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#507691 - 09/23/15 11:21 AM Construction of Base on Sarstoon Island a Go
Marty Offline

One of the highlights of this year that has been debated on the media, in public and on the social media is the issue of the construction of a Forward Operating Base on the Sarstoon Island in southern Belize. Prime Minister Barrow, in his Independence Day speech, assured the Belizean people that the Forward Operating Base will be constructed. He did add, however that the preservation of the country’s sovereignty must be left to the Belize Defense Force.


“Of course, the BDF will also build the Forward Operating Base on the north bank of the Sarstoon River and it will do so in a continuing exercise of Belizean sovereignty in that area. This is a sovereignty that Government and all our security forces, as a matter of first principle and existential duty, will always wholly maintain. But we do not need civilians, however well-intentioned, to complicate matters. In flashpoint situations, preservation of the sovereignty and security equation must be left to our trained, professional, and highly skilled military; a military that has time and again demonstrated its ability to take care of business and perform at a level out of all proportion to its small size even with drilling as you saw this morning with respect to that parade.”


B.D.F. to Build Base on North Bank of Sarstoon River

Francis Fonseca

The Sarstoon – actually the wider picture of Belize’s sovereignty – has been a hot-button issue in past months. Relations between Guatemala and Belize are not at the best point due to several incidents on the Sarstoon.  There is the detention of Belizeans by Guatemalans in Belizean territory and also tense encounters between the military of both countries. The Belize Territorial Volunteers have been a huge factor in the new scrutiny on the Sarstoon, and merited mention in both Independence Day addresses – albeit cast in different roles.

Francis Fonseca, Leader of the Opposition

“This spirit of unity and sense of purpose was on full display for all the world to see just a month ago on August sixteenth when a group of some two hundred Belizeans under the banner of the Belize Territorial Volunteers gathered in Barranco, Toledo and journeyed to the Southernmost boundary of Belize on the Sarstoon. This journey was a peaceful, powerful statement that Belize, all of Belize, from Rio Hondo to Sarstoon, from our cays and atolls to our Western Border is ours to protect and defend.”

Dean Barrow

Prime Minister Dean Barrow

“The B.D.F. will also build the forward operating base on the North Bank of the Sarstoon River as it continues to assert and exercise Belizean sovereignty in that area. This is a sovereignty that Government and all our security forces, as a matter of first principle and existential duty, will always wholly maintain. But we do not need civilians, however well-intentioned, to complicate matters. In flashpoint situations, preservation of the sovereignty and security equation must be left to our trained, professional, and highly skilled military; a military that has time and again demonstrated its ability to take care of business and perform at a level out of all proportion to its small size.”

Channel 5

#509787 - 12/09/15 10:56 AM Re: Construction of Base on Sarstoon Island a Go [Re: Marty]
Marty Offline

Moving Forward With Forward Operating Base

You may remember that now infamous showdown on the Sarstoon River between the Belize Territorial Volunteers, with Wil Maheia and Orlando De La Fuente on one side and the Guatemalan Navy, led by Guat. Vice Admiral Carlos Thomas. It sparked outrage and a fierce discussion over Sarstoon Island being the latest flashpoint for the Belize Guatemala Territorial Dispute.

The Barrow Government took a lot of criticism for the lack of a presence from the Coast Guard and BDF at the Mouth of the Sarstoon River, which the Guatemalans claim. Before the General Elections, Prime Minister Dean Barrow promised that the Forward Operating Base would be built, and 2 weeks ago, National Security Minister John Saldivar declared publicly that a groundbreaking ceremony would be held on December 9.

That's tomorrow morning, and tonight, the top brass at the BDF and the National Security Ministry are making their final preparations for the ceremony. 7News will be at the mouth of the Sarstoon, and we'll show you how that goes in tomorrow's newscast.

Channel 7

#509819 - 12/10/15 11:03 AM Re: Construction of Base on Sarstoon Island a Go [Re: Marty]
Marty Offline

Moving Forward With The Base

“Build the Base Now!” – we’ve all heard the battle cry from critics of the Barrow Administration – who accused the government of going soft in the Sarstoon.

Well, they will build the base. True to the campaign promise, Government representatives went to the banks of the Sarstoon for a ground breaking ceremony today.

Our news team hit the road to PG at 3:30 am, and we found the Guatemalans ever vigilant of any vessels entering the River. Daniel Ortiz and Codie Norales raced back from PG and they have that story:

This morning, The Punta Gorda Town Pier was the launch site for 5 boats belonging to the Ministry of National Security: 3 for the BDF and 2 for the Belize National Coast Guard.

Just before 8 o’clock, senior government officials started to assemble for the journey. The line-up Included the Minister of National Security, the Minister of State in the Prime Minister’s Office, the Minister of Education, the CEO in the National Security Ministry, the CEO in the Foreign Affairs Ministry, 2 representatives from the Organization of American States, high ranking officers from BDF, and senior personnel from the Coast Guard and the Police Department.

