Note: News articles in this archive were contemporaneous reports and
generally have not been updated to reflect events that may have occurred
after the articles appeared.
BELIZE LUCKS OUT, MISSES THE WORST OF HURRICANE MITCH Honduras
and Nicaragua took the worst punches from Hurricane Mitch, while the Caribbean
Coast of Belize, Costa Rica, and Mexico avoided serious damage from what
began as one of the most-powerful hurricanes ever recorded and turned into
the worst natural disaster in Central America in modern times. Mitch approached
Honduras the week of Halloween as a Category 5 storm, with sustained winds
over 180 miles per hour. Early computer models had Mitch giving Belize a
direct hit. But the storm stalled over the North Coast and Bay Islands of
Honduras, then moved onto the Central American mainland, dumping more than
50 inches of rain in some areas. Mitch was responsible for up to 20,000
deaths and property damage in the billions, mostly in Honduras and Nicaragua.
No deaths were reported in Belize.
NEW BELIZE GOVERNMENT: PUP WINS NATIONAL ELECTION IN LANDSLIDE
As widely expected, the People's United Party, out of power for five years,
won Belize national elections August 27, but the margin of victory was even
wider than expected. Belizeans are calling it a landslide, with the PUP
taking 26 of the 29 House of Representative positions and about 60 percent
of the popular vote. Even the former prime minister, Manuel Esquivel, head
of the United Democratic Party, lost his race in the Caribbean Shores division.
He later resigned as UDP head, replaced by Dean Barrow, the former deputy
PM who narrowly retained his seat. Minority parties won no seats. The new
prime minister is PUP leader Said Musa, a San Ignacio-born, British-educated
lawyer of Belizean and Palestinean heritage who has been active in Belize
politics for many years.
Belize, a member of the British Commonwealth, has a Westminster-style
political system patterned on England's system. At least once every five
years, a general election for the 29 representative seats must be held.
The prime minister comes from the dominant party in the house. Eight senators
in the Belize Senate are appointed. Democracy remains alive and well in
Belize, with voter turn-out estimated at close to 90%. The election process
Since 1954, the PUP has won every national election in Belize except
for the last one in 1993 and one in 1984. The center-left PUP, which traditionally
has had strength in both the Mestizo and Creole communities, is expected
to more or less continue the centrist approach of previous governments.
The PUP generally has been more nationalist and populist than the center-right
UDP. In this election, the PUP strongly attacked the unpopular Value Added
Tax put in place by the UDP and promised that it would take steps to help
turn around Belize's flagging economy.
PEACEFUL BELIZE SHOCKED BY SERIES OF HIGH-PROFILE CRIMES The year
1998 will go down as the one of the most violent in Belize history. A series
of high- profile crimes -- shootings, robberies and carjackings -- rocked
this laid- back Caribbean country. Some of the crimes remain unsolved. Perhaps
the most disturbing event, because it was so unexpected in normally quiet
and peaceful Belize, took place in May just a few miles from the Belize
capital of Belmopan. As many as 200 people in 25 cars and trucks and four
buses were held up by armed bandits May 2 on the Hummingbird Highway. Two
men, a Belize Defence Forces volunteer and, later, one of the alleged highwaymen,
died. Several Belizeans, including police, were wounded. A small band of
men, all believed to be of Guatemalan nationality, stopped vehicles and
took thousands of dollars and jewelry and other personal effects from victims
before escaping in stolen vehicles, spraying arriving Belize police with
bullets. Despite several well-publicized arrests, police apparently have
not been able to solve the crime. On July 5, an American tourist, a teacher
from Maryland, was killed in a hold-up attempt at a hotel at Maya Beach
on the Placencia peninsula. Two of three men alleged to have been involved
in the incident have been arrested outside Belize. On August 24, a British
visitor, a volunteer with Raleigh International, was stabbed to death near
Red Bank village in Stann Creek district. Two local men have been arrested
and charged with the crime. No part of Belize has been immune to the crime
wave. In Barton Creek in Cayo Rosanne Orrizzi, a Mennonite who had lived
in Belize for 17 years and held Belize and U.S. citizenship, was brutally
murdered. A non- Belizean is being held in connection with the shotgun slaying.
