Ross Kemp On Gangs: Belize
Belize is the smallest country in the whole of the Americas with a population of just over 300,000, but since becoming a major transit point for cocaine trafficked from Colombia to the US in the late 1980s, it’s developed a serious gang problem and become one of the most dangerous places on the planet.
Until recently, guns and cocaine were practically unheard of in Belize. Today the country is facing a massive crack cocaine problem, there are hundreds of semi-automatic weapons in the hands of gangs and the country has a per capita murder rate 5 times higher than the US, 98% of it gang-related.
Ross meets reformed gangsters who introduce him to the dangerous streets of Belize City and the gangs that control them. Ross gets to see a fraction of the weapons that make this city so violent, including grenades and high explosives, the new weapon of choice for the dozens of gangs which
control Belize City.
Ross teams up with the police as they try to tackle the problem that has its epicentre in the few square miles of the notorious Southside of Belize City. He takes part in a dawn raid but ends up seeing the other tragic side of Belize’s gang story, meeting gang members crippled for life despite being barely out of their teens.
Belize’s Coastguards consist mainly of captured Columbian smugglers boats that are reconditioned and then used to protect the miles of coastline. Ross joins the armed guards as they intercept and search suspect vessels, and sees captured planes used by the cartels to ferry drugs through Belize.
Finally his journey leads him to the George Street Crew, the most feared gang in the city and the local enforcers for the Mexican and Colombian drug cartels. In 2004 the gang’s leader was sentenced to 33 years in a Miami prison for smuggling more than 10 tonnes of cocaine into the US. Ross meets Jason Brown, the current leader of George Street, along with a collection of his lieutenants. The head of the country’s gang unit warns Ross that each of the men he meets will have committed at least one murder. But as Ross wins the trust of the gang’s leader, he is given an insight into the reality of gang life that poses as many questions as it gives answers.
“Belize used to be a British colony; we cut down all the teak wood and then gave it back to them. There’s a British base there used for jungle training, but the soldiers aren’t allowed into Belize City because it’s said to be too dangerous”.
“Belize is a very small country with a lot of drugs and a lot of guns on the streets. It’s infested by gangs. Gangs are a cultural thing. Drug dealers use gangs for the safe passage of their drugs and they pay them in drugs and weapons”.
“Belize was the first place I was ever given a hand grenade by a gang member”.
“In Belize City I met one gang who are incredibly violent, they’re all killers. I’m not talking about the odd hit, I’m talking about killing ten to 15 people, shooting children. If a child’s in the way they will shoot through the child to get to the target. And they talk about being big and hard, but they can’t even cross the road to get a beer unless they have a bodyguard. They’ve effectively put themselves in a prison. That upsets me”.
Ross Kemp On Gangs, Monday 15th September only on Sky1 and Sky1 HD.