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Government Flexes Muscles and Bans Local Traffic on Sarstoon

What has only been about ten days of heightened tension and waves of criticisms and opposition against the Government of Belize on how they are handling the Belize/Guatemala issue, things have come to a head with the Barrow administration pulling out their strong guns and making it illegal for any Belizean to enter the Sarstoon without authorization; at least for the next 30 days.  It is an unprecedented move by the Government of Belize and has come about following increased tensions between the Belize and Guatemala military due to the shooting death of a Guatemalan minor who was on Belizean territory in the Cebada area, Cayo District.  Guatemala’s President who went against the Confidence Building Measures had initiated the escalation of tension between both countries when he went on public record to speak of military enhancements that he would be deploying in the Sarstoon and when he aggressively began demanding that justice be done against the shooter.  The officials in Belize were silent until Prime Minister Dean Barrow issed a recorded statement last Friday and that was followed by a press conference on Monday where several angles of the Belize/Guatemala territorial differendum were discussed.  During that two hour conference, the issue surrounding the upcoming expedition by the Belize Territorial Volunteers to mark the 157th anniversary of the 1859 Treaty was addressed with Prime Minister Barrow cautioning them against it.  Subsequent to that press conference, the Commander of the Belize Defense Force, Brigadier General David Jones gave the media an interview, stating that the military will not be accompanying the expedition should they decide to carry through their plans to the Sarstoon.  Commander Jones also spoke of an upcoming meeting with the volunteers where officials from the ministries of Foreign Affairs and National Security would further attempt to dissuade them from their plans.  That meeting took place yesterday and up to news time this evening, those efforts by the Government of Belize were futile as Wil Maheia and the volunteers are set to go to the Sarstoon on Saturday.  With yesterday’s failed attempt by the governing officials to dissuade Maheia, a proclamation has been signed by the Governor General and gazetted this morning just after nine o’clock.  A release coming out of the Belize Press Office has stated that the document signed will, quote, “prohibit persons and vessels, without lawful authority, from entering into Belize’s portion of the Sarstoon River. The regulations take effect from today and the restrictions will remain in force for one month.  Government advises that this course of action has become necessary in order to prevent any “commotion” or “threat to public safety” that might arise in consequence of the continuing tense and dangerous standoff between Belize and Guatemala over the Sarstoon, and the tipping point that could be caused by the unregulated insertion of members of the Belizean public into this very volatile mix. During the one month period for which the restrictions are to last, it is expected that a diplomatic solution will be found to the problem, and that the solution will provide for safe passage of Belizean civilians along the Sarstoon River.”  End of quote.  The Statutory Instrument was signed after the Governor General became convinced that a state of civil commotion which threatens the public safety is likely to arise within the Sarstoon area.  According to the Statutory Instrument, every person who infringes or contravenes the provisions commits and offense and will liable to pay a fine not exceeding two thousand dollars and/or imprisonment for a term not exceeding twelve months.