There also were reports of several attempted carjackings and kidnappings
in Cayo. Northern Belize saw a series of killings, hold-ups and kidnappings
in August and September, including the shotgun slaying of the driver of
a Coca Cola delivery truck in a hold-up on the Old Northern Highway in August.
Three brothers living on the Old Northern Highway have been charged with
Some observers claim that these events, while tragic, are not typical
of Belize. However, others worry that these crimes will hurt Belize's vital
tourism industry, just as it is starting to recover from several slack years.
They also fear that Belize authorities are showing they are not able to
cope with the rising tide of lawlessness in Belize, much of it, they claim,
a result of the thousands of legal and illegal aliens who have migrated
to Belize from Guatemala, Honduras, and elsewhere in Central America. Regardless
of the high-profile crimes, most visitors to Belize say they feel safe and
are generally unconcerned about crime.
Compared to some other countries in the region, crime in Belize is almost
nominal. Since 1994, about 10,000 people have been killed in crimes in Honduras,
a country of 5 million people, according to Associated Press reports. Kidnappings
and robberies in Honduras are common, so much so that in October the Honduran
army was called out to patrol the streets of major cities in an attempt
to control the crime wave. Guatemala has had a spate of violent crimes,
including murders of American visitors. Each year, the megaopolis of Mexico
City suffers about a million muggings.
NEW COMPETITION FOR BELIZE TOURISM COMING FROM "COSTA MAYA"
Chetumal and the Quintana Roo coast just north of Corozal Town are poised
to compete with Belize for eco-tourists. Chetumal, capital of Quintana Roo
state, already enjoys some prosperity from the influx of Belizeans who shop
there for prices in cheap pesos, not to mention the smuggling operations
traditionally based there. Now, if officials have their way, Cancun, Cozumel
and Playa del Carmen will be joined by the so-called Maya Coast as a lure
for North American and European tourists. A tourism master plan calls for
the construction of several small airports, additional roads, a cruise ship
port and a number of hotels on the coast, stretching from the Sian Ka'an
bioreserve to the Belize border. Initial public and private investment may
total US$25 million or more. Mexican officials say Costa Maya tourism will
focus on environmentally conscious eco- and adventure tourism, rather than
the mass tourism of Cancun.
TACA ADDS BUSINESS CLASS Beginning December 1, TACA offers two
classes of service on its flights to and in Central America. The El Salvador-based
airline, which has enjoyed a reputation for good one-class service, adds
executive class on all aircraft. Along with more room, TACA's business-class
service includes upgraded meals served on china and personal video players.
Fares are about 15 percent above full coach fare.
NEW CRUISE SHIP SAILS BELIZE A 50-passenger luxury cruise ship,
the Acqua Azzurra, is sailing Belize waters beginning in December.
ATMs NOW AN OPTION FOR TRAVELERS IN BELIZE Although several banks
in Belize have had ATMs for some time, until recently ATM withdrawals were
an option only for those with Belize-issued ATM cards. Now, Barclays has
ATMs which may be accessed by foreigners and Scotia Bank says that will
be the case with its ATMs also. However, there are still no ATMs on Ambergris
Caye, Belize's most-popular destination for visitors.
RADIO BELIZE SHUT DOWN As part of its effort to reduce expenses,
the PUP in October pulled the plug on the Broadcasting Corporation of Belize.
October 16 was the BCB's last broadcast day. For 61 years, the government-owned
station was a source of news, information and music for Belizeans, and for
the first 50 of those years it was the only radio outlet in the country.
Radio Belize often was criticized for presenting only the government side
of the news. Subsidized at the rate of US$150,000 a year, BCB was staff-heavy
with more than 50 employees and ended with a debt of about US$250,000. Most
of the BCB news staff found employment with other media channels. Observers
say that LOVE FM, privately operated, now will be the dominant Belize radio
station. Separately, The People's Pulse, the weekly newspaper of the UDP,
has discontinued publication.
