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#512373 - 03/14/16 10:59 AM Incident Between Belizean, Guatemalan Forces at Sarstoo
Marty Offline

The Government of Belize confirms that a confrontation between Belize Security Forces and Guatemalan Armed Forces occurred late evening of Saturday, March 12th, at the Sarstoon in the area of Belize's Forward Operating Base. The GAF approached the FOB, though they never actually attempted to come on to our land, and behaved in an extremely hostile and threatening manner, insisting that our troops should not be at the Sarstoon. The Belize Forces stood their ground and after some time the GAF withdrew. In the intervening period the BDF Commander General Jones had spoken to an opposite member in Guatemala and Prime Minister Dean Barrow had sent a message to President Jimmy Morales.

Despite the ultimately peaceful end to the standoff it is clear that tension with Guatemala over the Sarstoon and Belize's insistence on its sovereignty rights in accordance with the 1859 Treaty Demarcation of the river, is at an all-time high. Talks are to take place in Washington on Tuesday, March 15th, between the two sides under the auspices of the OAS, and in the meantime Belize has informed key members of the international community, including the US and the UK, of the extremely critical situation.

A strongly worded protest note is being sent to Guatemala by the Belize Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and the Prime Minister has convened a special meeting of the National Security Council for Monday, March 14th to further deal with the matter.

It is to be noted that the Belize delegation to the Washington talks includes Assad Shoman as the representative of the Opposition, and that the Prime Minister has personally briefed Opposition Leader John Briceno on the Sarstoon incident.

Government of Belize Press Office with Wil Maheia


Tensions at “all-time high” after Guatemalan Forces confront BDF at Forward Operating Base; GOB, Guats to meet in Washington
The Government of Belize says tension with Guatemala over the Sarstoon and Belize’s insistence on its sovereignty rights in accordance with the 1859 Treaty Demarcation of the river, is at an all-time high. This follows a confrontation on Saturday evening, March 12, on the river between members of the Belize Defence Force (BDF) and their Guatemalan counterparts. A press release issued this afternoon says that armed forces approached the Forward Operating Base where Belizean forces were stationed and insisted that our troops should not be at the Sarstoon. Government says the Guatemalans did not attempt to enter Belizean land, though exact details of the location of the incident have not been provided. In any event, the Guatemalans withdrew after BDF Commander, Brigadier General David Jones contacted his counterpart in Guatemala and Prime Minister Dean Barrow had sent a message to President Jimmy Morales.


Guatemalan military confront BDF at Sarstoon FOB; we are headed to OAS

After Guatemalan armed forces confronted Belize Defense Force (BDF) soldiers late Saturday evening, the Government has announced that it will take the issue to the Organization of American States (OAS) on Tuesday.

The report of the incident started surfacing on Saturday night. BDF soldiers were approached by the GAF and told that they should not be at the Sarstoon, and according to reliable sources, could only move about the Sarstoon River with Guatemalan permission. According to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) Guatemalan soldiers behaved in an “extremely hostile and threatening manner.”

Today the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) confirmed the incident and stated how it plans to respond.

After the confrontation, for the first time the government is sounding the alarm, acknowledging that tension with Guatemala over the Sarstoon “is at an all-time high.”

The government insists that the GAF never attempted to come on land and that BDF soldiers stood their ground and the GAF withdrew.

According to the Ministry, between the time the event happened on Saturday night and today, Sunday, Commander, Brigadier General David Jones spoke with “an opposite member” in Guatemala.

MOFA also states that Prime Minister Dean Barrow has sent a message to President Jimmy Morales.

MOFA states that the plan now is to take the issue, of the recent confrontation, to the OAS in Washington.

Key members of the international community, including those from the United States and the United Kingdom have been notified, says MOFA.

The Minister of Foreign Affairs Wilfred Elrington has sent a “strongly-worded protest note.” And the PM has convened a special meeting of the National Security Council one day before they go to the OAS.

Representative of the Opposition Assad Shoman is joining the team of delegates that will head the talks in Washington, D.C. MOFA emphasized that the PM personally briefed the Leader of the Opposition, Johnny Briceno about what happened at the Sarstoon FOB.

Currently, the Belize Special Assignment Group is positioned at the Sarstoon FOB. All operating activities including unloading of shipments around the area have been abruptly suspended.

The Reporter


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#512396 - 03/15/16 10:55 AM Re: Incident Between Belizean, Guatemalan Forces at Sarstoo [Re: Marty]
Marty Offline

National Security Council Meets To Discuss Guat. Aggression

So, that brings us to this evening's emergency meeting of the National Security Council in Belmopan. That council consists of chief persons within the country's security apparatus including the Prime Minister, the BDF Commander, General David Jones, the Belize Coast Guard Commandant, Admiral John Borland, and a representative from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Foreign Affairs Minister Wilfred Elrington would have been a party to this meeting, but he left for Washington yesterday.

This meeting of the National Security Council happened late this afternoon in the Cabinet Room in Belmopan. That meeting finished about 2 hours ago, and we got an opportunity to speak with a few the officials about what was discussed:

Brig. Gen. David Jones - Commander, BDF
"We had a Guatemalan vessel go over in front of the operating base that the BDF is constructing at the time and were speaking to the troops there over a loud hailer, informing them that the previous day which was the Friday, that a vessel had gone up the Sarstoon and gone all the way to Cadenas and did not actually report to them. They are not aware of our complete schedule of how we go through the Sarstoon. So, they were expressing their dissatisfaction that they didn't know. Our troops had never gone in there and asked permission to go through and we continue to go through the Sarstoon without asking permission. The vessel that was there speaking to the troops did not want to leave the area. They stayed in the area and they were given the impression that they were going to remain there, expressing that we are not going to be allowed to go back up through the river if we don't ask permission. The troops in that area took it as some form of intimidation and they start making phone calls, that eventually reached my ears. I in turn informed our CEO, that also inform our minister and then the message also reached our prime minister. I subsequently spoke to my Guatemalan counterpart and expressed the concern with the situation currently happening at the Sarstoon. He said General, we just came back from this meeting because we returned back Friday evening and then this incident actually happened Saturday. So he said he is going to pass the direction that there isn't going to be anymore interception and we are going to work towards peace in the area. So immediately after I called him, it was within 5 or 10 minutes the vessel that was in front of the BDF FOB had disappeared and left. So, it was a sign of good faith that the meeting that I had with him is working and is going to work."

Rt. Hon. Dean Barrow, Prime Minister
"We can't settle it in consequence of any outbreak of war. That is unthinkable and we don't want to go there. Of course this meeting was also about tasking both our military people and our diplomats to be quite clear and to reduce to writing a way forward for Belize in the event of whatever contingencies. Every effort will be made, is being made to try to come up with a diplomatic resolution to the tensions in the Sarstoon and such resolution can only come by way of an agreement over how we will proceed."

Reporter
"The press release report hostility on the part of Guatemalan armed forces. Can you clarify the level of hostility? Were the lives of our soldiers threatened?"

Brig. Gen. David Jones - Commander, BDF
"I wouldn't say the lives were threatened at the time. Our soldiers view it as a sort of intimidation, because they have never gone in front of our base like that before. This is the first time and the soldiers that were there was trying to reason with the gentleman and said we are both professionals, let us work together peacefully to resolve this issue."

Hon. John Saldivar, Minister of National Security
"We do intend to maintain the status quo in the Sarstoon with respect to the BDF accessing its various facilities through that river."

Rt. Hon. Dean Barrow, Prime Minister
"In the same way as there are protocols to deal with other sensitive border areas and the modalities for handling potential flashpoints. It is our view that there must be similar protocols to govern the Sarstoon. Otherwise, ultimately inevitably, there is going to be a problem. They are not going to relinquish their position. We sure as hell are not going to relinquish ours."

Finger Pointing About The Cause Of The Tensions In The Sarstoon

So, as we told you at the top of the news, Prime Minister Barrow personally briefed the Leader of the Opposition, John Briceno on the incident who sent Assad Shoman to Washington as his representative for these high-level meetings with Guatemala's delegation and the OAS.

We contacted Briceno for a comment, and he told us that his party would be releasing a statement later in the day. That came this afternoon, and the PUP says that it, quote " strongly condemns the illegal military incursion by the Guatemalan Armed Forces (GAF) into Belizean territorial waters...This latest incident is another violation of international law by Guatemala and constitutes a grave risk to peace in the region. The PUP joins the Government and all Belizeans in calling on the Government of Guatemala to immediately cease these provocative and illegal acts, and we demand that the Government of Guatemala ensures that the GAF is instructed to stand down and to respect the long established boundary between Belize and Guatemala in the Sarstoon."

The party applauds the BDF soldiers who stood firm and refused to accede to the demands of the Guat. Military this weekend.

The party then notes the steps taken by the Government for these talks in Washington but it says that more must be done.

The PUP is calling for the re-appointment of a negotiating team on Belize Guatemala relations, and the re-appointment of a National Advisory Commission on the Belize Guatemala Differendum.

The third party, the Belize Progressive Party, pulled no punches. They blamed both the PUP and the UDP in what they view as the mishandling of the Belize Guatemalan Territorial Dispute. They, of course, condemned the actions of the Guatemalan military, but they went on assert, quote, "This incident comes on the heels of another incident February 27th, only two weeks ago when members of the Belize Territorial Volunteers were summarily prevented from traversing the Sarstoon River, which by way of the 1859 Treaty, marks the southernmost boundary of Belize. At that time, the BPP warned that Guatemala was becoming bolder in the Sarstoon. Officials of the Belize Ministry of Foreign Affairs officials however chose to send what they called a "strong protest note" to the Guatemalan authorities, and asked that those matters be left to their "professionals"

In effect, this most recent act of aggression by the Guatemalans in Belizean territory is fundamentally a manifestation of the failed PUDP "4A Policy" of: Appeasement, Acquiescence, Accommodation, and Adherence." End Quote.

