Guatemalan Armed Forces aggress Belize Defence Force in Belizean waters
A Belize Defence Force patrol at the Sarstoon were aggressed by the Guatemalan Armed Forces just after midday today. Love News understands that eight Belizean soldiers were in the patrol boat when they were intercepted by a Guatemalan boat with eight military personnel. The GAF then informed the BDF patrol that they have no right to be in that area on the Sarstoon because it belongs to Guatemala. BDF soldiers responded by saying that the area is still in dispute and that they are within their rights to patrol the area. The exchange took some three minutes before the BDF patrol drove off. This encounter with the Guatemalan Armed Forces is the second that occurred over the weekend. On Saturday, the Belize Territorial Volunteers (BTV) took their annual trip to the Gracias a Dios border as part of their tradition over the past 15 years. During their trip to the area, they were pursued by the Guatemalan military. Wil Maheia of the BTV told Love News that their aggression on the river could have caused a serious incident.
Wil Maheia, Belize Territorial Volunteers: “Guatemalans are now asserting their claim to the entire Sarstoon River. When we went there on Saturday they had their big Guatemalan gun boat out there with about three to five chase boats. One of their chase boats had a Guatemalan flag that they were parading on the north side of the Sarstoon Island which clearly puts them into Belize’s territory. We did not pay them any attention and we proceeded to go upstream towards Gracias a Dios. Some of their boats tried to follow us and especially one and that’s the one I sent you the video and he tried to stop us and we decided no we are not going to stop, you have no right to stop us we are on the Belize side of the Sarstoon and we’re going. And because we did not want to stop and refused to stop then the captain from their boat then decided to okay if you don’t want to stop then we will just sink your boat or we will put your lives in danger and that’s when their captain really did something that really brought back memories where I know like maybe twenty something years ago the Guatemalan armed forces had sunk a boat with a lot of Garifunas on it that was going from Livingston to Puerto Barrios. So I began to think about and the same could happen here because it seems like that is a tactic if you don’t stop when they tell you then they try to do harm to your boat and that’s what they were trying to do to our boat. I just have to say thanks to our captains Simon and Neville Smith for being outstanding captains and knew when to slow our boat down and when to speed our boat up so that we did not have that dangerous encounter.”
Maheia is asking for the government to be vocal and open regarding the continued incursions on the Sarstoon River by the Guatemalan Armed Forces.
Wil Maheia, Belize Territorial Volunteers: “The government needs to take this serious. The Guatemalans have violated every part of the adjacency zone agreement they have violated that since the day we signed it and now they’re getting more aggressive. I believe that the government has an obligation to the citizens of Belize to bring this to the attention of the international community, the United Nations, the British Government, the US Government who more than likely bought those boats for the Guatemalans they need to know that those equipment that they’re equipping the Guatemalan Armed Forces that is being used against innocent civilians. The world needs to know that this is happening. We cannot continue to go up that river and risk our lives by Guatemalans, by armed Guatemalan Armed Forces when we are peaceful citizens just going up the Sarstoon River on Belize’s side of the river going to Gracias A Dio which is the border marker which separates us from Guatemala.”