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#513688 - 05/12/16 04:36 AM The Face Of Guat Intimidation On The Sarstoon  
Joined: Oct 1999
Posts: 52,647
Marty Offline
Marty  Offline

Two days ago the government sent out a press release saying, quote, "the BDF…continues to go up (the Sarstoon) river to effectuate the rotation at Cadenas, as was done last Tuesday."

Well the news tonight is that it's not quite that simple; in fact, the soldiers had to try to go down the river two times – because on the first attempt, two Guatemalan Navy Vessels blocked them!  Now, this sort of low grade military to military harassment has been happening for some years, but tonight there is video evidence of the encounter – and it is disturbing. 

7News has obtained a video of the Guatemalans blocking the BDF and Daniel Ortiz looked more closely at it:..

The cell phone footage picks up with the BDF slowing down their vessel, obviously responding to a signal from the soldiers on board the Guatemalan vessel. Right here, they're on the southern Side of the Sarstoon Island, still in Belizean territory, but approaching the deepest navigable channel of the River. But, the Guatemalan Vessel's occupants couldn't be less bothered.

One of the soldiers from the Belize vessel then engages the Guatemalan soldiers to find out why they've been stopped:

BDF Soldier
"Que paso, make we stop. Tell the man that we supposed to go through there."

Right here, you see another Guatemalan riverine vessel, their national flag flying visibly, then moves into place to blockade the BDF boat, stopping it proceeding any further. To the left of your screen is other side of the Sarstoon Island rarely ever caught on camera. To the left of your screen is the Guatemalan village which sits on the southern banks of the Sarstoon Island, where Guatemalan Mainland Starts.

As the camera swings back to the Guatemalan boat, and you can hear a BDF soldiers speaking to his Guatemalan counterpart in Spanish.

The Guatemalan then makes this chilling demand.

Guatemalan Soldier
"Respecte El Protocolo! Respecte El Protocolo!"

That's right; you heard the head Guatemalan Soldier "Respect the Protocol!"

What he's demanding is that the BDF soldiers check in at their base, which is a short distance away, and ask permission to use the Sarstoon. Obviously, the BDF soldiers haven't done that, and that's why they're being confronted.

As you can see the BDF boat is completely blockaded, and the Guatemalan soldiers have trigger fingers ready for a quick reaction. The stare-down continues for a short while, and it ends with the Guatemalan boats finally stop blocking the BDF vessel. But instead of proceeding forward the BDF vessel makes a surprising turn and then… goes back around to the North side of the Sarstoon River.

That's clearly to avoid any further confrontations, since the northern side of the Sarstoon Island allows for there to be no doubt.

The cell phone footage captures the Guatemalan riverine vessel following the BDF. As the camera finally focuses, you can see Sarstoon Island in the background, a clear sign that the BDF boat is in Belize's portion of the Sarstoon.

This happened the day before Prime Minister Dean Barrow held a Press Conference to brief the nation on the Washington Bilateral Talks. He and his Government knew that this incident happened, and yet, neither he nor the others at the head-table chose to reveal it, all the while assuring that progress had been made.

File: May 5, 2016

Rt. Hon Dean Barrow - Prime Minister of Belize
"In other words as I understand it the two countries are to agree an operational protocol regarding the Sarstoon and the statement commends their willingness to do this. As the Secretary General put it, he "welcome the readiness of both parties to advance in the negotiations of the cooperation mechanism." for the Sarstoon."

"The government of Belize regards the results of the Washington meeting as something of a breakthrough."

A minor correction to our story, we said that the confrontation happened on Wednesday. But, best information from the BDF says it happened on Tuesday. Yet, up to Thursday, it was not disclosed at the Prime Minister's press conference. It took a bit of probing from the media - after this footage was leaked - for there to be public acknowledgment that it happened.

