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#370152 - 03/11/10 07:46 AM Belize-Guatemala Compromis
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Belize-Guatemala Compromis 'Languishing in Guatemalan Congress'

Remember the Special Agreement or Compromis as it was called – which was signed in December of 2008? It was approved by Belize’s parliament shortly after that and there were encouraging signs that it would pass in Guatemala in august of last year after it was approved by that country’s Constitutional Affairs Committee. At the time, Belize’s Ambassador to Guatemala Fred Martinez said that there was a new air of cooperation in the famously fractious Guatemalan congress and the special agreement could be approved by September of 2009. Guess what? It didn’t, and today Martinez told the press it looks like it’s not going to be passed anytime soon.

Fred Martinez, Ambassador to Guatemala

“The Special Agreement which was signed on December 8th, 2008 is still languishing in the Congress of Guatemala. It is not heading anywhere. The scene right now in Congress in Guatemala when it comes to ratification of the Special Agreement does not look too good from our analysis and perspective. Even if the Special Agreement was passed and a referendum convened sometime for later on this year, we do believe that it would be too close to a general election comfort. We do not see it happening soon. But in the meantime we must continue to live with each other and continue to work our relationship under the Confidence Building Measures under the direction of the OAS.”

So with the special agreement on indefinite hold, Belize enters its third rotation and fifth year of the confidence building measures. But there is a wrinkle. Those Confidence Building Measures call for special provisions to apply in the area one kilometer to the east and west of what they call the Adjacency Line – that line is what we in Belize and the rest of the world call the border. The agreement says that all military and police patrols within that area will be coordinated by both countries.

http://www.7newsbelize.com/sstory.php?nid=16432
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#370153 - 03/11/10 07:48 AM Re: Belize-Guatemala Compromis [Re: Short]
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The Stir at Macahaquilha Post

But when Belizean environmental group the Yaxche Conservation Trust started erecting what is called a conservation post in the Colombia River Forest Reserve within that one kilometer area it caused quite a stir. The post is actually Macahaquilha, 200 meters east of the border. It is the first of three proposed posts established in Belize by the conservation groups who co-manage the parks along Belize’s border. It is manned by park rangers who are protected by BDF soldiers stationed there with them. The purpose of the post is to establish some presence along Belize’s much encroached upon western border with Guatemala.

Seems harmless enough – if you’re a Belizean, but not to the Guatemalans. The Machaquilha post sent the Guatemalans in the adjacent community scrambling – they claimed Belize was militarizing the adjacency zone. And that scare – irrational as it was – triggered a slight chain of events which led all the way to the southern border with Guatemala at the mouth of the Sarstoon River where suddenly Belizean soldiers on border patrol were being stopped and harassed by the Guatemalan Navy. Ambassador Martinez detailed the chain of events – that started with a border post and ended with a high level working group between the two countries.

Fred Martinez,

“All settlements of Guatemalans living in Belize have been removed over the past two years, three years ago so there are no settlements as we know them to be inside of Belize where they set up shops and villages and etc etc. These incursions as we call them are people either coming in to collect xate leaf, people either coming in to do illegal logging, people coming in to clear a piece of forest close to the borderline because they have no land on their side, they come into our green areas, clear a piece of land, and begin planting their corn and milpa and it is a never ending process to try and contain these. You can imagine the task that our BDF have and our forest guards along with the two NGOs that help us manage the two national parks in that area; Chiquibul and Colombia National Reserve and Vaca Plateau Reserve. Those are national parks where not even Belizeans are allowed to be hunting or picking up of plants or clearing of bushes or logging. So the task we have is how we contain these incursions that come in and move out -in and out of Belize.

As a consequence the government of Belize took up the position that it had to set up certain conservation posts along the line, the area of the border. We set up these conservation posts, we have not done the one at Sebada nor Valentin, that is still under debate for funding etc. But the one that created a problem was then Macahaquilha which was set up by the NGO, Friends for Conservation and Development and Yaxche Conservation Trust. They set up that observation post, what they call a conservation post to be manned by their forest guards but then they requested the BDF to provide security for them.

The setting of that conservation post triggered a reaction from the villagers across the border in Guatemala. These villagers then began protesting to their congressmen in Peten and to the press in Guatemala that Belize had set up a military post and that it was too close for comfort. That then in turn triggered off the Guatemalan government to issue a note to us questioning this military post and accusing Belize of militarizing the border to which we responded we have every right to do what we want to do in our own territory and if they contained their people on their side then there would be no need for us to set up conservation posts on our side and that in any event Belize had its sovereign right to do what it wanted in its own territory.

The back and forth then became constant, as to the diplomatic correspondence and then all of a sudden we begun to have problems in the Sarstoon. We interpret this to be like a quid pro quo; you doing this then I will give you problems down the Sarstoon.

The problems started arriving there at the southern channel when a boat and personnel from the Guatemalan base started intercepting any boat entering the southern channel, insisting that any boats of the BDF or SATIIM or whichever group was using it was speeding too much and creating wake that was overturning the canoes of these poor families. Every the BDF entered the channel, they were intercepted by the Guatemalan boats and told you cannot use the southern channel, you must use the northern channel and not create any wake in the south because you are sinking these people. We did not interpret that to be any navigation challenge as to wake, we interpreted that and protested severely that this was a challenge to our sovereignty of using the southern channel.”


Jules Vasquez,

“But isn’t it accepted, I have been there a couple times and they say the southern channel is accepted as ours.”

Fred Martinez,
“The southern channel, that is the borderline established by the 1859 treaty. So we have protested severely about that. We have seen them begin stopping, in the past two to three weeks they have stopped intercepting or escorting although there was a challenge last Tuesday but it was very brief; oh yes but please go slow and do not overturn these canoes etc. and Belize suggested that we hold a meeting under the auspices of the OAS for us to explain to the Guatemalans and to explain to the OAS what was happening on the ground and we held a technical meeting in Flores, Peten on the 8th of December last year and we graphically showed them on the screen that this is what is happening at the borderline, these are the incursions that we are facing, we need to cooperate to help stop these incursions or we will forever have friction.

It was very graphic, aerial photographs, and at about the same time Channel 7 was doing a report along that area. We quoted you amply Jules and we showed the OAS that this is what is happening. A week later then the Ministers of Foreign Affairs of both countries met in Washington and with the Secretary General and the issue was discussed and the Secretary General then suggested that a high level working group be set up between the two countries to be a rapid response mechanism to look at the problems that may occur to deflate any building situations and to suggest ways and means that these issues could be solved.”


The high level working group held its second meeting in Belmopan yesterday. The meetings comprise three members from Belize three from Guatemala with moderation by the OAS.

http://www.7newsbelize.com/sstory.php?nid=16433
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