date, they just said that they are not ready for me yet, I don't know when they will be ready for me."

Daniel Ortiz
"Sir I get the sense that you're treating this particular issue with a sense of urgency since you're character has been called into question in these hearings."

Hon. Anthony "Boots" Martinez
"Well I don't worry about the character calling to question you know, my character called into question almost on a daily basis; wrongfully but that is not an issue with me, the issue is what is before the senate and so I think I'm not here. The senate called me to question my character, I think that the summons said testify in regards to what happened in regards to the immigration thing but again I have some little fundamental problem like for example, Mrs. Burgess. She is nowhere in that report and for even myself to be answering or try to reply to hear say; Mrs. Burgess is not in that report at all, I don't know that's why I said I find it to be a circus."

The press also questioned Martinez about Pacheco's sworn testimony from last week that she felt intimidated by ministers who made recommendations for persons who didn't qualify for immigration documents.

Other Immigration Officers have, under intense cross-examination, conceded that these requests from ministers did affect how they viewed the applicant who the Ministers were vouching for.  All UDP ministers who we've questioned on this topic have insisted that the recommendations are merely suggestions, and not directives.

Here's how Martinez answered that one when confronted with Ady Pacheco's testimony:

Hon. Anthony "Boots" Martinez - UDP Minister
"I've made recommendation all across the board, even as a minister I recommend people with passport, people for lands, for education, for everything. I do a lot of thing in my career so there is no--"

Reporter
"But specifically Asian nationals to facilitate visa approvals for them."

Hon. Anthony "Boots" Martinez
"Facilitate? How could I facilitate, listen to me. There are a couple things, there is the formula of how a person get visa. I don't have a difficulty with whatsoever recommendation is just a suggestion you know."

Reporter
"That carries weight according to the testimony of some of the immigration officers who came here."

Hon. Anthony "Boots" Martinez
"Listen to me, you look up the meaning of recommendation and it might carry weight within the regulation, it might carry weight within the regulation. Just yesterday I made a recommendation to public service in regards to a constituency of mines who was seeking a job and that recommendation was turned down. Why? Because the person didn't meet the qualifications, he didn't meet the qualification required by public service to get the job so recommendation is just a suggestion you know, that is no guarantee you know."

Daniel Ortiz
"Sir that is the ideal situation, it has been revealed that these recommendations hold sway, they obliged the immigration officers to act in a certain way."

Hon. Anthony "Boots" Martinez
"But I don't know that sir, that is not the policy and that is not the law. So whatsoever is the policy and the law must remain, the person must show where he got proof that he could stay, he need bank statements, all of that is the requirement, it is not just on recommendation."

Reporter
"Did it ever cross your mind that the intervention you made intimidated public officers?"

Hon. Anthony "Boots" Martinez
"Intimidate public officers? No man, intervention, no man."

Reporter
"Ms. Pacheco said that the involvement of ministers and political persons intimidated her in her work."

Hon. Anthony "Boots" Martinez
"How you mean intimidate?"

Reporter
"That she did not approve or make that recommendation of a minister work then she could be transferred."

Hon. Anthony "Boots" Martinez
"But how could she make a recommendation of a minister work when you're govern by certain guidelines?"

Martinez says that the Senate did not give him a date that he must return to testify. He says that he was told that another summons would be sent to him.


PC Florencio Rash Hauled Before a Police Tribunal

Last night we showed you footage of a cop, identified as PC Florencio Rash, laid out on the ground at the Belmopan bus station. The video quickly went viral on social media, provoking howls of outrage. 

Well since then the Police Department has confirmed that Rash was under the influence of alcohol at the time the video was taken, and disciplinary measures have been initiated against him by Belmopan police. 

This afternoon, we spoke to the man who's about to take charge of the Professional Standards Branch, Assistant Commissioner Chester Williams, about the incident and the disciplinary actions against PC Rash - who falls under ACP Williams because he is assigned to Eastern Division South..

ACP Chester Williams - OC, Southside Police
"Well you would know that policing is a stressful job and people tend to deal with stress differently. What you may do and what I may do may be totally different, I personally don't drink, never have and never will and the officer in question as you rightly said appeared to have been under the influence and we have confirmed that he was under the influence of alcohol. Since then he as been placed on disciplinary charges for act of prejudicial to good order and discipline and being intoxicated whilst in the police uniform."

Reporter
"Sir I know you said that how disciplinary charges, what kind of charges would come against someone like this since you said it has been confirmed that he was drunk in the uniform."

ACP Chester Williams
"It would be an act of prejudicial to good order and discipline."

Reporter
"That's a fine or?"

