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#513426 - 05/01/16 05:59 AM Wil Maheia & BTV stopped, Trip to the Sarstoon blocked
Marty Offline

Full contingent of battle ready Belizean troops and security personnel prevented Wil Maheia and BTV from advancing even to the pier in Barranco. Sarstoon off limits to any and all Belizeans. Our military must seek permission as well.

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A planned trip to the Sarstoon River today by Belize Territorial Volunteers and the group's supporters did not happen after all. Security forces deployed early this morning prevented dozens of Belizeans from boarding boats destined for the area which was placed under a temporary restriction on Friday by the Government of Belize.

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Authorities detain boat captains in BTV excursion to Sarstoon

Belizean law enforcement authorities have detained three boat captains who were about to take an excursion to Sarstoon Island on Saturday morning.

The Belize Coast Guard detained the boat captains on grounds that they did not possess proper documentation to operate a boat.

After their trip was halted, a few of the civilians who were on the excursion started to walk in the Sarstoon River towards Sarstoon Island. They returned about an hour later with a canoe, presumably used by Guatemalans to fish illegally in our waters.

Wil Maheia, who organized the trip, criticized the government for introducing a new law on Friday to ban him and the Beluze Territorial Volunteers (BTV) from visiting the Sarstoon area. He also suggested the reason for which the boat captains were detained was illegitimate since the boat captains have been operating their boats since the start of the year with no prior impediments by any law enforcement agency.

Maheia decided he would postpone any future trips to the Sarstoon until after the one month period for the law will be enforced.

The trip was planned to allow the civilians to visit Sarstoon Island to observe the 157th anniversary of the 1859 Treaty, signed between Belize and Guatemala. That Treaty states that part of the Sarstoon River and Sarstoon Island are a part of Belize (then British Honduras).

The Reporter

#513482 - 05/04/16 06:07 AM Re: Wil Maheia & BTV stopped, Trip to the Sarstoon blocked [Re: Marty]
Marty Offline

GOB and BTV Playing Chess In Barranco

And so while the government says that it did what it had to do on Saturday - and it will do it again, if necessary, the Territorial Volunteers said the same thing. Beefed up by heavy support from civil society, on Saturday, they were determined to make the journey, even after meeting with the commanders of the armed forces, and learning that they could be risking a $2,000 fine or a year imprisonment.

Our news team followed them this Saturday to Barranco Village, Toledo, when they attempted to take to the Caribbean Sea for a boat ride down to the Sarstoon.

The Security Forces were determined to stop them, and our cameras caught all the action. Daniel Ortiz has that story:

Daniel Ortiz reporting
Early on Saturday morning, the Territorial Volunteers and their civil society affiliates boarded a bus to Barranco Village.

They had travelled for at least 4 hours, some as much as 6 hours, leaving around midnight to get to the Toledo District. But before they could reach the Barranco pier, word was already relayed to the excursion's leader. The security forces had detained several of the boat captains, which meant that the military didn't intend to allow them to go to the Sarstoon River..

Wil Maheia - BTV Leader
"They've turned back the boat. They've arrested the boat captain and the guy from the truck and the people who were with him."

About an hour later, when they finally arrived at the Barranco Coast line, they were met by a blockade of officers from the police and Coast Guard. No one was going to be allowed on the pier, and no amount of reasoning with the lead officers would change that:

Wil Maheia
"We are here to board our boats to go towards the Sarstoon, not inside the river going to Sarstoon. So we ask your permission if we can go ahead."

Sr. Superintendent Ralph Moody - Police Southern Regional Commander
"Well this is the furthest that you are allowed to go. I have no opinion so whatever you say i will not respond."

The participants waited on the pier, hoping that they could find some loophole to get around the blockade. But there was no flexibility and no room for compromise. Moreover, the Coast Guard had impounded the boats hired for the trip. So, with no boats available, that meant no trip.

Wil Maheia - BTV Leader
"Right now what they are telling us is that we cannot get on the dock and as you can see for yourself is the dock itself has 10-20 military personnel. So if they can get on the dock, why is it that we can't get on the dock? When we got here, both of our boats were on the deck tied up. The minute we started to approach the dock, that was when we were given the instructions to leave. I couldn't recognize the people in the boat but apparently our boat was boarded by the military people and they drifted off. I am trying to reach them right now to find out exactly what happened. We have fueled up our boats, we checked the license, we have our life jackets, everything. So I don't understand why they first of all, detained the 3 people that was coming to Barranco in the boat, I don't understand why they did that. Now we can't get on the dock."

