Minister Marin Addresses Tensions at Sarstoon River with Guatemalan Armed Forces
Minister of Border Security, Florencio Marin Junior, has commented on last week’s tensions at the Sarstoon River in southern Belize. On Friday, Wil Maheia of the Belize Territorial Volunteers (BTV) was on the river when he and his group were met by two boats belonging to the Guatemalan Armed Forces (GAF). The soldiers informed Maheia that he needed permission from the Guatemalan authorities to be in the river. Maheia countered, saying that they (the GAF) were in Belize’s waters. While Belize’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs has informed the United Nations of the troubles at the Sarstoon, Minister Marin says he will be liaising with the ministry to file another note of concern on the matter.
Florencio Marin Jr., Minister of National Defence and Border Security: “I saw the video just like yourself and of course, you know, I am alarmed like you with the Guatemalans and their attitude and we will be preparing a full report, passing it to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs for them to make a formal protest. Now that being said, we will continue our vigilance along the border. It’s a wide open sea area so there are times when we just can’t catch all the incidences, but we will maintain our vigilance. And every time the Belize Defense Force is out there, and every time we have some confrontation with the Guatemalans our military never back down and they will never back down. So they can say what they want, but that don’t make anything for certain, and we will continue defending our country’s integrity.”
Marin also noted that keeping a constant presence in the area is a challenge for the Belize Defence Force due to a lack of resources. He did note, however, that efforts are being made to rectify the shortages. As it relates to the illegal fishing and placing of gillnets, Minister Marin says the BDF is on standby to lend support in addressing this issue.
Florencio Marin Jr., Minister of National Defence and Border Security: “We do have a presence at the FOB, but we have not been able to fully set it up as we want it to, to have a permanent presence. But as well, what we do is that our soldiers stationed at the FOB, they also have to do regular patrols up and down the Sarastoon and whatever incidents that occurs in that area they also go and they are the ones who are checking. So it is quite taxing to our military, and we don’t have all the resources to have a full presence that we would like. Our military leadership do want a stronger presence, but as soon as we can, we will be able to assist them to get more resources out to them. Now, when it comes to the gill nets and all that, I’m not sure if that is a military issue for us, but whoever would want the support of the military, we will.”
On multiple occasions, the Belize Territorial Volunteers, has reported on the illegal fishing by Guatemalans in Belize’s waters.