With the absence of a written mutual agreement between Belize and Guatemala surrounding the Sarstoon, it continues to leave the window open for confrontations to occur at the Sarstoon as what transpired on Thursday, November 10, between the Guatemalan Armed Forces and the Sarstoon Temash Institute for Indigenous Management (SATIIM). While SATIIM was given access to the Sarstoon with the condition that they be escorted by the Guatemalan military to Graham Creek and Black Creek; they were told that for future trips they would need to follow the protocol which entails getting permission from Guatemala. Belize’s officials have been adamant in saying that there is no such protocol and today, Chief Executive Officer in the Ministry of Defense, Felix Enriquez reiterated that there is no such agreement in place.
“The BDF made us aware of it yesterday. We were very surprised about the entire incident because we were not of the opinion that there was a protocol; we know that there is definitely no protocol. As a matter of fact the minister said last week in his interview with the Minister of Foreign Affairs that we are trying to arrange a protocol so we are not aware we are investigating because we are not sure where that came from.”
“Do you believe or is there any reason to believe that perhaps we are heading back to a situation of hostility since the Guatemalans were not happy with the outcome of the international investigation on the death of the minor?”
“I won’t be presumptuous. Like I said the BDF has been out there for some time now without any kind of confrontation so we have no reason to believe that they are being hostile and as a matter of fact the reports that the BDF got from the SATIIM people did not really come across as being hostile. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs as far as I know, and they would be in a better position to tell you, continue to arrange for a protocol to be reached in this. With regards to the incident itself we at the Ministry through our connection with the BDF and the Guatemalan Armed Forces are trying to get a clarification of exactly what led to that incident and that’s as far as we can go for now the rest of it has to be done through the Ministry of foreign affairs and through official means. The thing I like to reiterate is that there is no protocol; there hasn’t been any protocol and the Minister of Foreign Affairs has made that clear.”
On Friday, November 15 in an interview with Belize’s Foreign Minister, Wilfred Elrington we had asked for an update on the Sarstoon operating guidelines that was to be established between Belize and Guatemala as was agreed upon during bilateral talks in Istanbul, Turkey. Those guidelines are yet to be drafted and according to Minister Elrington it has to do with Guatemala’s reluctance to meet and dialogue.
“We are not any further than we were the last time we discussed this matter. It is necessary for the Guatemalans, in fact agree to sit with us at the negotiating table. You know they were very upset about the last incident on the border with the young minor who died and the consequence is that they have really backed off and gone quiet. I have tried to engage the Foreign Minister but he is not disposed to sit with us just yet and neither is he disposed to cause his technical people to sit with our technical people. They are still very peeved over that incident and so we haven’t made any headway on that front.”
The talks in Istanbul, Turkey occurred in the latter part of May 2016. On the heels of those meetings, Prime Minister Dean Barrow told the media that there was no timeline set to have the Sarstoon Protocol established.
“There is an agreement now that we will negotiate a formal protocol for the Sarstoon and in the meantime clearly the Belizeans can feel free to go to the Sarstoon June that is why we have revoked the statutory instrument that was in place.”
“Is there a timeline for that?”
“How soon the formal protocol can be fleshed out? No as quickly as it can possibly be done but there is no fixed timeline.”
A release was issued just before nine o’clock this morning from the Ministry of Defense confirming SATIIM’s story on the Sarstoon.