And while that's the negative interpretation that Maheia has taken from it, the Coast Guard says it is only a safety measure - (a bit of sarcasm) these good officers were only concerned about the BTV's wellbeing while on the seas:

Commander Elton Bennett - Assistant Commandant, Belize Coast Guard
"We understand that the BTV had plans to depart Barranco in the vessels. It is the Coast Guard's responsibility that those vessels were sea worthy. We commenced operations this morning, so far we have detained 3 vessels, all for maritime safety offences and those three vessels were detained and taken back to Punta Gorda. The offenses range from fire extinguisher, lack of life jackets, no sea worthiness certificate, no masters license and we cannot allow those vessels to sail with that amount of people unsafe. And that is what we did this morning."

Daniel Ortiz
"Sir is this an attempt by the state to block the BTV. Some would say that you came down hard on them on this particular instance. It seems staged?"

Commander Elton Bennett - Assistant Commandant, Belize Coast Guard
"Not at all. The restricted area is the mouth of the Sarstoon. We are not preventing the BTV from departing Baranco at all. They have no vessels here, had they had any vessels at this location, we would have already boarded the vessels to ensure that they are safe and we would not be able to restrict them to move from this location. But as you look around there is no safe vessel to get on their way. Our operation is focused on the Sarstoon and to ensure that SI that was signed yesterday is carried through."

This move by the Government that was an effective checkmate. There was no guarantee that the Coast Guard wouldn't keep moving the goal posts by finding faults with every single vessel which might be presented. All the civilians could do was vent their frustration.

Wil Maheia
"We were just planning to go to the Sarstoon inside the river because we are law-abiding citizens. Today is a very historic day for Belize. It's the 30th of April 1859 the day when our borders were defined."

Geovannie Brackett - President, COLA
"This government is more in favor to protect their status quo. Today is definitely a lack of priority. There is more priority given in banning Belizeans from its waters than for us to ban illegal encroachments into our waters. We at COLA condemn this and we believe that this is the beginning of something to stir a massive demonstration."

Hon. Oscar Requena - PUP Area. Rep., Toledo West
"This is totally uncalled for. We all know that this is Belize. This is an independent country and as Belizeans we should have the right to travel and access any part of our country at any time as long as we do it peacefully and do so in the context of the law."

Ramon "Monchi" Cervantes - PUP Standard Bearer, OW North
"It highlights the fact that the government has lost control of the Belize - Guatemala situation."

Patrick Rogers - Leader, Belize Progressive Party
"There are Belizeans who do not mind to be arrested or aggressed or even killed by the government by the Guatemalan armed forces in an effort to have this bad press that Belize have been receiving internationally, start swinging in our favors, so had the government allowed us to take the boats and proceed up the Sarstoon, we would have been stopped or detained by the Guatemalan military in Belizean waters."

Hon. Elena Smith - Senator for the Labor/Civil Society
"We know what is going on and we don't have leaders who are willing to stand up and fight for our country so I believe that I should come here and show my support for my people."

Hon. Valerie Woods - PUP Senator
"I will tell you that I am surprised, approaching Barranco that I am met with our security forces, police, BDF and coast guard. This is Baranco, it is not Sarstoon. I would have anticipated it there, but it is now a clear demonstration that we will not allow, we will actually prevent you from even attempting to go. Even right before the Sarstoon and that is worrying."

Richard "Dickie" Bradley - Attorney/Private Citizen
"We knew this was coming. In fact the lawyer for Wil Maheia and the volunteers told him several days ago that there is no way the cowardly government that is in charge of the country at this time in our history, will allow the volunteers to come on this river."

Hon. Oscar Requena - PUP Area. Rep., Toledo West
"Belize is acceding to Guatemala. There is no doubt about that."

With the abrupt cancellation, all everyone could do was prepare for the long ride back home.

Wil Maheia
"I want to thank everyone for coming out; the area representatives, the union members, everybody who are out here today, the people who left way up north to come here, I also say thanks to them."

Channel 7


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