In last night's news, you saw Brigadier General David Jones expressing confidence that his soldiers would be vindicated in the fatal shooting of 14 year-old Guatemalan Julio Rene Alvarado Ruano.
That's the incident which sent Guatemalan President Jimmy Morales into demagogue mode calling the BDF all kinds of names, accusing them of murder, and triggering a military buildup along the Belize Guatemala border.
Well, our colleagues at KREM News managed to secure a leaked copy of the OAS report which has still not been released. The report vindicates the BDF, and exposes that the Guatemalans as trying to bamboozle that investigation by attempting to conceal evidence. That evidence clearly showed that the Belizean Joint Forces Patrol did indeed come under fire from hostile Guatemalan civilians, and they returned fire in self-defence.
So, to the report itself... It's dated, August 18, last week Thursday, and the Independent Investigating team wrote to OAS Secretary General Luis Almagro.
They then outline each and every single piece of research they went over which includes news clippings, and emails sent from the OAS officials to both Belize and Guatemala, diplomatic notes that both countries shared between themselves, letters of important public officials who all address the fatal Chiquibul shooting, past interviews that OAS officials did with the parties involved, and a host of other materials. The independent investigators also conducted their own interviews with the Belizean Law Enforcement team involved in the shooting, and members of the Guatemalan family who were injured in that shooting.
The experts also went to the site of the shooting, which was determined to be an area called "El Sapote" in the "Chiquibul" National Forest. That location is 562 meters east of the Adjacency Line, which puts it squarely in Belizean territory. There, the experts did careful studies to put together a map with all relevant forensic data.
After completing all that, they then set about to produce a timeline of the events, and they compiled all versions from the Belizeans and the Guatemalans to examine the similarities and differences.
The experts were able to determine that persons who were involved in that shooting on April 20, 2016 included Carlos Alfredo Alvarado Ramírez, age 48; his sons: 14 year-old Julio René Alvarado Ruano and 12 year-old Carlos Alberto Alvarado Ruano; Belizean FCD Rangers Benjamin Cal and Darren Harrys; and BDF Lt. Rodriguez.
After producing all that the investigators were able to establish a number of facts. For context, we reproduce their findings to ensure that you appreciate exactly what the investigators have concluded
1. The person killed was a minor: Julio Rene Alvarado Ruano (14 years old). Wounded were the father, Carlos Alfredo Alvarado Ramírez (48 years old) (left knee) and his son, Carlos Alberto Alvarado Ruano (12 years old) (left elbow).
2. There is evidence that this was not the first time that Julio Rene Alvarado Ruano had been in Belize
3. The wounds suffered by Julio Rene Alvarado Ruano were caused, in the case of his neck, to a .22 caliber rifle, and the wounds that he has in the left shoulder and the dorsal area correspond to wounds produced by a 12 gauge shotgun….the first shots to hit Julio Rene Alvarado Ruano were to his left front shoulder area and correspond to wounds produced by a 12 gauge shotgun. The wounds of Carlos Alfredo Alvarado Ramirez and Carlos Alberto Alvarado Ruano were produced by the 12 gauge shotgun. The caliber 5.56 M4 carbine (which is the weapon that the BDF uses) did not produce any of the wounds.
And this is where it gets very interesting.
The investigating team says, quote, "There is evidence that, at a minimum, five different groups visited the site of the incident (after the event). These include visits by villagers, and a visit by the Guatemalan Army with the chairman of the village. As a result of these visits, evidence was obtained including fired cartridge cases in calibers .22 and 5.56 – by a Guatemalan villager, and a 12 gauge shot column found by Dr. Hamby.
And on the matter of the concealing of evidence, the investigators say,
"According to interview documents, the two (2).22 caliber cartridge cases that were collected at the site of the event (one by the villager and one by the Guatemalan Army), do not appear in any evidence logs. (In the interviews, it was stated that these .22 caliber cartridge cases were either given to – or collected by - the Guatemalan Army). Having these cartridge cases is desirable for further forensic examination of this incident. The Guatemalan police report mentions the 5.56 cartridge cases and also includes photographs of this evidence. At the site, there is evidence of two branches that have holes from shots fired from where the Ramirez's family was located towards the BDF/FCD. There were at least 31 projectiles (bullets / pellets).. This does not include any shots that may have been fired by the Ramirez's family.
So, that's what it is. The BDF soldier did not injure any of the Alvarado men. The fatal shot most likely came from the FCD rangers. There was evidence that the Alvarado men fired on the soldiers, but, that evidence was removed from the scene. Only through digging, did the investigators manage to unearth it.
Belizean law enforcement acted therefore with professionalism under extreme duress and dangerous conditions.
For context, here again are those outrageous accusations against the Belizean lawmen from those high-ranking Guatemalan officials:
Jimmy Morales – President of Guatemala
"Citizens of Guatemala, with profound sadness and with total condemnation, I communicate to our people that yesterday members of the Belize Defense force killed another Guatemalan. To our dismay, this time the victim is a 13-year-old boy. The cowardly and excessive attack was against 13 year old Julio Rene Alvarado Ruano, whose body is still in the hands of the Belizean authorities."
"During the attack his brother Carlos Alberto Alvarado 11 years old and his dad Carlos Alfredo Alvarado Ramirez, 48 years old, also sustained gunshot injuries. They were found planting pumpkin seeds in the Adjacency zone"
"I ask the Belizean authorities, what threat to your sovereignty do these two children pose? One 13 and the other of 11? This act provokes severe indignation and repudiation. I want to express my strong condemnation of this cowardly act of aggression and use of excessive force against minors on the part of the Belize Defense Force."
H. E. Manuel Roldan Barillas - Guatemalan Ambassador to Belize
"This is an unspeakable act. It is something completely disgraceful for which Belize will have to explain the circumstances....Unfortunately, as you know, since 1999 there have been 10 killings of Guatemalans at the hands of the BDF and we view this with concern. Unfortunately, we recognize that although there may be a lack of discretion by the armed forces of Belize in contrast to that of Guatemala, a professional army, which although they have been trained for war, that would be the last resort... I see the bilateral relation with Belize damaged at this time by a completely condemnable act." End quote.
H.E. Carlos Raul Morales - Guatemalan Foreign Minister
"We could be very angry about what occurred with the death of this child but we won't react like them. We won't go and hunt down a Belizean, like they have hunted down Guatemalan farmers before. Sorry for the strong expression but that is literally what they have done. But we will not act in the same manner."
Since then, the report has seriously undermined the integrity of the Guatemalans acting as good-faith and honourable neighbours - since their law enforcement units tried to frustrate the investigation which vindicates Belize. Add to that the undermining of the Confidence Building Measures, which Belizean officials religiously follow, and the relationship quickly begins to cause worry.
Tomorrow afternoon, the OAS will formally deliver the report, and the Foreign Minister will make a statement on it at Friday's House Meeting.