LATIN COUNTRIES RANK HIGH IN CORRUPTION INDEX Five Latin American
countries ranked among the 10 "most corrupt" countries in the
world, according to a new study of 85 countries. Honduras was ranked third
most-corrupt in a survey of perceptions of corruption released by Transparency
International, a Non- Governmental Organization based in Germany "dedicated
to increasing government accountability and curbing both international and
national corruption." Other Latin countries ranked high in corruption
include Paraguay (# 2), Colombia (# 7) and Venezuela and Ecuador (tied at
# 8). Cameroon in Africa was ranked the # 1 most corrupt. Denmark, Finland,
Sweden, New Zealand, Iceland and Canada were ranked, in that order, as the
least corrupt, based on "perceptions by business people, risk analysts
and the general public." The United States ranked as the 17th least
corrupt out of 85 countries studied. Among other nations along the Caribbean
Coast, Costa Rica was ranked in the top one-third of least corrupt countries,
while Mexico, Guatemala and Nicaragua were in the one-third of most corrupt.
Some countries, including Belize, were not included at all in the study.
DENGUE FEVER IN HONDURAS Dengue fever continues to be a health
problem in Central America, especially in Honduras where more than 12,000
cases have been reported so far in 1998, including eight cases of often-fatal
COSTA RICA AIMS FOR MILLION VISITORS IN 1999 Costa Rica, its tourism
business growing again after several flat years, may hit the magic million
mark in visitors in 1999, counting both arrivals by air and land, say Tico
MEXICAN TOURISM SLOWED BY SPIRALING CRIME The number of international
vistors to Mexico, the world's eighth most-popular tourist destination with
more than 20 million annual visitors, may show no increase in 1998, and
could actually fall despite bargains available thanks to the falling peso.
Government officials point to increased crime as the reason. Mexico City,
becoming infamous muggings and for crime against taxi passengers, and Southern
Mexico have been particularly hard hit. However, Cancun and other resort
areas are taking up the slack, showing significant increases in visitation.
NEW BELIZE GUIDEBOOKS New editions of several Belize guidebooks
recently have been published. Belize Handbook, the best-selling guide
from Moon Publications, released its 4th edition in October. Patti Lange
is credited with helping updating Chicki Mallon's original text. Belize
Handbook reportedly has sold more than 75,000 copies, making it the
top selling guide to the country. Belize gets its own separate edition in
the new Rough Guide to Belize by Peter Eltringham. Formerly, Belize
was combined with Guatemala in the series, distributed to by Penguin in
the U.S. A Guatemala edition also has been published, with updates by Eltringham.
Adventure Guide to Belize by Harry Pariser is now out as Explore
Belize, still from Hunter Publishing. Richard Mahler and Steele Wotkyns
are researching a new edition of Belize, Adventures in Nature, John
BELIZE HOSPITALITY INDUSTRY NOTES:
BUZZ! Mark Espat, a veteran Belize hotelier, has been named minister
of tourism under the new PUP government. Environment is no longer a part
of the tourism ministry but a part of the ministry of natural resources
and the environment headed by John Briceno. Valerie Woods has been named
new director of tourism of the Belize Tourist Board. Formerly deputy director
of tourism, Woods will work under the direction of Patty Arceo, chair of
the BTB, and Espat. When prospective Belize visitors call the Belize Tourist
Board number in New York City, the phone is now answered in Belize City.
Joan Medhurst, whose public relations firm in the state of New York, handled
Belize PR for several years, has retired, but her firm, now called The Wescott
Group, now located in Virginia, still has the PR contract through April
1999, according to reports.
BITE! The Seagrill restaurant at the Tropica resort on Ambergris
Caye claims to have the "world's largest public display of mounted
crabs," with more than 160 crabs from all over the world. Missing so
far are the Alaska King Crab and the Giant Spider Crab from Japan, but they're
working on'em, says Gary Sogorka of Tropica.
