Belize Gov Imposes West Africa Travel Ban Following Ebola Scare

The government of Belize has announced a travel ban on all visitors from West Africa, to help protect citizens and its tourism industry, following an incident where possible Ebola patients from Dallas-Fort Worth were detected on a Carnival Cruise visiting the country. As of October 16, no travelers from Guinea, Liberia, Sierra Leone, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Nigeria will be allowed to enter Belize. Speaking at a press conference Minister of Immigration Godwin Hulse stated that a ban from travelers from Texas where Ebola has been detected, had been considered but that there would be no practical way to do this. “It would be difficult to isolate one of the states of the United States,” he stated. “But we will scrutinize the passports of any individuals who may have traveled to areas in the U.S. where Ebola has been detected, and act accordingly”. The government has also imposed a travel ban for anyone who has visited West Africa 30 days before trying to enter Belize, be it by air, land or sea.



In the case of cruise ship passengers, all passports will now be carefully checked to see if they have ever traveled to West Africa. Previously, only passengers who wished to proceed beyond the cruise ship tourism villages, would have their passports reviewed.

The Belize Ministry of Health says it is heightening its surveillance at all points of entry, and is now procuring 750 hazmat suits for its hospitals through the Pan American Health Organization. And it is now constructing wooden isolation cells at points of entry, including the international airport in Belize City in the event that an Ebola infected patient is detected on entering Belize.

After Royal Caribbean began to cancel cruises into Belize because of the new and convoluted Belizean Ebola inspection protocols, the government of Belize did a quick backpedal and eased restrictions. The new restrictions had led to an additional hour and a half delay, including having cruise ships come to a dead stop outside Belize territorial waters for inspection, leading to huge fuel bills for the ships, and total chaos for the inland tour business. The process has now been streamlined and passports are no longer being individually hand-checked, but rather checked electronically on the day of arrival after being submitted via email by the cruise line.

Belize September Celebrations 2014 Calendar Of Events

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Beauty queens and colonial-style float, September celebrations Belize city.

This year marks the 33rd Anniversary Of Belize’s Independence and we run our annual special: The complete September Celebration Calendar of Events. We list some of the main events below in text form, and you can also download the entire calendar covering all six districts of Belize. The complete calendar can be viewed of downloaded here. It weighs in at a little over 11 Megabytes due to the usual padding from politicians trying to get their message in, but it is still worth the while to download as it includes some images of past celebrations.



September 4th, 5th and 6th features one of the biggest events in Belize City, a three night bacchanal of cheap alcohol and free music. The local beer monopoly sponsors the annual Belikin Bash with various musicals groups and cheap beer and other alcoholic drinks at the Memorial Park. These are night events open to everyone in a high-crime city, so visitors are advised to exercise extreme caution.

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Queens Of The West 2014 at San Ignacio / Santa Elena 10th September march.

September 6th features the Belize Chamber of Commerce and Industry expo at the ITVET compound (former Belize Technical College) on Freetown Road. Lots of commercial booths displaying and selling local and imported products at discount prices. Anything from cheap Chinese cell phones, sanitary tissue, beer, canned goods, clothes, shoes, flat screen TVs, alcohol and beer. The Expo runs into September 7th and is a daytime event and relatively safe for visitors.

September 10th features the parade and jump up road march that under the current UDP government, is given priority as the merriest parade of the September Celebrations. Despite all the government backing for the 10th, this year saw the smallest ever parade in San Ignacio / Santa Elena in Belize’s Cayo District. The parade took no more than 5 minutes to pass our observation point. There were two floats with queens, a couple from government para-statal organs, a few horses and about 500 marchers. There was no live musical band, save for a school marching band. Either economic hard times or loss of citizens interest may have contributed to the poor showing for the 10th.

September 13th this year is the date of the Belize City Carnival Road March, second only in color, gala and number to the rival Citizens and Carnival Parade held in Latino country, Orange Walk Town on Independence Day proper 21st September.

View the complete September Celebrations 2014 Calender Of Events.

Primary School Examination Preliminary Results 2014

A total 7,551 candidates registered for the PSE of which 7245 candidates actually sat all or part of the exam this year. PSE numbers for 2014 record a 0.24% increase in the number of test candidates registered over 2013. Of the 7,551 who registered for the exam, 306 (or approximately 4%) were either absent for part of the exam, or had an Ungraded for the English Writing Paper or the Math Problem Solving Paper, had a No Result for at least one part of the exam, or a had a combination of Absent, Ungraded or No Result for different parts of the exam.

