Episode 23 - The Covid restrictions get relaxed. The debate over "good" hair. How come no one ever goes to jail for trafficking narcotics in Belize? And a great story about a rescue at sea in San Pedro!
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Brent Toombs 0:29
Coming Up: Relaxed COVID regulations, narco planes, good hair, and a heartwarming story of a rescue at sea!
You're listening to Brent's Two Cents, the semi serious thoughts of a guy in Belize. And now here's the host of this podcast from somewhere in Belize City, Brent Toombs.
Brent Toombs 0:55
Hey, welcome to the podcast for the week of February, the first. Well, there's a lot to unpack from last week so I'm going to break from my usual format of having one main topic, and instead offer my two cents on a few issues that believe it has had been talking about. Starting with COVID-19, or more specifically, the latest statutory instrument detailing the latest adjustments to the virus containment restrictions. The big change that most people were hoping what happened was a relaxation of curfew hours, the curfew now begins at 10pm nightly, giving us an extra two hours of freedom, before locking down for the night. The main rationale for this is of course, economic,
Brent Toombs 1:45
in particular, to help restaurants. And that's something I agree with. As I mentioned in last week's podcast. Food vendors can now also return to public spaces. Something else that I agree with. Now, my concern with the 10pm curfew. Is that I know it will encourage social gatherings, those extra two hours will make the difference between someone going straight home after work, or stopping to meet friends for a couple of chicken wings and several buckets of beer or two for one cocktails. And if I'm starting to sound like a broken record about these so called restaurants that operate as bars, good. That's intentional. Because I'm concerned about the lack of enforcement in that area. I have yet to hear of one of these businesses, getting charged, because they let customers drink alcohol for hours after finishing a meal. And of course, there will be more public drinking. Now that you can stay out until 10pm those extra two hours will be the difference between going home to watch Netflix or meeting your crew by the seaside or in the park with your icebox and quarts and your plastic cups. This sort of behavior was on full display all over. Prior to the 8pm curfew imposed in mid December, and I have no doubt, we will see more of the same. Now that people have been trusted yet again to stay out a bit later.
Brent Toombs 3:21
Gyms can open now but only for 50% of capacity, and by appointment only. Patrons must be logged in, and have their temperatures checked and the gym operators are responsible to make sure that all equipment is sanitized after each person uses it. I think this is one area that health officials, need to monitor closely and be vigilant about contact tracing. In order to really get an indication. If gyms are as dangerous as some people fear, or as low risk as gym owners and exercise junkies claim them to be. One thing I know for sure. We will once again be debating whether or not, gyms, should be open and allowed to operate sooner rather than later. So let's at least use this experiment to collect some useful data.
Brent Toombs 4:15
Churches had their prayers answered. Well, mostly. Places of worship can now open for 50% of their capacity. Although services are not supposed to last longer than an hour. Now, Of all the relaxations and reopenings. This one has me the most concern. First, 50% capacity is still a lot of people, and one of those evangelical mega churches. And many of those believers tend to skew towards denying COVID-19 altogether. Yes I does not address ventilation for churches. So while restaurants can only open, if they are open air, a church could have an enclosed and air conditioned space. There is no restriction seen, which is a huge spread of vapor from one person to another. Nor is there any requirement for people to remain physically distanced from each other. While inside the church. And may I remind you that it was an evangelical mega church in San Pedro, that was identified as one of the clusters that started the spike of infections in August. That led to the complete lockdown on that but this key. But it seems that GOB wants to throw the churches a bone, to keep them happy at this time and I am sure it's only a coincidence that government is trying to garner support for the legalization of weed and municipal elections are just a month away. In the meantime, please say your prayers, but I'm wrong about churches, being the next super spreaders and buildings.
Brent Toombs 5:55
And speaking of drugs. Another narco plane crash landed in northern Belize in the wee hours of last Friday morning. But what makes this story different is that for once, the police were actually able to respond in time before the drugs, and people vanished. Well, at least the local people who may have been helping to facilitate the level nine believes that were found near the crash site in a boat with about 70 kilos of suspected cocaine in their possession. Two of the suspects are police officers, while a third suspect is a member of the Belize Defence Force, and a driver for the Commandant, Brigadier General, Steven Ortega.
Brent Toombs 6:41
Another 23 bales of suspected cocaine bring it over 680 kilos was recovered at the crash site. So, a pretty good day for bullies, in the war on drugs right now. Not likely. Already the Commissioner of Police has told reporters that it's unlikely the suspects detained on Friday will be charged for facilitating the drug plane, that the bulk of the suspected cocaine will be tagged as found property, and at best, those nine believes it might get charged with possession, with the intent to traffick.
Brent Toombs 7:24
Notice I said suspected cocaine. That's because we've seen cocaine turn into flour, when it's found in the possession of special people in the past. Or evidence gets lost, or some stupid handling or chain of custody error gets made, and the evidence is thrown out and time after time after time police and soldiers and drivers of big men and friends of politicians have their charges dropped, or get acquitted. While senior police just shrug their shoulders and promise to catch the bad guys next time.
