Footprints for Peace rally brings out hundreds to honor fallen victims
Friday, March 14th, 2014
Exactly one week after the senseless killing of Jeffrey Eiley in San Pedro Town, hundreds of islanders marched through the streets of the island to condemn the murder and call for justice. Under the name of “Footprints for Peace – Justice for Jeffery,” some four hundred islanders gathered at the San Pedro Central Park on the evening of Thursday March 13th. Several speakers called for the attention of authorities and government leaders to address the crime issue that has spiked over the past few weeks on the island while also calling upon the citizenry to rise up against violence.
Present at the event were families of murder victims, as well as those who have been at the forefront of the fight against crime. Fresh from the loss of their loved one, the Arceo and Eiley families, who organized the event, were out in full force. They took the opportunity to share how the death of Jeffery has ripped their family and community apart. Pablo Garcia, who lost his father in an unsolved murder two years ago on the island, also shared the emotional difficulties it is on a family to lose someone at the hands of violence.
One person who has seen and cared for so many people who have been victims of violence is Dr. Javier Zuniga. Zuniga spoke of the emotional toll that families experience when they have lost a loved one, having had to bear witness when sharing unfortunate news of a death to island residents. “I hope today will mark a new dawn that will bring positive change in the livelihood of all of us who make San Pedro our home. Over the past years, we have witnessed senseless killings and violent acts that have led to the loss of young productive innocent lives. We now fear to roam our streets as free individuals as we once did 10 years ago. We can no longer boast to live in the land of the free,” said Dr. Zuniga.
Dr. Zuniga’s address also hit the core of a community issue that has been the cry of the island for years: lack of human resources leads to inadequate health care. “It has been more than 10 years now that the community of San Pedro has been lobbying for better health services, but this has come just as another tune that enters one ear and leaves the other as the melody of your favorite song. How many unborn children, children, mothers, fathers, sisters or brothers will have to die? Our public clinic has come a long way, and small strides have been made to make it a better place to offer its limited services, but is this enough? I must agree with you that it is not enough…there is no clinic on the island that offers 24-hour health services, and the polyclinic cannot offer that service with the limited human resources it currently have. We definitely do not have the appropriate transportation needed for emergency cases. Where is an island ambulance? Should we continue to inhumanely transport the sick and injured in the pan of a truck? Should the island have peace of mind that, in the event you or your family member needs to travel at the middle of the night to Belize City for further medical attention, [that can’t happen because] we still do not have transportation readily available?” Dr. Zuniga’s powerful words resonated with the crowd gathered.
For his part, the Master of Ceremony Angel Nunez said that any more death as a result of the lack of proper health services will be squarely the responsibility of the Minister of Health, Pablo Marin.
Speaking about the spike of crime on the island, Area Representative Manuel Heredia Jr. said that he will take up the matter to his Cabinet to have the matter addressed swiftly. “If the criminals believe that they have control of this island, then we want to send the message that we are ready, we are willing to come together and ensure that we make [Ambergris Caye] the number one island. I am pledging that you will see a change and by the ending of next week you will see more security presence. Some people will not like it, but we have to clean up this island from crime and we will do whatever it takes to do so,” said Heredia.
Following the rally, the gathering of over 400 residents marched through the principal streets of San Pedro Town with candles in hand as a show of solidarity in the fight against crime. The march came to a temporary halt at the corner of Tarpon Street and Barrier Reef Drive, specifically at the point where Jeffery Eiley fell when he was injured and left to die. A small altar was erected with a picture of Eiley mounted with candles and flowers, one week after his death. The peaceful march ended at the Central Park, with attendees each leaving with a renewed sense of spirit and fight.