The announcement of the Statutory Instrument prohibiting persons and vessels from traversing the Sarstoon for thirty days brought on much criticism and opposition as many Belizeans were saying that in doing this, the Government may just be acceding Belize’s territory to Guatemala while in other instances it was being said that the Belize Government is allowing us to be bullied by Guatemala. One of those opposing the Statutory Instrument was the Northern Territorial Volunteers headed by the de la Fuente brothers, Phillip and Orlando. This morning, however, Love News learnt that there has been a change of views following yesterday’s press conference with Prime Minister, Dean Barrow.
ORLANDO DE LA FUENTE
“When the SI came out, like most Belizeans I was angry that we would be restricted from visiting our own territorial waters while Guatemalan fishermen and the military encroach on our waters. But after I sa the Prime Minister’s Press Conference last night I had a change of heart and I started thinking it was a strategic move on the part of the Prime Minster because two things he said was that the Statutory Instrument was only for thirty days. He also said that at the expiration of thirty days he would not restrict the BTV from visiting the area. Even if there was no progress between now and the thirty days, he might rescind the statutory instrument earlier and I thought that we cannot only think about the issues between the BTV and the Government of Belize but we have to think regionally also because what this means also is that the Government has exercised sovereignty over the area by legislating the restrictions and secondly it shows our regional allies that Belize is serious about diplomacy; that we are a peace loving nation and thirdly it places a lot of pressure on Guatemala because if Guatemala refuses to come to the negotiating table and a protocol is not reached now and the thirty days and the thirty days expires, the Prime Minister will not stop the BTV from visiting the area, then Guatemala has a lot of pressure on them because what will they do. Will they shoot us? We are going peacefully, unarmed with a white flag. Every member of the BTV has signed onto the expedition stating that we are not even allowing alcohol on and that the expedition is a peaceful one.”
As it relates to the relations between de la Fuente of the NTV and Wil Maheia of Belize Territorial Volunteers, nothing has changed although on this point they do not agree.
ORLANDO DE LA FUENTE
“We were on the show this morning together. Wil feels differently than I do but it doesn’t take away the fact that we both share a common goal; that we want a demarcated border, that we want a difference in posture from the Belize government regarding our negotiations with Guatemala. It’s not a big deal that I feel differently than he does but the bigger deal is going to happen after the statutory instrument expires in thirty days and we have a lot of work ahead of us. Will be getting a military escort, will the security forces be giving us protection as we go on this expedition and if not who is going to be brave enough to enter Sarstoon if negotiations fail and there is no protocol.”
In a release issued last week, the Government had advised that the introduction of the Statutory Instrument was necessary in order to prevent any “commotion” or “threat to public safety” that might arise in consequence of the continuing tense and dangerous standoff between Belize and Guatemala over the Sarstoon, and the tipping point that could be caused by the unregulated insertion of members of the Belizean public into this very volatile mix.