CARSI Donation Ceremony
June 6, 2012
Good morning and welcome.
Greetings from Rogers Stadium and the south side of Belize City! Thank you all for coming out today! I know many of you normally come here from across the country to watch softball teams, but today Rogers Stadium showcases another type of teamwork -- two governments working together as partners. Partners who work together to improve citizen security here in the south side of Belize City and across the country. Partners who work together to build capacity of law enforcement to improve citizen security. Partners who commit to strengthening its borders. Partners who work with the communities to prevent crime. Partners who support at-risk youth. By working together, we can push back against criminal elements, build communities, and promote economic growth in a secure environment.
Many of you already know the acronym “CARSI” – the Central America Regional Security Initiative. Over the past year, I’m excited to announce that the U.S. Embassy and the Government of Belize have signed for almost six million U.S. dollars in CARSI funds. These CARSI funds are designated for citizen security initiatives in Belize – including, among others, law enforcement capacity-building, border initiatives, and crime prevention efforts.
Towards this end, we are donating approximately one million U.S. dollars worth of equipment today, including seventeen vehicles. We are also providing training and assistance to law enforcement personnel, grants for at-risk youth programs, and infrastructure and technology upgrades. Let me highlight just a few of the key things we are doing under the CARSI program.
With the new Scenes of Crime forensic vehicle, the police will have a better ability to gather and use forensic evidence more effectively to process crime scenes and use the evidence collected to help catch and convict the perpetrators.
With ten new vehicles for increased mobile patrols for south side Belize City, police will be able to respond more quickly; and coupled with increased training and computerized equipment, they will strengthen their investigative procedures from beginning to end.
With U.S. government assistance, Belize is developing a canine detection capability. Canines have been provided to find drugs, explosives, and more. There will be a demonstration on that shortly. You have to see these dogs! By partnering with the prison, there has been improved security, including more secure prisoner transport, improved infrastructure, extensive training for prison officers, and uniforms for the prisoners and guards. In coordination with the Police Academy, curriculum development and infrastructure upgrades, such as a computerized classroom, are steps to help professionalize the academy for incoming, mid-level, and senior level officers.
Our two governments continue to address challenges country wide. Border security is essential; most of you have travelled through the northern border, western border, or PGIA. We have partnered with Belize Immigration and the International Organization for Migration to install an automated border management system at the airport and the two main border crossings by October of this year. For the first time, all persons entering or exiting Belize will have their passports scanned, providing a clear electronic trail. This will be tremendously helpful not only to the Immigration and Law enforcement officials but also to the Ministry of Tourism. Separately Customs, Immigration, and Police will create two mobile interdiction teams to form 24/7 quick response units trained and equipped to handle emergencies anywhere in the country. As areas between formal ports of entry are difficult to patrol, these elite units will help reduce illegal activities along border areas. In the future, additional Mobile Interdiction Teams will be set up in the south and the west. Previous CARSI funded border security training has led to major drug and contraband seizures.
While capacity-building and strengthening the borders are key to citizen security, we must keep in mind that youth are the future with over 50% of the population of Belize under 20 years old. With youth in mind, within the next month, we will sign over 1.1 million U.S. dollars for at-risk youth focused grants. Through those grants, local organizations will provide economic development, skills training, and citizen security community projects throughout Belize.
We also support projects targeting at-risk youth, those that give twelve to seventeen year olds alternatives to gang life. You can see examples of some of those projects today. We have partnered with Yabra Community Center and with community policing to support the work that they do – They are receiving the two buses today. Out of community policing comes the GREAT program – Gang Resistance Education and Training – in schools throughout three districts. Police officers have been trained to work with primary school children ages 7-14. It gives young students the skills to say “no” to gangs, violence, and drugs. Next year, we hope to expand the GREAT program country wide.
At the request of RESTORE Belize, conflict resolution experts are here from the United States to help develop capacity in law enforcement, civil society, and community members. This intensive conflict resolution program builds skills and emphasizes prevention of conflict. We are proud to have them here.
We all know the challenges. We all know the difficulties. Together we are facing these threats; together we work for change; and together—as a community of nations, we can accomplish our goals and build a brighter future. As President Obama said, what we have is a flexible, equal partnership based on mutual recognition of shared and overlapping interests. We don’t have junior or senior partners. Just partners.
Minister, thank you and the Government of Belize for your partnership. Thank you all for coming out today in support. After the ceremony, I encourage you to walk around, look at the vehicles -- especially the Scenes of Crime vehicle-- look at the displays, and watch the canine show. Thank you. I now turn it over to my partner in citizen security, the Honorable Minister of National Security, John Saldivar.