In yesterday’s newscast, we reported on the Belize Territorial Volunteers encounter with the Guatemalan Armed Forces. For a number of years, the Guatemalan Armed Forces have been known to traverse the Sarstoon River and aggressing Belizeans found in the vicinity. The Leader of the Opposition, John Briceno, said that a protocol needs to be established. He said the PUP has concerns over how the Belize/Guatemala issue is being handled.
John Briceno, Leader of the Opposition: “We as a party have been expressing grave concerns in the ability of the foreign minister to manage the Belize Guatemala relationship. He has been saying all the wrong things from ‘artificial border’ that we don’t have land papers and now to calling people crazy if they don’t agree with him these are things that we disagree very strongly with the foreign minister and we have said it that we believe that we should have a different person managing that process. The problem with the UDP is that they are limited with talent, you could shuffle the deck and you have the same players over and over and that is why they are finding the problem. We have been expressing concerns with the Sarstoon, that we need to fight with Guatemala and ensure that we get a protocol in place.”
Reporter: What is the Sarstoon protocol. I myself have been stopped on two occasions from entering the Sarstoon and they mentioned the protocol but they could never actually say what this ….
John Briceno, Leader of the Opposition: “Because there is not protocol. What has happened that the treaty of 1859 is very clear, the border between Belize and Guatemala is the deepest part of the Sarstoon River and we have always respected that, ever since. All of a sudden probably about two or three years ago the Guatemalans are starting to say that ‘the entire river is for us’ and they know that it is not so and I don’t think that we’ve been figthing hard enough to ensure that Guatemala will sign a protocol to accept where the boundary is and secondly to be able to furs to accept how we can navigate the river because the way the river runs both countries historically because you are in the deepest part of the channel sometimes that channel will go into an area that is for Belize and other areas in Guatemala to be able to get from point A to point B and we’ve always accepted that. That is the unwritten protocol that we’ve had but the important part is that w knew where the boundary for Belize; now Guatemala is trying to change that and we do not accept that.”
President Jimmy Morales said that while Guatemala recognizes Belize’s independence, it does not recognize the Sarstoon Island and the Sarstoon River as belonging to Belize.