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FCD discusses manning the borders during a pandemic

The issue of border jumpers has become the primary focus for security agencies in Belize in recent months. This is because the security forces are trying to prevent persons from bringing SARS/COVID2 or Covid-19 into the country.

The issue of border jumpers has become the primary focus for security agencies in Belize in recent months. This is because the security forces are trying to prevent persons from bringing SARS/COVID2 or Covid-19 into the country.  We have brought you stories from the north, west and the south where dozens of border jumpers have imported the virus into the country.  Tonight, however we go deeper into the west where the Friends for Conservation and Development (FCD) and the Chiquibul Park Rangers at the Chiquibul Forest Reserve are working even harder as the incursions from Guatemala continue unabated. According to Derric Chan, the Chiquibul National Park Manager, there hasn’t been an increase of persons illegally crossing into Belizean territory but neither has there been a decrease.

Derric Chan, Chiquibul National Park Manager: “It has been a different challenge mainly because this year was a very hot summer and we had the forest fires and then of course the pandemic so we have to exercise caution when it comes to approaching people. There is still illegal activities I would say are normal so we have been carrying out our activities in terms of – you realize this year we did our anti poaching patrols and our team in the field did an arrest. Also after the fires we had to continue monitoring because the fires opened a lot of ground so we had to go and look at these places where there is open land now if there is any planting. There hasn’t been a lot of planting in these burnt areas. Some of these areas might be what we call wamills, they’re milpas that were abandoned and overgrown then when the fire burned it it turned it back to bare ground so it’s a good opportunity to plant so people would take that opportunity but we haven’t seen a lot of that but our patrols have been constant, you realize this year we have done several arrests.”

With the Covid-19 pandemic at the centre of all activities, Chan says it has become even more concerning and challenging for the park rangers as they too have to take precautions when dealing with the Guatemalan nationals who come in to carry out gold panning, illegal fishing and xate harvesting.

Derric Chan, Chiquibul National Park Manager: “First of all the pandemic of course we have to exercise caution then there is the process once you have arrested someone there is the process you have to go through the swabbing and everything that it takes to get a person to a safe place and you stay safe and the person safe so that’s a big challenge because it’s not easy with the system congested throughout the country in the hospital and so on so having to exercise caution through the process. The heat was a big challenge, the dry season for us is usually a good time to patrol  because you are able to go to do different areas because it’s dry but the challenge that a very dry summer brings is that there’s no matter and so it’s also difficult to move so with the fires it was even harder. Moving around in the Chiquibul is not really an easy task, there is no road in a lot of these areas and then it’s difficult to get there to get in and to get out.”

Chan stated that they continue to work closely with their counterparts to patrol and monitor the borders of Belize and the forest reserves.