But back in August of 2015, after the first confrontation between Guatemalan Naval Units and the Territorial Volunteers, BDF General David Jones, the country's highest military leader, didn't agree with them. Here's what the General had to say about the agitation by the Prominent BPP member, Wil Maheia, who is also the leader of the Volunteers:

FILE: August 19, 2015
Brig. Gen. David Jones - Commander, BDF

"What we've noticed of recent that; the Guatemalan patrols follow our vessels, sometimes for a kilometer up the Sarstoon. But recently they have been going all the way to Cadenas to follow patrol and that isn't normal. Apparently they were informed at the lower level that they were not supposed to go all the way there. But of recent because of the traction of what is happening with the Territorial Volunteers wanting to go to the Sarstoon Island; and wanting to show their patriotism in the area, they have escalated their interest in what's happening in the Sarstoon. I must add that this can change the status quo of the relationship that we have military to military. Because we have been going through that river, unimpeded for decades without incident; and for the first time we've had the interception is after when the Territorial Volunteers is showing their patriotism in the area. That's the first time we've had any interception of this sort that could have resulted in an incident."

A few days later, Wil Maheia led the press, including our Daniel Ortiz on an expedition to see the trailing of the BDF in and out of the Sarstoon by the Guat. Navy. Here's how that looked then:

FILE: August 25, 2015
Daniel Ortiz reporting
About 2 hours later, we got to see for ourselves just how the Guatemalan Navy is now acting toward the Belize Defence Force. At around 9:30, our cameras caught the BDF vessel speeding out of the Sarstoon River with the soldiers who had just been relieved. Hot on their tail was a Guat Navy boat which following at high speed. It was just as General David Jones had described, the Guatemalan Navy had become more aggressive toward them as well, following any military vessel of theirs to and from the Cadenas Conservation Post, for a total of about 4 hours on the river.

Wil Maheia - Leader, Belize Territorial Volunteers
"As a Belizean, to watch my military being escorted by the Guatemalan military, that was a blow to us. I mean for us the Territorial Volunteers, it was a blessing in disguise that the BDF basically tricked us and left early, because the Guatemalan military obviously escorted them up the river. So it gave us an opportunity to put our flags on the Sarstoon Island without interruption from the Guatemalan military. But waiting there and monitoring the illegal fishing that's taking place and then seeing our military being escorted by the Guatemalan military was damaging to me as a Belizean. I felt insulted that we had to have our military being escorted by the Guatemalan military and they escorted them way into Belizean waters."

So, does the Government still blame Wil Maheia and the Territorial Volunteers? Well, the Prime Minister, in that briefing after the National Security Council Meeting, pointed fingers once again at the BTV's activities in the Sarstoon:

Rt. Hon. Dean Barrow, Prime Minister
"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 the other. I am not going to get into the details. Because I am not taking their sides. All I am telling you is that in my calculation there is cause and effect factor here that can't be ignored."

Reporter
"Are you casting blame on the visits of the Belize Territorial Volunteers..?"

Rt. Hon. Dean Barrow, Prime Minister
"Sir, I have said what I have said; in my view there is a direct causal link...nobody suggesting that before these incidents there were not... we referred to them little difficulties - maybe more than little difficulties. We spoke about they're 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 "your 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 up the Sarstoon."

But, we've received a report which suggested that these aggressive tactics started as early as 2006, long before the Territorial Volunteer existed. The leaked document only just came into our possession and we're in the process of reviewing it. A ranking BDF soldier writes to the CEO in the Ministry of National Security, saying, quote, "Records show that the aggressive behavior of the Guatemalan Navy/Military started in 2006."

It's an extensive document, and we'll have more on it for you tomorrow.

Mexico Concerned About the BDF/GAF

But turning now to the regional perspective, the very scary showdown in the Sarstoon has been reported to the friendly neighboring countries. The Central American Neighbors have a vested interest in the continued non-violent relations between Belize and Guatemala, and today, we had an opportunity to ask the Mexican Ambassador about his country's perspective on incidents like this.

Here's how that conversation went:

H.E. Carlos Quesnel Melendez, Mexican Ambassador to Belize
"We are certainly concerned and we have favored all the pacific talks between both countries. Mexico as a member of group of friends is trying to help to reach solutions at the Organization of American States and we are confident that both countries will find solutions together."

Reporter
"As a member of the group of friends, how much is that group maintained informed about what happens say in the Sarstoon when there are incidents - when there are flare-ups? Does Belize inform these group of friends about every incident?"

H.E. Carlos Quesnel Melendez, Mexican Ambassador to Belize
"Well, I cannot talk on behalf of the Organization of the American States. I can talk about Mexico and the government of Belize very kindly keeps us informed about the situations. We follow the situation and certainly we are very interested in getting a peaceful solution and we will keep supporting as a member of the group of friends this peace process."

We'll have more from that interview in tomorrow's newscast. You'll hear what the Mexican Ambassador had to say about the concern that the OAS Adjacency Zone Office in Benque might have to close down due to lack of funding.

Channel 7


Guatemalans say putting their troops on Belizean soil is justified until they hear otherwise from the ICJ.

Noticias de Interés

El Ministerio de Relaciones Exteriores con relación al comunicado de Prensa emitido por la Oficina de Prensa del Gobierno de Belice con de fecha 13 de marzo de 2016, en el que se hace mención a un incidente ocurrido en la tarde del día sábado 12 de marzo en la desembocadura del río Sarstún, hace saber:

  • El día viernes 11 de marzo, una embarcación de las Fuerzas de Defensa de Belice, sin seguir el protocolo de seguridad que habitualmente se utiliza en el río Sarstún (statu quo), ingresó en aguas interiores de Guatemala en el río mencionado y navegó por la ribera sur del mismo.
  • El día sábado 12 de marzo se estableció contacto radial con la embarcación de las Fuerzas de Defensa de Belice, para indicar a los tripulantes que debían seguir los protocolos de seguridad habitualmente utilizados en el río Sarstún (statu quo), y se les informó que en su travesía, habían cortado un trasmallo propiedad de un ciudadano guatemalteco residente de la localidad, comunicación que fue respondida con insultos por parte de los tripulantes de la nave beliceña.
  • En ningún momento hubo provocación alguna por parte de las autoridades guatemaltecas hacia los tripulantes de la embarcación beliceña, y lo que se solicitó fue seguir los protocolos de seguridad habitualmente utilizados en el río Sarstún (statu quo).

Por tal motivo, este Ministerio considera que es falso que se afirme que los oficiales guatemaltecos se comportaron en una manera “extremadamente hostil y amenazadora” cuando lo único que se buscó fue solicitar a los tripulantes de la nave beliceña que siguieran los protocolos de seguridad habitualmente utilizados en el río Sarstún (statu quo).

El Ministerio de Relaciones Exteriores reafirma una vez más, que el Río Sarstún es de Guatemala, por lo que hasta que el diferendo territorial, insular y marítimo existente entre ambos países no sea resuelto en definitiva por la Corte Internacional de Justicia, el Gobierno de la República continuará ejerciendo y defendiendo su soberanía como lo ha hecho hasta ahora.

Source



Examining Recent Aggression in Sarstoon Region


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#512425 - 03/16/16 10:41 AM Re: Incident Between Belizean, Guatemalan Forces at Sarstoo [Re: Marty]
Marty Offline

Guatemala claims Sarstoon!!

Guatemala’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs issued a statement today in which it made the bold-faced assertion that it “…reaffirms once again that the Sarstún River is Guatemalan…” The statement was in answer to the Government of Belize’s Sunday press release in which it confirmed yet another incident between Belize and Guatemalan armed forces.

The official Guatemala release added that if the differendum between the two countries is not resolved definitively by the International Court of Justice, Guatemala would continue to “exercise and defend their sovereignty [at the Sarstoon], as it is now doing.”

On Sunday, the Government of Belize said, via a press release on Facebook, that “a confrontation between Belize Security Forces [the Belize Defence Force] and Guatemalan Armed Forces [GAF] occurred late Saturday evening at the Sarstoon in the area of Belize’s Forward Operating Base [FOB].”

It added that, “The GAF approached the FOB, though they never actually attempted to come on to our land, and behaved in an extremely hostile and threatening manner, insisting that our troops should not be at the Sarstoon.

“The Belize Forces stood their ground and after some time the GAF withdrew. In the intervening period the BDF Commander General Jones had spoken to an opposite number in Guatemala and Prime Minister Dean Barrow had sent a message to President Jimmy Morales.”

The Guatemalan Foreign Ministry suggests that the Belize account is a lie; it suggests that it was the BDF that was in the wrong.

The Guatemalan Ministry of Foreign Affairs claims that on Friday , March 11, a BDF vessel, “without following the security protocol commonly used in the Sarstoon River… entered inland waters of Guatemala, in the river mentioned and sailed the south of the same bank.”

It added that on Saturday, March 12, it radioed the BDF vessel in the area to insist that the crew follow “safety protocols commonly used in the Sarstoon River…” The Guatemalan ministry said that the BDF crew insulted the GAF when they spoke of the destruction of a fish net (trammel) belonging to a Guatemalan in the area.

The Guatemalan Ministry of Foreign Affairs statement claims that they did not provoke the BDF, as Belize has said in its statement. It said that they merely insisted that the BDF adheres to “safety protocols,” commonly used in the Sarstoon River.

It disputes assertions by the Government of Belize that GAF were “extremely hostile and threatening” towards the BDF.

Reports of GAF aggression against BDF soldiers are nothing new—but in its statement Sunday, the Government of Belize said that tensions are at an all-time high. Incidents reportedly abated after 2006, but were said to intensify thereafter.

In 2009, it had been reported that the Guatemalan flag, which appears on the GAF patrol vessel in the photo published today by the Guatemala Ministry of Foreign Affairs, was flown on the Belize side of the river.

Last year, reports surfaced that BDF soldiers who make routine change-overs of detachments at Cadenas, usually on Tuesdays, were being persistently impeded by GAF soldiers.

Of note is that although Guatemala continues to persist on the ICJ route of resolution, it has not yet disclosed how much of Belizean territory it would ask the International Court of Justice to decide upon. Furthermore, the electorates of Belize and Guatemala would, under the terms of the special agreement signed in 2008, have the final say on whether the ICJ route of resolution is to be pursued in the first place. The simultaneous vote was initially slated for October 6, 2013; but was postponed after Guatemala pulled back.