The PSE results continue to show the poor state of the education system in Belize. While the Ministry of Education tries to put the best spin on the results, the figures speak for themselves.

The English exam results show that only 51% of the students scored a Satisfactory Level of Performance or better (grade C or better).

For the Mathematics exam, it is even worse, with. only 36%  of students scored a Satisfactory Level of Performance or better (Grade C or better).

Below are the official 2014 PSE results with performance charts per subject as released by the Ministry of Education. Direct download link for the PDF file is at the of end of this page.


 

Download (PDF, 234KB)

Belize Public And Bank Holidays 2014

Here is the official list of Public and Bank Holidays for Belize 2014 as released by the Government of Belize on 18 September 2013 via proclamation under the hand of the Minister of National Security John Saldivar with responsibility for holidays.

It is notified for general information that public and bank holidays specified in the First and the Second Schedules to the Holidays Act, Chapter 289 of the Laws of Belize, Revised Edition 2003, will be observed on the following days during the year 2014 in accordance with section 3 of the said Act

Day                        Date                        Occasion

Wednesday         January 1                   New Year’s Day
Monday               March 10                    National Heroes and Benefactors Day (in lieu of Sunday, March 9)
Friday                  April 18                       Good Friday
Saturday             April 19                        Holy Saturday
Monday              April 21                        Easter Monday
Thursday            May 1                           Labor Day
Monday              May 26                        Sovereign’s Day/Commonwealth Day (in lieu of Saturday, May 24)
Wednesday        September 10             St. George’s Caye Day
Monday              September 22             Independence Day  (in lieu of Sunday, September 21)
Monday              October 13                  Pan American Day (in lieu of Sunday, October 12)
Wednesday        November 19             Garifuna Settlement Day
Thursday            December 25             Christmas Day
Friday                  December 26             Boxing Day

September Celebrations 2013 Calendar Of Events

The 2013 Calendar of Events for the September Celebrations culminating on the 32nd Anniversary of Belize’s Independence is featured here with a listing of all public events throughout the six districts of Belize. Published every year by the September Celebrations Committee, the calendar is a colorful reference of activities with dates and time listed by municipality. Events are held in almost every population center of Belize including villages. They include sporting activities, usually football and cycling, food and culture fairs, fireworks displays, dances, music festivals, poetry nights and song competitions. The more popular events are the Carnival Road March in Orange Walk Town and in Belize City, and the public parades on Independence Day. You can do a quick view of the entire calendar on this page, open it separately in full-screen mode, or download the entire full-size PDF file (about 4 Mb size) for higher quality viewing and printing.

Download (PDF, 3.53MB)

Beelike Robots Swarm To The Rescue Of Coral Reefs

The Belize Barrier Reef is in good shape compared to others such as Australia’s Great Barrier, but it does suffer occasional damage from cruise, cargo ships and trawlers. So researchers working on ways to help repair damages to reefs half way around the world – in Scotland – are preparing to test miniature underwater reef repair robots in Belize. The United Airlines Hemispheres Magazine reports this month that:

“While trawlers can thoroughly dismantle reefs, they don’t necessarily kill the remaining bits of coral—which is where marine biologist Lea-Anne Henry of Edinburgh’s Heriot-Watt University comes in. She and her team (which includes a “swarm intelligence” mathematician) think they might be able to repair the reefs using robots trained to reattach broken coral the same way bees build hives. If all goes according to plan, the coralbots could start reconstructing their first test reef, in Belize, in fall 2014. ”

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How a Coralbot repairs damaged reef.

This is how the Coralbots work:

1. Thanks to Heriot-Watt’s strong undersea engineering program, the team already has a robot—Nessie IV—that might be able to do the job. However, it needs new appendages gentle enough to avoid crushing the coral. An Austrian engineering firm called FerRobotics is working on a “soft-fingered” model that should fill the bill.

2. If the robots started gluing starfish to the reef, that would be bad. So to make sure they can recognize coral, the team is showing them thousands of photos from uniform heights and multiple angles. The problem? Not enough of these photos exist. Henry has launched a Kickstarter campaign so that, among other things, her colleagues in Belize can take more.

3. Computer algorithms for bees’ hive-building have existed for decades. The scientists are modifying them to work better for reef building. They’re also using a swarm strategy called stigmergy, in which a marker (like a small block) is left behind with each piece of coral, to make sure the robots don’t try to pick up pieces that others have already attached.

