Belize, a tropical tourist paradise, is developing a dark side and turning into a transit point for the trafficking of drugs bound for the United States.
This tiny Central American state, while not a producer of narcotics, has a lot of coastline and not a lot of authorities — and is strategically situated between Mexico and Guatemala — making it susceptible to smugglers, experts and officials say.
“We are facing a trafficking problem,” David Henderson, the country’s police chief, acknowledged to AFP.
“It’s a challenge,” he said, adding that Belize was working with its neighbors to keep drug cartels from putting down roots in this country, formerly colonial British Honduras.
Despite the situation, the police force totals just a thousand — making it tough to adequately patrol the country’s entire territory.
“It’s very difficult to keep an eye on everything,” conceded police spokesman Raphael Martinez.
The 300 kilometers (186 miles) of coastline and the 150 kilometers shared border with Mexico, along the Hondo River, are particularly vulnerable to the trafficking of drugs, weapons, illegal immigrants and contraband.
In mid-September, authorities from Mexico and Belize met to explore the possibility of boosting checks along their common border in an effort to crack down on trafficking.