Major comms shutdown reported in Belieze
The recent, little-reported civil disturbances in the only English-speaking country in Central America, Belize, resulted in the near collapse of its telecommunications infrastructure. But it was days before outside news agencies even noticed that the country had vanished from the telecommunications map.
Belizean local newspapers, (which are weeklies only), said that on Friday, 15 April, the country found itself with no telephone service, and no internet.
That meant that there was no connection to global systems of credit and banking, which forced merchants back onto systems of trust without verification.
A major London newspaper reported that, "only a few internet cafes with satellite connections provide a tenuous link to the outside world."
The local news media in this small Commonwealth country are coping with varying degrees of success in putting news online, but the situation is chaotic.
Had it happened in a state similar in size, such as Rhode Island, there probably would have been a lot of attention brought to bear. But what has happened in Belize has been lost in recent news events dominated by the death of Pope John Paul II, as well as a host of other front page news.
The situation in Belize didn't even rate a mention on the BBC, let alone any of the news networks in the U.S., and has received scant attention from wire services.
In fact, it was Monday evening before the first international news agency, the Associated Press, reported the trouble
What started it all was, in February, the Belize Telecommunications Limited (BTL)L, a private, American-owned company, was seized by the government, setting off a chain of events leading to the disruption of service and the civil disorder that took place on the streets of the country's cities.
Immediately before the sabotage, an U.S. federal judge had ruled that the government of Belize, which had sold BTL to the American investors, would be fined $50,000 per day until it handed the company back over. The ruling was retroactive to March 29. In all, the government faces fines that are rapidly toward the $1 million mark in the lawsuit.
Local news agencies reported that communications service had been disrupted by acts of sabotage from workers at BTL.
Services from Speednet also went down following the collapse at BTL.
The government flew in Nortel engineers from Mexico. The engineers had nearly completed repairs when another act of sabotage by BTL workers brought the system down a second time.
The BTL workers are demanding that the government turn over its shareholding in the company to a collective of management and workers, either as an outright gift or for one dollar.
In its last press release, which was dated 21 April, the government said that it was willing to assist the workers in finding a way to finance a purchase of the shares in question.
In the last statement released by the press, Belize Prime Minister Said Musa said, "The financial loss to BTL, BEL businesses all across Belize and to the national economy is in the tens of millions of dollars. Those who are responsible for the acts of sabotage, vandalism and criminality must, and will, be held fully accountable."
A well known financial advisor is advising investors and offshore planners to stay away from doing anything in Belize until the situation settles, including real estate, residency, banking and asset protection plans.
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