When Guatemala’s presidential elections were held last year, they had gotten Belize to sign amendments to the special agreement to allow that country to hold its referendum, separately from Belize, at the time of their elections. However, that never happened.

Now Guatemala’s Foreign Ministry is saying that it will occupy the Sarstoon—as long as there is no definitive resolution by the ICJ.

Guatemala’s long-held mantra is “Belice es nuestro”—an assertion which Belize flatly rejects on the basis of the 1859 Boundary Treaty. That country’s unfounded claim is said to at least include the Cayo, Stann Creek and Toledo Districts, all the way up to the Sibun River in Central Belize—although the Guatemalan Foreign Affairs statement issued this morning limited its assertion to the Sarstoon. In fact, official communications from Guatemala have said that that country reserves the right to claim ALL of Belizean territory.

The territorial differendum predates Belize’s independence of 1981. It is noteworthy that even before Belize obtained its independence from the UK, the United Nations passed a series of resolutions that call for this country’s independence with its peace and security and “with all [Belize’s] territory intact.” That territory is defined on international maps by a line running midway down the main channel of the Sarstoon, which takes the line south of the Sarstoon Island.

On Thursday, May 28, 2015, GAF soldiers attempted to eject Belize Coast Guard officers off the Sarstoon Island while the Belize security officers had gone to scout the area for a good location to build a Forward Operating Base. The Belize contingent was able to produce a map to support its position that the island is well within this country’s territory and stood its ground until called back by National Security chair, Prime Minister Dean Barrow. The Government of Belize has since proceeded to build the FOB on the northern bank of the Sarstoon River.

As we have reported, in October 2007, GAF personnel attempted to stop a group from the Sarstoon Temash Institute of Indigenous Management (SATIIM) from making their way to Graham Creek, even while the group was inside Belizean waters making their way to the location well inside Belize.

In March 2010, GAF members stopped a BDF unit which was on the southern channel, but inside Belizean territory, and ordered the Belizeans to use the northern channel, north of the Sarstoon Island.

The multiple protest notes sent challenging GAF’s actions have not curbed the harassment by GAF soldiers. In fact, on Saturday, February 27, five GAF vessels with armed soldiers and Immigration authorities blocked the Belize Territorial Volunteers from freely using the Belize portion of the river to visit the Gracias a Dios marker in southwest Belize. It was reported last week that the Government of Belize had since sent off a protest note to Guatemala. The apparent response to that note was this weekend’s Sarstoon incident.

Belize will respond with another “strongly worded protest note.”

Meanwhile, on the diplomatic front, the parties are due to meet at the headquarters of the Organization of American States (OAS) in Washington, DC, tomorrow, Tuesday, March 15.

OAS to discuss Belize- Guatemala Sarstoon military tension

Belize Foreign Affairs Minister, Wilfred “Sedi” Elrington, is leading a delegation to the Organization of American States (OAS), in Washington, DC, USA, where the parties hope to meet tomorrow, Tuesday, at 11:00 a.m. (9:00 Belize time) to discuss proposals for a new set of confidence-building measures for the Sarstoon River, Belize’s southern natural boundary with Guatemala, where tensions flared between security forces from both sides of the border this weekend.

A key figure at tomorrow’s meeting will be H.E. Assad Shoman, who will join the Belize delegation as the representative of the Opposition People’s United Party. As senior ambassador with ministerial rank, Shoman signed the 2000 “confidence building measures,” which established the “adjacency zone” along Belize’s western border with Guatemala. He also signed the 2003 agreement. As Belize’s Foreign Minister in 2005, he signed the 2005 confidence building measures, also setting up protocols for relations along the western border.

The confidence building measures had not been extended to the Sarstoon, but at the recent law conference of the Bar Association of Belize, Shoman proposed that similar measures should be set up for the Sarstoon.

Also joining the Belize delegation in Washington will be H.E. Patrick Andrews, Belize’s permanent representative to the OAS and to the US; H.E. Alexis Rosado, Belize’s resident ambassador in Guatemala City, and Minister Counsellor Ardelle Sabido, Deputy Chief of Mission at the Belize Embassy in Washington.

Guatemala’s delegation will be led by their Foreign Minister, Carlos Raúl Morales. His delegation will also be joined by a former foreign minister in that country – Ambassador Maritza Ruiz de Vielman, and Guatemala’s Ambassador to Belize — Manuel Roldan Barillas.

Tomorrow’s meeting was originally called to discuss the financing of the OAS office in the adjacency zone, which is reportedly running out. We understand from an official source that there are four items now on the agenda: the first is Belize’s proposals for the roles and functions and financing of the OAS office on the western border which separates Belize and Guatemala.

Second on the list is the proposal for a set of confidence-building measures for “the Sarstoon and its vicinity,” and third is discussions to advance progress towards the referenda in Belize and Guatemala on the question of whether the territorial differendum should go to the International Court of Justice (ICJ) or not. Fourth on the agenda is any other matter of interest between the parties.

At 3:00 in the afternoon, the delegations are scheduled to meet with the Group of Friends, which includes countries which have been supporting the “peace process” between Belize and Guatemala. OAS observers are also scheduled to attend that meeting.

In its press release issued Tuesday, the Government of Belize reported that Guatemalan military “behaved in an extremely hostile and threatening manner” towards Belize Defence Force soldiers. The Government announced that talks are to take place in Washington on Tuesday between the two sides under the auspices of the OAS, and in the meantime Belize has informed key members of the international community, including the US and the UK, of the extremely critical situation.

We understand that the Government of Guatemala issued a protest note to Belize this afternoon, but were told that the contents, “out of courtesy,” could not be disclosed, under annex c of the confidence building measures—which incidentally do NOT cover the Sarstoon, at least not yet; that annex calls for governments to “moderate the language and tone of their written communications and public pronouncements of their officials.”

The annex also states that whenever a country receives the report of an alleged “incident” caused by the other country, every attempt must be made to verify the facts before the issue is made public.

BDF “stands firm” against Guatemalan aggression

The Government of Belize, through a press release issued yesterday, Sunday, has confirmed that there was a confrontation in the Sarstoon River between the Guatemalan Armed Forces (GAF) and the Belize Defence Force on Saturday in the area where Belize is presently constructing a Forward Operating Base (FOB) to combat illicit border activities.

As a result of Saturday’s standoff between the two countries’ military forces, tension in the Sarstoon River is now at an all-time high, because recently, Guatemala has been insisting that the entire Sarstoon River belongs to them, notwithstanding the 1859 Treaty between Britain and Guatemala, which recognized Belize’s sovereignty of the Sarstoon River up to the mid-channel, which includes Sarstoon Island.

Guatemala has now been using her military might to enforce her insistence that the Sarstoon River and Sarstoon Island belong to them.

A government release yesterday said, “The Government of Belize confirms that a confrontation between Belize Security Forces and Guatemalan Armed Forces occurred late Saturday evening at the Sarstoon in the area of Belize’s Forward Operating Base. The GAF approached the FOB, though they never actually attempted to come on to our land, and behaved in an extremely hostile and threatening manner, insisting that our troops should not be at the Sarstoon.

“The Belize Forces stood their ground and after some time, the GAF withdrew. In the intervening period, the BDF Commander General Jones had spoken to an opposite number in Guatemala and Prime Minister Dean Barrow had sent a message to President Jimmy Morales.”

The release continued, “Despite the ultimately peaceful end to the standoff, it is clear that tension with Guatemala over the Sarstoon and Belize’s insistence on its sovereignty rights in accordance with the 1859 Treaty demarcation of the river, is at an all-time high.”

This afternoon, Prime Minister of Belize, Rt. Hon. Dean Barrow, convened a meeting of the Belize National Security Council to discuss ways of de-escalating the tension and to work toward a diplomatic resolution of the Sarstoon River issue that has exposed his government’s weak responses in asserting Belize’s sovereignty over our side of the Sarstoon River in view of Guatemala’s new hardline assertion that the entire river belongs to them.

PM Barrow began his briefing to the Belizean media by making reference to government’s Sunday press release: “The facts are as was stated in that press release,” he said.

“We told you in that press release that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs would be issuing a strongly worded note of protest and dispatching that, and that has been done. The Guatemalans have responded to that note of protest and dispute our version of the facts,” Barrow said.

The PM then noted what he termed “a couple of significant things” about Guatemala’s response to Belize’s diplomatic protest note.

“They denied that they behaved in an extremely hostile and threatening manner. They said they confronted a Belizean vessel, which, the way it is framed is not factual, and they complained about the failure on our side to follow the security protocol usually followed in the Sarstoon River, and in brackets they described that as the status quo. They say at no time was there any provocation by the Guatemalan authorities towards the crew of the Belizean vessel,” Barrow detailed.

Barrow said that the Guatemalans are very clear about what they wanted to say and they insist that they are sovereign over the entirety of the Sarstoon.

Barrow added that there has been no traditional request to Guatemala on the part of the Belizean security forces to go up the Sarstoon River.

Barrow went on to mention that in some quarters, it is being claimed that what this incident has done is expose the fact that the government was not being entirely truthful with the Belizean people, that before now, when Belize’s military went up the river, they asked permission first. Barrow said that has never been the case and not even the Guatemalans are suggesting that was ever the case.

“We are at a juncture where the National Security Council has concluded its meeting, given the potential for a repeat of what happened on Saturday, given the potential for escalation of tensions, given the potential for the possibility of an outbreak of hostilities resulting in an exchange of gunfire and the possibility of casualties. It’s important to make the point that the incident that did occur was diffused. We now know for sure in consequence of our General Jones having gotten in touch with his opposite number in Guatemala, who, I now learn, is the highest ranking military person in Guatemala, the head of the armed forces,” said Barrow.

Barrow said that he tried to get a message to Guatemalan President Jimmy Morales, but noted, “I did not speak to him directly. The message was conveyed through certain channels.” Barrow credited BDF General David Jones with diffusing the standoff on Saturday after he (Jones) spoke to Guatemalan General Perez, whom he met in San Antonio, Texas, on Thursday at a regional security conference.

