Executive Director of SATIIM Froyla Tzalam has fired off an urgent letter to Foreign Minister Wilfred Elrington following another incident in the Sarstoon on Tuesday. SATIIM rangers were on routine patrol of the Sarstoon-Temash National Park, bounded on the South by the Sarstoon River, when they were stopped very aggressively by a Guatemalan naval vessel. The rangers were informed that they had breached the new protocol which demanded that any Belizean entering the Sarstoon is required to get permission from the Guatemalans at their base. In her letter to Elrington, Tzalam points out that this is a new chapter in park monitoring by SATIIM, and in all its years of monitoring the N.G.O. has never had to get permission from Guatemala. She asks for an immediately clarification of the situation in the Sarstoon and of the protocol which was supposedly breached. We start tonight’s coverage of the Sarstoon with that encounter about a mile inside the controversial river, at the mouth of a tributary known as Black Creek.
Marcos Chub, Chairman, Crique Sarco
“We went on a tour with SATIIM to monitor illegal activities within the national park and within Crique Sarco Village lands; we have found out that our resources are being extracted by neighboring communities, suspected Guatemalans. Upon coming, we encountered the Guatemalan vessel, who were lenient; however, they mandated that anytime we go patrol, we should make them know. we need to get a permission from them.”
Froyla Tzalam, Executive Director, SATIIM
“The team had exited and they did not see the boat lying in wait until the boat was upon them. The Guatemalan military basically approached them and their vessel bumped our vessel and the person from their side was very aggressive in his manner towards the SATIIM patrol. It was a very confrontational moment because SATIIM has been conducting patrols there for the past years and we had never had any incidents like this. We had actually gone on patrol in February and there were no incidents, so we were very surprised at the fact that the Guatemalan military came to wait for us. They were lying in wait. It wasn’t an opportunity; it was definitely them waiting on the south side of the Sarstoon waiting for the patrol to emerge.”
“How was the situation defused?”
“Well basically our team was levelheaded and we had discussed the potential of this happening prior to them going on patrol because obviously we were very concerned that whatever happened we would not be aggressive. Whatever questions were asked we would just comply. That’s why when the team entered the river they had gone to make their presence known to the B.D.F. outpost there. Basically it was just through friendly talk that the aggression was lessened and basically our team just said fine and agreed to what was being said, because basically in Spanish the military asked them if they didn’t know there was a new protocol for travelling in the river, and of course we said no.”