One of the main reasons for incursions as reported by the Balam Association of Guatemala is poverty and the abandonment of the adjacency zone communities by the Guatemalan Government. While most of the projects being worked on are not funded by their Government, Byron Castellanos Executive Director of Balam Association says they are confident that their new government will provide the support they need.
“For many years the government has forgotten this populations but we believe that this government has made a change and that they are sincerely working now and that is why we are working with that. A 50 year program cannot be easily solved but we are on the right path. We are asking the Guatemalan government that we really need more support. Our Foreign Affairs Minister is the main supporter for his own government to solve the problems and help the poor communities in the adjacency zone.”
Rafael Manzanero, the Executive Director of Friends of Conservation and Development (FCD) spoke of the Belizean Government’s absence on the ground compared to Guatemala.
“Certainly you are correct in terms of the uphill struggles that we have had and it is really much to our interest in seeing how in a couple of years Balam has been able to mobilize a lot of other counterparts and support systems in the southern part of Peten. At this point in time here in Belize we felt that either we have to learn more about how they do their policy or either we are still not reaching to the right people on how to make the particular changes. I have been over the years trying to welcome people to go and see the reality in the Chiquibul and that has not really happened so much admittedly. In fact the Minister of Foreign Affairs in Guatemala has been twice in the Chiquibul and frankly we have not had, it has only been a limited number of high level personnel that have reached the Chiquibul from the Belizean side and so I think that there is much more to be done, I feel that unless one really can see it the idea of the media really to bring up the circumstances have been really positive but you will gather unless you can really go and see it then I think it really marks a whole different kind of context. So I think there is much more to be done.”
With the numerous reports on incursions into Belize and all the new projects that are being implemented, it begs the question, will the incursions really stop? Castellanos spoke of the reaction of the Guatemalans when Balam advises them to not enter Belize illegally.
“When we approached the communities and asked them not to enter Belize the first thing they ask is what opportunities that you give me to develop economically here. In few words “Give me another option.” that is why we promote the productive projects, the agroforestal systems because it’s one alternative that can alleviate poverty for them to produce within Guatemala and not to be in need of trespassing in the Belizean border.”
Balam and FCD urge both countries to implement the thirteen point agreement signed by Belize and Guatemala in 2014.