Barrow also said that General Jones and General Perez have come to an understanding that there is a need for some kind of modus vivendi to be worked out between the two militaries in respect to the Sarstoon.

“Our note of protest makes clear that we maintain our position with respect to our sovereignty over our portion of the Sarstoon as demarcated by the 1859 Treaty. Their response also makes clear that they maintain their position, which is to claim sovereignty over the entirety of the Sarstoon. In the same way as there are protocols to deal with other sensitive border areas, and the modalities for handling potential flashpoints, it is our view that there must be similar protocols to govern the Sarstoon; otherwise, inevitably there is going to be a problem. They are not going to relinquish their position and we sure as hell are not going to relinquish ours,” said Barrow.

Barrow went on to state, “We have said to Belizeans that it is a matter for the government and for the military to maintain our assertion of sovereignty and the stepping up, the ratcheting up of their position is directly related to all that have taken place with respect to the Sarstoon and the visits and expeditions, well-meaning on the part of civilians, designed to assist the military, which needs no assistance. We recognized that while our people took a stand on Saturday, and have to continue taking a stand, there must be a resort to diplomacy in order to settle this issue.

“We can’t settle it in consequence of any outbreak of war. That is unthinkable and we don’t want to go there. Of course, this meeting was also about tasking both our military and our diplomats to reduce to writing the way forward for Belize in the event of whatever contingencies.

“But we repeat, every effort will be made, is being made, to try to come up with a diplomatic resolution to the tension in the Sarstoon, but such resolution can only come by way of an agreement over how we will proceed.”

Barrow then noted, “You know that tomorrow morning there is a meeting in Washington. The last formal position that we knew of with respect to the Guatemalan delegation was that they are not going there to talk about the Sarstoon. They are going there to talk about funding for the adjacency zone and other matters. It is our position that we must talk about the Sarstoon. Things having gone as far as they have on Saturday will oblige a realization on the part of the Guatemalan delegation that indeed the Sarstoon must be discussed.

“If that happens, any protocol can be agreed during the Washington meeting. All we want is a commitment for there to be a specific discussion going forward about the Sarstoon and only the Sarstoon so that we can come to some sort of resolution.

“If tomorrow the Guatemalan delegation still insists that they will not talk about the Sarstoon, then I will seek to get in touch with their president formally and directly. That will be the next step. I will say to him, that absolutely, if we both, as members of the international community subscribe to peace, there must be a conversation about the Sarstoon.”

Barrow said that Colonel George Lovell spoke to the British about the situation and he (Barrow) had spoken to the American Ambassador on Saturday, before the incident happened, “and impressed upon him how critical it is to get this matter settled.”

“The Ministry of Foreign Affairs is going to lay out a plan for diplomatic campaign, demarches, so that again the international community can know at all times precisely what the position is and can be aware of Belize’s case,” he said.

Minister of National Security John Saldivar said, “We intend to maintain the status quo in the Sarstoon with respect to the BDF accessing its various facilities through that river.”

Chief Executive Officer in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs Lawrence Sylvester said that Belize is keeping the international community, and particularly the regional grouping to which we belong, appraised of the situation.

General Jones was asked to go over what happened on the Sarstoon on Saturday. He said that a Guatemalan vessel went over to the Forward Operating Base and spoke to the troops over a loud hailer and informed them that a vessel had gone up the Sarstoon and gone all the way to Cadenas and did not report to them. They were expressing their dissatisfaction that they did not know. “Our troops have never gone in there and asked permission. The vessel that was there speaking to our troops did not want to leave the area and they were giving the impression that they were going to remain there. The troops took it as some kind of intimidation, and they started making phone calls, that eventually reached my ears,” said Jones.

General Jones said the calls eventually reached the Minister of National Security and the Prime Minister and he (Jones) subsequently spoke to his Guatemalan counterpart and expressed concern about the situation at the Sarstoon.

General Jones further said that he and his Guatemalan counterpart agreed that there should be peace in the Sarstoon. “He is committed to that and I am committed to that. So we are going to work through a road map to make sure that happens,” Jones stated.

“There isn’t going to be anymore interceptions and we are going to work toward peace in the area,” General Jones said his Guatemalan counterpart told him.

“Immediately after I called him, about five or ten minutes after, the vessel that was in front of the FOB had disappeared. It was a sign of good faith. So I am going to bet on the relationship that we just established,” General Jones said.

The BDF General said that the Guatemalans’ boat had about eight soldiers on board.

There have been a number of incidents on the Sarstoon River involving elements of the Guatemalan Armed Forces and the Belize Territorial Volunteers (BTV). The most recent incident occurred last month when Guatemalan Navy boats blocked members of the BTV from traversing the river on their way to Gracias Adios to clear the border marker there.

Furthermore, Prime Minister Barrow, along with members of his National Security Council, has repeatedly warned the BTV not to carry out any more expeditions to Sarstoon Island, because their presence is antagonizing to the Guatemalans and is putting the lives of BDF soldiers at risk.

Saturday’s incident, however, did not involve the BTV nor Belizean civilians; rather, it involved the BDF at their Forward Operating Base, the same general area where the Guatemalan Navy boats blockaded the BTV boats last month.

Prime Minister Barrow, in response to a question from the media, said, “This is the first time the Guatemalans have said that we are going to stop the BDF from traversing that river. I also know that in conversation with our diplomats their people have said that on the occasions of those incidents [the BTV excursions] they are insulted. There is a cause and effect factor here that can’t be ignored. That has happened as a consequence of what has been taking place at the Sarstoon.”

Amandala


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#512426 - 03/16/16 10:55 AM Re: Incident Between Belizean, Guatemalan Forces at Sarstoo [Re: Marty]
Marty Offline

Guatemala Vigorously Rejected Belize’s Protest Note

Since the weekend, the local news has been dominated by the report from the Government that the Guatemalan Armed Forces aggressed the BDF soldiers stationed at the Sarstoon Forward Operating Base currently in construction. Belize Ministry of Foreign Affairs has since a diplomatic note of protest, and Guatemala is vigorously denying that their military did anything wrong.

We've come across this website in which a statement was released yesterday by the Guatemalan Foreign Ministry. It's in Spanish, but we've translated it verbatim, and for proper context, we've not paraphrased it in any way.

Translated, the statement says, on Friday March 11, a boat belonging to the Belize Defense Force, without following the security protocol that is customarily used (status quo) on the Sarstoon River, entered the internal waters of Guatemala in the Sartsoon River and sailed to shores of the river.

On Saturday March 12th, radio contact was made with the BDF boat to indicate to the crew that they should follow the security protocol customarily used (status quo) on the Sarstoon River and informed them that in crossing the river, they had cut a drag-net belonging to the a Guatemalan resident in the area, a communication that was met with insults by the Belizean crew.

At no time was there any provocation by the Guatemalan authorities towards the crew of the Belizean boat, and what was asked of them was that they follow the security protocol customarily used (status quo) on the Sarstoon River.

For this reason, this Ministry considers that it is false to state that the Guatemalan officials behaved in an "extremely hostile and threatening" manner when the only thing that they sought was to ask the crew of the Belizean boat to follow the usual security protocols established for the Sarstoon River (status quo).

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs reaffirms once more that the Sarstoon River belongs to Guatemala, so that as long as the territorial, insular and maritime differendum existing between both countries is not resolved definitively by the ICJ, the Government of the Republic will continue to exercise and defend its sovereignty as it has done to this point.

BDF’s Record Of Aggression By The GAF

And that assertion of territorial sovereignty over the Sarstoon seems to fit right in with the history of aggression that the BDF reports it has been under from the Guatemalan Military/Navy.

Yesterday, we received this leaked communication of a threat assessment by the BDF of the Sarstoon River. Penned on October 22, 2015, the document is a report from Major Beltran, on behalf of his BDF Commander, and it is addressed to George Lovell, the CEO in the Ministry of National Security.

This letter says, quote, "Records show that the aggressive behavior of the Guatemalan Navy/Military started in 2006. The aggression to the BDF personnel are done whilst the BDF are conducting changeover at Cadenas, and have to go through the Sarstoon River." End quote.

The BDF notes that the encounters are usually heightened during the years that Guatemala has its general elections.

This document, labelled as confidential, then outlines the first encounters of this nature, which according to the BDF records first happened on December 18, 2006. Before that, there had been other encounters in 2003, 2004, and 2005, but this December 2006 encounter was the start of the stand-off type confrontations. On that date, the BDF Boat Squadron Unit were intercepted by a vessel containing 4 Guatemalan Armed Forces soldiers, who were all armed with Galil rifles. Both sides got into a dispute and the GAF soldiers asserted that that the Belizean vessel had crossed into Guatemalan territory. They also demanded that if the BDF wanted to traffic the area in front of Guatemala's Sarstoon Village, they needed to submit their names for a check in. The BDF soldiers stood their ground, and refused to accede to that demand. The Belizean soldiers were eventually allowed to continue on with business.

According to this assessment, in 2007, the Guatemalan Army increased the number vessels in the area, from 1 to 4.

Then, on May 29, 2007, the BDF were on a regular changeover mission the Cadenas Observation Point when they encountered 4 vessels, one of which had a 50 caliber machine gun mounted on it, and all 4 vessels carried armed Guatemalan soldiers. Now, as all Belizeans know, by way of the 1859 Boundary Treaty, Belize's territory ends at the southern channel in the Sarstoon River, south of the Sarstoon Island. But, these vessels were situated in the South Channel, and when the Belizean vessel passed by to and from the Cadenas Observation Post, the Guatemalan soldiers signalled them to use the north channel.

The then BDF Commander, Brigadier General Lloyd Gillett, realized the potential for an armed standoff to take place, and he met with his Guatemalan Counterpart, Brigadier General Mario Aguilar Bran, and they crafted a "Gentleman's Agreement" to diffuse the rising tensions between military personnel from both sides in the Sarstoon River.

