A newspaper in Belize reports that cruise ship passengers were robbed at gunpoint yesterday while on an excursion at the Altun Ha Maya ruins site.
The newspaper explains that a tour guide, identified as Clifford Hoare, and six cruise tourists "lost cash and other valuables to two armed and masked men."
The newspaper also says that "the transport from the cruise ship had left just minutes before, and the tourist police acting as security had left along with them."
Neither the cruise line nor the cruise ship were identified in the article.
Local police detained a number of people from a nearby village as suspects.
Earlier this year, a U.S. tourist from Chicago was found murdered while on vacation in the Cayo District of western Belize. She was an executive producer of online operations at a local ABC affiliate in Chicago.
Earlier in January, a Canadian filmmaker Matthiew Klinck was found stabbed to death in his home in Spanish Lookout.
These and other murders in Belize led a number of publications to question whether Belize is safe for tourists?
The Minister of Tourism of Belize was quoted earlier this year saying that that violent crime has been decreasing in the country. He said that over one million people visited Belize last year and crime against tourists was "rare." But the country is impoverished and, my thoughts at least, tourists from a cruise ship stick out like a sore thumb and are often targeted while ashore in Central America and the Caribbean. Also Belize has a murder rate of 44.7 murders per 100,000 of the population, according to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime. (Only Honduras and Venezuela are worse.)
To put this into context, the U.S. has a murder rate of around 4.5 per 100,000. Detroit has a rate of 43.5 murders per 100,000. So traveling to Belize is essentially like traveling to an country with a country-wide murder rate comparable to a city with the highest murder rate in the U.S.
Robbing cruise passengers on an excursion is hardly rare. Read Robbing Cruise Passengers in Bulk – Yes, It Happens!
March 10, 2016 Update: Channel 7 Belize reports that only two cruise passengers, along with the private tour guide, were robbed. The two men who robbed them had what appeared to be a "black 9 millimetre handgun and a machete." Here’s what Channel 7 reported:
" . . . as we later found out from the officer in command of Belize Eastern Rural, the tourism police officers were lax in carrying out their duties. When the last tourist bus left, so did the tourism police, although the site had not been closed. According to police, two tourists were then robbed of items including 1 gold necklace and about $450 US Dollars in different denominations. They were on a private tour with one Clifford Hoare Belizean Tour Guide of Hattieville Village when the men accosted the tourists and tour guide."
March 11, 2016 Update: Channel 7 Belize reports that the pollice in Belize arrested a suspect in the robbery. It cites the Ministry of Culture’s press release saying, quote, "There was adequate police and security presence at the Archeological Site." this is in contrast with the the local police and the news organization stating yesterday that the security was "lax."
Map credit: NordNordWest – using United States National Imagery and Mapping Agency data, CC BY-SA 3.0, creative commons / wikimedia.