The silence has been broken as it relates to the Belize/Guatemala border issue. After having filed the matter at the International Court of Justice (ICJ) major incidents at the Sarstoon and along the country’s border with Guatemala have been minimal, perhaps even nil. Today, however, there is a development as a Belizean businessman, Jorge Espat is claiming that Guatemalan farmers and residents are squatting on his property. For over two decades, there have been reports of residents in the Barrio Juda area constructing and farming on Belize land. Barrio Juda is a part of Melchor de Mencos, Peten. Slow enough that village has been moving onto the Belize territory and is now on Espat’s private property. The attention of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs has been sought via written correspondence from Espat and today, the Ministry issued a press release on the situation. According to the ministry, they have been collaborating with the Ministry of National Security and the OAS Adjacency Zone in addressing the issue of the illegal settlements by Guatemalan nationals. Their release noted that “Since the Ministry of National Security became aware of this situation, the following actions have been taken to ensure the immediate discontinuation of illegal settlements in that area. (1) High-level officials within the Ministry of National Security, the Belize Defence Force, and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs have made multiple visits to the area. (2) The Belize Defence Force and Guatemalan Armed Forces conducted a joint operation to officially inform the settlers that they are illegally inhabiting Belizean territory and to provide a timeline for the voluntary removal of their belongings. All illegal construction has ceased since that joint operation conducted in October 2019. (3) The Ministry of Foreign Affairs, with the support of the OAS/AZ office, has taken several diplomatic steps towards the peaceful and expeditious removal of the settlers.” Love News spoke with Espat, who said the invaders have now squatted and planted on his private property. He has written to the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Wilfred Elrington on the matter. Elrington has since responded saying that the matter is being addressed. Love News sought comment from Espat late this evening.
Jorge Espat, Land Owner: “The situation presently is that the Guatemalans are squatting. I’ve been trying to dialogue with government since the beginning of the year around March. We have given a report a statement to the Benque Viejo police and since then there has been two structures erected, a concrete house and a wooden structure. It’s about ten plots, ten properties I would say, fenced, cleaned- they are using it for planting of corn and fruit trees so they are taking possession. The situation is that I’ve been trying to work with government, we have visited the area several times. The OAS is involved, up to now since then, since March nothing has been done and I had given the government a time frame and over and over again so now at the ending of October was the last deadline that I had given them so now as we speak I have gotten advice from my attorney and we’re moving forward, we are going through the courts to get the eviction notice for the people. It’s an ongoing situation. Every time Melchor which is in the Guatemalan side have municipality elections it’s an issue. The candidates to gain control of the election numbers the first thing they do is they indicate to the people that they can go ahead and get parcels. There are some buildings erected, there are set of families living and the other building I can say is finished and that is a concrete building, it’s a lady and she is a teacher. We need a solution and we need a result. We need this to be arranged and fixed.”
The media will be heading to the area on Thursday to get a first hand look at the incursions taking place.