This agreement, which took effect in June 11, 2007, stipulated that both approaches would be used by the BDF, and that the Guat Armed Forces would conduct a joint patrol with BDF soldiers as a confidence building measure for the people living in the area. Both sides agreed additionally that they would share intelligence of any illegal activities spotted in the Sarstoon area. Most importantly, it was agreed that there would be no more "blocking of the Sarstoon or belligerent actions"

But, the report is copiously researched, and it documents almost every single encounter between the Guatemalan Armed Forces and BDF. We'll have more for you on this report tomorrow, when we'll examine how that Gentleman's Agreement didn't last for too long.

Sarstoon FOB Construction Will Still Continue

Today we spoke to the Minister of National Security, who most certainly has seen this report if it is authentic. He commands the hundreds of men and women at the frontlines, which appear under pressure - if only unofficially - by Guatemala. And although that is nothing new, even the Prime Minister conceded yesterday that he has never in his life time seen tensions ratchet up quite like this before. So how is the Minister of National Security handling? We asked him that today.

Hon. John Saldivar, Minister of National Security
"As we've always said it is the role of the Ministry of National Security and its constitution such as the BDF and the Coast Guard to safeguard the territorial integrity and the sovereignty of our country. It is a job that we take very seriously and we wish that civilians would leave us to do our job, which we've been doing over the years. The heightened security concerns in the area really do worry us, but we are at this point exploring the diplomatic avenues to try to get it resolved. We are hopeful. There was a meeting earlier this morning in Washington which we believe we will get some good results out of that and we are hopeful that we can always solve our problems in a diplomatic way. A military solution is not good for any of us."

So while the Government continues its peace keeping diplomacy, the other matter is the construction of the Forward Operating Base at the mouth of the Sarstoon. So what's the latest on that? And and is the small wooden structure defensible should there be an escalated incident? Here's how John Saldivar answered those questions:

Hon. John Saldivar, Minister of National Security
"I am not too sure that I will buy in to the argument that concrete is always better than wood. But I left that to the experts. I left that to the BDF and the Coast Guard to determine what was the best option at this time given the monies that we had to allocate to it and I am satisfied that they have come up with a proper design. Most of our other facilities in the jungle are similarly designed and they have been working well. So I see no reason to worry about whether it was concrete or wood. I trust the experts at BDF and Coast Guard that this will serve our purpose."

Emanuel Pech
"Originally it was projected that it would be completed by April. Do you anticipate any setbacks given the heightened level of activity at that location?"

Hon. John Saldivar, Minister of National Security
"No I don't. I've been assured by my general that it will be ready by the middle of April."

If you can recall, proposal was to construct a base on the north of the Sarstoon island. But while on reconnaissance duty in the area our Belizean military were confronted for the first time by Guatemalan armed forces. Critics still believe that it is this incident that caused authorities to reconsider, and so the site for the military base was pushed back to the mouth of the river.

Channel 7


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#512451 - 03/17/16 11:06 AM Re: Incident Between Belizean, Guatemalan Forces at Sarstoo [Re: Marty]
Marty Offline

BDF Remains on High Alert In Sarstoon

Now back to Belize- Guatemala military relations after Saturday’s frightening flare-up. With the heightened level of tension at the Sarstoon, how are military operations, like the changeover at Cadenas, being managed? Well according to Brigadier General Jones, nothing will change, although they remain on high alert:

Brig. Gen. David Jones - Commander, BDF

"On the ground we have the soldiers giving conflicting orders that can lead to conflict and that’s the concern that I discussed with the Guatemalan General that we've both been given opposing directives and because of the opposing directives there could be conflict in the area. But as military professionals we want to avoid that. We discussed that there needs to be a definitive solution or a protocol at least until both countries decide what they want to achieve but in the interim and a matter of urgency we need to have a protocol in the Sarstoon between Belize and Guatemala because absence of that there, there could be some serious incident at the Sarstoon area."

Emanuel Pech

"One of the things that has been confusing is that Guatemala says that there is a protocol (status quo). What is that they were referring to?"

Brig. Gen. David Jones - Commander, BDF

"Well I can't comment on what they believe is a status quo because for us the status quo is that we continue to operate in there unimpeded, uninterrupted and achieving our tasks in the area. I am aware that they're probably alluding to information that we are supposed to go in there and inform them before we go down or check with them before we; and that’s not our modus operandi. We operate in the area without having to inform them that we are going in and that’s the way we'll continue to operate."

Now as we told you a meeting of the OAS between Belize, Guatemala and other stake holders took place in Washington yesterday morning. But if there is no diplomatic solution, what is plan B for the military? General Jones gave us an idea of what that might look like.

Brig. Gen. David Jones - Commander, BDF

"The meeting with the foreign ministers from both countries isn't as successful as we would like it. We are going to propose that we meet again at the political level, military and the tactical level all meet in the same room so that when we come to a resolution, everyone is singing from the same sound sheet, where everyone understands what is expected in the Sarstoon. Meet military to military or military to civilian or whoever traverses the area so that everybody who goes in the area knows exactly what is expected of them and how the military forces will operate while they are there operating in the Sarstoon."

"I'm expected to meet the general again in Costa Rica at a bigger forum where I’ll be able to discuss with him the progress since we met. The meeting I had in San Antonio was a huge success because I was able to express Belize's position having a regional platform. All the senior generals from Central America were there so I was given the opportunity to outline the concern that we have with the border with Guatemala, the progress that we're having and where we would like to see ourselves and Guatemala working together because we have the same challenges, the same threats and it is the regions' interest for Belize and Guatemala to work peacefully."

"We both want the same thing, we understand it is a political problem that can cause issues on the ground but our troops are able to go there with the right temperament and if they're approached they will just be taking notes, taking information as to what they are told; relay to us so that we can find a solution to the issue. But the Guatemalan general is resolute that he wants peace in the area and he has given his word that he is going to ensure that the direction is pass his troops so as to deescalate any tensions that is there until our political leaders meet. But we both agree that it needs to happen now."

Later on we’ll have more from General Jones as he talks about the role, or non-role of politics in this dispute.

UDP and PUP Will Issue Joint Statement on Guatemala

Foreign Minister Wilfred Elrington returned home today after emergency meetings yesterday in Washington with his Guatemalan counterparts. They met under the auspices of the OAS, to discuss the tense confrontation between the Guatemalan Armed Forces and the Belize Defence Force Soldiers who are stationed at the Sarstoon Forward Operating Base.

So, how did the meeting go? And, what was the outcome? That’s what we wanted to ask Foreign Minister Elrington when he landed at the PGIA today. But, he flatly refused, saying that both he and the Representative for the PUP, Assad Shoman, would give a joint statement tomorrow.

The BDF reports that late on Saturday evening, 8 Guatemalan soldiers approached the BDF soldiers at their base on the Belize side of the Sarstoon. A government release says they “behaved in an extremely hostile and threatening manner”, insisting that Belize’s military shouldn’t be at the Sarstoon. With the rapid intervention of the General and the Prime Minister, the confrontation ended without incident.

As you heard last night, the Guatemalan Government has responded to Belize’s protest note by completely denying that there was any confrontation. They say that the BDF didn’t check in last Friday at the Guatemalan military base, right across the river from the BDF Forward Operating Base. The Guatemalans say that this is standard procedure, and moreover, the BDF supposedly cut a Guatemalan fisherman’s drag net with their vessel’s engine. They say that they did not aggress the BDF soldiers, and that they were only protecting their sovereignty over the Sarstoon River, as they always have done.

That’s the problem, because Belize’s borders ends at the southern channel in the Sarstoon River, which is south of the Sarstoon Island, and so the river remains a flashpoint for the Belize Guatemala Territorial Dispute.

That’s what both sides took into their meetings in Washington yesterday – with the OAS attempting to defuse a very volatile situation. Reports say that as an act of goodwill in the confidence-building framework, Belize has offered to adjust its referendum law. As the law currently stands, a 60% vote is needed to make a referendum valid; Belize – reports suggest - would be willing to revisit it’s law to make it a simple majority. This could make it easier for a PRO ICJ vote to pass.

COLA, doesn’t like the sound of that one bit – and today issued a release saying, quote, “This only indicates Belize’s willingness to appease Guatemala…The time for fruitless talks mediated by the OAS has passed…Belize should place an embargo on Guatemalan imports (and) internationalize the matter.

BDF Intel Report Reveals History of Aggression On Sarstoon

Yesterday, we showed you the first half our extensive look into a internal report from the Belize Defence Force. It’s a threat assessment put together in October 2015, to compile hostile encounters which happened as far back as 2006.

Where we left off last night is at 2007, when the then commander of the BDF, realizing the dangers of leaving the Sarstoon encounters unaddressed, engaged his Guatemalan counterpart. They signed a Gentleman’s Agreement on how the militaries of the 2 countries would conduct themselves in the Sarstoon.

This agreement took effect in June 11, 2007, and stipulated that both approaches of the River, the Northern and Southern Channels, would be used by the BDF. The Guat Armed Forces would also conduct a joint patrol with BDF soldiers as a confidence building measure for the people living in the area. Both sides agreed additionally that they would share intelligence of any illegal activities spotted in the Sarstoon area. But most importantly, it was agreed that there would be no more "blocking of the Sarstoon or belligerent actions"

That gentleman’s agreement kept the encounters between the BDF and the GAF cordial for all of 2008. Then in November 2009, the tensions began to rise again when the BDF spotted a Guat military vessel anchored at the mouth of the Sarstoon, appearing to be in Belizean territorial waters. There were 2 other Guatemalan boats a little further up the river patrolling on the Belize side. When the BDF soldiers pulled their vessel beside all the boats and inquired why the Guatemalans were on Belize’s side of the river, the Guatemalan soldiers told them that they were acting on the orders of their superiors. A Guatemalan flag was seen erected on the island, and BDF took it down, and respectfully gave it to the Guatemalan soldiers. The officers reportedly told them that this flag would simply be placed right back on Sarstoon Island.

One month later, a Guatemalan patrol boat attempted to stop a BDF vessel from using the southern channel of the river. The Guatemalan vessel eventually allowed them to pass, but followed them, a short distance up the river. On the return journey, the BDF used the northern channel to avoid another confrontation that day.

