The Guatemalan Government issued a press release today that continues to harp on the incident where a Guatemalan minor was killed on Belizean soil in an exchange of fire and the fact that they want the shooter to be brought to justice. The release comes following a press conference yesterday with Belize’s Prime Minister, Dean Barrow where it was stated that Guatemala’s response to the incident was the catalyst to the heightened tension between the two countries in recent weeks. For reference, we bring you that portion of Prime Minister’s statement.
“All the world now knows of the unjustified, disproportionate and incendiary response of Guatemalan officialdom to the unfortunate death of their citizen. That response precipitated the crisis in which it appeared that a fundamental breach of the peace between Guatemala and Belize was an imminent possibility. In the circumstances, I set out what Belizean diplomacy had done and would continue to do to avert the chance of military hostilities. “
These sentences by Prime Minister Barrow have now triggered a response from the Guatemalan Government which went out via a press release which reads, in part, quote, “The government of the Republic of Guatemala expresses categorically that this is a failed attempt of Prime Minister Barrow to justify to the social media and the international community, the inexcusable act of violence perpetrated by elements of the Belize Defense Force against them 13 year old child Julio René.” End of quote. It goes on to state, quote, “It is inconceivable that now, at the light of the facts, Belize expresses that the declarations of the president of the Republic of Guatemala, who reacted to the unjust death of the Guatemalan child, are more grave than the same cowardly act in which the Belizean militaries killed him, with disproportionate use of force and violating his human rights.” End of quote. While the Guatemalan release is saying nothing new or different from the previous ones, they continue to speak of wanting justice against the shooter and as such are asking that the findings from the ad-hoc committee, put together by the OAS as per their request, be used in a judicial process against those responsible. Meanwhile, at yesterday’s conference, Prime Minister Barrow assured the Belizeans that the issue is being observed internationally and that as recent as last Friday, Belize’s Foreign Minister got the support from the CARICOM and the United Kingdom.
“Belizeans should note that these results so far make clear that our position, our cause, is understood and accepted by the international community. In other words, they know that our security personnel came under attack yet again, this time under cover of darkness, from Guatemalan civilians squarely in our territory; they know that these civilians were engaged in their continuing illegal activity which, in the Chiquibul alone, has cost this country tens of millions of dollars in plundered resources and environmental degradation; they know that the BDF, small in number, strapped for resources and facing almost impossible odds, continues to wage a heroic struggle to protect and preserve Belizean patrimony.”
While it is inarguable that Belize has been making all attempts to settle this issue peacefully even at the dismay of many of its citizens, Guatemala has placed on record that they remain committed in defending its sovereignty, its territorial integrity and the wellbeing of its citizens at all cost and sparring no effort; a statement that has become evident with President Jimmy Morales ordering additional border troops while thousands of Guatemalans continue to protest the cutting of their country’s budget cuts in water and healthcare.