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Guatemalans Show Extreme Hostility in Belize’s Waters

While thousands of Belizeans went about their daily lives on Saturday evening, an incident began unfolding at the Sarstoon in southern Belize that reportedly had the soldiers at Fairweather Camp on standby in the event of any escalation.  Love News had gotten word of the incident just after six o’clock on Saturday evening of members of the Guatemalan Navy approaching our local military at the Sarstoon telling them that they would need to inform them of any further trips made down the river. We understand that there were about eight local soldiers in the area at the time of the approach and while we were also told that our men were outnumbered, it is unclear by how many.  Our attempts at getting further information on Saturday night from the national security officials proved futile as no one was giving out any information on the incident.  On Sunday, however, a release was issued by the Belize Press Office, confirming the confrontation between Belize’s Security Forces and the Guatemalan Armed Forces in the area of the Forward Operating Base at the Sarstoon.  The Guatemalan soldiers remained on their vessels but did behave in what the release describes as, quote, ‘an extremely hostile and threatening manner, insisting that our troops should not be at the Sarstoon.’ End of quote.  Our local military, however, stood their ground and the Guatemalan soldiers retreated after some time.  According to the release, while the incident was unfolding, the BDF Commander, General David Jones was speaking to authorities in Guatemala while Prime Minister Dean Barrow was communicating to Guatemala’s President, Jimmy Morales.  While majority of interviews conducted with Government officials in the past have managed to speak on the Belize/Guatemala issue as one that is well contained, Saturday night’s incident was a clear indication of how the matter is escalating.  The press release from the Government of Belize conceded to this as they wrote, quote, “Despite the ultimately peaceful end to the standoff it is clear that tension with Guatemala over the Sarstoon and Belize’s insistence on its sovereignty rights in accordance with the 1859 Treaty demarcation of the river, is at an all-time high.”  End of quote.  We were informed via the release that Belize’s officials, namely, Foreign Affairs Minister, Wilfred Elrington and Former Foreign Affairs Minister, Assad Shoman will be parties in a meeting in Washington tomorrow along with counterparts from Guatemala, under the auspices of the Organization of American States.  In addition to that the Government of Belize is sending a strongly worded protest note to Guatemala on this incident.  Another move that the Government has done is to inform key members of the international community including the United States and the United Kingdom of the situation and its current critical status.  As has been agreed by both main political parties, the Belize/Guatemala matter is a non-partisan issue and as such Prime Minister Dean Barrow has personally briefed the Leader of the Opposition, John Briceno on the incident.