YES! Banana Beach is a new 35-unit condotel at Mar de Tumbo beach
south of San Pedro near Villas at Banyan Bay, Mata Rocks and Tropica. It
has 14 sea front, 12 sea view and nine pool view units of 535 to 670 square
feet, all in a two-story building patterned after Merida-style hotels. When
completed late in 1998, Banana Beach will have a fresh-water swimming pool,
cable TV, bar, restaurant, convenience store, gift shop, tour office, according
to developer Tim Jeffers, who also have been associated with Coconuts Hotel
on Ambergris Caye. Units are priced at US$75,000 to $120,000, according
NEW! Victoria House on Ambergris Caye will build 24 new condo
units and add a swimming pool in 1999, according to co-owner Mims Wright.
Existing casita units will be torn down to make way, according to Wright.
Other new or expanded development on the boards for Ambergris Caye include
Los Encantos, White Sands Cove, Fountain Blue and Belizean Shores on the
north end, and Xanadu and expansions at Royal Palm and Villas at Banyan
Bay on the south. Mayas Katut in the San Pablo area is now open again and
operating as a hotel.
SALES! Hotel properties currently for sale on Ambergris Caye include
Playador for US$1.1 million; Alijuala Suites for US$2.2 million; Captain
Morgan's Retreat, asking US$3.2 million, and Hotel del Rio, for US$365,000.
The Conch Shell Hotel and Coconuts Caribbean Hotel also are for sale.
TRENDY! High design has come to Belize in the form of the new
small luxury resort on North Ambergris Caye, Mata Chica. Each of the luxury
cabañas was created around a fruit theme -- cranberry, banana, mango
-- from the exterior colors down to the bathroom sinks. Mata Chica also
has a trendy restaurant.
SPLASH! As part of the continued upscaling of Belize's tourism
industry, a number of hotels and lodges around the country have added swimming
pools. New within the last year or so are pools at Maya Mountain Lodge in
Cayo, Chan Chich Lodge at Gallon Jug, Inn at Robert's Grove , Nautical Inn
and Rum Point in Placencia and SunBreeze, El Pescador, Playador and Tropica
on Ambergris Caye. Ramon's Village on Ambergris Caye has put in a new, larger
· CHANGE! Parrot's Nest, the popular budget-priced lodge
in Cayo, is in new hands. Fred Prost has sold to Meb Cutlack. Prost has
returned to the sea, buying the Seaview Hotel on the south side of Caye
Caulker. He says his new 26-foot catamaran "looks better here in the
jungle." Seaview has winter rates around US$37.50, with a small separate
house going for US$150 a week. Separately, the management of Martinez Caribbean
Inn on Corker has changed. Ramon Reyes Jr., son of the proprietor of the
Tropical Paradise Hotel, has leased the property, upgraded it a bit and
renamed it the Tropical Star Hotel. Rates are still in the budget category,
around US$15 per night.
WHY? Despite one of the lowest hotel occupancy rates in the world,
Toledo District seems to be attracting new hotel projects. Several new lodges
reportedly are planned. Golden Stream Lodge is expected to open in early
1998. And a new lodge is planned near Nim Li Punit in late 1999.
WHAP! A golf course is under construction at privately owned Caye
Chapel south of Caye Caulker, funded by U.S. investors. Despite opposition
from some environmentalists, which fear that runoffs from the course, including
nitrates and phosphates, could damage the reef and its sealife, the project
continues. Also reportedly planned is a 5,500 foot runway.
UP! One upmarket development on Caye Caulker finally opened, but
another is still stalled. Iguana Reef Inn, originally scheduled to open
in 1997-2001, finally opened in July. It has six suites, each with queen beds,
air conditioning and TV. Rooms are in the US$75 range. Partners in this
venture are Mario Guizar, a Belizean who lived in Chicago for a long time,
and Jim Dobrowski, an American from Chicago. Another upscale project, Emerald
Pointe Condominiums, originally begun with Glen Godfrey as majority owner,
remains at a standstill, although Godfrey reportedly sold his stake to an
BELIZE MUSICIANS RELEASE CDs David Obi has released a Cungo CD,
Hello Everybody. The CD has eight cuts including "Stand Up Belizeans"
and "Tribal Vibes De Ya." A Belizen Caribbean Gospel band, D-Revelation,
has released Payday.
