And so while all this happens in the foreground, in the background lies that vast expanse of green - 414 resource rich square miles, which are being daily plundered by Guatemalan campesinos for land, and by bandits for logwood, Xate, Gold and wild game as well as endangered species.
By sheer coincidence, our news team of Emanuel Pech and Angel Noble were on a 12 mile hike in the Chiquibul on the same day the shooting happened - and, in fact, if they didn't have to pull out by nightfall, they might have been near to where it happened.
Yesterday we showed you the first part of that report came upon the first illegal clearings for milpa farming. Tonight, we have part two of that report as our team treads deeper into the Chiquibul, in the middle of a hot zone for illegal encroachment. Here is that report.
Four miles into our hike, we regroup and continue on our trail…through the illegal milpas. By now it is half past noon so we look for a place to rest.
We come upon a natural open shed. Here coconuts, bananas and Corn are plentiful. What the troops will do later on is destroy some of these plantations,
But right now we make the best of it. We unload our back packs, and take a 15 minute break.
At this time one of the park managers checks the map, to make sure of our bearings. It is a crucial element of our expedition.
After making a few calculations, he gives us the estimate. We are currently about a hundred meters from the border.
15 minutes is up and we are ready to get back on the trail. But it has already been more than four hours hiking, and some of us are feeling it.
Those of us who can continue, move forward along this man-made border- a barbed wire fence that is said to be on the dividing line between our two countries.
But just a few hundred meters in, we find this opening. It is used by Guatemalan farmers so their cattle can graze inside Belizean territory, a national park, no less but they do so like it is nobody's business.
From here the terrain gets even tougher. We go up hill. Each step more precarious than the last. Our legs are weak, we've covered roughly five miles already. However we push on.
We regroup one last time and head for a fresh water pond, to refill our water bottles for the long journey back.
But before getting there we come across this large expanse of a forest, now burnt to ashes.
A few hundred yards away, across a shallow creek, a Guatemalan farmer (That white speck on the right corner) cultivates in his country. And although it is almost a given that he also burnt the lands on the Belize side as well, the authorities, right now, are powerless.
It is the nature of how things work inside the Chiquibul - a situation that will continue unless there is a more permanent presence inside Cebada, a current hot spot for these illegal incursions.
Rafael Manzanero - Executive Director, FCD
"One of those recommendations which I hope is going to happen soon, is the installation of the Sebada Conservation Post, which will be somewhere around the zone here. We are ready on the area of Sebada, so the idea is really because we know there is a pronounce activities, so we were to have a permanent presence, then certainly it's much more easier for any of us to then really to move from here and contact the patrols, instead of coming hiking every two days here. It's rather difficult."
And although farming seems to be the main thing trending for these illegal encroachers, illegal logging, has in no way, been completely stopped.
Just look at this chopped up sapodilla tree. About a mile further down south we encountered a new clearing. Five years ago, this was all forest, and now it's gone.
Gliss Penados - Assistant Park Manager
"it's heartbreaking, especially for us an organization Belizean conversation and that's one of the things that we have been doing and sometimes we question like you know how much more we have to go for people to realize that all of this is very important. We've been telling people all over, the forest is very important for the wildlife, water and everything. We tell and tell and people looks like they are not really catching on and we look at this and it's devastating."
Rafael Manzanero - Executive Director, FCD
"In Guatemala, they also faced the same problems, Guatemalans go inside their own protected areas and they do it quite commonly. So, they do it there and their government have to extract them out by force also. So here, the same rules apply. We have to do it also. We have to demonstrate that there are rules here, laws in this country and we have to be able to uphold them."
"For decades Guatemalan farmers have been encroaching in Belizean territory, exporting the richness of the Chiquibul forest and turning sites like this into ashes. Now if left unabated, the Guatemalans might actually take control of the entire area. But FCD, along with the BDF and other partners are determined not to let that happen. Reporting for 7news, I am Emanuel Pech."
Our team made it about 10 kilometers inside Chiquibul that's a little over 6 miles. It was about 2:30 pm when we arrived there. Just over the mountain range about 3 quarters of a mile from where we were sat a marijuana plantation and a cattle ranch, yup, you've guessed it inside Belizean territory. However we weren't able to see them for ourselves because of it was a long track back out of forest and our team was already dead beat tired. But here are some pictures that FCD sent us.
This marijuana plantation was taken about 1 to 1.2 km inside of Belize. The cultivation of marijuana is another trend that has been picking up since last year. They are usually found inside valleys.
Then there is this picture of a cattle ranch was taken about 1 kilometer inside Belizean territory.