Wednesday, January 31, 2001
The technical exercise of establishing the exact coordinates of Belize's
border with Guatemala has been completed... but the man who took the
measurements is not quite ready to go public with his findings. Under
the terms of the January seventeenth meeting in Miami between Belize and
Guatemala, the Pan American Institute of Geography and History was given
the task of determining the exact location of the three main border
monuments at Gracias a Dios, Garbutt's Falls and Aguas Turbias. The
institute was also asked to determine the distance from the border,
called the adjacency line in the agreement, of the three settlements of
Machaquila, Rio Blanco and Valentin Camp. Belize has maintained that
these Guatemalan squatter communities are well inside Belizean territory
and outside the one kilometre wide adjacency zone east of the line.
After four days on the job, assisted by Belizean, British and Guatemalan
military forces and observed by Belizean, Guatemalan and OAS diplomats,
eartographer Paul Peeler has completed his work. News 5's Stewart Krohn
caught up with Peeler and OAS representative Chris Hernandez-Roy at the
airport as they were about to return to OAS headquarters in
Paul Peeler, Cartographer
"I think we were very successful in completing our mission, which was
to survey three reference points and then to locate the exact positions
for three settlement communities. We plan to completed the mission
yesterday, but were weren't able to, but we finished up this morning
"Let me ask then, you have now made the final scientific determination
as to where those three markers are?"
"We've made a determination using the latest technology that will allow
us to vary position within a centimetre or two and we just have to
reduce the data in St. Louis, Missouri and then we'll be able to furnish
that information to the parties, Guatemala and Belize."
"Could we be so bold as to ask for your advanced opinion as to what
those co-ordinates are?"
"We're averaging thousands of readings that are taken with the GPS
receiver over a twenty-four hour period. We had a GPS station operated
twenty-four hours a day for each of the three stations, so there are
thousands, probably seventy-five, eighty thousand readings. All those
have to be averaged and the accuracy determined, so that won't be done
until we go back to a large mainframe computer in St. Louis."
"Does that mean you would also not be able at this point to determine
which side of the adjacency line, and whether or not the adjacency zone
includes the three settlements."
"Until we have the final positions, I wouldn't want to comment on where
each of those settlements are, other than that we have located them and
have taken precise positioning for each."
Peeler, president of the institute's Commission on Cartography, told
News 5 that apart from the elaborate logistics of reaching the remote
sites, the actual technical work was routine. He added that the Pan
American Institute of Geography and History was proud to be of service
to two OAS member countries. Although both Guatemala and Belize have
traditionally accepted the three border monuments as marking the line
between the two countries, they have not agreed as to the actual
coordinates of the three sites and by extension the true location of the
borderline. Belizean officials have expressed confidence that their
interpretation will be substantiated by this latest scientific survey.