The VIP’s were given their own vessel, while the press boarded with the Coast Guard, and their Elite Seals team. This was all in preparation for an official government function, but all around, there were peculiar reminders that it could become tense. Each Law enforcement unit had high powered weapons, and rifles were mounted on the Coast Guard’s Boston Whalers. Each manned by surly officers who appeared to be focused strictly on security. While they were to partake in the ground breaking ceremony, their first priority was to ensure the safety of all in their care.

Once all the vessels made their way out to sea, each was positioned to ensure seafaring safety, but also for greatest strategic advantage. All around the 5 vessels, the BDF had air support from one of their Defenders flying over in intervals to provide surveillance.

But, for most of the trip, it was uneventful, if you looked past the armed forces; it appeared more like a caye trip.

Coming up on the mouth of the River Sarstoon, however, there were 2 Guatemalan Gunboats anchored in what is believed to be neutral territorial waters. They made no attempts to approach the Belizean Military Fleet, acting more like stationary wardens on guard.

In the distance, Sarstoon Island started to become visible, but our escorts quickly made us aware that the chosen location for their Forward Operating Base would was not on the island itself. We were instead taken to the banks of Belizean mainland to the north of the Sarstoon River. These experts told us that it was more ideal because the ground was solid, and it allowed for full view of the coast of both Country’s territories, the river, and the island itself. Also, should the base come under attack from hostile forces, it would be a more defensible location.

But, this morning, this location itself looked more like swamp, mangroves, and a bit further in, mud everywhere, along with insects.

The Belizeans even had to build a makeshift dock on the jutting mangroves to allow for walking access to the ground-breaking site.

With everyone on land, the keynote speakers delivered their remarks relevant to the ceremony. After all, it was a historic event, the first policing presence from Belizean Law Enforcement at the mouth of the Sarstoon.

Hon. John Saldivar - Minister of National Security

"Belize in construction of this forward operating base is to work with its neighbour Guatemala in strengthening the law enforcement security arrangements in a cooperative manner for our mutual benefits. It is for that reason that we call on the government of Guatemala to join us in this effort to defeat the threats that both our countries are facing from illicit drug trafficking, human and weapon trafficking; illegal maritime and other activities along the Sarstoon."

Brig Gen. David Jones - Commander, BDF

"This is a historic occasion not just for the Belize Defence Force and also the coast guard but for our nation in that we're about to establish a forward operating base that has been long in the pipeline for the entrance of the Sarstoon river. Just the arrear is the Sarstoon Island which we'll be able to have a look at as well and we're on the northern channel of the island where the Belize Defence Force will establish their forward operating base."

Hon. John Saldivar - Minister of National Security

"This over 100 thousand dollar facility that will be constructed here at this site will offer our law enforcement authorities increased capacity in surveillance, tracking and intercept capability."

After the ground breaking ceremony was completed, General Jones paid a courtesy call on Guatemalan Vice Admiral Carlos Thomas, who was stationed right across the river at the Guat bass.

Saldivar did note that an official Guatemalan communication had arrived to Belize through Diplomatic Channels, pertaining to this Forward Operating Base

Hon. John Saldivar - Minister of National Security

"Yesterday we received a diplomatic note from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Guatemala in reference to the invitation sent by myself to the embassy of Guatemala accredited to Belize to participate in this ground breaking ceremony for the construction of a forward operating base in the Sarstoon River. An extract from that English translated version of that diplomatic note says and I quote: “On this particular and specifically concerning the forward operating base, this ministry would like to remind what was stated by the Honourable Minister of Foreign Affairs Wilfred P. Elrington in respect to that same that will be operating a base for the coast guard of Belize, that is to say of a policing character. In that same order of ideas, this ministry expects that the operations that will take place on that base will not interfere with the artisanal fishing activities of the inhabitants of the area." End quote. As minister with responsibility for Belize's national security I want to give assurance to our neighbour, Guatemala and all other friendly nations that our law enforcement authorities will conduct their operations along the Sarstoon in a manner that is conducive to cooperation and good neighbourliness. It is not the government's wish to encourage or condone behaviour that will disturb the peace and security between Belize and Guatemala."

After a very brief ceremony, all equipment was packed up, including the materials used to build the bridge, and the Government VIP’s took off with the BDF on the way to the Cadenas Observation Post, for the weekly change over.

The media was instructed that our access had come to a close, and we were escorted back to Punta Gorda Town by the Coast Guard.

On the way out of the entrance of the Sarstoon, the Coast Guard captains made their way and approached the Guatemalan Gunboats more closely, as if to get them familiarized with the close proximity that will become the norm in the near future.

Admiral John Borland - Commandant, Belize Coast Guard

"Doing joint cooperation and communication with the Guatemalan armed forces, in particularly with the navy that's the question you're getting it. Whatever they had traditionally done, it now has to fall in line with what the principle of equity says it should be."