Brent Toombs 8:04
So, How many times have you seen this movie before? And why should we expect a different ending this time around? Remember the drug plane that landed on the southern highway 10 years ago, resulting in the arrest of seven police officers, and a customs officer, including the driver for the Governor General all charges got dropped. Or the guy who crashed a Lincoln Navigator he was driving at the Belize border. After running for Mexican customs offices in December of 2017. Six kilos of cocaine was found hidden compartments inside that vehicle. The driver somehow managed to flee the secured area, and was not detained until two weeks later. When he finally went to court in June of 2019 prosecutors just dropped the charges. Or what about 12 Guatemalans and a Belizean arrested on weapons, and drug charges in 2018 after over 1000 pounds of cocaine was discovered in an SUV on the coastal road. The entire case was dropped after two of the Guatemalans took the rap for the weapons. They were fined, $100,000, which was paid immediately, and the 12 were ordered to leave the country. No one even bothered to ask how they had access to $100,000, or who might have paid their fine on their behalf. Or how about the cop found with aviation fuel at the scene of a suspected drunk plane landing in Toledo in December, 2018? He was detained, but never charged. Remember the eight people who got caught red handed with a huge cargo of drugs and weapons and actually got into a shootout with police in September of 2019? Charges against seven of them were dropped in December last year. Only the pilot remains in custody, and he's yet to even answer the charges against him.
Brent Toombs 10:13
You know, I can't think of one high profile narco trafficking bust in the last 20 years when anyone has actually been convicted and jailed. But, the police and the Director of Public Prosecutions will keep trying to catch and punish the bad guys. Right.
Brent Toombs 10:35
Okay, another hot button issue this past week was hair, natural hair to be specific. Now, as a Caucasian male with straight and thinning hair I am as far from an expert on this issue is one can get. But I have learned a lot over the years from my female friends of color that hair is a very big deal. It's not just fashion. Its politics, its culture, its identity and self image. It can also be used as a weapon against the wear of a particular hairstyle or hair can be a means of oppression of subjugation of racism. Last week, Cheyenne Banner, an employee of the Belmopan city council was told by her supervisor that she needed to do something about her naturally styled Afro because it was quote offensive. Cheyenne refused. And when the story hits social media, a movement was born. Facebook was flooded with scores of photos from Malaysian women proudly rocking their natural hair, including the Acting Chief Justice of Belize, Michelle Arana and Senator Isabelle Bennett. Meanwhile, others who were born with what some in society still call good hair expressed solidarity and support for their curly haired sisters. Now this is not the first time in recent years that natural hair has created a buzz of beliefs, but it was so encouraging to see that the discussion this time around, was mostly about embracing and supporting the right to keep your hair, how you want, rather than debating about what is or isn't appropriate for work or school. It seems every September, well, at least back in the days when kids went to school, that there'd be a controversy over how some boy or girl wore their hair. And many people would speak out in favor of those institutions that were suspending the offending student, because they believe that young people need to learn discipline and how to follow orders. Well, hopefully after the viral response from last week. Those people will now realize that draconian rules about how to cut or style your hair is discrimination, discrimination that is rooted in racism. The same people, like the supervisor who tried to tell Ms Banner that her hair was offensive are products of the Belize education system that continues to reinforce this colonial mentality that the kinky hair of Afro Belizeans is bad, and that the straight hair of the Anglo masters is good.
Brent Toombs 13:27
Now, a bit of serendipity occurred last week when the Supreme Court of Belize ruled that the police department's ban on dreadlocks was unconstitutional. Seven female officers who had been disciplined for wearing their hair in locks made a constitutional challenge against this policy, and won. Commissioner of Police Chester Williams defended the disciplining of the officers at that time, by saying they knew about this policy in advance and chose to go against it. I can't help but think that this sort of discrimination was exactly what the Equal Opportunities bill was intended to address and it's a shame that those seven officers had to go through a complicated, and potentially very expensive constitutional challenge, just to defend their right to wear their hair, a certain way.
Brent Toombs 14:22
Okay, stick around, I've got one more thing to talk about. And it's a great story about the rescue of a very special Scottish ship off the coast of Belize.
Brent Toombs 14:52
Eleven year old Ollie an eight year old Harry Ferguson, are two brothers who live in Scotland. In 2017, they had this idea to launch a toy ship that they christened Adventure into the Atlantic Ocean, just to see where the wind and currents would take it. The tiny vessel was equipped with a GPS tracker that would pinpoint his location. And by May of 2019 Adventure had traveled more than 3700 miles to the Caribbean where, unfortunately, it vanished somewhere near Barbados. A family in Trinidad heard about the Adventure and reached out to the boys to assist. So Ollie and Harry sent a second toy ship appropriately named Adventure 2 to Trinidad. And after a few minor modifications to help the ship handle the open seas better the A2 was launched from Trinidad. The ship made its way to Guyana where it was located and put back into the sea. Next up was one of the Bay Islands of Honduras, where the A2 seemed to disappear for a few weeks until being found by the Honduran Navy. After a few more repairs Adventure 2 was out to sea once again, and began its trek northwest and on a track for Belize. Last Wednesday, Ollie and Harry's father posted on Facebook, that the A2 was expected to wash up on the shores of Ambergris Caye sometime in the next few days. He was asking anyone in Belize, who might find it to contact him and to relaunch the ship, when the winds are once again favorable. Well, when I read this post the first thought I had was, "I bet I know exactly who's going to go out and find that ship". And a few hours later, I was proven right. Elito Arceo and his friends didn't just wait for the ship to reach the beach. No, they headed out to the open sea, miles on the other side of the barrier reef to perform an amazing search and rescue mission. I had a chance to speak to Eltio over the weekend.
Transcribed by https://otter.ai