A brief look at 2021 on La Isla Bonita
Saturday, January 1st, 2022
2021 was a little better than 2020 when the current COVID-19 pandemic began. The economy started picking up across the country, a new local government was elected, and the vaccination campaign against COVID-19 saw a good response in San Pedro Town. Major crimes were down, but one out of the three deaths by gun on the island sent shockwaves across the country and attracted international attention as it involved the former partner of Andrew Ashcroft and the death of Police Superintendent Henry Jemmott. The year also saw the successful opening of a shelter for victims of gender-based violence, and again, a spike in COVID-19 cases with new variants detected at the end of December.
As the country received 2021 under a new government under the People’s United Party (PUP), and plans were put in place to kick start the national economy, towns and cities across the country were gearing up for municipal elections. In San Pedro Town, the United Democratic Party (UDP), who had ruled for almost two decades, brought a team of new candidates for councilors against a new PUP group. The PUP slate won the March 3rd elections, ending a UDP era in local politics. The following months saw the new Mayor, Gualberto ‘Wally’ Nunez, calling out the previous administration on wrong deeds and committing to conduct an audit. The audit is still pending, but Mayor Nuñez assured that his team is working on it, and once completed, it will be presented to the public.
Although his campaign was full of commitments once in office, the new San Pedro Town Council has indicated that they had to do plenty of housekeeping and re-structure some of their operations. Some of their major projects have been offering market days to sensitize the island economy, the renovation of streets, bringing back the toll at the Sir Barry Bowen Bridge in Boca del Rio, and currently constructing a new bridge promised.
The pandemic and vaccines
As tourism started to pick up, the COVID-19 vaccination campaign on the island went into full force, encouraging stakeholders and employees to get the injection. For weeks in the beginning and middle of the year, the vaccination center at the San Pedro Lions Den saw long lines of persons waiting to get their first and second dose of the COVID-19 vaccine. San Pedro quickly became the leading municipality with vaccinations, and currently, over 50% of its population has been vaccinated. The vaccination center remains open on Mondays to Thursdays 1:30-3PM and Fridays 8:30-2PM for anyone still waiting to get their dose or a booster. The San Pedro Flu Clinic at Mar de Tumbo, a pioneer in the battle against the deadly disease when it opened in 2020, continues to offer the COVID-19 test. In October, a testing center was also opened for asymptomatic patients operating Monday to Friday 8AM-2PM.
The COVID-19 infections were low for several weeks, but cases were once again on the rise as the year ended. The health authorities suspect that the latest variant of the COVID-19 virus, Omicron is already in Belize. The symptoms of the variant are said to be mild, but its rate of contagion is very high.
Death investigation of the year
The former partner of the son of billionaire Lord Michael Ashcroft, Jasmine Hartin, was involved in one of the most sensational shooting-death investigations the country has ever seen. On May 28th, Hartin was socializing with Police Superintendent Henry Jemmott at a pier south of San Pedro when he was shot with his service gun. Both were reportedly under the influence, and according to Hartin, Jemmott was teaching her how to load and use the weapon. While at the pier, Jemmott asked her for his gun, and Hartin said it was at this moment when she was handing him the that it went off. Jemmott was shot in the back of his head, killing him instantly. Hartin was arrested, charged with Manslaughter by Negligence, remanded to the Belize Central Prison but managed to gain a $30,000 bail via a supreme court appeal. While Jemmott’s family believes it was a murder, Hartin claims that she did not kill the high-ranking officer and that, if anything, it was a terrible accident. Hartin is scheduled to return to court in San Pedro to disclose this case in February 2022 fully.
There was a handful of non-lethal shootings on the island, with only two proving fatal. In July, there were two shoot-outs in DFC and San Mateo. 35-year-old Luis Tun was shot while at his business in San Mateo. He was severely injured but survived. Two days after, 25-year-old Joshua Gongora was shot in the DFC area, reportedly twice to the abdomen but survived. No known arrests were made on either incident.
On September 21st, Independence Day, 31-year-old Nelson Zetina was shot outside the Honorable Louis Sylvestre Sporting Complex. He was rushed to the Dr. Otto Rodriguez San Pedro Polyclinic II and later transported to Belize City, where he continued recovering. Days later, police formally arrested and charged 20-year-old Jairo Fernando Sandoval for Attempted Murder, Dangerous Harm, Use of Deadly Means of Harm, and Aggravated Assault.
The first deadly shooting occurred on October 2nd near Cangrejo Caye, south of San Pedro. 25-year-old Jerry Espat and his brothers Luis Santoya, Ricardo Espat, and Kirian Espat were fishing when a group of gunmen attacked them. Jerry was fatally shot, while his brothers could escape with minor injuries. The police investigation led to the arrest of five persons-Delson Paguada, Carlos Salazar, Gabriel Villafranco, and brothers Pedro and Sergio Tun. Villafranco was arraigned for the charges of Murder, Attempted Murder, Use of Deadly Means of Harm, and Wounding. The Tun brothers were indicted for the charges of (2) counts of Attempted Murder, (2) counts of Use of Deadly Means of Harm, and (1) count of Grievous Harm. Paguada was charged with Attempted Murder, Grievous Harm, Use of Deadly Means of Harm, and Wounding. They will all return to the San Pedro Magistrate Court on January 5, 2022.
The second fatal shooting occurred in the San Pedrito subdivision on December 14th as 36-year-old Hilberto Caliz was reaching home from work was ambushed and gunned. According to reports, the motive started from an issue with a stolen bicycle belonging to Caliz’s girlfriend. The gunman was arrested that same day, and a day later, 18-year-old Julio Rafael Paiz was charged with Murder. Four days after, there was a non-fatal shooting on the island in the Boca del Rio area. A 22-year-old man identified as Jose Henriquez was shot to his left leg lower front area. He was taken to the island’s polyclinic and transported to Belize City. Police did not provide an update if anyone was arrested for this shooting incident.
Victims of domestic violence get help
Just days before Christmas, a facility to help those afflicted by domestic violence was inaugurated in the San Mateo Area, near the Holy Cross Anglican Primary School. The center was made possible through the Hope Haven non-profit organization and named the Hope Haven Domestic Violence Outreach Center. Anyone, women and men, victims of abuse in their households/relationships, can receive assistance from the center, such as police assistance, legal aid, and emergency placements. The center will also count with presence from the Women’s Department and access to mental health services. The center is open from 9AM to 4PM Monday to Friday. For emergencies after hours and weekends, the police should be contacted.
Area Representative and the Cayes
San Pedro continues to grow, and with an increase in tourism, 2022 promises to be a busy year. There are many projects in the pipeline, such as the pavement/cementing of the main streets in the subdivisions and building a hospital. Area Representative, the Honorable Andre Perez, has said that more is coming for San Pedro. He held a mobile land clinic to help islanders with issues regarding their properties. The event headed by Minister of Natural Resources Honorable Cordel Hyde and Perez assisted hundreds of residents with land issues. The project managed to purge irregularities, clarify doubts, and provide many islanders permission to purchase their property.
As responsible for the sister island of Caye Caulker, Perez successfully executed the beginning of the construction for a polyclinic in La Isla Carinosa.
The next project in the health sector for La Isla Bonita, according to Perez, is the hospital, for which funds have been reportedly secured.
As this year ends, 2022 is a new annum of opportunities, a new time to set and achieve goals, and more than ever, practicing health protocols as the COVID-19 continues upon us. Proper hygiene, social distancing, wearing face masks in public places, and getting vaccinated are essential tools in preventing infection.
The San Pedro Sun wishes everyone a happy, healthy, and prosperous New Year 2022.
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