In February of 2010, the Guatemalan soldiers started to make it a point of trying to stop the BDF from using the southern channel. On April 13, 2010, the BDF encountered a Navy ship at the River mouth. 2 smaller Guatemalan vessels approached the BDF vessel and informed them that he, quote, “received orders from his general that no BDF is to enter through the south side channel of the (Sarstoon) Island.” End quote.

Things went relatively quiet after that until July of last year when the BDF changeover vessels from Cadenas were once again followed by the Guatemalan military. That incident is believed to have been triggered when the Coast Guard went surveying the Sarstoon area to build the forward operating base. That’s the encounter that the Coast Guard had to stand their ground, even though the Guatemalan military tried to coerce them into leaving. The BDF think that this encounter with the Coast Guard coupled with the activities of Wil Maheia and the Territorial Volunteers caused the situation to become tense again.

In August 2015, the BDF were on a changeover missing to Cadenas, and they were using the south channel of the river. A Guatemalan vessel aggressively intercepted them, which almost caused a collision. The Guatemalan soldiers then demanded that they use the northern channel because the southern side of Sarstoon Island had a number of fishing nets laid out. The BDF ignored their demands and continued with their mission, and the Guatemalan soldiers followed them almost all the way to the Cadenas Observation Post.

Viewers will remember this image from August 25 of last year. That’s when Wil Maheia and the territorial volunteers went back to the island after they had the first - now infamous - encounter with the Guatemalan military. They mounted the Belize flag on Sarstoon Island defiantly. Well the BDF threat assessment says that a few hours later, the Cadenas changeover vessel was stopped, and that flag was handed over to them. They were told that no party should put up any flags on Sarstoon because the island was still under discussion.

The threat assessment says that from the BDF’s observations, the aggressive tactics of the Guatemalan armed forces appear purposeful to force a conflict, almost tantalizingly.

Channel 7


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#512470 - 03/18/16 10:59 AM Re: Incident Between Belizean, Guatemalan Forces at Sarstoo [Re: Marty]
Marty Offline

Belize And Guatemala Back To Talking ICJ

How far will Belize go to preserve peace in the Sarstoon? That's what everyone wanted to know today when Foreign Minister Wilfred Elrington, flanked by opposition representative Assad Shoman briefed the press.

Shoman and Elrington met on Tuesday in Washington DC with a Guatemalan delegation led by Foreign Minister Carlos Raul Morales in a meeting mediated by OAS Secretary General Luis Almagro.

It was an emergency meeting to discuss the confrontation between the Guatemalan military and the BDF, which happened last weekend at Belize's Forward Operating Base on the Sarstoon River. Elrington opened today by saying that there were actually three meetings:

Hon. Wilfred Elrington, Minister of Foreign Affairs
"We had 3 meetings essentially in Washington; we had the meeting with the Secretary General of the Organization of American States and then we had a meeting with the group of friends, the people who help to finance the OAS office and then we had a meeting with the United States State Department. We like to think that the meetings went quite well. We appeared as national team. The team consisted of myself, Ambassador Shoman, Alexis Rosado, Pat Andrews, our ambassador in Washington and that comprised the team."

"With respect to the meeting with the Secretary General, the Belize delegation expressed our mandate which was firmly to request the extension of the confidence building measures from where it is now stuck at the western border all the way to cover the Sarstoon. That was the instructions we got from Belmopan to discuss at that meeting. The Guatemalans took the position that they did not have the mandate to discuss that issue. They has apprised of that before we arrive there. But we could not continence going there without in fact dealing with that matter. In fact that was the most pressing matter for us. So notwithstanding their reticence, we impressed upon the Secretary General the importance and urgency of the continuation of the confidence building measures to ensure the secure and safety of our people and most importantly to ensure that our defence force would be able to go in and out of the Sartsoon to service our military installation there without any hindrance, That was our very firmed position."

"The other vital important issue was the funding to keep the OAS office open at the adjacency zone. The secretary general explained that the OAS was having serious financial problems, because some of the major donors were not in fact paying their contributions on a timely manner if at all. That office cost some 2.5 million US dollars annually to be kept open. So it's about 5 million dollars our friends spend just to keep the office open."

"We went on to meet the group of friends. The group of friends are the other countries in the world who have historically and traditionally helped us to finance the office at the adjacency zone. They said that in essence that their citizens cannot continue to pay - their tax payers cannot continue to pay money to keep the adjacency office open, if in fact we are not making any progress to getting this matter solved. They want to see tangible progress. We were happy to indicate to them that we certainly here in Belize will be taking initiatives which hopefully will result in very tangible progress being evidence in a relatively short time."

Elrington went on to say that the third meeting that they had was with the US State Department, whose representative were reportedly happy to be able to assist in any way they possible can.

What About The BDF Report?

But, for the past two days, we've been showing you an internal threat assessment report from the BDF, which was done in October of last year to catalogue Guatemala's incremental aggression in the Sarstoon River.

The report details each aggressive encounter the BDF has had with the Guatemalan Military going back to 2003. In their expert opinion, the BDF concluded that these encounters are calculated almost to force an armed conflict between both sides. It's a very different narrative from the one the government has been pushing - where the armed encounters are explained as exceptional events - but the BDF narrative shows that it is almost a program of provocation. Today we asked Elrington about that disparity:

Daniel Ortiz
"The calculation of the BDF is that they've always been aggressive and that these aggressions seem to be to force an armed conflict between the Belize side and the Guatemalan side. In light of this, have both governments been downplaying the seriousness of that situation?"

Hon. Wilfred Elrington, Minister of Foreign Affairs
"I can honestly say to you that you have better strings with the BDF than I do. I've never seen that report."

Daniel Ortiz
"Sir, it was commissioned shortly after the first confrontation between the Belize Territorial Volunteers and the Guat forces down in Sarstoon. So, the logic would continue that the security apparatus of this country should have been able to see this report and to digest it to know what has happened from 2006 all the way up to 2015."

Hon. Wilfred Elrington, Minister of Foreign Affairs
"I am not saying anything against that. I am simply saying that I have not seen it."

Reporter
"Is there a dosconnect between your government and the BDF as it relates to information taking place on the Sarstoon that lead your government to blame the BTV as opposed to the simple escalation of Guatemala's interest in the Sarstoon?"

Hon. Wilfred Elrington, Minister of Foreign Affairs
"Ahm, I'm on record as saying that as far as I am aware, personally we never had these problems until territorial volunteers started going there."

Reporter
"The question is, is there a disconnect in information?"

Hon. Wilfred Elrington, Minister of Foreign Affairs
"If you have 10 incidents in 16 years by people who going up a river everyday - 10 incidents in 16 years and none of it fatal. That's remarkable. That's absolutely remarkable."

Mike Rudon, CH5
"If all the politicians are being mature and believe in peace and all the military believes in peace, where is the aggression coming from?"

Hon. Wilfred Elrington, Minister of Foreign Affairs
"Maybe from the media." (Smiling)

Mike Rudon, CH5
"It's a serious question..."

Hon. Wilfred Elrington, Minister of Foreign Affairs
"No, it's a serious answer. In 16 years I told you we had 10 incidents. Nobody dead. Between military people you know."

Elrington refused to validate reports that Belize was considering changing its referendum threshold to suit the OAS and the Guatemalans.

According to a Guatemalan Press report, the two ministers agreed quote, "the underlying issue will be resolved definitively by the International Court of Justice and reaffirmed their vocation to settle disputes peacefully, and avoiding confrontations."

Channel 7


Guatemala y Belice intercambian acusaciones por diferendo
The Guatemalan version... Las autoridades de Guatemala y Belice intercambiaron acusaciones por la incursión de una embarcación militar del país caribeño en un río en la frontera no demarcada entre ambos países, que mantienen un añejo litigio territorial. El Ministerio de Relaciones Exteriores de Guatemala aseguró que el pasado viernes una embarcación militar de Belice ingresó al territorio guatemalteco por el río Sarstún, sin seguir el protocolo establecido. Un día después, las autoridades guatemaltecas establecieron contacto radial con la embarcación beliceña para pedirle que siguiera los protocolos de seguridad y reclamarle que había cortado redes de pescar de un ciudadano guatemalteco. Según la nota oficial, la “comunicación fue respondida con insultos por parte de los tripulantes de la nave beliceña”. En un comunicado, el gobierno de Belice afirmó que se registró “un enfrentamiento” entre las fuerzas de seguridad de ambos países el sábado por la noche en territorio beliceño.


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#512493 - 03/19/16 11:31 AM Re: Incident Between Belizean, Guatemalan Forces at Sarstoo [Re: Marty]
Marty Offline

CARICOM Issues Release in Support of Belize on Sarstoon Fiasco

Belize’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs appears unsure about what happened in the Sarstoon on Saturday, and maintains that Guatemala is being mature, and its behavior impeccable. But interestingly, CARICOM does not share that opinion.

In a very strong release issued today from the Secretariat in Guyana, CARICOM expresses grave concern over the incident, and states, “The Guatemalan Armed Forces entered Belizean internal waters and acted in an intimidating manner towards the Belizean forces at their Forward Operating Base on Belize’s mainland at the mouth of the Sarstoon River.” CARICOM supports Belize’s position that the border is the mid-channel of the Sarstoon and added that it, “deeply regrets any actions of the GAF which violate the sovereignty of Belize and attempt to change the status quo prior to the submission of the Guatemalan claim to Belizean territory to the International Court of Justice in accordance with the Special Agreement ratified by both parties.”

In closing, CARICOM reiterates its strong and unequivocal support for the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Belize and calls on the government of Guatemala to agree to confidence building measures to ensure peace and stability along its southern border with Guatemala.


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#512502 - 03/19/16 06:48 PM Re: Incident Between Belizean, Guatemalan Forces at Sarstoo [Re: Marty]
Marty Offline

Diplomatic Doublespeak Versus A History of Provocation

So, while you have to make up your minds on who you choose to believe about tensions in the Sarstoon River, you also have to decide which narrative to accept on the true picture of Belize/Guatemala relations at the borders.

The current Government is pushing a message that the two countries are co-existing as friends which respect each other, but the BDF records from the soldiers stationed at the Cadenas Observation Post say otherwise.