ACP Chester Williams
"That can carry up to a dismissal but I am not going to pre-empt what the outcome will be or should be that is a matter that should be rest solely on the adjudicator and if there is any interference with the decision of the adjudicator then that decision should be flawed and so we are hoping that whoever will adjudicate will use their best judgement and I don't think that to go to the extreme would be the right thing, let's look and see what was the situation with the officer and see how best can offer or provide some degree of professional help for him."

Williams told us about his plans for ensuring that this type of behaviour repeated by any other cop...

ACP Chester Williams - OC, Southside Police
"I think that going to my new post as the officer commanding professional standard's branch, my duty is to work hand in hand with the commissioner to be able to enhance the professionalism of the police as well as to enforce discipline within the department and so I believe that what I will need to do is to see how we can identify some of the officers who are going through a difficult time either at work or at home because sometimes officers do have personal issues and that too they might not deal with and so we have to be able to identify these officers and see how we can create some avenue that we can help them rather than to demonize them because by so doing it can only make then worse. So we need to try to see how we can get professional help for some of our officers who are going through stress on the job or going through domestic issues at home, going through financial situations, all of these things have effect on people so that is one angle I will put a document together to the commissioner to see how we can address some of these issues to put something from a proactive standpoint so that we don't end up with another situation like that. I think that will be important in how we go forward."

Rash has already appeared before the Police's Disciplinary Tribunal where he pled not guilty for acting to the Prejudice of Good Order and Discipline. The case was adjourned until July 11.

The Officer Commanding Belmopan, ACP Howell Gillett put out a statement saying that "a recommendation has been made to the Commissioner of Police to have this officer interdicted pending the outcome of the case."  He adds, quote, "I want to apologize to members of the public and the remainder of the Department for this unthinkable and unsightly occurrence."


SIB: Unemployment Up

The Statistical Institute of Belize has released the latest unemployment figures, and they show that a higher unemployment rate.  

The Labour Force survey of April 2017, showed that when compared to April of 2016, there were over two thousand more persons unemployed.  Statistician Curwen Arthurs explained:

Curwen Arthurs - Statistician I, SISB
"With last year's rate of 8% which one of the lowest in almost a decade, it was expected that rate would have raised, increased since then; experiencing such a low rate. So this time around we saw that the rate increased marginally by 9% and this was because the labour force was growing at a pace a bit faster than persons were actually gaining jobs. If we look at the rates by district, we see that only the Belize and Stann Creek district had rated higher than the national rate of 9% with Stann Creek having the highest rate at 13.1% and Belize having the second highest rate at 10.9%. The Toledo district again remains with the lowest rate, almost identical to what it was in 2016 at 3.9%. The rates by ethnicity there was a bit of a shift from 2016 where the group with the highest rate of unemployment were the Garifuna followed by the Creole."

On the upside, the labour force has also grown, and there are 3,194 more jobs compared to last year.




SIB: Economy Grew

And there are probably more jobs because the economy grew in the first quarter of 2017. That's an improvement over last year, when it contracted. Statistician Jefte Ochaeta outlined the findings:…

Jefte Ochaeta - Statistician I, SIB
"In the months of January to March of 2017 we see an increase of 2.1% in the economy where Belize produced goods and services totalling 748.2 million dollars which an increase of 15.3 million dollars of basically 2.1% from the same period in 2016. I can tell you that this 2.1% was mainly contributed by an increase in agriculture sector where the agriculture sector is contributing 1.6% to the 2.1% increase."


Economy Grew On Strength Of Sugar Output

The economy usually shows good growth in the first quarter - and that is owing in no small part to cane harvesting and sugar production - which are at their peak during that time.  

Ochaeta says that with Citrus, Petroleum and Flour down in the secondary sector, Sugar production was up by almost a third:…

Jefte Ochaeta - Statistician I, SIB
"When we look at the specifics of the secondary industries we see here that there was an increase in the sugar production. Why is this? Well mainly due to the fact that there was better quality in the cane due to favourable weather conditions, the dry condition in weather help the purity and the quality of the sugar cane and also the quality assurance and improved factors that the factory has placed to work. So those really helped the sugar production, plus the addition of the sugar refined by our factory in the west."


Bad News For Bowen: Beer and Soda Production Down

Notably, production of beer and soft drinks was down for the second successive quarter.  That's Bowen and Bowen's market, and Ochaeta said the beverage producer is being affected by imports:…

Jefte Ochaeta - Statistician I, SIB
"There was a decrease in beverage production of almost 5%. This is due that because we observed that we had less being produced, we had about 47,000 less gallons of beer being produced. Similarly we had 216,000 less litres of soft drinks being produced. What's affecting our production? Basically we saw an increase in the import of soft drinks and also beer, imported in 2016, it's affecting the producer. Additionally in the secondary industry, there was a decreased in flour production by 6% which also affected by flour imports."


