Today, Prime Minister Dean Barrow told the media that what happened at the Sarstoon River on Saturday was a result of the events taking place in that area. Prime Minister Barrow was referring to the expeditions being led by the Belize Territorial Volunteers and supported by other political parties. Barrow went to say that this is the first time that a political directive has been handed down to the Guatemala Armed Forces to prevent Belize Security Officers from traversing the Sarstoon River and that, he says, may have been influenced by the recent activities of the BTV in the area.
“They are not going to relinquish their position; we sure as hell are not going to relinquish ours. We have said to Belizeans, it is a matter for the Government and for the military to maintain our assertion of sovereignty. There is no doubt in my mind that the stepping up in Guatemalan rhetoric, the ratcheting up of their position is directly related to all that has taken place with respect to the Sarstoon and the visits and expeditions and excursions; well-meaning on the part of civilians designed to assist the military, which needs no assistance in terms of Belize’s position. As far as I know this is the first time the Guatemalans have said, “We are going to stop the Belize Defense Force from traversing that river”. I also know that in conversations with our diplomats their people have said that part of the problem is, and this is their version, that on the occasion of those incidents they are insulted, this, that and all. I am not going to get into the details because I am not taking their side. All I’m telling you is that in my calculation there is a cause and effect factor here that can’t be ignored.”
“Are you casting blame on the visits by the BTV ?”
“I have said what I have said. In my view there is a direct causal link. Nobody is suggesting that before these incidents there were not, we referred to them as little difficulties, maybe more than little difficulties. We spoke about their trying to shadow our people from time to time but what has changed is that I have not in my time known of any official position on the part of Guatemala saying that “You BDF people will not be allowed to go up the Sarstoon.” That is recent, we are trying to deal with it now, that has happened, in my view partly in consequence of what has been taking place at the Sarstoon.
However, BDF Commander, Brigadier General David Jones clarified that there have been interceptions on the part of Guatemalan Armed Forces since 2006.
“Even though they’ve had their boats pass in front of us, we’ve still passed through but there haven’t been that much interceptions as to how you are alluding to. However we’ve seen the escalation of the aggression towards us since the BTV started going into the area and it has been expressed that it was a concern, the Guatemalans had expressed to us that it is a concern for the civilians going in there to express their sovereignty.”
“Let me be quite clear, I think the General will confirm that his opposite member told him that there has been a political directive that the BDF is not to, that has not happened before. This is all I’m saying, I’m not trying to deny that there were not incidents but this official position that “we are going to stop you, you are not to go up that river.” that is what is new.”