CEO of Defence fears that BTV’s continuous trips to Sarstoon may provoke Guatemala

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Updated: September 19, 2017

Government officials have received reports of what transpired over the weekend between Guatemalan Armed Forces and Belizeans. As we have reported, the Belize Territorial Volunteers, BTV, held its second annual Sarstoon Eco Challenge. During the event, participants were intercepted by Guatemalan Armed Forces. We asked CEO, Felix Enriquez about it.

 

Felix Enriquez, CEO, Ministry of Defence 

“We heard that there was an incident where the Guatemalan patrol base interacted with some members of those that were going around. Exactly what happened I have personally not been fully briefed in terms of what the facts are but we do know that they were in what we consider Belizean waters? The thing about it is the mission of our people out there is not, when I say our people I say the Belize Defense Force and the Belize Coast Guard is not to go in contrary to the Guatemalan Armed Forces. They have their idea of what Guatemalan waters are we have our idea- in fact we know what Belizean waters are. There is a dispute and we have said that to the members of the BTV over and over there is a dispute and when they transition in that area these things could happen and they know it can happen. When they do happen we do protest. Now how we go about protesting as a government must be effective and by doing so in the media sometimes or at first is not necessarily the best way to do it. We must establish with our neighbors exactly what happened and what the mindset was when it happened and if in deed something went wrong why it went wrong and what our points are and what their points are. This is all diplomacy at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs have to nudge their teeth with every time something like this happens. So it’s not to say that it won’t happen again. Next year they will go back again and it might happen again.”

According to Enriquez, Belizeans are free to traverse the Sarstoon River but they must be aware of the inherent risks.

Reporter

“You used the word ‘interaction’ those on the ground use ‘confrontation’ and that happened in Belizean waters, it has happened many times before. Can one say that the Guatemalan armed forces have taken 100% of the Sarstoon River and the Sarstoon Island?”

Felix Enriquez, CEO, Ministry of Defence

“They haven’t taken anything. The Guatemalan Armed Forces aren’t there to take anything. I cannot tell you for sure what mission brief the Guatemalan Armed Forces that are deployed there are given but they are aware that there is a dispute and their perspective of that dispute is different from ours and that is what people need to understand. When there is a dispute people have different perspectives and theirs is different from ours and so what they are told from their side is not what we tell our guys from our side and while we know what Belizean waters are what they are saying is that they know what Guatemalan waters are and so while we are out there it’s important that those that are being emotional about the situation try to temper it in such a way that it doesn’t get out of hand because it has gotten out of hand several times and we are not happy when it happens but it does happen and we have to deal with it and we do so in a diplomatic and tempered way.”

Reporter

“But the GAF willingly and unlawfully crossed the borders into Belizean waters, can someone believe that the Government can’t control that, that the Government and the BDF are not able to stop that at all? Stop them from entering Belizean waters as we saw this weekend again.”

Felix Enriquez, CEO, Ministry of Defence

“And when you say we ‘can’t stop them’ like I said the mindset the briefing that they were given we don’t know what it is, they have a people that they must answer to just as we do and what they were told by whoever their commander was and what he was told by his commander we could always speculate. You know it’s not healthy to speculate but they can’t take the Sarstoon that would be a breach of international law to go over there and take anything nor can we. We know that if we confront us in an aggressive way and they confront us in an aggressive way while there are civilians around the chaos that that would bring, the international chaos that that would bring and God forbid there would be loss of life we don’t need that. Do we need that? No sir we do not and so I am very happy that our armed forces are always tempered in their approach because that is what we tell them to do and that is what they do.”