Overnight Arrivals Up, But Hotel Occupancy Isn’t

And the folks at Belikin aren't the only ones singing the blues due to a disruptive marketplace. Overnight tourism interests are also feeling the bite - but not from imports, most likely from AirBnB.  The online service which lets you turn that spare room in your home into a lodging for guests accounts for a drop in occupancy rates - even though more overnight tourists are arriving.  

Jefte Ochaeta - Statistician I, SIB
"What happened is we had more persons coming into the country however, the hotel sector where the overnight visitor would be going reported a decrease in the hotel room occupancy rate by 5%. So that means that less revenue was generated from hotels from our traditionally hotels where our traditional visitors would be visiting, that means that the dynamics of our visitors has changed. Our visitors are now going into other kinds of budget services for accommodations, so that's why we saw a decrease in the hotels and restaurants services."


Imports Down, Exports Up

Turning now to external trade, imports were down while exports were up.  And that, again, is due mostly to a strong out-turn for sugar.  Here's more:…

Tiffany Vasquez - Statistician, SIB
"Total domestic exports for the period January to May 2017 amounted to 237.6 million dollars; this is an increase of 21.8% or 42.6 million when compared to January to May of 2016. This notable 21.8% growth in domestic earning was the result of positive performances for most of Belize's major exports. Sugar continues to be Belize's top export earner at 94.9 million dollars, up 58% or 34.8 million."


Exports to The US Declined In First Quarter

And while exports were up - notably, there was less being exported to the United States - which looks to Belize for Citrus concentrate.  Here's why:

Tiffany Vasquez - Statistician, SIB
"Domestic exports to the US fell by 10.8 million dollars over the period to 30 million largely due to the drop in orange concentrate sales. On the other hand exports to the EU rose by 12.2 million to 35 million, going to greater exports of sugar, orange concentrate, banana and orange oil to that region in the period January to May 2017. Further earnings from Belize's exports to CARICOM grew 4.3 million to 33 million due mostly to increased revenue from crude petroleum and boosted black eyed peas sales."

Also inflation for the first five months of 2017 was at 1.7% - meaning prices were also 2% higher this year when compared to last.  

We'll have the breakdown on that tomorrow.


Managing Business In A Natural Disaster

Today BELTRAIDE and the Latin American and Caribbean Economic System, abbreviated in Spanish as "SELA," hosted officials from throughout Latin America and the Caribbean to talk about continuing business after natural disasters.  

The workshop was tailor-made for Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises to learn about natural disaster risk management. Participants were advised on how to prepare their businesses for natural disasters, and to ensure that their livelihoods are safeguarded should a major disaster occur. We spoke to Beltraide representative Shari Williams, as well one of the presenters, Yves Davila, about the event...

Shari Williams- Beltraide Representative
"The Ministry with responsibility for investment trade and commerce is actually hosting the workshop via Beltraide. We are very delighted to have over 19 international participants here from 12 different countries throughout the SELA region, both Latin America, South America and the Caribbean. We also have 20 Belizean participants taking part and we have a wide cross section of participants: we have some business owners, some cooperatives, insurances, just all the stakeholders who would be a part of risk management when there is a natural disaster and how businesses survive such an event. It's something we want to share with all medium, micro and small enterprises in Belize. The whole idea of the workshop is to bring awareness to businesses of how they or their suppliers of goods or services might be affected during an adverse event, and to kind of put together some kind of methodology in place as to when a natural disaster occurs- what happens? And how do I proceed? And how do I ensure that my business continues after such an adverse event?"

Yves Davila- Presenter
"The main idea is how small/medium companies will be preparing in case of disaster and they can move forward in their business; for example if they have a fire or a flue, or maybe just, for example, a pandemic. So the processes and the services that I provide to the customer will be stopped. The main idea of this training session and these workshops are basically, how can they be prepared to continue the operations, continue providing the services that they have."

Alex Courtenay- Reporter
"So now when thinking about employing these strategies, if you are thinking of starting up a new business or even if you already have an existing business and you want to continue using these strategies, how important is it for business owners to be aware of this kind of thing?"

Yves Davila
"I always make the example of life insurance, when you die everybody maybe will have an insurance for those situations and I spend my money each month on that because I need to be, in case I pass away, my kids and my family can be protected. So basically I'm spending my money every month for that insurance coverage. But if you see you never die, I never pass away but I'm spending my money all the time and I never chose that insurance. The expectation is that I don't want to use it but I need to have it. So it's basically the same with business continuity. You are prepared in case of a disaster but you never expect and you never want a disaster but you have to spend your money for something that may never happen. So at the end, the main idea is that you be prepared."