Ambergris Caye Newspaper Owners Featured In Belize Retirement Story

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View from the beach at Ambergris Caye.

A Wyoming couple who moved to Belize several years ago to take over a small newspaper on Ambergris Caye Belize, has been featured in a story on the International Living website. International Living promotes retirement in exotic destinations and runs tours and sells reports and guides on retirement living.

While some commentators say International Living’s stories are firmly framed by rose-tinted glasses, the article on Ron and Tamara Sniffen who run the San Pedro Sun, is not too heavy on the fluff. In the article, Mrs. Sniffen describes in her own words how she and her family ended up living the expat life in Belize:

“What inspired us to make the move to Belize was the hope of simplifying our lives,” says Tamara. “And we wanted to give our son (13 at the time) the opportunity to live abroad like I did at that age.”

Tamara had been introduced to everything an overseas lifestyle has to offer at a young age. Her parents were one of the first families accepted into the Peace Corp program in the early 70s.

“The experience of living in Venezuela and Costa Rica had a huge impact on me during my impressionable early teen years,” says Tamara. “After the Peace Corp my parents began traveling to Belize and in 1981 they purchased a beach house on Ambergris Caye and the island became a second home.”

Having spent so much time in Belize over the years, the decision of where to move was easy for Tamara – San Pedro on the small island of Ambergris Caye.

“We had always wanted to live here but had not figured out how to make that happen,” Tamara explains. “But when we saw that the local newspaper, The San Pedro Sun, was for sale in 2004, we knew that was our opportunity.”

Ron was from a newspaper family and he had worked in news media since he was 14. Tamara had owned businesses previously and also had writing experience. “Buying the newspaper made living and working here possible,” says Tamara. “Belize was where our heart was. It helped that English was the main language. I do speak Spanish, but not well enough to print a paper in it!”

“Daily things are a pleasure… like riding my bike to work or driving my golf cart—the main mode of transportation here,” says Tamara. “You’re always outside in the sun and the sea breeze.”

Just about everything about life in Belize is different than their life in Wyoming. “Familiar yard critters like squirrels are replaced with iguanas,” says Tamara. “The tree-top view in my bedroom is of coconut trees.” They buy fruits and vegetables at the local markets, cook with propane and commute in a golf cart instead of a car.

“I love the water. Snorkeling the nearby Meso-American Barrier Reef is my favorite past-time without a doubt,” says Tamara. “Life is different here.”

Nine years later, Tamara, Ron and their son are still living their dream. “Living here allows me to travel extensively and write about all the adventures and cultural experiences Belize has to offer,” says Tamara. “From snorkeling, diving, birding, jungle excursions or indulging in chocolate at the annual Cacao Festival in Toledo, I have not only ‘been there, done that,’ I’ve done it again and again!”

The San Pedro Sun is based on Ambergris Caye that has a heavy concentration of expats and is one of the leading tourism destinations in Belize.

Belize Deputy Prime Minister to meet with U.S. Vice President

An official press release issued today by the office of the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Natural Resources announces that DPM Gaspar Vega left Belize today to meet with Caribbean Community Heads of Government and U.S. Vice President Joseph Biden:

The Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Natural Resources and Agriculture Hon. Gaspar Vega, departed Belize on Monday 27th May 2013 to join CARICOM Heads of State and the President of Dominican Republic in Port of Spain, Trinidad for an official meeting with US Vice President Joe Biden on May 28th 2013.

During the meeting with Vice President Joe Biden, CARICOM leaders will discuss a number of issues critical to the region, including regional security, trade cooperation, fiscal and economic issues, citizen security, human and social development, information and communication technologies, and energy security. The CARICOM – US Trade and Investment Framework Agreement is a major expected outcome of the meeting between the Vice President and CARICOM Heads of State.

H.E. Mr. Nestor Mendez, Ambassador of Belize in Washington, D.C. will be accompanying Hon. Gaspar Vega to the meeting. Minister Vega will return to Belize on the 29th May 2013.

New Flights, Cruise Ship Calls Announced For Belize

Additional cruise ship calls for Belize.

Additional cruise ship calls for Belize. Image Credit: Caitlinator

New flights and cruise calls to Belize are announced for the final quarter of the year.

Starting in November, Delta Airlines will be adding another Saturday flight from Atlanta to Belize. Delta currently deploys seven flights a week (one flight per day) to Belize, increasing its total number of flights to eight per week (twice on Saturdays). This is an additional 596 seats per month, and will be a permanent addition to Delta’s schedule to Belize.

