The second annual BTV Eco challenge took place on the Sarstoon River on Saturday. The event which is the brainchild of the Belize Territorial Volunteers under the leadership of Wil Maheia, was organized to bring awareness to the illegal and unsustainable fishing in the Sarstoon River. The race is from Barranco to Sarstoon Island. This year’s competition saw an increase in participation. Maheia told Love News while he was happy with the participation of more Belizeans however once again the Guatemalan military was present, something he feels needs to be addressed.
Wil Maheia of Belize Territorial Volunteers
“We went to the Sarstoon Island, we stated our claim to the Sarstoon Island we encountered several Guatemalan gun boats but they did not stop us, they were in Belizean waters.”
Love News spoke with Moses Sulph of the Belize Leader for Social Justice who was a part of the trip.
Moses Sulph of Belize Leader for Social Justice
“It was a great experience for me, mixed experience. It shows how Beautiful Belize is and how much our neighbors want to take that beauty away from us. It also shows the lack of investment in our security system. When I say it I mean that clearly looking at the Guatemalan vessel even though they would come close to you in the small vessel there is a significantly bigger coast guard vessel that is about 200 yards away from that vessel and which I think does not only intimidate some people I believe but it also breaks down their moral and I think we’ve got to think more about investing in our defense capability. Not because we want a war or anything, simply put you do not put burglar bars on your house because you want thieves to break in but to prevent them should they want to and make it very hard for them. The Sarstoon I say that we were harassed by the Guatemalans, this is clear. Fortunately the boat that I went on never came within ten or five feet but they were within 30 feet on the other side and while we left the base they took that parallel part along with us up to a certain point and it is very clear to see from indication by our captain they blatantly come into our waters. It’s like they’re bullying us.”
Sulph encourages more Belizeans to visit the Sarstoon to experience the vast beauty that lies within Belize. Today the Belize Network of NGOs (BNN) expressed its concern at the encroachment of Guatemalan Armed Forces into Belizean territory. The BBN says this act of belligerence by the GAF is unacceptable and endangers the safety of Belizean citizens who have all the right to move freely within Belizean waters. The BNN is asking the Government of Belize to immediately send a strong protest note to the Government of Guatemala, and to inform the world community and international organizations about these continued acts of aggression by the Guatemalan Armed Forces. The Belize Progressive Party also condemned the Guatemalan Armed Forces actions and additionally calls out the Government of Belize for quote “the inexcusable abrogation of duty, by the GOB, to fail to ensure the safety of its citizens from foreign intervention, particularly within the confines of Belize!