The workshop began today and will run through the end of the week.


Son of “Sabe” In Jail

Sebastian Nunez is no stranger to the news - and many times that he's been on here, it's because he's accused of a crime.  But that hasn't happened for a while - and when we ran a story the other night saying he was wanted he came here quickly to say police were after his son, not him.  Well that son was sent to jail - where he turned 18.  Nunez went to visit him but was told the teenager was in a confinement area.  Then he went back two weeks later, and his son was still confined.  Today, Sebastian "Sabe" Nunez told us that his young son may have a long rap sheet, but he's being subjected to too much:…

Sebastian Nunez - Father of Accused
"I get to find out, I investigated about it good, they tell me because my son is a repeat offender, they lock down my son in act sec. Jules if you go to act sec and you see how this act sec look, brethren from snake the come through the windows, tarantula the come into the building, scorpion in the building, centipedes in the building, all kind thing in the building brethren and he got no kind of help. Listen to me, yes he's a criminal, remember we are all human. I'm not condoning my son in the crime which they accuse him but I won't crucify my pikni because he is in jail I will leave him like that to the mercy of the world, I can't get no visit for my pikni because he no do the officer nothing, he no do nobody nothing at the prison just because they said he is a repeat offender they will lock down my son in a lock down thing like that, it's not fair man. Alright he is going to jail 14, 15, 16 and 17, he just 18 right here the 18th of May 2017, all the while he was at boot camp, how could he be a repeat offender?"

Jules Vasquez
"Man being in jail all these years, this is a hardened criminal, might be a youth but he hardened. How would you respond to that?"

Sebastian Nunez
"Watch here, on the real, some of us have to learn the hard way, this is chance, this isn't the hard way, this is chance. I learn the hard way brethren. Listen to me, I'm not ashamed of anything Jules, I graduate from prison, no school I graduate from, I graduate from prison, I'm not ashamed but I know who me and I could make somebody out of myself now, my mistakes are behind me."

Nunez says he came forward to the media because wardens at the jail told him that's the only thing he can do to complain about that holding area.


DOE Backs Up The Mayor and City Council On Noise Pollution

Last week, the mayor made waves when he declared that City Hall would finally start adhering to the letter of the law, and stop granting 4:00 AM extensions to bars and nightclubs that weren't soundproofed. He was talking mainly about the "entertainment strip" on Princess Margaret drive extending from the BTL Park to the Hour Bar. It adjoins a residential area, and after a town meeting, the mayor decided that residents had endured too much.

Well, even though his city council is very divided on the issue because of the loss of revenue, and of social life, the Department of the Environment today let it be known that it has the Mayor's back.

That Department sent out a release talking about noise pollution, and says, it quote, "supports the Mayor…and the Belize City Council in enforcing legislation that exists to ensure that there is a balance between the economic development of Belize and a healthy environment for all." It adds, quote, "This specific area…has been a challenging location for the DOE on the issue of noise pollution."

And taking it further than the city council, the DOE says ALL Liquor Licensing Boards countrywide should check with the DOE before they issues liquor licenses. According to law, the DOE should first approve those establishments as being soundproof. The statement puts it like this: "For too long violators of the noise abatement regulations have gone unregulated, making it a norm in our society to just accept that violating our laws is a way of life."


A New Belizean SITCOM

No Matta What: it was the first hit Belizean drama series in the early 2000's. Characters like Tomasa, Lisani and Jaime certainly captivated the Belizean audience and their stories reflected the joys and struggles of life in the city. Well, the producers of this drama series hope to get you hooked on their new show called "Livin mi Life". It's their first attempt at a Belizean sitcom. Today, the Owner and Manager of 13 Productions who also produced "Livin Mi Life" dropped by our studios to tell us about this new series. 2 of the actors also told us what to expect from the character they play.

Denver Fairweather- Producer
“Living Mih Life” is a little bit more light-hearted. It’s a comedy, it’s a half an hour to 45-minute running program, including ads, that will deal with different scenarios and most of our cast for “Living Mih Life” are in there 20’s and upwards- 20’s to 40’s. So it’s going to be dealing with dating issues and day to day issues of young adults in that 25 to 35-40 year old age range.”  

Raheem Phillips- Plays “Tyrone”
“I would compare Tyrone to the Steve Urkel of this sitcom, and I hope it will come out that way, I hope it will make people laugh. Tyrone is the best friend of the main character Harry and he lives on his own, his parents moved to the states and he lives off their pension, and he sees himself as some kind of entrepreneur, he sees himself as perfect, he doesn’t notice his own flaws, but everyone else notices he’s an idiot, right. He comes around and leeches off of Harry and his mom. When you follow his story on every episode he makes you laugh, I hope, based on some of the fumbles on his daily life.”