U.S. COMPANY PUTS BARRIER REEF IN 3-D A Burbank, California, company,
New Visual Entertainment, is releasing a video of sharks, rays and other
underwater life on Belize's barrier reef, in stereoscopic 3-D.
BHI CORP SELLS NON-CORE ASSETS BHI Corp., the largest public company
headquartered in Belize, said it sold several of its non-core assets to
an investor group headed by Allan Forrest, a BHI exec who has been managing
some of BHI's businesses in Central America. Among the assets sold, for
a total of US$15.6 million, are BHI's interests in Belize Leisure Ltd. which
owns the Radisson Fort George Hotel, its 36 percent interest in Great Belize
Productions/Channel 5 and Belize Aggregates Ltd. BHI is focusing more on
its U.S. building maintenance businesses based in Atlanta and developing
its security business. Also, BHI is continuing to focus on its financial
businesses in Belize and elsewhere in Central America, Belize Bank, and
an offshore financial business, International Financial Services, which
incorporated 400 IBCs in the quarter. BHI continues its equity investments
in Belize Telecommunications Ltd. and NUMAR Group.
BELIZE INCOME TAX ABOLISHED FOR SOME Under a United Democratic
Party bill passed in June by both the Belize House and Senate, individuals
working for a salary and earning less than US$10,000 a year will be exempt
from Belize income taxes. The individual income tax rate in Belize ranges
as high as 45%. Businesses in Belize will no longer pay income taxes, which
now range up to 35% of net income, but instead will pay a gross receipts
tax on total business revenues. The gross receipts tax varies by industry.
For example, domestic airlines and newspapers will pay 0.75% while banks
must pay 12% and insurance companies 1.5%. Belize Telecommunications, Ltd.
will pay 22%. The highest rate of 25% is for those receiving management
fees, who charge for technical services, or who receive fees for renting
plant and equipment. Many businesses and business groups opposed the new
tax scheme. It is unclear what impact the new system will have on business
BELIZE TAKES HOOPS GOLD IN CARICOM GAMES Belize beat Barbados
72-66 in the finals to take the gold in men's basketball in the 14th CARICOM
Games, this one held in Belize City in early July. Guard Milton Palacio
was named the Games' most valuable player. Palacio has played at Colorado
State University. Belize's starting five were Fred Garcia, Keith Acosta,
Kirk Smith, Alex Carcamo and Milton Palacio. The coach of the Belize team,
David Greenwood, is a former U.S. National Basketball Association player.
FIRES IN MEXICO AND CENTRAL AMERICA CAUSED LITTLE PROBLEM IN BELIZE
Forest fires in Southeastern Mexico, Guatemala, and Honduras, many of them
set by milpa farmers using traditional slash-and-burn techniques, in May
and June caused massive clouds of smoke and haze up into the U.S. Midwest.
Texas and much of the Central U.S. were under an air quality alert. In Belize,
some fires were reported in the Mountain Pine Ridge, along the Hummingbird
Highway, and in Stann Creek District. Unusually hot, dry weather set the
stage for more fires. However, winds have kept the Belize coast and cayes
clear, and only occasional hazy conditions were reported on the mainland.
The coming of seasonal rains in the region is expected to help control any
SUICIDE NO LONGER A CRIME IN BELIZE Under a new law passed in
June by the Belize House of Representatives and approved by the Senate,
it is no longer a criminal offense for someone to try to commit suicide.
POWER BACK Belize suffered from spot power outages during the
first half of May. However, Belize Electricity Limited's power supply returned
to normal May 19 with the installation of two additional units at the generating
plant at Ladyville. BEL says the outages stemmed from generator problems
and lack of rainfall at the Mollejon hydro generating plant.
BELIZE CERTIFIED U.S. IN ANTI-DRUG WAR Belize is back in Uncle
Sam's good graces. In February, the country was fully certified as a drug-fighting
partner. Last year, Belize was de-certified but the action was waived due
to "national security" reasons. Mexico also has been certified.
