There was a confrontation near the Sarstoon Island yesterday morning between officials from the Belize Coast Guard and members of the Guatemalan Naval Patrols. Love News spoke with the Chief Executive Officer in the Ministry of National Security, Retired Colonel George Lovell, who explained what transpired in the area.
RET’D COLONEL GEORGE LOVELL
“Yesterday morning a coast guard patrol went into the area of the Sarstoon River where they were tasked on doing a reconnaissance patrol to look at the erection of a temporary patrol base. While they were out there on the Sarstoon Island itself, a Guatemalan Naval Patrol came within Belize and inquired to the Coast Guard Patrol as to what were their activities in the area. The commander of the patrol then informed them that they are in Belize and that they have made an incursion and asked that they move back into Guatemala which the patrol did. This occurred yesterday morning sometime after 10AM. Later on that same day in the evening another patrol came back and this time the patrol asked the Coast Guard Patrol to leave the area which obviously the commander of the Coast Guard Patrol again informed them that they are in Belize and that the Coast Guard Patrol will not leave the area until they are finished with their business. As a result the Coast Guard Commander made communication with his headquarters who in turn made communication with the Ministry of National Security and reported the incident to us. The Ministry of National Security then consulted the Belize Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Embassy of Guatemala where an official protest of the Guatemalan incursion was made. We are still awaiting word from our embassy in Guatemala as to what is the result of the protest that was made. What we intend to do with what transpired from that dialogue we will obviously meet and discuss what we do next but the incident is one which clearly our people held their ground and explained to the Guatemalan authorities what our positions are and it was done in a very professional manner where clearly the commander on the ground used his professionalism to diffuse any possible conflict situation that could have occurred. Both the commander of the Guatemalan Naval detachment and our Coast Guard Commander I believe were very professional in the way they handled the situation to the extent that there was no aggressions or any signs in terms of settling the differences we have at the Sarstoon River.”
According to Lovell, there is no question as to whether the members of the Belize Coast Guard were in Belizean territory.
RET’D COLONEL GEORGE LOVELL
“It’s pretty clear there is not even any need for GPS coordinates in this case. If you look at the Sarstoon island and you look on any chart or map that exists it clearly shows that the border runs south of the island and in the deepest channel of the Sarstoon river which is quite some distance away from the actual island itself which clearly shows that once you are near or around the island you are well in Belize so there is no need for any coordinates or GPS concerning the location of our people, our people were actually on the island which means they were clearly in Belize.”
A similar incident had occurred back in June 2007 when a Guatemalan Naval vessel had blocked a Belize Coast Guard vessel from entering the southern side of the Sarstoon River. Belize is bordered on the southeast with Guatemala by the Sarstoon River which is divided by the Sarstoon Island where the Belize Coast Guard members were yesterday when the incident occurred.