Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
2005 Belize unrest
Civil unrest broke out in the capital city of Belmopan in Belize during mid-January 2005. The unrest was provoked by the release of a new national budget with significant tax increases. It was also guided by anger at the ruling People's United Party for the worsening fiscal condition of the Belizian government.
On January 13, 2005 the government of Said Musa announced its budget for 2005-2006. The budget included major tax increases on a variety of businesses and commodities. It included an 11 percent increase in the real estate sales tax, a five percent tax increase for financial institutions, an eight percent tax increase on tobacco, and a 100 percent tax increase on rum. The government claims that these tax increases are comparable to increases instituted in 1998 under the previous government of the United Democratic Party (UDP). However, after years of popular frustration at alleged financial mismanagement and corruption by the People's United Party (PUP), the new budget sparked protests at the National Assembly building on January 15, with confrontations between demonstrators and police. Demonstrations continued throughout the following week.
On January 20, the business community and labor unions called for a two-day nationwide strike. As employees did not report to work, water service for much of Belize was turned off . On January 21, local news reported scattered demostrations in Belmopan, involving the burning of some government buildings, and roadblocks by protestors. National ministers walking towards a government building were attacked by demonstrators throwing rocks and bottles, causing police and military to intervene and subdue the demonstrators. Cameras have reportedly been installed on the exterior of some buildings where protestors are expected to congregate, and government buildings have been preemptively barricaded.
A major public demonstration planned by the opposition took place on January 21 in Belmopan. (The ruling PUP has reportedly planned a counter-demonstration.) This was a large demonstration outside the National Assembly building in Belmopan which ended in violence. Protestors threw rocks at the police, who responded with rubber bullets and riot gas. The gunfire and sirens were audible at a distance of at least 1km. At least one larger booming sound, significantly louder than gunfire, was heard; the cause of this is unclear. Several protestors were arrested, including 'Yellowman', a UDP stalwart. The permission for the demonstration ended at 3pm, but the protestors were given a one hour extension. At the end of the extension, repeated demands for dispersal were largely ignored. Inspector Jefferires read the riot act to the crowd, and after an additional 40 minutes he ordered riot police to disperse the crowd, which they did using teargas and rubber bullets. Some union workers laid down and refused to disperse; they were physically dragged from the area.
The police were very calm throughout the day, although some police cadets were said to have employed unnecessary force against orders. There were reports of fully trained officers restraining cadets and removing them from the police lines, and some people assert that no rocks were thrown until after a protestor was hit in the head by a club wielded by a cadet.
- UK Travel Advisory
- PM calls for calm while Barrow flips out, Belize Times, 19 January 2005. (pro-government paper)
- Unions flex muscles in protest march, News 5 Belize, 20 January 2005.
- Belize City Shutdown!, 7 News Belize, 20 January 2005.
- Only in Belize! - personal blog by a resident of Belmopan, with pictures.
- Protesters clash with police in Belize - Seattle Post Intelligencer (some factual errors)
- The Reporter, "Shutdown! Commerce, Schools, Utilities in revolt"
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