Brhea Bown- Plays “Dirty Diana”
“Dirty Diana is a calm stuck up kind of person, but after work hours and after daylight hours Dianna is Dirty, you know that’s why they call her Dirty Diana. She’s a very aggressive female, sexual, very sexual; she’s a bit two-faced you know. I’m not that kind of person you know, but I had to become that character and I had to get the energy out so you can get a response from the crowd because then I believe that if you don’t get a response from the other characters you won’t get a response from anyone else.”

Denver Fairweather
“What we are doing is that we are doing a combo package. As a lead up to the launch of Livin mih life we are gonna be doing a 4 week encore presentation of season 4 of No matta what, which was aired in 2010 but has not been released on DVD’s as yet. So we’ve had a lot of feedback from actors and from people that know me as a producer about when we’ll bring back No matta what and they would like to see No matta what, so we are not going to be continuing that specific series but we are going to replay some short films and features that are based on season 4 of No matta what to refresh the memory of some avid fans and also for the younger generation that are not familiar with it for them to get introduced to it. The aim is to build on and to revitalize the No matta what fan base and then take into the new series.”

Raheem Phillips
“I really hope that people will find it funny and I hope that we also not just make jokes but also give messages that people can take back from it and inspire people to do what they like, because, you know, people are always saying that acting won’t make it or music won’t make it, but I still try to push because it’s something that I love to do and I hope that more people would do that.”

Fairweather from 13 productions also partnered with Steve Berry who is a former professor at Howard University in the US. They both paired up for No Matta what as well. The producers and cast have been shooting and rehearsing since November but the 4 episode sitcom is pretty much ready for broadcast. Re-runs of No Mata What season 4 will air on July 3rd on Channel 7 after 8:00. That will lead into the new series "Livin mi Life." If you want to find out more you can visit their Facebook page or if you would like to see how you can help to keep this sitcom going you can call 13 productions at 610-1313.

Chester’s Last Southside Meet And Greet

As we mentioned earlier in the news, ACP Chester Williams will be vacating his position as Officer Commander of the Eastern Division - South, and moving over to Belmopan to take charge of the Professional Standards Branch. Today, Williams participated in his last community meet and greet. We have covered dozens of these on the news, and today in the Jane Usher area; we spoke to Williams about his final week in the neighbourhoods of the Southside: 

ACP Chester Williams - OC, Southside Police
"Indeed it is my final meet and greet as the officer commanding eastern division south and the feedback from the people that we have encountered for today has been positive in the sense that they are saying they are happy for the policing in the area, the patrols are visible, every so often they see the patrols pass by. Some of them are saying that they wish it was not my last, that is expected (laugh) right and I could understand where they are coming from but the time has come for me to move on and I am preparing to make my way to Belmopan as of Monday of next week."

Reporter
"Now sir what have you been telling the residence as you had said, some of them are expressing some kind of dismay because you're leaving but what kind of assurances are you giving them that you're replacement Mr. Vidal will keep in place some of these programmes that you and the community policing unit have started on the Southside?"

ACP Chester Williams
"Well my thing to them is to remain optimistic. I have said before and I'll say again that I do believe that Mr. Vidal will do good. He's an exceptional officer as well and I believe that he will continue some of the programmes; I'm not sure about all but some of them. He is his own man and I'm sure he will assess the situation on the ground and make a determination from there as to what programmes to keep, what to not keep or what to enhance or whatever the case may be. So my thing to them is to remain optimistic and let's see what happens."


Will The Gang Truce Hold In the Vidal Era?

Williams also gave us an update about the state of the gang truce which he and community activist Dianne Finnegan orchestrated earlier this year. Williams's transfer has caused some distress for some members of the Southside gang community, who fear the tactics of his replacement, former GSU Commander, Mark Vidal. Williams told us that he has spoken with gang leaders about upholding the truce, and has urged them to continue to work alongside the police. Here's what he had to say about that meeting...

ACP Chester Williams - OC, Southside Police
"Just yesterday myself and Ms. Finnegan met with the gaggle of guys and we discussed with them basically what is expected that my departure does not mean we go back to the old but rather that we remain on course to continue to do good, to continue to respect their lives and the lives of others. I explained to them the importance of their lives to their families and that every life does matter including theirs and regardless of what people may say to them or say about them, they must always keep their heads up high and focus on what lies ahead of them and that is to ensure that they remain alive for the betterment of themselves and their families."

