Guatemalan Military Confiscates Belizean Flags on Sarstoon Island
On Sunday, while many Belizeans were celebrating, members of the Belize Territorial Volunteers (BTV) were on the Sarstoon River as a gesture of patriotism and love for country. Whilst on the Sarstoon, however, the Guatemalan Armed Forces (GAF) aggressed the group. This trip to the Sarstoon Island has become an annual event, particularly, on Saint George’s Caye Day. The BTV sought to place Belize flags on the Sarstoon Island as a symbolic act, given that flags cannot remain or be permanently planted in the area. However, the expedition was interrupted by the Guatemalan military during a confrontation, in which they removed the flags. BTV leader, Wil Maheia explained that the GAF came into Belize’s territory and confiscated their flags.
Wil Maheia, BTV Leader: “I’m really so happy I’m really so pleased in the fact that today we had a very successful trip to the Sarstoon, partially successful I would say because we placed our flag on the Sarstoon island and we went around the island and by the time we came back the Guatemalan Armed Forces had removed our flag. So we put another flag and we drifted back and the Guatemalan Armed Forces came back again and I guess by this time the Belize Defense Force was seeing what was going on and they went to the Guatemalan Armed Forces and retrieved our flags from them. So kudos to the BDF for doing that. But it should not go unnoticed that the Guatemalans came into Belize territory and removed our flag from our territory. The Guatemalan Armed Forces did that. Then we went back and we placed another flag and this time we stayed with the flag. And we stayed with the flag and told them if they take the flag, they’ll have to take all of us as well. Well, they didn’t do that. So then we left that flag and then we returned back home on a safe journey. But this journey would not have been possible without the support of all the Belizeans. This is a real, this territorial volunteers is a real grassroots organization. And in fact, there’s no one donor who bought all the fuel. There are thousands of dollars worth of fuel but everybody gave a little. And when everybody gave a little, not one person have to give a lot. So this trip was financed by, you know, big up to the diasporan Belizeans and you know who you are, who contributed to make this trip a success. But at the end of the day, we, also the local Belizeans who gave, but at the end of the day, we made it known to the world that the Sarstoon Island belongs to us despite the fact that the Guatemalans continue to invade Belizean territory with their guns.”
Maheia added that the BTV is calling on the Government of Belize to protest internationally about Guatemala’s repeated incursions into Belize and their violations of the country’s sovereignty. He also commended the BDF for their efforts and called for a greater presence in the area.
Wil Maheia, BTV Leader: “The fact of the matter is you’re right, they are still coming. I felt very good about this year. They were not as, well again, last year they had about seven Guatemalan boats, this year they had two Guatemalan boats. So we outnumbered them. I don’t know if they didn’t get their intel right, if they didn’t figure it out right but we had more boats than they did. So it was very hard for them to stop us from going around the island. Although they tried to stop us they told us we were in Guatemalan territory and we should not be going around the island and we made them know plain that this island belongs to Belize. So it was not like last year where boats were bucking each other but they still came they invaded our territory and they took our flags. Thankfully, the BDF gave us back our flags. Well, I think that the fact that the Belize Defense Force is once again at the forward operating base is like a big win. A big win not only for the territorial volunteers, but a big win for Belize. It is so important to have the presence of the BDF at the Sarstoon because if not our resources will continue to get plundered. So it’s very, very important that we have them on the Sarstoon. We encourage the government to step up their game, to give the guys better facilities, to make them more comfortable as they protect our natural resources. The BDF today was outstanding in their professionalism and really and truly did a great job intercepting the GAF and demanded that the gaff gave them back the flags that they removed from the island.”
The Belize Territorial Volunteers has been leading excursions to the Sarstoon for over fifteen years.