Last night, we brought you late evening interviews from Washington DC with the Belize Delegation who had been in talks with the Guatemalans for 5 hours. They were trying to negotiate a protocol for the Sarstoon River, but after 5 hours, the Belize Foreign Minister could only say that they meetings had small success.

Tonight, Jules Vasquez recaps what he saw and tells you what's the bottom line on yesterday's meeting:

The cordiality shown between the two sides is perfunctory and by now, routine if not rehearsed. And the Uruguayan Secretary General Luis Almagro put on what had to be his best face after more or less staggering out of an extraordinary meeting of OAS Permanent Council. In a week when his leadership is under attack, this meeting, pushed back an hour to accommodate his other pressing engagements, had to be sort of housekeeping. 

But that didn't mean it was quick work. A session that was expected to take two hours dragged on to over five.  At various points, representatives from both delegations could be seen coming out to consult, or to wait while the finer points were hammered out inside the Salon Miranda.

When it was finished at almost 8:30 Washington time, Morales and his team turned down our requests for an interview.  So did Secretary General Luis Almagro.

He referred us to a joint release which says, quote "good progress was made during the meeting, which concentrated on the development of best practices for the de-escalation of tensions in the Sarstoon River.'

That translates to "no breakthrough" and no commitment from the Guatemalans to stop harassing Belize and on the river. For such a very general statement to be made after so many hours of meeting strongly suggests that Guatemala still controls the dialogue and still refuses to make any concessions.

This was more or less confirmed by Ambassador to Guatemala, Alexic Rosado:

Jules Vasquez
"How hard is it to just revert to the modus vivendi that pertains to so many years where Belizeans could freely access our side of the Sarstoon?"

H.E. Alexis Rosado, Belize Ambassador to Guatemala
"One would think that is very difficult but time will tell because we launched negotiations at this meeting. We had agreed in Istanbul we would start the process negotiations. This is the first in a series of sit downs like we did today and we'll see how long it takes. In the interim I think it is important that we both sides do all we can to minimize whatever incidences of conflict that may arise and I think in terms of at least the spirit that we felt in the meeting time will tell maybe tomorrow or this weekend or whenever but I think in the next few days, in the next few weeks we will find out whether it is producing any tangible results."

Jules Vasquez
"Ambassador I'm going to Sarstoon later this week, would you urge me to do so or not to do so; not based on the Belize side, I'm free to go, I just pass by these guys but based on what the Guatemalans may do?"

H.E. Alexis Rosado, Belize Ambassador to Guatemala
"I go back to what I said earlier, I cannot speak for the Guatemalans. I can speak for my country and according to our country's law as far as I'm aware there's nothing to stop you from going there. That's all I can tell you."

Jules Vasquez
"Something like weh unu talk bout fi five hours whe we mi di talk bout up they?"

H.E. Alexis Rosado, Belize Ambassador to Guatemala
"We talked about so many things but yet nothing is in writing so if I tell you we agreed to this, we agreed to that, we agreed to the other thing I will be lying to you."

No date has been set for follow up talks, but both sides have committed to continue the process.  We'll have a full recap of the meeting in tomorrow's newscast.

PUP Blasts GOB For Washington Washout

Back at home, the Opposition Leader and his representative – who boycotted the Washington meeting  - have summed it up as a, quote, "complete failure." 

This evening, they released a statement saying, "The People's United Party expresses its deep disappointment at the failed talks held yesterday… in Washington D.C" End Quote.

The statement continues, quote, "It is plain that Guatemala intends to maintain control of Belize's portion of the Sarstoon River, and the Government's response is to keep talking and hoping that Guatemala will at some point in the future withdraw from asserting control." End Quote.

And there's also a swipe at Foreign Minister Wilfred Elrington. The PUP Statement says, quote, "We repeat our call for the immediate removal of Wilfred Elrington…for lack of competence and for misleading the Belizean people. There is a complete loss of trust and confidence in Mr. Elrington, and his deep affection for the Foreign Minister of Guatemala continues, in our opinion, to cloud his judgment…" End quote.

This evening, the PUP's Representative in the Bilateral Talks, Eamon Courtenay, told the press why they've decided at this time to walk away from the National Team effort. Here's what he had to say:

Eamon Courtenay - PUP Representative
"So we're deeply disappointed at the result but we are not surprised. We made a very fundamental point which is that we disagree with the approach of the government of Belize on this issue. The government has no plan, it has no strategy, it has no objective in mind and when one looks back at what has been happening in the past few months it seems to us that there are two things that the government is doing. One is talking and talking and talking and the second hoping and hoping and hoping. They are talking to Guatemala ad nauseam and they are hoping that the foreign minister of Guatemala and the Guatemalan government is going to somehow one day change their mind and just withdraw from their complete control over the Sarstoon. From the perspective of the PUP talking and hoping is not a plan, talking and hoping is not a strategy and more importantly all this talking, all it is doing is confirming Guatemala's control over the Sarstoon and it is not reversing that illegality."

Channel 7


The disputed section of the Belize-Guatemala border at the mouth of the Sarstoon River.