Reporter
"Now sir was this meeting that was held with the prominent gang figures in the city itself.  If it was, what were some of their concerns that they actually brought to the table; if you can share any?"

ACP Chester Williams
"Well the intervention was at the Racoon Street Police Station and I will not go into details as to what was discussed because you know that when you do have interventions and mediations, confidentiality is essential, that is one of the reasons why the guys feel so free communicate with us because whatever we share, is never discussed in the public. So in terms of going into what was said, I will only go as far as to say that they are disappointed yes and there is some degree of uncertainty among them as to what will become of them but my thing to them was to assure them that all is not lost and I told them what Mr. Vidal has said to me that he is not coming with the intention to brutalize no one, that is not his style and so they felt a bit more easy after I had explained to them and so they will just wait and see what happens when the transition is completed."


Williams’ First Duty At Professional Standards

ACP Williams still has a couple more days as the Southside Police Commander, and apparently still has a few more things to strike off of his to-do list. Williams told us about his plans for final two days in Belize City and his expectations for his transition over to Professional Standards...

ACP Chester Williams - OC, Southside Police
"If you go to my office you will see my office is peel, I have packed and prepared to leave, I'm just awaiting Mr. Vidal taking over, he should be coming in on Friday to take over, I'll be handing over to him on Friday morning and after Friday I'll no longer be the officer commanding eastern division south. I should be taking over from Mr. Lino, professional standard's branch on Monday and then I'll assume command of that unit so tomorrow we're having an event at the Racoon Street Police Station, media is invited. We'll be having a farewell slash appreciation event, I want to show appreciation to some officers who have been there with me and as well as to the media. As much as the media has been a pain in the butt at times, we do understand that it comes with their territory and nothing is held against them, I'm sure that the work we have done together, the good work of the police out there to the public has been exceptional and priceless so it is only worthy that I also express my gratitude to the media for the support they have giving me over the past 2 years. I ask that you all continue to give the same support to my successor to ensure that the good work that the police will do in eastern division south continue to be highlighted."

Williams has served as Commanding Officer of the Easter Division - South since July of 2015.


A Real Ride For Charity

Since 2004, the management and staff of the Social Security Board have been holding the Ride Across Belize fund raising event. Participants from various organizations and businesses take part in a cross country ride to raise awareness and fund a worthy cause. This year's proceeds will go to two organizations, the first is the Adopt a Child with a Disability, which provides therapy to youths with various disabilities, and the Urban Schools Gardening Programs, which teaches school children about subsistence farming as well as provides them with healthy meals.

We spoke with the event's organizer, Chandra Cansino, as well as a representative from the Adopt a Child with a Disability program, about the importance of initiative...

Anyone that wants to donate to the even can contact their local Social Secuity Board office for more information.


7News for Wednesday, June 28th, 2017 from 7News Belize on Vimeo.


Immigration Officer Ady Pacheco Says They Never Vetted Any Documents

Last week the Senate Select Committee called Immigration Officer Ady Pacheco to testify. Her name is called about 94 times in the Auditor General's reports and the Senators called her back today to discuss a lot of administrative irregularities exposed in the reports. One topic they did bring up again was her comment that she didn't closely inspect the files she accepted as a frontline immigration officer. She said that it was not her duty to spot fraudulent documents being submitted as part of applications for visas and nationalities. 

Well, the Senators wanted her to explain why she didn't see that as part of her responsibility, and she made some surprising claims. According to Pacheco, no one at the Immigration Department did any kind of verification of whether documents were authentic or not. 

The Senate didn't exactly accept that explanation, and here's how they challenged her on that:

Hon. Aldo Salazar - Chairman, Senate Select Committee
"When you were accepting documents, why did you not go back and reference that nationality certificate to verify if it was legally issued?"

Ady Pacheco - Immigration Officer
"Because that was practiced at the time. Nothing was verified at the time."

Hon. Aldo Salazar
"I understand that it wasn't part of the procedure to do so, but in terms of for your own personal due diligence, you didn't see it necessary to do that?"

Ady Pacheco
"At the time, no, sir."

Hon. Aldo Salazar
"You were the one who was accepting the documents, as the frontline personnel."

Ady Pacheco.
"Yes."

Hon. Aldo Salazar
"And you were the one who was being given that blame by the people up top, saying, well, you accepted it. You verified them. You verified their authenticity, and therefore, you are the person responsible for accepting fraudulent documents. You see what I am saying?"

Ady Pacheco
"I understand."

Hon. Eamon Courtenay - PUP Senator
"Is it that documents presented to you were simply accepted, and a visual check or when you say face value, you mean no independent verification or corroboration was done?"

Ady Pacheco
"What I mean was - and I told the other senators last week - we compared whatever copies that were brought in to whatever originals were presented to us."