SAN PEDRO SUN SOLD The San Pedro Sun, the weekly tabloid
newspaper on Ambergris Caye in its eighth year of publication, and the Belize
Sun, a country-wide tourism monthly paper which started publication last
year, have been sold by owners Bruce and Victoria Collins to Dan and Eileen
Jamison from Pennsylvania. The asking price for the two newspapers was US$65,000.
Real estate, including a one-bedroom home and a two-story building housing
the newspapers, with an asking price of US$195,000 was not included in the
sale. The Collinses were quoted as saying building the newspaper business
has been "a labour of love" but that they are now ready for "one
more adventure." The new owners appear to be continuing most of the
features and news approach of the former owners.
BELIZE TOURISM UP, BUT IS IT ENOUGH? Reports from lodges and hotels
around Belize indicate that tourist bookings so far in 1998 show a considerable
improvement over the situation the last two years. Placencia in particular
has seen boosts in visitation, with some of the top resorts being full on
many days. The more competitively priced hotels, and those with aggressive
marketing, on Ambergris Caye reportedly are doing good numbers as well.
Also having a good year: the small properties on cayes on or near the reef
where snorkeling and swimming are possible from the shore. One of the biggest
complaints of visitors to Belize is that they need to pay US$10 to $20 to
take a boat out to the reef for snorkeling. Hotels in less-well-known areas
such as Corozal Town, Punta Gorda, and Monkey River, are still struggling.
Overall, the question among Belize tourism operators is whether small increases
in visitation are enough to offset the increases in new hotel rooms around
the country. "The pie is about the same size, but we're splitting is
among more hotel rooms," says one operator. In fact, there is talk
about a moratorium on new resort development in Belize until the present
surplus is absorbed. The Belize Eco-Tourism Association, an organization
of mostly small, eco-oriented hotels, supports such a moratorium.
GAY CRUISE SHIP VISITS BELIZE More than 700 gays shopped and enjoyed
excursions to Maya ruins and other sites in Belize when the MS Leeward docked
off Belize City February 1. The Norwegian Cruise Line ship had been turned
away by the Cayman Islands government from its scheduled stop at Grand Cayman,
but the Belize Tourist Board agreed to permit the chartered ship to visit
Belize. The Cayman Islands government said it didn't expect "appropriate
behavior" from the ship's passengers. A small group of protesters met
the passengers as they arrived at the Radisson Fort George dock by hover
craft shuttle, and some reports indicated that protesters threw rocks at
buses carrying passengers. However, once away from small gang of protesters,
the visitors reportedly were received with typical Belizean courtesy and
friendliness. The ship carried about 900 passengers, but only about 720
disembarked in Belize City. Some gay and humans rights groups accused the
Cayman Islands government of bigotry. Gays and travel operators generally
praised Belize's actions.
EL NINO BRINGS HOT DRY WEATHER Central America has reported record
high temperatures since the New Year, with droughts requiring water rationing
in some areas of Costa Rica and Honduras, due to effects of El Niño.
Thermometers in the Pacific town of Liberia, in Guanacaste, Costa Rica,
set a record of 101.1 degrees F. in early February and even normally spring-like
San Jos~ reached 86 degrees F. in February. Records were also set in Nicaragua
and Honduras. In Belize, temps rose to over 100 degrees F. in Cayo District,
but weather on the cayes was perfect for high season visitors, being generally
dry, sunny and warm.
NEW LEADERSHIP IN CENTRAL AMERICA A new group of leaders are taking
over in Costa Rica and Honduras, following democratic elections. In Costa
Rica, 58-year-old Miguel Angel Rodr~quez won a surprisingly close victory
in elections February 1. His Social Christian Unity Party, when it assumes
power May 8, is expected to continue previous governments' centrist, free-market
approaches. Rodr~quez's running mate, Astrid Fischel, is the first Costa
Rican woman to win the First-Vice President's office. In Honduras, Liberal
Party standard-bearer Carlos Flores was inaugurated in January. General
elections are planned for Belize for later this year, probably in June.
