The seventy first session of the United Nations General Assembly ended earlier today in New York City. One of the speakers was Belize’s Foreign Minister, Wilfred Elrington who took the opportunity to highlight the challenges faced by Belize in its relations with Guatemala.
“Continuous illegal entry by armed trespassers from Guatemala persisted despite the valiant efforts of our border patrol to deter them. The trespassers engaged with impunity day in the night in the panning of gold, the hunting for wild game and birds, the pillaging of Mayan temples, illegal logging and the cultivation of crops including marijuana for commercial purposes. In the process our priceless forest is being decimated, our waters both potable and salt compromised and our coral reefs choked to death by sediments that run off the mountain sides after each torrential down pour. Being fully cognizant of the devastating environmental impact which these practices are having in neighboring countries and further appeal Belize cannot afford to let the same thing happen to us. From time to time in the course of attempting to apprehend the trespassers firearms are used by Belize Security personnel and by the trespassers who are invariably armed. Indeed between the period September 30 2014 to March 2016 one Belizean tourist police man was killed and Belize Defense Force Sergeant ambushed and shot, though not fatally by trespassers entering Belize from Guatemala. Tragically and much to Belize’s regret on 20th April 2016 a Guatemalan minor was fatally shot and his father and brother injured when they came in contact with a Belizean patrol in one of our protected national parks in the dead of night. An investigation was forthwith commenced by the Belize police force. Additionally officials of the OAS stationed at the adjacency zone between Belize and Guatemala immediately commenced their own investigation and at the specific behest of Guatemala Belize requested the secretary general of the OAS to cause to be launched a special official independent investigation into the incident. The OAS commissioned two senior qualified specialists to undertake that special investigation with the full knowledge and approval of the Guatemalan government. At the time of the appointment Guatemala expressed no reservation as to their competence, suitability or otherwise to undertake that investigation.”
Elrington went on to speak of the report submitted by the special commission.
“The report discloses that the deceased had been detained by security personnel in Belize a mere month prior to the incident. At the time of his detention he had had in his possession unlawfully a .22 caliber rifle and wild game. He was neither mistreated, arrested nor prosecuted by Belizean authorities instead he was promptly sent back to his country. The report further discloses that the deceased, a brother, also a father and a minor were unknowingly and unlawfully well inside Belizean territory on the night of the incident and that none of the wounds inflicted were caused by weapons carried by personnel of the Belize Defense Force. The wounds were inflicted by small caliber firearms carried on the night of the incident by two members of a local conservation nongovernmental organization that made up the Belize patrol. Shots were fired by both groups, the Guatemalans and the Belize joint patrol on that ill-fated night and the following morning elements of the Guatemalan army along with civilians from a nearby Guatemalan village entered Belizean territory, illegally, visited the site, contaminated the scene and withdrew and withheld evidentiary material that could have been useful to an investigation. In the wake of the incident a fanatically public relations campaign was launched by Guatemala against Belize falsely alleging that the death of the minor was at the hands of the Belize Defense Force. In addition the Guatemalan president publicly announced the amassing of troops along our western and southern borders. However the report of the special independent commission chronicles what really took place on the night of the incident. The objective, impartial findings of fact established the correctness of Belize’s position from the start and the wholly erroneous allegations leveled against our country by Guatemala. The report completely absolves Belize of any and all blame for the incident, it makes manifest the wrongness of Guatemala’s allegations against Belize and against the personnel of our Belize Defense Force. Guatemala has since rejected the commission’s report. However it is certainly irresponsible if not reprehensible and utterly unacceptable that Guatemala should now seek to reject the results of a process which it had specifically requested and agreed to and which was conducted by OAS appointed independent third country professionals with impeccable credentials and with no axe to grind and the wanton threat of use of force by a nation against its neighbor is wholly uncalled for, recklessly dangerous and in clear violation of the charter of this United Nations and can in no way be countenanced.”
Elrington said Belize’s only wish is to live in peace and harmony with all its neighbors, including Guatemala. Just a few hours after Foreign Minister Wilfred Elrington delivered his address at the UN’s General Debate, the Permanent representative of Guatemala to the United Nations furnished a report of which Love News was given an excerpt of. It noted, quote, “With regard to this 150 year old conflict, we listened carefully but also with disbelief to the speech given by the delegation of Belize which contained untrue statements. First of all we reiterate our peaceful vocation and commitment to resolve peacefully and permanently before the ICJ; as was stated by the President of Guatemala, we aspire to have a privileged relationship with Belize and an ongoing dialogue to resolve our common problems. Guatemala is a founding member and during this whole time we have never resorted to use of force or threat or use of force but on the contrary, we have always sought through peaceful means to find settlement of the territorial dispute. For more than 120 years Guatemala has done the impossible to bring solution through direct negotiations mediation good offices amongst other things but our good faith was taken advantage of by the imperialist power which unilaterally granted independence to Belize in 1981 contrary to what was agreed in the heads of agreement. Guatemala nonetheless recognises the right of the people of Belize to self-determination but we maintain our legitimate claim to the historic rights we have to part of that territory. Guatemala always seeks peaceful means to reclaim that which was taken by force and deceit and even as we recognise the independence of Belize, we have never renounced our rights just as we have never resorted to violent acts against citizens of brotherly country. Today we are seeing another kind of violence due to abject conduct that contravenes the friendly links between nations, as prescribed by first article of United Nations Convention also as prescribed by article two; in the last decade there have been victims of defenceless Guatemalan farmers; their only mistake is that they find themselves in areas under Belizean administration but they do not threaten peace and security of Belize. Violent deaths have always gone unpunished; the most recent death of a 14 year old boy was done at the hands of armed militia; in contravention of UNC; show irrational conduct; that is not legally justifiable. The report does not justify Belize’s behaviour. The shots that led to the death are arms of the BDF and part of joint patrol. Guatemala did not reject to the credentials of the experts but to the inconsistencies of the report. Facts were not included. Some have been deleted. To say Guatemala forces accompanied citizens to illegally enter Belize is irresponsible. This shows that Belize did not guard the crime scene and therefore compromised the investigation and results. The circumstances that the boy was previously detained do not justify the use of force by the joint patrol of Belize…. None of the 10 people who died deserved this. They are Guatemalan farmers who happen to find themselves in the Belize administrated area. In respect of the Belizean officers, “people who entered into Belize from Guatemala” does not mean they were Guatemalans. These are facts that still have to be investigated. Guatemala has been patient and been conciliatory for more than 150 years, and had to put up with the delaying tactics and treachery of imperialist power, and now have to deal with accusations of those who pretend to be victims when they are aggressors. We regret to have to use this forum for the first time. Disproportionate use of force is not justified. We need to paint the true picture on the ground. Continue to search for a solution to our rights. We will not back down in order to find a just solution to this historic dispute. We will never abandon our citizens. We will soon be agreeing to the Protocol to the Special Agreement which reaffirms our will to submit this old problem to the ICJ in order to avoid further violent acts which will only be harmful.” End of quote.