So, is that a contradiction? That's what our Daniel Ortiz examined today. Here's his report:

Daniel Ortiz Reporting

Rowland Parks - Amandala Press
"Prior to the exursions or trips to the Sarstoon by the BTV, there was not knowledge that Guatemala had revised its claim and decided to claim the entire Sarstoon. When exactly was the Government of Belize appraised of this new development."

Hon. Wilfred "Sedi" Elrington - Minister of Foreign Affairs
"I like to say you know - and it saddens me, and some people criticize me for it. The claim on the Sarstoon was made on September 21, 1939. Nothing has changed. Nothing has changed! This is a claim that existed from the September 21, 1939, when the Guatemalans repudiated the 1859 Convention unilaterally. So, the premise of your question is baseless. The claim was made - and I hope I don't have to tell anybody this again."

So, this dispute is long standing, and no resolution is clearly sight.

But, the present day politicians have been on a relentless campaign to convince citizens in both nations, but certainly Belize, that the territorial dispute has been handled with next to no hostility on both sides. It's a relationship of peace and respect - according to them:

File (July 28, 2015)

Hon. Wilfred Elrington - Minister of Foreign Affairs, Belize
"The Guatemalan government, certainly those that I met have been very respectful of Belize and have been very insistent that they don't want any violence. They don't want any disharmony between us. They want us to live in peace and harmony."

H. E. Carlos Raul Morales - Guatemalan Foreign Minister
"The most important thing is to be friends, is to build the peace between both countries, is to avoid the fighting from one country to the other one, because this is not going to take us to nowhere. Minister Elrington mentioned in other regions they have critical problems and we do not have this problem in this area. Because we have a region of peace."

Hon. Wlifred Elrington
"We're a model for the region and maybe for the world."



But...contrary to all that peace talk, it's been revealed as sort of a dirty little secret that the very level-headed BDF soldiers have been turning the other cheek for a decade in the Sarstoon, in response to repeated aggressive engagement from the Guatemalan Military.

In order to prevent an exchange of fire between the two militaries, BDF soldiers at the Cadenas Observation Post have had to show extreme restraint when confronted with provocative tactics from the Guatemalan military, dating back to December 2006.

Back in August of last year, Belizean civilians finally got to experience just a taste of what that's been like for the first time


File: August 26, 2016

River of Fire
"Yow! Come back this way!"

Geovannie Brackett
"Come back, come back!

Passenger
"Come back!"

River of Fire
"They're hauling you!"

But, don't ask the Foreign Minister about that report. Though he makes it clear he is an authority on all things related to the Territorial Dispute, has not seen that very serious report where the BDF conclude that the Guatemalans seem to want to provoke an armed conflict.

Daniel Ortiz
"In light of this, have both governments been downplaying the seriousness of that situation?"

Hon. Wilfred Elrington, Minister of Foreign Affairs
"I can honestly say to you that you have better strings with the BDF than I do. I've never seen that report."

Daniel Ortiz
"Sir, it was commissioned shortly after the first confrontation between the Belize Territorial Volunteers and the Guat forces down in Sarstoon. So, the logic would continue that the security apparatus of this country should have been able to see this report and to digest it to know what has happened from 2006 all the way up to 2015."

Hon. Wilfred Elrington, Minister of Foreign Affairs
"I am not saying anything against that. I am simply saying that I have not seen it."

Louis Wade - Plus TV News
"Is there a disconnect between your government and the BDF as it relates to information taking place on the Sarstoon that lead your government to blame the BTV as opposed to the simple escalation of Guatemala's interest in the Sarstoon?"

Hon. Wilfred Elrington, Minister of Foreign Affairs
"Ahm, I'm on record as saying that as far as I am aware, personally we never had these problems until territorial volunteers started going there. If you have 10 incidents in 16 years by people who going up a river everyday - 10 incidents in 16 years and none of it fatal. That's remarkable. That's absolutely remarkable."

Yes, it is remarkable, but if the BDF have been 100% fair in their assessment of the Guatemalan aggression, Elrington's spin on the lack of violence is omitting the key feature: that the BDF soldiers avoided drawing their weapons in the Sarstoon River.

So, it's hard to figure out if the Foreign Minister lives in a fairy tale world where the territorial dispute is just a diplomatic problem, or whether he is blissfully ignorant of the decade of tense military engagements in the Sarstoon, or if he's only just choosing to assume the best of our Guatemalan neighbours….the best of them, and the worst of the media:

Mike Rudon - Channel 5 News
"If all the politicians are being mature and believe in peace and all the militaries believe in peace, where is the aggression coming from?"

Hon. Wilfred Elrington, Minister of Foreign Affairs
"Maybe from the media." (Smiling)

Mike Rudon
"It's a serious question..."

Hon. Wilfred Elrington, Minister of Foreign Affairs
"No, it's a serious answer. In 16 years I told you we had 10 incidents. Nobody dead. Between military people you know."

That's a viewpoint that his Guatemalan counterpart has shared with the Belizean press.

FILE: July 27, 2015

H. E. Carlos Raul Morales - Guatemalan Foreign Minister
"Today, what you have is goodwill of both countries, of both ministers, to avoid any kind of incidents. Why people insist to confront both countries? What you will win? More news? That somebody die in the island, in the caye, as a result of the confrontation of both armies? You want it? No, nobody wants it. We want peace and I am very clear in this message - we want peace."

Preaching peace, but playing at provocation is a curious game of diplomatic doublespeak that is likely to inspire profound public misgivings in any ICJ solution.

The Foreign Affairs Ministry will re-engage the Guatemalan delegation after the Easter Holidays on a proposed extension of the Confidence Building Measures to the Sarstoon River.

Channel 7


Belize and Guatemala: two different realities

A trap has been sprung on Belize. The Guatemalan Ministry of Foreign Affairs essentially told Belizeans this week that Guatemala has taken control of the Sarstoon River/Island, and that the only way Belize can regain our rights at the Sarstoon is if the International Court of Justice (ICJ) gives it to us. Ergo, go to the ICJ, or else.

Fifteen years or more ago, the Guatemalans pulled a stunt on our western border which was similar in concept, except that it took place on land. The Guatemalans built a village called Santa Rosa inside Belizean territory, Belizean territory as demarcated by the 1859 Treaty between Great Britain and Guatemala, and Belizean territory as confirmed by the United Nations when Belize gained independence on September 21, 1981. Although it took many years, Belize managed to get Santa Rosa dismantled without a war breaking out. The Guatemalan peasant farmers were returned to their country of origin. Incursions of various kinds continued to take place, of course, but there was nothing of the organized scope and intent of Santa Rosa.

The Guatemalans learned from the Santa Rosa experience when they began planning the initiative which has so far worked well for them at the Sarstoon. Santa Rosa was a purely civilian initiative. But Guatemala’s political directorate cleverly and cynically employed their military in the Sarstoon region to protect and support the entry of their civilian fisher folk into Belizean waters for the purpose of economic exploitation. When Belizean civilians, led by Wil Maheia, exposed the incursions and cried foul, the Guats made statements to the effect that they claim from Sarstoon to Sibun, so this was no big deal. What’s your beef, Belize? The Belize political directorate, caught with their pants down, have now been fumbling and stumbling for more than a year.

To a great extent, this newspaper’s editorials on the Sarstoon issue represent exercises in futility, especially now that a new Opposition People’s United Party (PUP) leadership appears to have decided to cooperate with the ruling United Democratic Party (UDP) government of Prime Minister, Rt. Hon. Dean Barrow. Once the PUP takes a similar position to the UDP’s, it means that the great majority of Belize’s adult citizens take that position. The die appears to be cast.

Historically, what the Guatemalan upper classes saw when they looked northeast to British Honduras was a British possession with a majority African population. The demography of Belize began to change after the Caste War broke out in 1847 in the Yucatán territory of Mexico, immediately north of Belize. Maya and Mestizo refugees from the Caste War became the majority population in the Corozal and Orange Walk Districts of Belize. These two Districts, incidentally, are not claimed by Guatemala. Guatemala claims from the Sibun to the Sarstoon, which consists of the Toledo District, the Stann Creek District, and parts of the Cayo and Belize Districts.

In the second half of the twentieth century, two diametrically opposed political systems emerged in Belize and Guatemala. After universal adult suffrage was introduced in British Honduras in 1954, a parliamentary democracy was established in Belize which theoretically gave power to the African/Mestizo/Maya majority of the population. In the same year of 1954 when universal adult suffrage was introduced in Belize, Jacobo Arbenz, a reformist, democratically-elected president, was driven out of Guatemala, and the rule of brutal military dictatorship returned to that unhappy republic.

Guatemala’s socio-political system has been defined by racist, oligarchical injustice for centuries. A small, neo-European upper class absolutely dominates land holdings, business, and industry in Guatemala, and they have financed the building of a fearsome military class which has carried out the oligarchy’s repression of Guatemala’s majority Indigenous population for 150 years.

A complete antithesis to the Guatemalan neoliberal system lies a few hundred miles northeast of Belize. This is the communist island of Cuba, which has withstood imperialist enmity and aggression from the United States for more than 50 years. Since Guatemala is the United States’ foremost ally in Central America, and went so far as to help train Cuban exiles for an invasion of Fidel Castro’s revolutionary Cuba in 1961, you can add one-and-one to see how Guatemala and Cuba view each other. Geographically, Belize is between these two opponents. In 2016, Belize is closer to Guatemala in economic development philosophy than we are to Cuba. But, there was a time in the 1970s when Belize had become more socialist than neoliberal, under the leadership of Rt. Hon. George Price.

Guatemala has sought to bend Belize to Guatemala’s racist, neoliberal will. The reason you can hear some Belizean voices expressing appeasement in the fact of Guatemalan aggression is because those voices belong to Belizeans who espouse the neoliberal economic philosophy and desire a pro-Washington future for Belizeans. The problem we see is that while these neoliberal Belizean voices belong to Belizeans of African and Maya/Mestizo descent, the vast majority of such human beings in Guatemala are being crushed by Guatemala’s neoliberalism. What do such Belizean neoliberals see as the future for Belize’s Africans, Mayas, and Mestizos under Guatemala’s racism and neoliberalism?

