Belize Defense Force Denies Abandoning Sarstoon Forward Operating Base
The Belize Defense Force has responded to the Belize Territorial Volunteers (BTV) and says it has not abandoned its Forward Operating Base at the Sarstoon. As a matter of fact, the BDF Commandant told the media today that works are about to begin in the near future. Last year, soldiers were forced to vacate the building after it was deemed compromised due to erosion. The Ministry of National Defence and Border Security had initially stated that the FOB would be repaired after funds were allocated. However, it’s been a year, and the BTV claims the building remains in deplorable condition, and unmanned. BDF Commander, Brigadier General Azariel Loria, explained that the process required to replace the structure is tedious but necessary in order ensure a long lasting structure.
Brigadier General Azariel Loria ,Commander of the BDF: “I have been briefed by the Ministry of National Defence, but I know these things because the Government of Belize has allocated the funds for the reconstruction of a brand new forward observation base in the Sarstoon. We have gotten the estimates from one building contractor and we are getting from others. So we are getting the tender process together and all of that, but that is in place already. We have an estimate from one person, so it took a little time because it is not easy. We were crunched for resources, but now we have the funding. We had the funding, I think since we got the new fiscal year and we are working towards it. From last year we went there. I think the minister, myself and the CEO, we went there like two or three times to ensure that we are doing the right thing. At one point we wanted just to renovate the building but the engineer said no we will have to do it to a standard. There is a lot of erosion and we have to prevent all of that. But I can assure you that the government of Belize has allocated the funds and we are going to move forward with the construction of it. Why Mr. Maheia is doing all of that? It’s taking a little time and I could understand but again what is his motivation to be agitating? He has to understand the sensibility of the area and it’s not something that anyone can just go over, not anyone, oh I am a Superman and I can go and, no, you are going to deal with the Guatemalan Armed Forces. We understand conflict. We don’t want any conflict in that area. Right? And we want to keep it safe, peaceful, so that eventually when the time comes, everyone, every single Belizean can have access to that. His motivation, well, we understand that he puts his name on the ballot every five years. I don’t know what kind of motivations he may have, but I don’t want to assume anything I’m just stating the facts here that we are dealing with it.”
Minister of State in the Ministry of National Defense and Border Security, Oscar Mira, also weighed in on the BTV’s release and says that contrary to their claims, the BDF’s presence in the Sarstoon remains of utmost importance to the ministry.
Oscar Mira, Minister of State, Ministry of National Defence and Border Security: “I don’t want to comment on something that we are at this point in time discussing with the substantive Minister, Minister Marin, as well as the Commandant of the Coast Guard and Commander of the Defense Force. What I can say is that we do have patrols that have a constant presence at the Sarstoon. The patrols come from the area of Barranco, those have not stopped. I checked today to ensure that we do have those patrols ongoing. What I believe the BTV has issued, I think it’s something that we need to sit down and discuss. It is a forward operating base. It is a military operating base. It is not safe for our soldiers to be there and therefore we will ensure that we work on the operating base, making sure that it’s safe for our soldiers to be there before we can deploy. But for this moment, we do have patrols going from Barranco all the way to the Sarstoon and we will keep that presence going. What I can assure the Belizean public is that the Belize Defence Force assisted by the Belize Coast Guard are having presence at the Sarstoon. We do have daily patrols that go there. And we also not only have daily patrols that go to Sarstoon, but we also have patrols by the air wings that goes and flies over that area. We are keeping a constant eye on what is happening on the Sarstoon and I think the Belizean people can be assured that we are doing our job and as soon as possible, as soon as it is safe to deploy the patrol back to the FOB we will be doing so.”
The Forward operating Base was first constructed in 2017. It is located on the northern bank of the Sarstoon River in southern Belize.