Random Notes on Belize
By Joe Bageant
Hopkins Village, Belize
In the Caribbean, the gears of the machinery of justice somehow never quite seem to engage, probably because they were toothless to begin with, but mostly because nobody knows they are supposed to. Crime and punishment are for the most part, completely unrelated elements here on the Garifuna coast of Belize. Whether something is a crime or not depends more or less upon whom it was committed, whether it is a "white fella," a tourist, a neighbor or a stranger. And punishment, well, that's something that happens by the unfettered caprice of sheer fate, an impenetrable mystery in which the police and judicial system somehow play a part, though no one seems quite sure just what part.
Take my buddy Griggs, who was awakened at midnight by the dark form of someone rifling through his bedroom. "Hold it motherfucker!" he yells, switching on the light to find a young man, a local well known in this small seaside village where everyone is well known to everyone else. The young man goes by the nickname of Skankin', after the stoned groove Caribbean dance style, or Skank for short. Skank jumps back out the window he came in through and Griggs, a pepper bearded man in his late forties, owner of a small group of rental cabanas and in good enough shape not to be fucked with, is mad as hell. "Get the police!" he yells to his wife, Rhoda.