Hon. Eamon Courtenay
"And no independent verification?"

Ady Pacheco
"No."

Hon. Mark Lizarraga - Business Senator
"Were you ever recommending files at any time in your career there?"

Ady Pacheco
"Yes."

Hon. Mark Lizarraga
"So in this case, you recommended this file."

Ady Pacheco
"Yes."

Hon. Mark Lizarraga
"Was it not your responsibility to verify them?"

Ady Pacheco
"No. We - at the time, there was no verification of anything. We went by whatever was in the file, and at face value. There was no set procedure that said that we have to verify extension stamp, residency stamp, work permit stamp, or even arrival stamp. This recommendation is no way or form a verification of any of the documents in there."

Hon. Mark Lizarraga
"So, who would be responsible for verifying these documents in the whole process?"

Ady Pacheco
"This is what I am trying to make you understand that there is no set person, or section that dealt with only verification. There was no verifications done at the time. If, let's say, they saw the need to verify something then the investigation section would be the one to do it. But, they weren't tasked with that. Investigation section helped us with the interviews too."

Hon. Mark Lizarraga
"So, you paid no attention to trying to see if what was presented to you was in fact authentic. This is the picture you're painting to me."

Ady Pacheco
"Yes, neither me no anybody who was recommending at the time."|

Hon. Eamon Courtenay
"When now, you're performing the "recommending" function, you are required, are you not, to vet. And by that I mean, if the person says, permanent resident in Belize from October 10, 2012, you are required to go and find out whether or not, in the register, that person was issued permanent residency."

Ady Pacheco
"No, sir."

Hon. Eamon Courtenay
"Why do you say no, So, how do you vet, then?"

Ady Pacheco
"We simply tell the person who that file is going to - to the Director - that this file contains - this is what is in the file."

Hon. Eamon Courtenay
"But how do you vet? You said you were performing a vetting function."

Ady Pacheco
"That was basically what we did. There was no verification. There was no going and checking if -"

Hon. Eamon Courtenay
"Why?"

Ady Pacheco
"That's what I met. That was the way it operated."

Hon. Eamon Courtenay
"It can't be so."

Ady Pacheco
"Yes, I worked in that section."

Hon. Eamon Courtenay
"So, why did it go to you all? The person at the front desk might as well send it to the Director. Why go to a verification department?" 

Ady Pacheco
"I can't answer that, sir. That was the way things worked back then."

Hon. Dr. Carla Barnett - UDP Senator
"Given that evidence, Miss Pacheco, why would you suppose that the Department would have taken its time to train its staff in fraudulent document identification, if you were not expected to you use that knowledge to vet documents?"

Ady Pacheco
"We did try to use it whenever possible. It's just that there was no verification done at any point."

Hon. Dr. Carla Barnett
"I think she can only speak for herself. Maybe she didn't do verification, but I don't know that you can say that nobody else used that knowledge."

Ady Pacheco
"Correct, ma'am."

Hon. Eamon Courtenay
"If what you are saying is true, then there was no need for political intervention. There was no need for financial intervention because whatever was sent, it was sent, and it just goes through the system. There is no need to call on a minister. There is no need to pay any money. And, we know that there was a culture of corruption that was embedded in the department. So, I am finding it difficult to believe that in fact, verification was not performed."

Ady Pacheco
"Sir, I went by what was in the file."

Hon. Mark Lizarraga
"Last week, my colleague Senator Chebat referred to you as the ultimate facilitator, and I am going to ask you this question. Was it possible that most people knew that you did not verify, and that's why they came to you?"

Ady Pacheco
"No, I wouldn't say that."

Hon. Mark Lizarraga
"But, you did not verify."

Ady Pacheco
"Nobody verified at the Department."

Hon. Mark Lizarraga
"Nobody, but you specifically did not - you said you did not verify. So, is it possible, Miss Pacheco, that - because you feature prominently in this book. There is another case on page 211 where the same thing, BNA file was forwarded by Ady Pacheco, although the application was incomplete, and had inconsistencies. Is it possible, Miss Pacheco that you were the ultimate facilitator?"

Ady Pacheco
"In those cases, when an application was sent incomplete, it would have to be that someone higher up the ranks was requesting that specific file."

Hon. Mark Lizarraga
"Does it surprise you that you feature so prominently in this report?"

Ady Pacheco
"No, I was working at that section during that time. If this report would have been done on a different time frame, if would probably be somebody else who would be featured prominently in that report."


Boots “Bex” Because He Was Called To Testify But Sent Home

There was supposed to be one more witness for the day. UDP Minister Anthony "Boots" Martinez was summoned by the Senate Select Committee to testify, and he was no doubt more than willing to come forward because he wanted to respond to the allegations that Alvarine Burgess made against him.

