This morning News Five caught up with Toledo activist, Will Maheia, who leads the Belize Territorial Volunteers. The group has made visits to border points from north to south to send a message to Guatemala and to Belmopan. Maheia has also been monitoring activity in the Chiquibul and the Columbia Forest Reserve down south. He told News Five that incursions by armed xateros from Guatemala continue unabated. Maheia says the government has it all wrong, because instead of harassing ordinary citizens, they should be stepping up patrols along the borders.
Wil Maheia, Founding Member, Belize Territorial Volunteers
“I went to San Jose and a few of the other Mayan villages that are along the border line and we constantly receive information of incursions taking place. As you know the weather is getting better right now so the incursions are increasing, more and more Guatemalans are coming into our territory. As recently as a couple weeks ago Mr. Fermin Castellanos was there and he himself encountered Guatemalans that was well armed cutting xate. What we are doing, the Belize Territorial Volunteers, we are going back in the Columbia Forest next week. And we will begin to show the evidence that there are Guatemalans into our territory, there are armed Guatemalans and we need to urge our governments to let them know that we need to do something about that. Because the average Belize City persons is getting harassed on the street because of the assumption that they have arms when we know where the arms are, the arms are with the Guatemalans inside the Chiquibul and inside the Columbia Forest. So we are urging the government to step up the patrol into that area.”
“Is there a fear by villagers that you know what, it might happen, that these people may come on and attack them?”
“Yes definitely in fact a couple years ago this Cho from San Jose he was shot from a Guatemalan Xatero. And nothing has come out of that, our government has not increased patrol in the area, when our people depend on the forest for their livelihood. So our people are being marginalized because they know that the Guatemalans are armed. So a lot of people cannot really go into the forest to harvest food as they usually do.”
“I know that there is a B.D.F. base down there, have you been able to maybe liaise with them as to maybe increase patrol in that area or something of that sort?”
“Well in the past we have spoken with the B.D.F., the B.D.F. get their instructions from Ladyville and Ladyville get heir instructions from Belmopan. Basically, as far as we can analyze the situation, the instructions are not to increase the patrols because it’s been years now and there has not been an increase of patrols into that area. The group Ya’axche has documented facts that prove that this is just not the Belize Territorial Volunteers this advocacy group but also a science based organization Ya’axche have documented facts that show that the Guatemalans are deep inside Belizean territory, as far up as the Bladden Nature Reserve, our most pristine area. And it is not happening in just the land but on the sea basis as well. There are still a number of people holding Belizean Fishing License who presently live in Guatemala and that is illegal but it happens today.”
“So what are you guys going to do? I need to ask what is the next step now for Belize Territorial Volunteers and for trying to deal with this issue?”
“Well I mean we go in there and we try and expose it, we bring it to the Belizean public. I can tell you that we have pictures of the Guatemalan fishing boats right now that are inside Belize’s territory. We have, our people has seen Guatemalans inside the Columbia Forest and inside the Chiquibul, we are going on another expedition next week into the Columbia Forest and we hope that the B.D.F. is aware of this and they provide some sort of coverage because we cannot just allow our country to get deteriorated and plundered because we are sitting back and not doing nothing. As a concerned Belizean, as a Belizean who loves this country, all the volunteers love this country, the people who support us love this country. They are doing something and we hope that the government steps up their efforts to patrol the Columbia.”
Maheia says incursions continue because borders not properly marked
Maheia reiterates that the incursions continue because our borders are not properly marked and properly patrolled.
Wil Maheia, Founding Member, Belize Territorial Volunteers
“The evidence speaks for itself, you look at the Belize border and the number of troops you see in the border, we probably have the least number of troops on the border than any country in the world. If you go next door to the border between Guatemala and Mexico it is clear, it is defined, you could walk at it, you can pick up something at the ground at it, it is there, it is there to be seen. We in Belize our borders, it is hard to be seen because it is not defined. We have Guatemalan pastures into our territory, we have Guatemalan road, the road at Santa Cruz village in Guatemala come through Belize and back into Guatemala and we have not put up a fence or plant trees or anything to take back that road and make it part of Belize once again. Right now we have ceded some land to Guatemala, we as Belizeans have to be more alert and we need to get back that land. And that is one of the reasons we should not even be talking to those people about going to the ICJ, ICJ is not an option. What is an option is that we need to build our relationship with Guatemala, define, clean, clear our border line.”
We note that last Friday, a delegation from Guatemala met with officials here to discuss confidence building measures. The discussions are a follow-up to the recent visit of Guatemala’s Foreign Minister Fernando Carrera. And while it has not been officially announced, Foreign Minister Wilfred Elrington will reportedly be travelling to Washington DC this week, where he will meet again with Carrera.