In addition, American Airlines will be increasing its Dallas to Belize flights from three weekly flights to seven flights per week (one flight daily), providing a total of six hundred additional seats in the month of October. BTB’s Director of Marketing and Industry Relations, Alyssa Carnegie, commented, “This is fantastic news. The Tourism Industry is doing so well that even the airlines have seen a need to increase flights, and these flights are being increased during a time that was generally considered to be a slow time for travelling by air. It shows amazing growth and more opportunities for the industry and Belize.”

As the Ministry of Tourism & Culture and the Belize Tourism Board continue to invest efforts to increase cruise arrivals for Belize, the Royal Caribbean International announced that not only have they renovated their ‘Navigator of the Seas’ to include unique features such as a Flow Rider Surf Simulator and the First-Ever Virtual Balcony, but will also deploy the Navigator of the Seas year round out of Galveston, Texas, starting in Winter 2013. As a result, Belize will receive a total of thirty cruise calls during 2014.

For the past two years, Belize has not had more than 10 calls per year from ‘Navigator of the Seas’; therefore this news will result in a 200% increase for this cruise ship. It is expected that this increase in cruise calls will bring over ninety thousand cruise visitors to Belize.

– Source: Belize Tourism Board

 

No More Noh Mul: Road Contractor Bulldozes Maya Temple

Nohmul Maya temple destroyed in Belize.

Caterpillar excavator tears into the Nohmul Maya Temple in northern Belize.

In one of those only-in-Belize list of blunders, a major Maya Temple, the Nohmul pyramid has been razed and plundered by bulldozers and excavators looking for road fill. The destruction of this sacred monument built by the Maya some 3,500 years ago has stirred outrage in Belize and abroad. The incident came to light on 10 May when local television station Channel 7 broke the news showing the images of a Caterpillar excavator tearing into the temple and exposing an inner chamber. The destruction was halted the following say when officers from the Belize Institute of Archaeology led by Dr. John Morris and Dr. Allan Moore arrived on the scene accompanied by the police. Nohmul is a large Maya City that had yet to be excavated by archaeologists and thus had not yet made it to the Top Ten Maya Sites In Belize List.

A stop order has been issued to the contractor who according to Channel 7, is an immigrant from Guatemala who is engaged in the road construction business for the government of Belize.

In a televised interview, the head of the Archaeology Department Dr. Jaime Awe said:


“The site of Noh Mul is located in the vicinity of the villages of San Jose-San Pablo, just north of Orange Walk Town. That site has been known archeologically for more than fifty years. In fact, in the 1980s we had some archeological research that was conducted there by people from Cambridge University in the United Kingdom as well as some work that was done by a couple of archeologists who now work at Caracol, the Chases who were then at the University of Pennsylvania. The site had been surveyed, we have several reports in our offices about the site and in fact I think there might even be a PhD dissertation, thesis that was written on the site.

“The experience of having to see the images of the destruction at Noh Mul is in many ways probably one of the worse set of blows I have felt philosophically and professionally in that regard because what happened there is both deplorable and unforgivable. When one sees the heritage of our country being purposely destroyed for no good reason and particularly when people like myself or the other archeologists at NICH have spent our careers trying to protect and preserve this archeological heritage; to see it destroyed like that it is like when the boxer throws in the towel at the ring.”

The Damage To Nohmul

In an interview on 10 May, Dr. Awe told the media, “The destruction is horrendous, its deplorable, its unforgivable. I had hoped that I could have gone in and find something that was salvageable. That we can go in and do repairs to the damages so that we could preserve some aspect of the ancient building. I completely regret that I have to say this – I think that 80% or more of this building is destroyed . There is simply no way or no hope that we could attempt any kind of preservation on this. The only thing left now is to watch the last bit of it crumble with the coming of the rainy season or to go in there and try to salvage the parts that remain that are scattered all over the site.

“I firmly believe it is important that we seek legal action otherwise we are sending a message that it is not important to preserve this heritage. A report that is being prepared by Dr. Morris is that the normal line of action is that this report gets sent to the Police Department in Orange Walk with a request from the Institute of Archaeology and that the police lay the ground works for charges to be made against those that are held responsible. In this case charges against the construction company for willfully destroying an ancient monument and the land owner who have had to give permission for the company to access the property and then allow the destruction to take place.”

Who Is Responsible For The Destruction Of Nohmul?

