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In yesterday’s newscast we reported on an incident where two Belizean Mennonites were allegedly kidnapped and held hostage for several hours by Guatemalan Military. The heavily armed military personnel had been helping Guatemalan NGOs and fire personnel fight a fire at the border between both countries when the encounter unfolded. The incident played out on Thursday of last week in an area known as the Green Hills area of Cayo behind Spanish Lookout.  Yesterday we brought to you the first part of the story narrated by 21 year old Belizean Canadian Mennonite, Roger Plett, where he explains how he was captured by Guatemalan military and held hostage for almost four hours. Yesterday we left off the story where Roger was being pushed by Guatemalan military toward the forest on the Guatemalan side. This was after he was surrounded while in his tractor by Guatemalan military in the middle of his Green Hills ranch. He was heavily questioned while his hands were tied behind his back. But how did he escape? Here is his account:

plettRoger Plett – Canadian Mennonite Victim

“I knew if they take me away from the site, I know they will not release me so I was thinking what could I say to have them change their mind so then I came to the idea I will tell them I am a Canadian I then told them that I came from Steinback, Malatoba; that is where my brother and sister live in Canada. I started telling them about the forest fires that they had in Alberta and how they had two thousand four hundred homes burnt down and everything. And then they started listening to what I was saying and then they stopped walking me further in. The guy in charge, the lighter-skinned guy, he then went back to where we came from, they sat me down there. I would say I sat there roughly one hour before the guy came back. When the guy came back, he had a complete change of heart. He said, don’t worry, “noh te preocupes.” We will release you once the bulldozer comes in this side and does the work that we want it to do.”

Plett says that apart from the bulldozer and the operator, the Guatemalans also confiscated his tractor which was taken into the Guatemalan side. According to Plett, he was not untied until half hour after he was taken and moments after, he was set free. After he was told that he was free to go, he noticed that his tractor had been badly damaged. However, he managed to still drive it out until it ran out of fuel:

Roger Plett – Canadian Mennonite Victim

“They thought that the tractor was damaged for me to bring it back out because I saw that the front left tire was completely off of the rim, the steps were bent back against the tractor tire, my sprayer tank with the water at the back they had broken nut and a couple pieces broken off when I climb back into the tractor I saw that the steering wheel was broken and handle to one side but then told me alright you can go now you can leave but the tractor was too damaged but since I know my equipment very good I managed to put a rock on one side of the axle to keep it one the air and I brought the tractor out by using the side brakes.”

Plett then stated that when he got back to the Ranch, he learned that the bulldozer operator was still working for the Guatemalans to clear a firebreak. He explained how the operator got away.

Roger Plett – Canadian Mennonite Victim

When he started to steer the bulldozer into the Belizean side, they started to run after him. To escape them, He drive the bulldozer through the big fire and they couldn't follow him through the fire, at that time I got a report saying that there were two more soldiers along the road waiting for him I guess waiting for the diesel, when I heard that I took my plane which I have a camera set up on it and it is a live stream to my remote, I took my plane and circled the bulldozer so if the buy or the military men would want to approach the bulldozer I would have them on camera and I circled all the way until he reached in to the safe area, all the while I didn’t see any military personnel so maybe they heard the plane circuling the bulldozer and didn’t want to approach it because if we have them on camera then this a whole another situation for them.”

Plett also shared what happened when he went to file his report at the Police station in San Ignacio the following day:

Roger Plett – Canadian Mennonite Victim

“When we went in to the police station to give the report, I started telling my story and after a while, the guy who was taking my story, he went out of the room. I waited a good while there and when he came back in, it’s like he didn’t want to hear my story anymore and he at first had put on my statement, Guatemalan military men. But he changed all of that and changed it to men in camouflage uniform. And the whole time after that, he was questioning me, trying to twist the story, trying to make me change the story. But I said the same story every time. Later when they took me into the room, Officer Guerra and a couple people from the O.E.A., the head Mister Rosado in there too. They had me tell the story to them again and they were checking to see if I would tell them the same story I had given in the statement. My story, they said, lined up perfectly with what I had told them at first, but they were having some kind of differences with Manuel Ayala story. And I asked them what they mean. And then they told me, do you know anything about that they could have set this whole thing up. I told them that is not true.”

Roger Plett stands by his employee, Manuel Ayala, who has been working with the Plett family for over 21 years. Police detained him and were accusing him of a mischievous act and suggested he was working with another employee, the ranch watchman, to extort Plett. Here is what Ayala had to say about some texts that police found on his phone:

Manuel Ayala – Employee Victim

“I feel like they were accusing us to plot this thing and they were claiming that the texts on my phone oh we are trying to do something you know a kidnapping or something like that, as I was detained for a mischievous act or something or putting the police on false alert or anything but I have the texts, I have them and I could show you the texts and you guys verify and even the police used my phone to text Rogelio and he text them back but there are few texts that they have send that was deleted which I don’t know what all they were texting, I mean the police is doing their job on that par but this is one thing.”

After the terrible ordeal, Roger Plett says there is no way he will get too close to the border now:

Roger Plett – Canadian Mennonite Victim

“I will not come within half a mile of the border line because I do not know what those people will do if they catch me a second time so absolutely I am afraid to go back to that area again and it is Belizean territory I should be afraid to go anywhere in Belize but I am because they come into the Belize side to harass us.”

Information received from the San Ignacio Police today was that the Commissioner of Police was to put out a statement on the investigation being carried out but until news time no information had been received.

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