In December we brought you an interview with the Brigadier General of the Belize Defense Force speaking on the achievements of the local military in 2015 and how they plan to forge ahead in this New Year. Today, however, saw the official presentation of those achievements in the presence of the Minister for National Security, John Saldivar and other senior officers of the force. The presentation was made via power point and was done in the Logistics Company Conference Room at Price Barracks in Ladyville Village, Belize District. One of the key matters that came up was that of national security and the border patrols which Commander Jones says has seen significant improvements and control.
“In preceding years we can say yes because what we were able to do in 2015 is more detection and more patrols deployed into the area. Previous years when we had our BDF out on the streets in Belize City it wa less and since the Ministry made the decision to take the BDF off the streets and we redeployed there has been significant control of what we are doing along the border and significant control of the sovereignty of Belize in that we were able to do more patrols and more interceptions. For example in the Chiquibul it was one of the main areas of contention. There has been reduction in what is happening in the Chiquibul because of the aggressive patrolling that are occurring now. Sovereignty was always maintained but not to what we would have like because we had the additional task of working with the police. Now that is gone, we are no longer patrolling with the police on the streets of Belize City so we have a better control of what is happening along our border.”
Brigadier General Jones went on to speak on further improvements being planned for 2016.
“That intends to improve even more with the fact that we have rotary capability to be inserted and extracted quickly and to better detect what is happening because the area, not just the Chiquibul, we have other forest reserves along the border and other areas that are of concern that there is contraband, illegal logging, deforestation, human trafficking, weapons smuggling and all of those things are difficult to detect if you only have land forces. If you don’t have that aerial reconnaissance to see what’s happening from above and intelligence information to get more people out there to do covert operations and reporting then you can’t really interdict but now with the advent of receiving helicopters, we can deploy quickly or more efficiently to arrest situations that are happening along the border because sometimes when you do your aerial recon the defender would pick up the clearing and we would report to our headquarters but it’s difficult to reach the area because it’s a long walk to the area of concern. If there is a clearing there it’s a matter of a couple hours that you can deploy a helicopter there and deal with the situation instead of waiting four or five days. There is going to be greater efficiency and effectiveness with the advent of these helicopters being acquired by the Belize Defense Force.”
As it relates to the border patrols and the relations with the Guatemalan military, Jones says the level of cooperation is at a high which he hopes will continue. Notably for 2015 there were no fatalities or casualties in the process of border patrols; this, Jones says, can be attributed to the level of cooperation.
“That can be credited to both the Belize Defense Force engaging with the Guatemalans and also to the Guatemalan Authorities engaging the people on the other side of the border. Giving them the education that there is a protocol in place between Belize and Guatemala that we are working cooperatively with each other. They educated in the case of Monte los Olivos where the CP which was close to it was Rio Blanco where people were educated that they are not supposed to come across Belize. As long as they cross over to Belize they are under Belizean jurisdiction and the soldiers and police that are there on the ground will enforce Belizean law. So that worked very well at Rio Blanco. We did the same thing at La Rajolla where the people were educated there and we are seeing less and less encroachments from the villagers from there and other villages opposing Valentin to come in. That worked well. The rules of engagement remained the same, soldiers are going to defend themselves, they are going to enforce Belizean law in conjunction with the police department, the Forestry Department, Customs or other officials that are out there but I must say that the dialogue that we have with our Guatemalan Military is a model to be emulated and because of the dialogue that we have with them there isn’t that heavy tension between the two forces, that has to continue particularly in the area of the Sarstoon because that is the area of contention that hasn’t been resolved as yet. We want to work with each other but it requires a political solution and directive to solve that issue that is in the Sarstoon because from a military stand point what I’d like to see happening in the Sarstoon is exactly what is happening along the Western border from Aguas Turbias to Cadenas. What is happening there is working fine but that is not in place in the Sarstoon so that is what needs to be in place now.”
Other matters discussed were the refurbishment of several military facilities as well as the procurement of additional vehicles. Following the presentation of achievements at this morning’s event, there was a question and answer segment with both the Commander and the Minister at the head table