As we write, the Belizean people are a confused and divided people. Belizeans are being told by UDP government spokesmen that those Belizeans who insist on demanding Belizean sovereign rights at the Sarstoon River are seeking to promote war and bloodshed. This is a ridiculous line which the Government of Belize has taken, but it is a line which has been successful so far. Mr. Goldson must be turning in his grave. The Belizean people are standing on one of the most valuable pieces of real estate on planet earth, but our schools have never taught the children of Belize about our history and our rights. It is because of a lack of knowledge that the Belizean people are confused and divided today, Thursday, March 17, 2016. This is disturbing. This is a point in Belize’s history when we should be mobilized at the highest level of awareness.

Tangentially, we see that the UDP Minister of Education is now aspiring to become his party’s First Deputy Leader, replacing the one Gapi Vega. This means that Mr. Faber considers himself qualified to become his party’s next Leader, and Prime Minister, it being the case that the present UDP Leader and Prime Minister is constitutionally lame duck. Mr. Faber has been Minister of Education in Belize for the last eight years. What has he done to educate the Belizean people about our geographical realities and historical rights in this blessed Jewel of ours? We pause for a reply.

Power to the people. Remember Danny. Big up, Wil.

Editorial, Amandala

More on Amandala....

Guatemala has increased militarization at the Sarstoon
On February 27, an excursion organized by the Belize Territorial Volunteers (BTV), formed to affirm Belize’s sovereignty in the troubled waters of the Sarstoon, was stopped by 5 Guatemalan military vessels with armed soldiers and immigration officials. Whereas February’s excursion by the BTV marked a year since a boatful of Belizeans were detained by Guatemalan military and taken over to Guatemala, on allegations that they had drifted over into Guatemala, it also marks 16 years since a BDF patrol of three persons—Second Lieutenant Romaldo Herrera, Lance Corporal Lucio Arana, Private Luciano Tzub and Police Constable Macedonio Sanchez—was surrounded by 25 Guatemalan soldiers who detained them near Jalacte, Toledo, on allegations that they had illegally made their way onto Guatemalan terrain. It was after this incident, roughly 16 years ago, that the Organization of American States (OAS) was formally engaged to help resolve the territorial differendum between Belize and Guatemala. In March of 2000, the Government of Belize and the Government of Guatemala agreed to the OAS process. Since then, three agreements for confidence-building measures were signed between the parties, but the agreement only covers Belize’s western border with Guatemala and not the Sarstoon boundary. In the wake of heightened tensions, similar measures have recently been suggested for the Sarstoon.


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#512604 - 03/24/16 09:54 PM Re: Incident Between Belizean, Guatemalan Forces at Sarstoo [Re: Marty]
Marty Offline
Guatemala responds to CARICOM – the Sarstoon is ours

Guatemala’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs has issued a formal response to a recent statement from the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) after the Saturday, March 12, 2016, incident in which Guatemalan Armed Forces (GAF), according to the Government of Belize account, entered Belizean territorial waters and “behaved in an extremely hostile and threatening manner,” while insisting that Belizean soldiers should not be at the Sarstoon.

CARICOM issued a strong statement on Friday, March 18, calling out GAF for entering “Belizean internal waters” and acting in an intimidating manner towards members of the Belize Defence Force (BDF) who were at Belize’s Forward Operating Base, which is under construction on Belize’s mainland at the mouth of the Sarstoon River.

CARICOM said that while the GAF claimed that the River belonged to them, the mid-channel of the River was the settled and agreed border between the Republic of Guatemala and the United Kingdom long before Belize’s independence in 1981.

On Monday, March 21, Guatemala’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs issued a statement, also dated March 18, in which it made three assertions: (1) it claims that “the Government of Guatemala reaffirms that the Sarstoon River is Guatemalan territory;” (2) with respect to the March 12th incident, it said that the Government of Guatemala reiterates its position, that Belizean soldiers were not provoked but were asked to follow the security protocols customarily used for the Sarstoon; and (3) in relation to the assertion by CARICOM, with respect to what it identifies as Belize’s southern border with Guatemala, the Guatemala Government reiterates that it had denounced the 1859 boundary treaty between Britain and Guatemala with respect to “British Honduras” (the former name of Belize), due to what it said was a breach of clause 7 of the treaty by Great Britain and Northern Ireland. Consequently, it said, that treaty’s expiration was renounced by Guatemala’s Congress, via decree No. 224, on April 9, 1946.

Guatemala’s statement closed by saying that consequently, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs reaffirms once more that Guatemala will continue to exercise sovereignty over the Sarstoon River, as it is now doing, until the International Court of Justice definitively resolves the territorial, insular and maritime differendum between the countries.

Amandala

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#512618 - 03/25/16 11:18 AM Re: Incident Between Belizean, Guatemalan Forces at Sarstoo [Re: Marty]
Marty Offline

Foreign Minister Takes On BDF Report

And while that will end the day late in the night, Minister of Foreign Affairs Wilfred Elrington started it off this morning at 9:00 speaking on Belize Guatemala relations, and the recent flare up in the Sarstoon River.

Last week, during his press conference on the Bilateral Talks with Guatemala in Washington DC, we asked him about the BDF Threat Assessment Report which outlines the 10 years of aggressive encounters with the Guatemalan military in the Sarstoon. He said then that he hadn’t read the report, but it appears that over the weekend took the opportunity to review it. Today, he took another bite at the cherry and made a 1-hour, 10 minute presentation on the territorial claim. Here’s his explanation of the context that these aggressive incidents should be taken in:

Hon. Wilfred Elrington - Minister of Foreign Affairs

"There are some suggestions in the media and other quarters that in fact we were hiding reports that incidents have been occurring and that they had to get some secret document to show that over the last 16 years we had 10 incidents. We were hiding any reports, we were not hiding the fact that incidents are occurring. I have complained at the UN about incidents, so it’s no secret, we have nothing to hide but what we are not going to do is to cry wolf. We're not going to make a mountain out of a mole head, we're not going to inflate an incident and make it more serious than in fact it is because the international community is going to condemn us for it. They are going to say that we're crying wolf. We are not experiencing anything near to what is happening in Palestine and Israel; nothing near to it, nothing not even close to it, we have not lost a soldier, we have not lost a Belizean in any military combat and that is the way we need to keep it. We cannot afford to lose a single person."

"Given the nature of the claim, given the nature of the terrain, we know and we expect that there is going to be conflicts and disputes from time to time but we have competent capable people to deal with these issues. We take these incidents in out strides and we solve them. As soon as they occur, we solve them. The practice of the media has been to come, take your view and then twist it in a way you don't recognise it, seeming to have one thought in mind; to confuse the public and try to make you look bad, they have not had much success but I can tell you they don't give up. Well Mr. Speaker that era has ended; I will no longer give any interview on my own. Whenever I'm asked to give an interview, I will get in touch with the leader of the opposition and say whom will you send, whom will you send and myself and that person will speak to the nation because this is a matter that we have to keep on head on."

Hon. Wilfred: A Brief History Of Land Cession Proposals

In last night's news, we showed you excerpts of Foreign Minister Wilfred Elrington's presentation on Belize Guatemala relations while he was contributing to the budget debate. He minced no words when he lambasted the local press for the coverage of the flash points related to the territorial dispute.

Well, he also went after the Opposition PUP, and their allegations that he's ceded the Sarstoon River to Guatemala during his 8 year tenure as Minister of Foreign Affairs. Elrington dug deep into the history books to revisit proposals that the PUP administration's of the distant and recent past had to discuss about handing over Belizean territory to settle the dispute:

Hon. Wilfred Elrington, Minister of Foreign Affairs
"The most recent myth is that the Sarstoon is gone. That Prime Minister and myself have given away the Sarstoon. Night and day I was accused of giving away to Guatemala parts of Belize and the Sarstoon. To the point where I went on the street, people looked at me and curse me. Nothing was further from the truth, but I never responded and I never responded because this issue is too important to bengaline it, and trivialized it and to make it a political football - it's too important."

"We in this party had never ever done anything to put this country in jeopardy. But we can't say the same for the other side. The British government said to the Guatemalans as early as 1939 when they came up with this idea that they were going to repudiate the boundary treaty, they said to them go to the international court of justice. We are not going to negotiate it with you at all. It was only when the nationalist started getting involved in politics. When the People's United Party got involved in politics and started make representation that we had the beginning of negotiations with Guatemala. The British refused to negotiate with Guatemala and the first incidents of negotiation Mr. Speaker occurred in as early as 1957 when the Guatemalan foreign minister Jorge Granados in London proposed to the then Premier Price, Albert Cattouse, Mr. Bowman and Mr. Jeffreys, that if they were not happy with the result of their meeting in London with the British, they should go back to Belize and advocate that Belize become an associate state of Guatemala."

"According to Assad Shoman in his "A History of Belize, in thirteen chapters," the following proposals were put to the Belize delegation in their attempt to try to settle the Belize/Guatemala dispute and to get independence. And that proposal in 1966 proposed that we gave away to Guatemala the southern portion of our country, from just below PG all the way down. Second proposal, proposal made in 1975 was that we give them piece of land from Monkey River down. See the line here. He has the line here - from Monkey River down. The third proposal, that was made in 1975 as well, that we give just above Monkey River, the Deep River area from that area down and then we have a proposal that we give them from the Orange Point, 1977 down. That is below PG and then we have proposals that we give them from the Temash River and all the Ranguana and the Sapodilla Cayes. These are proposals that in fact were made to the Belize delegation by the Guatemalans, the British and the Americans, with a view to trying to solve the dispute. I will not on this occasion called the specific names of who made what proposals, because that will be too embarrassing. But I promise that in fact unless the People's United Party, the people on the other side take steps to desist from suggesting that we in fact have lost control of the Sartsoon and in that fact that we have given it away. When I come the next time Mr. Speaker, I can promise you that I will tell the nation the specific proposals, who made them and when."

During that speech, Elrington reiterated his mantra: that the only way to peacefully resolve the dispute and keep Belizean soldiers from ever losing their lives, is to go to the ICJ.

Channel 7


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