An exact date has not been set by the United Democratic Party. Challenger
Said Musa of the People's United Party is thought to be ahead at this point,
but incumbent Manual Esquivel of the UDP appears to be gaining back some
LETHAL YELLOWING CONTINUES TO KILL COCO PALMS Lethal Yellowing,
a disease that attacks and kills coconut palms, continues to ravage the
beautiful trees all along the Caribbean Coast of Mexico, Belize, Guatemala,
and Honduras. In some areas, Philippine coconuts, which appear to be resistent
to the disease, are being planted to replace the dying Jamaican tall coco
palms. Some local residents, however, say the Philippine coconut oil and
cream do not taste as good as that from the old trees. Individual coco palms
threatened by Lethal Yellowing can be treated with the injection of antibiotics.
BELIZE BUY-A-PASSPORT DEMAND MODEST Since 1995, only 265 "Economic
Citizenships" have been sold, under a law passed by the current UDP
government, according to a recent report from the Belize Economic Citizenship
Investment Programme Unit. The law permits up to 500 Belize citizenships
to be sold each year, for a minimum of US$25,000 each. Of those approved
so far, 57 applicants were from the People's Republic of China, 36 were
from Taiwan, and the remaining 172 were from other countries. The previous
PUP government also had a passport sales program.
MORE FUNDING FOR SOUTHERN HIGHWAY Belize has received two new
loans totaling US$28.6 million, one from a development fund in Taiwan for
US$10 million, and the other from the Inter-American Development Bank for
US$18.6 million, to fund additional work on improving and paving the Southern
Highway. A previous loan from Kuwait is financing the surfacing of the road
from Punta Gorda to Big Falls. A development loan from the United Kingdom,
expected later this year, will help finance additional work on the highway.
BELIZE HAS GOOD PAY RECORD WITH UNITED NATIONS Belize is one of
only five Caribbean Basin nations that pays its U.N. dues on time, according
to a U.N. report. Nine of 14 countries in the Caribbean community failed
to settle their debts with the U.N. last year. Antigua, Dominica, Trinidad
and Tobago, Grenada, Guyana, Haiti, St. Vincent, St. Kitts and Nevis, and
Suriname together owed the world body nearly US$2 million, according to
the budget report. Only Belize, the Bahamas, Barbados, Jamaica, and St.
Lucia owed nothing. These five countries typically pay their dues on time.
The United States is the largest U.N. debtor, with billions past due.
ONE-FIFTH OF BELIZEANS SEEKING TO VISIT U.S. DENIED VISAS Over
the past 45 months, about 19% of Belizeans seeking visas to visit the U.S.
temporarily have been denied entry. Of the 45,058 applications received
at the U.S. Embassy in Belize, 36,395 applications were approved and 8,663
BEST PLACES FOR CHEAPSKATES Mexico, Honduras, and Ecuador are
the cheapest places to live in the Western Hemisphere, according to International
Living newsletter's annual quality of life survey. Belize was rated as the
most-expensive place to live in Central America, with a cost of living only
slightly lower than in the U.S.
BELIZE-TEXAS FUSION MUSIC Jerry Jeff Walker, the Austin, Texas,
singer whose second home is in San Pedro, Ambergris Caye, has a new Caribbean-flavored
album, Cowboy Boots & Bathin' Suits.
CLINTON SPEECH WRITER NEW U.S. AMBASSADOR TO BELIZE Carolyn Curiel,
most recently a senior speech writer for U.S. President Bill Clinton, took
office in January as the new U.S. ambassador to Belize. This is the first
diplomatic post for the veteran journalist and former UPI wire service reporter.
Separately, Taiwan has named Kuo-hsiung Shen, a career trade and commerce
officer, as new ambassador to Belize.
