Over the weekend, the Belize Territorial Volunteers held its third annual Eco Challenge. The race had a female category and male category and it left from Barranco en route to Sarstoon, but encountered some challenges along the way from the Guatemalan Armed Forces. Wil Maheia, the leader of the Belize Territorial Volunteers recounted the incident.
Wil Maheia – Leader of the Belize Territorial Volunteers: “We approach the river, we were met by the Guatemalan armed forces who told us we can’t go any further because we don’t have clearance. They say that if we want to come to this island we have to go to Livingston and get a pass free immigration then we could come back and go to the island because the island is for Guatemala. That’s what the Guatemalan armed forces told us. We were trying to reach the island and we were blocked. Their lives were put in danger because the Guatemalan armed forces were persistent in the fact that they did not want the women to touch the island, same thing for the guys, they actually brought more boats than usual, more guatemalan boats than usual to stop the males as well.”
Maheia said that they encountered three Guatemalan gun boats meanwhile there were two Belize Defence Force boats and one Belize Coast Guard boat. Maheia explained that only the Coast Guard attempted to assist them.
Wil Maheia – Leader of the Belize Territorial Volunteers: “What was sad about the whole thing is that we had three Belizean Military vessel parked at the forward operating base. All this is happening in sight of them and only the Coast Guard moved to try and assist us. The two BDF boat stood right there and did nothing, did not even leave the dock but the Coast Guard Boat they tried their best to try and help but when they saw they were outgunned and outmanned by the Guatemalan then they too dwelled behind and that is how the day ended that we could not accomplish our goals of going around the island because the Guatemalans told us in those simple terms that the island belong to them.”
Nevertheless, Maheia explained that the females pushed through the GAF barriers to touch the island in order to complete their race; however, the males were unable to complete their race which required going around the island.