Minister of National Security, John Saldivar says he is sending Guatemalan encroachers and poachers a clear message that quote “this is Belize and we will defend every inch, every centimeter, of our country”. End of quote. Those were the words of Saldivar who along with other government officials met with Maya leaders in Dolores Village yesterday. As we have been reporting villagers who live in communities along the border have been expressing concerns of Guatemalans clearing large areas of land. Hipolito Novelo reports.
Minister of National Security Honorable John Saldivar: We want to send a clear message, this is Belize and we will defend every inch, every centimeter of our country.
Hipolito Novelo: For some time now villagers of Otoxha and Dolores, two remote villages near the Belize Guatemala Border in the Toledo District have been expressing concerns of the clearing of large parcels of land in Belize by mainly Guatemalans.
Christina Choc Spokesperson: So I want to start with Otoxha to give a known overview of the issues that they are faced with in 2003 and 2008. Guatemalan Omar Ramos illegal farmed 10-20 aces in the South west corner of Otoxha; between April and June of 2018 which is more recently. Approximately 100 acres of land was cut clear by the Guatemalan trespassers, conflict has escalated, this is evidence and it is detailed in the report were shots were fired at local leaders upon investigation of this clearing. Currently the BDF, it has been observed, is conducting weekly patrols in the area and the community is very happy to see that. There is however there is a heightened concern among the villagers for the safety of their leaders and the safety of the village residence in particular. In Halacte Guatemalan settlement and Cattle enclosures have been illegally occupying village lands for decades with little to no government intervention, case in point Palo Grande, this is a long and old settlement that has not been remedied. The Government of Guatemala began serving and issuing land along the Guatemalan side off the border however these surveys began to crouch onto Belizeans land completely ignoring the borders.
Hipolito Novelo: And it is getting worse.
Alexis Rosado Belize Ambassador to Guatemala: Every day you are experiencing problems along the border and even to the point that it is no longer along the border, it is even deep into Belize and that concern all of us, all of share the same concern that we need to make sure that we protect our territory, we protect our lands, we protect our farms, our resources, our villages , we all have that same concern and I am very pleased to hear that the interest is there to do that and to work together.
Hipolito Novelo: Belize Defense Soldiers have been sent to the area to arrest the situation.
Minister of National Security Honorable John Saldivar: As we heard of the problem that had arisen in this area we came immediately and we sent our troops into this area to arrest the situation. The presence of the BDF in the area; we believe has at least for now halted the situation and we are hoping now to provide a more long term solution to the problem to ensure the safety and security of all our citizens in this area.
Hipolito Novelo: According to Minister Saldivar his presence yesterday was to assure the villagers of Government’s commitment along with the Belize Police Department, the Belize Defense Force to do what is necessary in order to preserve the integrity and sovereignty of Belize.
Minister of National Security Honorable John Saldivar: We are here to let you know we will defend our country at all times, we will be here to protect you and defend our sovereignty together we will find the solution.