BELIZE MED SCHOOL CLAIMS TO DO THREE YEARS IN ONE Belize Medical
School, an offshore med school at Bally Gardens, Mile 4 of the Northern
Highway, claims to be able to compress three years of medical training into
one year, because it does not have long vacations. Students attend three
14-week terms, with about two weeks vacation between terms. After three
terms in Belize, students are sent to Juarez, Mexico, and El Paso,Texas,
to continue their studies, according to Felix T. Ortuelo, Ph.D., D.Sc.,
dean of the school. The school says it has 30 students. Belize Medical School
is one of two offshore med schools in Belize. St. Matthews University, on
Ambergris Caye, offers a two-year, five-semester program. St. Matthews opened
in September 1997-2001 with 23 students and says it eventually could have 450
students. Neither school is officially accredited in the U.S. Several offshore
med schools have attempted to operate in crime-ridden Belize City but have
quickly moved to other places with more attraction to U.S. and other foreign
BLANCANEAUX IN THE NEWS Blancaneaux Lodge, Francis Ford Coppola's
piece of the Mountain Pine Ridge, got extensive coverage in a January 25
article in the Travel Section of the New York Times, in an article
by David Hochman. Blancaneaux was also featured in a January article in
International Travel News.
AD CAMPAIGN BOOSTS TICO TOURISM A US$7 million ad campaign, featuring
U.S. network television commercials and print ads in well-known publications
such as Condé Nast Traveler and National Geographic,
along with merchandising incentives for travel agencies, helped boost international
visits to Costa Rica by 4% in 1997-2001, after several flat years for Tico tourism.
Another US$7 is budgeted for 1998. Tourism arrivals in Costa Rica in 1997-2001
totaled 812,000, more than seven times higher than arrivals in Belize. Belize
has only a tiny marketing budget for tourism promotion.
RABIES REPORTED IN CAYO In February, a rabid dog bit nine members
of the San Ignacio family that owned it along with three school children
and two teachers. The dog, along with at least two other dogs suspected
to have rabies, were caught and destroyed. The bitten victims were treated
for the disease. Cattle in Cayo District also have died from rabies. Vampire
bats are suspected to be carriers of the disease.
NEW INN OPENS IN BELIZE CITY Veteran hospitality industry executive
Steve Maestre has opened The Great House, a six-room upscale inn on Cork
Street near the Radisson Fort George. The colonial house, built in 1927,
has been extensively refurbished and renovated. Maestre built the Villa
Hotel, which eventually was absorbed by the Radisson Fort George, which
Maestre also managed for a time.
MEXICO CRACKS DOWN ON TRANSIT VISA TRAFFIC Belizeans have long
brought in used cars and new television sets and other appliances from the
U.S. through Mexico, often for resale in Belize. Now, Mexican officials
say they plan to enforce longstanding regulations that limit the number
of items which may be brought through Mexico. Only three of any category
of item -- for example, televisions or microwaves -- will be permitted for
those traveling from the U.S. to Mexico. In short, Mexico will enforce regulations
requiring that goods being carried through Mexico to Belize be for personal
use, not resale.
JAGUAR CIGARS LAUNCHED Belize Cigar Company has introduced a Jaguar
brand cigar, along with another new line, the Don. The cigars, to be introduced
in the U.S. and 19 other countries, may eventually be made in Belize, after
workers are trained, but are currently being rolled in Honduras.
CRUISE SHIP TO MAKE WEEKLY VISITS TO BELIZE CITY Beginning in
October 1998, a Premier Cruise Line ship, sailing from Port Everglades,
Fla., is scheduled to make a weekly stop at Belize City. Other ports of
call are Key West, Cancun, Cozumel, and Santo Tomas, Guatemala. The MV
Sea Breeze is expected to carry about 800 passengers.
COSTA RICA GETTING MORE HIGH-TECH JOBS Intel's opening in March
of a large Pentium processor plant in Costa Rica appears to be bringing
other electronic assembly jobs to the country. Intel now employs 800 in
Costa Rica. When a second chip plant opens later this year, Intel employment
will jump to 2,000. Three other U.S. electronic components manufacturers,
DEK USA, EMC Technology, and Photocircuits Corp., reportedly are investing
a combined US$10 million in Costa Rica this year, creating 500 new jobs.
Most Interesting News
from Earlier in 1999
Most Interesting News