There was a violent confrontation between Belize Customs and armed Mexican smugglers at the northern border earlier today. The clash erupted when Belize Customs officials attempted to confiscate goods that were being illegally stockpiled near the Belize-side of the Rio Hondo River and not taken into the Mexican side. Before we go to video footage of the clash, we must provide some background information. On a regular basis, there are reports in the Mexican press about their border officials clashing with Mexican smugglers known as fayuqueros over attempts to smuggle goods from the Commercial Free Zone. Because of a crackdown by Mexican officials, the fayuqueros have started to hide the goods under the Subteniente Lopez Bridge. So today when Belizean authorities attempted to get their hands on those goods, all hell broke loose. Here is video footage captured of the confrontation.
The video shows the smugglers wielding machetes, and at one point, shoving one of the customs officials as they moved the goods across the middle of the bridge, which is the official border marker for the two countries.
This is the first time an incident like this occurs. According to the Acting Comptroller of Customs Colin Griffith, they did not break any laws with their actions and in fact the measure taken was as a result of a meeting with Mexican customs officials earlier in the week.
Colin Griffith - Acting Comptroller of Customs
“Customs Corozal received information that goods again are being stocked piled on the Belizean side of the bridge and based on instructions from head office they were told have those goods placed in customs custody and that was being done when they were accosted by we assumed they were Mexicans and they started to through the goods over the river and that is the information that we have and so what we did again we communicated with Free Zone management who have stopped all exportation to Mexico from the Free Zone and Customs have placed officials at the rear gate of the Free Zone to ensure that no goods will be coming out there into Mexico, at no time did any Customs official or police officers that were there entered Mexican territory at no time that occurred. As a matter of fact Mexican officials went to the bridge also to assist, there is no report from Mexico that any.”
Griffith explained that under Customs rules, any goods taken out of the free zone should be “exported” and when that doesn’t occur, it creates a concern for them. This is the reason, they attempted to seize the goods.
Colin Griffith, Acting Comptroller of Customs
“This is the first time we have had incidents of this nature, I cannot verify but we have been informed by sources that those individuals may have been under the influence, we have never had this sort of confrontation since the Free Zone has opened, I believe that there has been some change in the management from customs on the other side which they create some problems to get the good being exported to Mexico and that is why currently they try to stock pile and then move when they think it is appropriate but custom position is that if you cannot export your goods immediately they must either remain within the Commercial Free Zone or at the Customs office it ought not to be outside.”
Griffith could not say exactly if the goods were taken out of the Free Zone legally or illegally. As a result, there is stricter monitoring of the two gates from where goods leave the free zone. According to reports, Mexican authorities detained and charged two persons who were among the group today, but exactly what charges were levied remain unclear. During the ordeal one police corporal attached to the Corozal Police Formation was injured on the head as you can see in this picture.