Channel 7

#513755 - 05/15/16 05:23 AM Re: The Face Of Guat Intimidation On The Sarstoon [Re: Marty]  
Joined: Oct 1999
Posts: 52,647
Marty Offline
Marty  Offline

The GAF: bullies of the Sarstoon

The latest military-to-military incident on the southern border between Belize and Guatemala occurred on the Sarstoon River on Tuesday, May 3, when Guatemalan Armed Forces (GAF) intercepted and blocked a Belize Defence Force (BDF) boat that was on its way to Cadenas. This week, video footage of the incident went viral on social media and resulted in limited official comment.

On that same day when the GAF intercepted the BDF boat, Belize Prime Minister Dean Barrow held a press conference, but failed to update the country on the disturbing encounter on the river, over which Guatemala has been asserting its sovereignty while the Belize Government has been steadfast in its diplomatic quest for a “protocol” for the use of the river – “protocol” being the word the Guatemalans use, which is a thin veneer for their demand that Belizeans, military and civilians alike, respect the fact that they “own” the Sarstoon River and Island, and so we must ask them for permission to traverse the area, which is, in fact, Belizean territory.

By Thursday, the Prime Minister was briefing the country on the progress of the bilateral talks in Washington, but again, the PM failed to give any disclosure of the incident between the BDF and the GAF.

In fact, when he was pressed by reporters for more information about the bilateral talks in Washington, which took place around the same time as the Sarstoon incident, Barrow replied: “I really am experiencing a bit of puzzlement. The media complain loud and long if they ever are of the view and get the sense that government is not in fact ensuring a full information flow. This business of the difficulties with Guatemala and in particular the question of the Sarstoon has gripped this nation – has exercised this nation. It is clearly the duty of the government to report and to report fully …”

If it were not for the leaked cell phone video, more than one of which is in circulation, the media would never have known that the incident took place.

In one of the videos, the GAF is heard clearly telling the BDF: “Respecte El Protocolo! Respecte El Protocolo!” Two bigger Guatemalan boats loaded with soldiers who had their fingers on their triggers were seen blocking the path of the BDF boat.

Not only that, but on Monday, May 9, when the government issued a press release titled, “Government announces limited access to Sarstoon,” the government said, “GOB notes that the BDF not only remains permanently at the Sarstoon FOB, but continues to go upriver to effectuate the rotation at Cadenas, as was done last Tuesday.”

Again, there was no mention that the GAF had prevented the BDF from going to Cadenas or that the BDF has been having difficulty traveling on the Belize side of the Sarstoon.

This afternoon, retired Colonel George Lovell, the Chief Executive Officer in the Ministry of National Security, told Amandala that he does not know about, and neither has he seen a video of, Guatemalan military boats blocking the BDF boat on the Sarstoon River.

When pressed further about the incident, Lovell told us that Prime Minister Barrow had already dealt with that issue at his last press conference.

Amandala informed the National Security CEO, who had mentioned that he had been out of the country and had just returned, that Prime Minister Barrow absolutely did not mention the incident at his press conference, and that Belizeans are only now beginning to learn about it through the cellular phone video footage that has been posted online.

Prime Minister Barrow spoke glowingly about the talks in Washington with Guatemala, under the umbrella of the Organization of American States (OAS) with a US State Department official present last Thursday when he said: “In other words, as I understand it, the two countries are to agree on an operational protocol regarding the Sarstoon and the OAS statement commends their willingness to do this. As the Secretary General put it, he ‘welcomes the readiness of both parties to advance in the negotiations of the cooperation mechanism for the Sarstoon.’”

“The government of Belize regards the results of the Washington meeting as something of a breakthrough,” Barrow had said.

The Prime Minister’s report of a”breakthrough” with the Guatemalan government, however, does not appear to be in sync with what is happening on the ground (or on the Sarstoon River) with respect to the continued belligerence by the Guatemalan military.

Guatemala is almost five times the size of Belize, with a correspondingly larger army.


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