The Western Border of Belize has for years remained porous and Belize authorities have tackled increased illegal activities. Those who work at the border area and even persons who travel across have also been exposed to increased risks. To address the situation, the Ministry of National Security embarked on a project to improve security there and today inaugurated upgraded facilities that have been installed. The Ministry also broke ground for a new outpost for the Belize Defence Force. Dalila Ical reports.
John Saldivar, Minister of National Security: “This border crossing point is now a major hub for extensive commercial exchanges. It is a critical point for agricultural trade and indeed for a large amount of merchandising going both ways. It is a daily passageway for hundreds of students coming from Melchor to attend classes in Belize and it is a critical checkpoint for tourists crossing to and from Belize and Guatemala. Remember also that the OAS office at this point and that again is of significant value to both our countries. These activities along with an expanding free zone makes the proper management of this border crossing point an important key to the success of Belizean and Guatemalan economies and it’s security must always be maintained at the highest of standards.”
And such security before today, was not at its optimum. As the area saw increased development and people traversing the border, officials were faced with increased risks.
Ambassador Said Guerra: “This area before the project began gave way to disorder, unwanted and dangerous incidents that put at risk the lives of our public servants and of the people who crossed back and forth on a daily basis on this area known as the adjacency zone. As you are well aware of we did and continue to have incidents and we were good at fostering good relations with the Guatemalan border agents who we would go to for assistance if the need be in order to avoid any situation, incident or misunderstanding that could lead us to a step backward in the Belize Guatemala relations and interfere with everything that our central governments have achieved.”
Only recently, the National Security Council commissioned the Ministry of National Security to implement the Western border security project, a project that had been in the pipeline for some six years. The work began two months ago and the Ministry today inaugurated the upgraded security facilities. Manager of the Border Agency Gonzalo Rosado says there is more to come.
Gonzalo Rosado, Border Agency Manager: “There are vehicular and transport control mechanisms in place, pedestrian safety mechanisms, a roof and a veranda shall be erected on the walkways for pedestrians to be safe from traffic and the elements. The office booth for border personnel shall be fully equipped with amenities and air conditioning, there are barrier mechanisms for the personal safety of all border personnel operating the border point.”
To further enhance the security in the border area, the Ministry will also build a new outpost for the Belize Defense Force and broke ground for that project.
Col. Azarel Loria – Deputy Commander, BDF: “Our intent is to try to minimize, to assist the civil authorities in trying to minimize all the illegal activities that which appear to be rampant at this stage specifically contraband and we have to arrest contraband in this part of Belize and also to assist the police whenever they are overburdened down at the western border station.”
Lt. Col Loria said they also aim to arrest the trafficking of drugs and weapon and the entry of illegal immigrants along the western border.
The security facilities were constructed by the Belize Defence Force Light Engineers and the Belize Border Management Authority. Both projects are financed by Belize Border management Authority.