The Benque border with Melchor is usually heavily trafficked by Guatemalan students who cross the border to attend classes in Belize. Commerce also keeps the steady flow of traffic between the two countries in an organized and friendly manner as most border towns tend to be. However, in Toledo, the opposite is true. The Sarstoon is perhaps the sole volatile area where Guatemala’s aggression can be observed against Belize. Different groups encounter the Guatemalan Armed Forces (GAF) as they try to make it up the river. But this morning another group, the Belize Peoples Front attempted to plant a flag on Sarstoon Island. According to the leader of the Expedition, Nancy Marin told Love News the GAF removed the flag.
Nancy Marin Juan – Belize People’s Front: “It was a group of eight members of the Belize People’s Front and some of us were from San Ignacio, we had people from Orange Walk and from Dangriga. We came to PG and the boat captain has warned that the seas were choppy and that it was going to be a rough ride, it was a very rough ride. We decided to push forward anyway, we were greeted very well at the Forward Operating Base by the both the Coast Guard and the BDF. They informed us that all though they got permission to take us around the island that we were not allowed to step foot on the island. I then explained to the lieutenant of the Coast Guard that the orders they got from their superiors are not for me. I am a civilian and we decided that I was going to walk on the island, that is what we wanted to do, we wanted to put our flags on the island and we did. We accomplished our mission however as soon as we were turning back the Guatemalan Armed Forces went on the island and removed our flags so I instructed my captain to turn back and we had a few words with the captain of the Guatemalan Armed Forces. He informed me that the agreement made on our behalf was to appease us, to allow us to go around the island but there was no agreement for us to put a flag because the island is Guatemalan territory so we had a few hard words in exchange. I informed him that the island is indeed Belize territory and the flag that he was taking down was Belizean property and I asked him to return it or take me with the flag. He then returned the flag, then the Coast Guard and B.D.F. advised us that it wouldn’t be advisable to go back because that would be taunting them.”
Reporter: “You asked him to take you with the flag or you were willing to be arrested or detained in Guatemala?”
Nancy Marin Juan – Belize People’s Front: “I was not willing to go to Guatemala on any occasion but I felt very offended that he would have the testicular fortitude to take the flag down while we were still in the proximity of where they were. He went on the island and told us we didn’t belong there and then I was very upset that somebody in our Government had made arrangements with them on my behalf. I did not request nor do I need our Government to make any arrangements on my behalf for any of my actions. I am well capable of making those arrangements myself.”
Marin says she believes there is a protocol in place if arrangements were made to allow her group safe passage. The Belize Peoples Front and other groups are celebrating the 160 year anniversary of the signing of the 1859 Treaty by Britain and Guatemala. During instances where Guatemalans would place Guatemalan flags on the Sarstoon Island, the Ministry of National Security says the Belizean Patrol would remove them as well.