A few weeks ago, Burgess went before the Senate and said that back in the days when she was an immigration agent, she went to "Boots" Martinez, where she paid him several thousand dollars in bribe money so that he would write recommendations for Chinese visa applicants, guaranteeing that the visas would be approved. He told us that she is telling a lie, and most likely would have repeated those comments for the Senate's record, but he didn't get the chance. The Committee inexplicably decided that they couldn't take his testimony today.

He granted us an interview complaining that the Committee wasted his time and offered him no explanation:

Hon. Anthony "Boots" Martinez - UDP Minister
"Today, well prepared to go. I was informed that the committee is not ready for me yet. I have some fundamental difficulty, I think this senate inquiry to me begins to become a kind of circus, I don't know, I don't know."

Daniel Ortiz
"Have they given you any explanation as to why they haven't given you this summons today that they cancelled?"

Hon. Anthony "Boots" Martinez
"No explanation at all, I mean taking me out of my busy schedule, today is my constituency day and you summoned me and I think that if you want to -  in my humble opinion the meat of the matters and I think that readily anticipated for ministers to be called and testify."

Reporter
"So you've been informed of another date when you should reappear?"

Hon. Anthony "Boots" Martinez
"I have never been informed of another date, they just said that they are not ready for me yet, I don't know when they will be ready for me."

Daniel Ortiz
"Sir I get the sense that you're treating this particular issue with a sense of urgency since you're character has been called into question in these hearings."

Hon. Anthony "Boots" Martinez
"Well I don't worry about the character calling to question you know, my character called into question almost on a daily basis; wrongfully but that is not an issue with me, the issue is what is before the senate and so I think I'm not here. The senate called me to question my character, I think that the summons said testify in regards to what happened in regards to the immigration thing but again I have some little fundamental problem like for example, Mrs. Burgess. She is nowhere in that report and for even myself to be answering or try to reply to hear say; Mrs. Burgess is not in that report at all, I don't know that's why I said I find it to be a circus."

The press also questioned Martinez about Pacheco's sworn testimony from last week that she felt intimidated by ministers who made recommendations for persons who didn't qualify for immigration documents.

Other Immigration Officers have, under intense cross-examination, conceded that these requests from ministers did affect how they viewed the applicant who the Ministers were vouching for.  All UDP ministers who we've questioned on this topic have insisted that the recommendations are merely suggestions, and not directives.

Here's how Martinez answered that one when confronted with Ady Pacheco's testimony:

Hon. Anthony "Boots" Martinez - UDP Minister
"I've made recommendation all across the board, even as a minister I recommend people with passport, people for lands, for education, for everything. I do a lot of thing in my career so there is no--"

Reporter
"But specifically Asian nationals to facilitate visa approvals for them."

Hon. Anthony "Boots" Martinez
"Facilitate? How could I facilitate, listen to me. There are a couple things, there is the formula of how a person get visa. I don't have a difficulty with whatsoever recommendation is just a suggestion you know."

Reporter
"That carries weight according to the testimony of some of the immigration officers who came here."

Hon. Anthony "Boots" Martinez
"Listen to me, you look up the meaning of recommendation and it might carry weight within the regulation, it might carry weight within the regulation. Just yesterday I made a recommendation to public service in regards to a constituency of mines who was seeking a job and that recommendation was turned down. Why? Because the person didn't meet the qualifications, he didn't meet the qualification required by public service to get the job so recommendation is just a suggestion you know, that is no guarantee you know."

Daniel Ortiz
"Sir that is the ideal situation, it has been revealed that these recommendations hold sway, they obliged the immigration officers to act in a certain way."

Hon. Anthony "Boots" Martinez
"But I don't know that sir, that is not the policy and that is not the law. So whatsoever is the policy and the law must remain, the person must show where he got proof that he could stay, he need bank statements, all of that is the requirement, it is not just on recommendation."

Reporter
"Did it ever cross your mind that the intervention you made intimidated public officers?"

Hon. Anthony "Boots" Martinez
"Intimidate public officers? No man, intervention, no man."

Reporter
"Ms. Pacheco said that the involvement of ministers and political persons intimidated her in her work."

Hon. Anthony "Boots" Martinez
"How you mean intimidate?"

Reporter
"That she did not approve or make that recommendation of a minister work then she could be transferred."

Hon. Anthony "Boots" Martinez
"But how could she make a recommendation of a minister work when you're govern by certain guidelines?"

Martinez says that the Senate did not give him a date that he must return to testify. He says that he was told that another summons would be sent to him.


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