On Saturday past, the Guatemalan Armed Forces tailed participants of the Belize Territorial Volunteers Eco Challenge on the Sarstoon River and traversed into Belizean waters. The participants, about thirty of them, were well into the challenge when they reached the mouth of the Sarstoon River and were met with five Guatemalan gunboats. Part of the challenge was to go around the Sarstoon Island, but the Guatemalan soldiers attempted to stop the group. Organizer Wil Maheia said they were able to stop a few but many made it around. For their part, the Guatemalan press suggested that Belizeans attempted to invade the island and that its military was forced to defend that country’s sovereignty. Today PUP Leader John Briceno says the situation is the result of governments continued insistence on appeasing Guatemala since the UDP took office.
John Briceno – Leader of the Opposition
“We see that appeasement does not work, we had a World War II because of appeasement trying to appease Hitler and Nazi Germany and here now the government is constantly appeasing the Guatemalans and the Guatemalans are getting even bolder and more brazen in their claim to the entire Sarstoon. Half of the Sarstoon River coming north belongs to us including Sarstoon Island and these soldiers had absolutely no excuse, absolutely no reason to be there but to just try to intimidate us and try to make the point that they own that land or they own that portion of the river. When you look at what is happening also, now that has taken all the attention but when you look at what is happening to the Chiquibul National Park and Forest Reserve it is even more alarming at the rate that the Guatemalans are coming into our territory.”
Briceno adds that he holds the UDP government personally responsible for what is happening. The Belize Network of NGOs (BNN) expressed its concerns saying the GAF’s act of belligerence is unacceptable and endangers the safety of Belizean citizens who have all the right to move freely within Belizean waters. The BNN has asked government to send a strong protest note to the Government of Guatemala. Meanwhile, the Belize Progressive Party also condemned the Guatemalan Armed Forces’ actions and additionally calls out the Government of Belize for quote “the inexcusable abrogation of duty, by the GOB, to fail to ensure the safety of its citizens from foreign intervention, particularly within the confines of Belize!