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Belizean politician and road contractor Denny Grijalva

A non-Belizean by birth turned politician-contractor, Denny Grijalva, has been identified as the contractor responsible for the destruction of Nohmul. Mr. Grijalva was born in neighboring Guatemala and now lives in Belize. He ran under the current ruling United Democratic Party ticket in the the 2012 General Elections Orange Walk Central division and was defeated.

According to media reports Mr. Grijalva was contracted to do road work in the area during the 2013 village council elections. Mr. Grijalva has stated to the media that he was unaware that a Mayan Temple was being destroyed by his road crew. He has declined to be interviewed by the media.

Ministry Of Tourism Comments

After a few days of silence, Belize’s Ministry of Tourism and Culture issued a a tepid statement:

13 May  2013: The Ministry of Tourism & Culture, along with its line agencies, the National Institute of Culture and History and the Belize Tourism Board, expresses its outrage on the destruction of the Noh Mul Mayan Archaeological Site. This total disregard for Belize’s cultural heritage and national patrimony is callous, ignorant and unforgivable. The Ministry of Tourism & Culture, along with relevant agencies, has commissioned a vigorous investigation to determine all the facts in this case. Cultural landmarks such as Noh Mul are sacred artifacts of Belizean history and should be protected at all costs. This expressed disdain for our laws and policies is incomprehensible.

The Ministry of Tourism & Culture, the Belize Tourism Board and the National Institute of Culture & History remain committed to its mandate for the sustainable use and protection of Belize’s natural and cultural resources. News coverage of the Nohmul Maya Temple destruction.

On 14 May after more public pressure and coverage by the international media,  Ministry of Tourism CEO Tracey Panton finally spoke to the media apologizing for government’s delay in making a public statement on the Nohmul destruction. Answering criticism that the foot-dragging may be due to the political connections of Mr. Grijalva and his company D-Mars Construction, Ms. Panton said that government wanted time to be sure of the facts before making a statement based on emotions. “We wanted to be fair to all concerned. Now we are making a full investigation to see what can be done. However, the maximum fine that can be sought is U.S. $5,000. This incident is entirely regrettable.”

Deputy Prime Minister Hon. Gaspar Vega Condemns Destruction of Nohmul

In a statement issued 14 May by the Ministry of Natural Resources Deputy P.M. Gaspar Vega throws Mr. Denny Grijalva under the proverbial bus and condemns the razing of Noh Mul:

“Hon. Gaspar Vega, the area representative of Orange Walk North constituency, condemns in the strongest possible terms the destruction of any archeology site in Belize. Minister Vega also emphatically repudiates the allegation and or perception that he was involved in any way with the destruction of the Noh Mul.

“Like all Belizeans, Minister Vega is deeply committed to protecting and preserving our national heritage and patrimony for the benefit of present and future generations. As such, he is outraged by the wanton destruction of the Noh Mul archaeological site. Furthermore, the Ministry of Natural Resources and Agriculture who has responsibilities for issuing mining permits did not issue any such permits to mine materials from Noh Mul archeological site.

“Along with the Cabinet, Minister Vega calls for a full investigation into this incident to determine the circumstances that led to the destruction if this site. Subsequently, all those found responsible for the destruction of this site should be persecuted to the full extent of the law.”

About The Nohmul (Big Hill) Archaeological Site

The site of Noh Mul is a major Maya ceremonial center located in the Orange Walk-Corozal area of Belize. Twin ceremonial groups contain ten plazas and are connected by a sacbe or raised causeway. Those groups are surrounded by other plazas and temples and at least one ball court, and was once the center for a polity covering nearly 20 square kilometers.

Built at a vantage point on the Hondo River to control the region’s trade routes, the site had a long history. Structures of this northern Yucatán type were built over those erected in the Classic period. Some of these new constructions covered the front of older stairways and resemble the Caracol in Chichén Itzá, southern Mexico. These later constructions support the theory that outsiders from the Yucatán settled in Noh Mul.

This important monument was first investigated in 1897 by Thomas Gann, who returned to it several times until the 1930s. Thomas Gann was a medical doctor and amateur archaeologist from Ireland. Gann was appointed district medical officer in British Honduras (Belize) in 1894. He spent the next quarter century exploring Maya runs in Belize and the Yucatan and discovered Lubaantun in the Toledo District. He investigated and wrote the first detailed descriptions of the Maya sites at Xunantunich and Lamanai, and of Tulum in Mexico.