On Sunday, January 18th island residents were shocked by the news of a vicious murder. 22 year-old Honduran mother of three, Silvia Benitez, who had been reported missing days before, was found three and a half miles north of San Pedro Town in an advanced state of decomposition. Because of the state of her body, a postmortem was conducted on site, and she was buried immediately at the same location.
On Thursday, January 22nd The San Pedro Sun printed the story about the murder. In the same issue our editorial begged the question, how on earth could this poor woman, who had died at the hands of a killer, be pitilessly lay to rest at the very site her damaged body was disposed of?
A full eleven days after Benitez’s body was unceremoniously buried, PUP Mayoral Candidate Dr. Giovanni Solorzano jumped onto the political bandwagon; publically denouncing the appalling manner in which the entire Benitez situation was handled. Solorzano, arm-in-arm with Her Excellency Sandra Rosales-Abella, Ambassador of the Republic of Honduras, held a “public” meeting on January 29th that was nothing but a sea of blue, blasting the UDP Town Council, UDP Mayor Daniel Guerrero and UDP Belize Rural South Standard Bearer Minister Manuel Heredia JR for dropping the ball on the situation. Among other allegations, Ambassador Sandra Rosales-Abella accused the Town Council and Mayor Guerrero of “rendering no support to have the body decently buried.” They then aired their allegations the following morning on the Reef TV Morning Show. The whole drama reeked of a political opportunity to capitalize on a sad and tragic story. Where was all this “concern” the day and DAYS after this happened? A little too little, a little too late…
Of course this spurred a response from the San Pedro Town Council (SPTC), and on February 1st they issued a statement in an attempt to “clarify some misinformation, misleading and false statements made at both forums.” Claiming that they (SPTC) did everything within their power and jurisdiction to assist in the situation, the release stated, “While it is not morally right to disclose the level of help rendered, under these circumstances and given the statements made by the Ambassador, the council would like to inform that all machinery and equipment’s of the council was placed at the disposal of the police and forensic doctors.”
Both Mayor Guerrero and Minister Heredia were at the site on the day Benitez was found. Offering a backhoe to dig Benitez’s grave hardly merits an earnest effort to bury her properly. What about providing a box? Placing her in a makeshift coffin would have at least made exhuming her later a more respectful (and less messy) process.
However you want to look at this scenario, it is easy to play the blame game, and there’s plenty of it to go around. No one from either party was up in arms about this until the situation evolved into a political opportunity. The only good thing that has come out of this heated debate is that Silvia Benitez finally received a proper burial last Friday morning. I visited her grave on Sunday, and had to wonder how the death of this beautiful young woman could turn into a political dispute. So many have lost sight of the real issue at hand, including the politicians who claim to care. Yes, finally Benitez has been laid to rest, but where is the outrage about finding the one who took her life? Perhaps that can be the next soapbox for our politicians to grandstand on?