Guatemalan Military Misinforms SATIIM; No New Protocol on the Sarstoon

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Updated: April 12, 2016

On Wednesday, April 6 the Executive Director for SATIIM, Froyla Salam spoke to Love News on an incident in which they were met on the bank of the Sarstoon by the Guatemalan Military.  Salam says that they were on a scheduled patrol when the Guatemalan Armed Forces approached them in an aggressive manner.  A report on the incident was sent to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, according to Salam.  In today’s press briefing, former Foreign Minister and representative for the Opposition, Assad Shoman, spoke on the matter.

ASSAD SHOMAN

“Sometimes when you go into a negotiation you don’t want to talk about things that could really only embarrass the other side because there are no such protocols and so these are inventions of some people which have no legal basis so if there is no need to go into that and ask them about it then why do it, what we did was very clear, we said that this is what we want and that this is based on law and this is the kind of agreement that we want and as we said the reaction was not negative from the committee so we are hoping that they will agree to that and then we don’t have to worry about this idle talk about protocols that just don’t exist.”

WILFRED ELRINGTON

“There was an understanding to that effect even before we left Washington the last time we were there, these are mature people, the generals are mature and they are prepared to work together to ensure that we don’t have any disturbance, any negative incidents occurring to the extent that they have they have the authority to ensure that there is no interruption, disturbance, increase of tension they will do all within their power to ensure that that is in their power to ensure that that is the case. They have to be guided by the instruction which they get from their principals but outside of that they are mature people, sensible people, people who loath war the thought of war they don’t want to get into conflict and so they agreed that they will do all in their power to ensure that the tensions will not continue to be raising in the region that was agreed to even before we left.”

ASSAD SHOMAN

“You must understand I don’t want the Minister to be misinterpreted he is not promising you that there will be no incidents, nobody knows what is going to happen but certainly the sense that we got is that they will do their best at that level. They gave us that sense of security. Will the Guatemalans abide by it? Time will tell, if they don’t we have to take measures but let’s hope they will.”

According to Salam, the Guatemalans had told them that there is now a new protocol in place but they did not go into details as to what that protocol entails.  As Shoman mentioned, there is no such new protocol in effect.  That situation then led to the question as to an apparent disconnect between the military men on the ground and the Guatemalan officials who have been committing to peaceful resolution of the territorial matter.

ASSAD SHOMAN

“That was spoken about when the Guatemalan general said he has to make efforts to ensure that chain of command gets right down to the level of the people there so I think that was a way of recognizing that there is a need for that to be done.  Like I said we can’t give any guarantees.”

WILFRED ELRINGTON

“Maybe it’s important that we make it clear that even here in our own police force for example we have instances where even at the cabinet level we have signaled to the commissioner certain positions which we want to think are consistent with our law and which we would like to ensure that all members in the police force abide by but it does not necessarily follow that everybody will follow the instruction from the top. You will always have, people at the bottom for one reason or the other want to do their own thing so it doesn’t mean that it is an official government position but you will find a rogue military people or rogue cops who may act outside of the authority in excess and the like that is party of life and i don’t think that anybody can completely safeguard against that but to the extent that the generals have the ability they will try to ensure that their people understood what the new (proposal) were and will abide by it and we can only convey that to the Belizean people.”

Salam told Love News that one of the main reasons they patrol the Sarstoon is to document activities that occur in the park as they have concerns regarding the increased rate of incursions, illegal fishing and logging.