So, a few notable points, this was National Security Minister John Saldivar’s very first visit to the location. Next, Wil Maheia was the only border activist to show up today for the ceremony. As we showed you, it went without incident. There was no confrontation from the Border organizations, and the Guatemalans stayed over on their half of the river.

Today, we asked Saldivar how long it will take to finish the base. He told us that it should be completed in a few months time. Maheia told us that he will be there as a watchdog to observe the progress of that construction. Here’s our interview with both:

Hon. John Saldivar - Minister of National Security

"The material needs to come out and I understand that will take about 3 months for the building and area to be constructed and prepared."


"What will it look like, the building itself?"

Hon. John Saldivar - Minister of National Security

"A basic structure that will include sleeping quarters, kitchen, meeting area and that sort of stuff, basic structure."


"And the approach as well?"

Hon. John Saldivar - Minister of National Security

"Yes, there will be a pier that will extend much further out so it's easier for the boats to come in."

Daniel Ortiz

"Sir, why this location and not on the island itself?"

Hon. John Saldivar - Minister of National Security

"This was determined by the military experts that this the best place to get the best vantage point because it's not necessarily just to watch the river, it's to watch the coast as well. So this gives us the best vantage point."

Will Mehia - Belize Territorial Volunteers

"To begin with, I’ll definitely commend the government and applaud them for first step. This is a step that should have taken a long time ago but the step is being taken now, so kudos to the government for that. What I was also sadden to see that we had like 2 minister and a minister of state, high government officials there and there was not even a Belizean flag that was raised at this historic ceremony. I don't know what's going on, who dropped the ball but a lot of people out there should have taken this into consideration. I felt insulted to look over at the other side and there was a Guatemalan flag and on our side, this high profile delegation and not even a Belizean flag to show that yes, we are in Belize. Good thing for the BTV, BTV showed up with their flag as usual. We as the BTV will for sure keep an eye on that exact location to see if and when that base will be constructed and how long it will take."

Channel 7

#509981 - 12/17/15 10:53 AM Re: Construction of Base on Sarstoon Island a Go [Re: Marty]
Marty Offline

BDF Ready To Start Work At Forward Operating Base

On the topic of increased security the Joint Forward Operating Base will provide just that at the mouth of the Sarstoon River. As we told you, there was a ground breaking ceremony a week ago and construction is expected to begin as early as next week. While it’s a historic event for Belize, what are the Guatemalans saying about it and will there be any contention between Belize’s military forces and theirs? Today General Jones told us there shouldn't be any issues because both countries will work together to maintain peace and order at the Sarstoon.

Brig. Gen. David Jones - Commander, BDF

"We intend for construction to start as soon as possible. We've identified a contractor. It hasn't been finalized yet who is going to do the construction that will be finally decided by the government. But we expect construction to start very soon, probably by next week if possible. When start, it should be within 3 months, so probably by the end of February, we should have that base maned. The base is for the Belize Defence Force and we will also invite the coast guard to jointly work there with us but it's a BDF initiative and we intend to do our patrolling in that area; hopefully working jointly with the Guatemalan base which is just on the other side of the river. That protocol needs to be established and agreed upon by our Ministry of Foreign Affairs and by Ministry of National Security. So we're hoping that dialogue could start so that we could have a similar protocol we have with the Western Border, to have a similar protocol with the Sarstoon river, jointly with the Guatemalan armed forces."

"The discussion I had with the Guatemalans, there isn't any huge concern. I think there is one concern for the villagers there because they do a lot of fishing in the area and they are concerned that we will interrupt the livelihood of the fishers in that area. But as long as they clearly understand that the base is going to be there, it's going to maned by our security forces and we're going to enforce Belizean laws there. So as long as the people abide by Belizean law, they won't have an issue. If they do their fishing or their activities in their part of the territory, they'll be fined but as long as they come over to Belize then they will be under Belizean jurisdictions, we will enforce laws that occur in that area once that forward operating base is established."

Channel 7

#511546 - 02/11/16 11:41 AM Re: Construction of Base on Sarstoon Island a Go [Re: Marty]
Marty Offline

Work Progresses at Sarstoon Forward Operating Base

Minister of National Security Hon. John Saldivar, accompanied by his cabinet colleague, Hon. Frank Mena, today, Wednesday, February 10th, visited the construction site of the Sarstoon Forward Operating Base in Toledo.

Minister Saldivar was also accompanied by senior members of the Belize Defense Force (BDF), the Belize Police Department and Ministry of National Security officials.

On site the delegation was able to appreciate the rapid pace at which the construction is proceeding. Elements of the BDF have set up temporary installations at the site as the work progresses.

The Forward Operating Base at the mouth of the Sarstoon River is one of several initiatives being undertaken by the Government of Belize to safeguard and protect our national sovereignty. The Forward Operating Base, though modest in its beginnings, will establish a much needed presence and will serve to combat illicit activities such as drug, contraband and human trafficking, and weapons trading, which threaten Belize's national security.

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