Another shooting incident inside Chiquibul
Last Wednesday a team of officers including Belize Defense Force personnel, forest rangers and conservationists came under fire from illegal loggers in the Chiquibul National Park. The men had already cleared quite a number of mature cedar trees, fifty-six in total, for extraction to neighboring Guatemala. While incursion from Guatemalan poachers remains a perennial issue for security forces, the incident has once again raised concerns from the public in the wake of a subsequent encounter which also resulted in an exchange of gunfire over the weekend. At midday on Sunday a patrol team came across yet another group of men in an area less than five miles south of where the first chance meeting took place. Again gunshots rang out in the dense forest before the outlaws made good their escape across the border. According to Lieutenant Colonel David Jones charges are expected to be brought against Jairo Orlando Motta in connection with Wednesday’s confrontation. Meanwhile the B.D.F. continues to work closely with its partner agencies in Guatemala to address the problem.
Lt. Col. David Jones, Chief of Staff, B.D.F.
“We had a B.D.F. patrol in the area north of the Caracol ruins about two point, eight kilometers. I think it was about six and half kilometers from the border. They encountered some illegal loggers cutting cedar lumber in the area. On approaching the area one child, probably between the ages of eight or nine, shouted the word ‘negrito’ and apparently that was the signal to alert the rest of the loggers that the B.D.F. were in the area. After the shout about two seconds or so after a shot was fired towards the patrol. The patrol in turn got down, returned fire to the area and then they advanced towards where the loggers were. However, when they reached the area where the shots came from they managed to detain one person. They noticed that he was grazed by a bullet to the right arm. He was detained [and] subsequently taken over to the San Ignacio Police Station where he is police custody and I think immigration charges will be levied against him as well.”
“I was made to understand that there was a second or a subsequent encounter with illegal loggers in the general area. Can you update us on that as well?”
Lt. Col. David Jones
“The second incident occurred on Sunday which was the seventeenth [of July]. It was about 12:10 in the afternoon where we had another patrol in the area. It was about six or seven kilometers south of where the incident occurred. South of the ruins two shots were fired apparently towards the direction of the patrol, this is what we know now. The patrol in turn returned fire and upon investigation in the area they did not see anyone. So I think initially after the shots were fired one of the patrol members saw someone in the area, they returned fire in the area where they saw the person but after that they saw no one so no one was detained and there is no information in regards to anybody being injured.”
“The issue of xateros and illegal loggers crossing over from Guatemala into Belizean territory is a recurrent one. What is the BDF doing in terms of stepping up patrols or working with its counterparts to sort of put a lid on it or to decrease the number of incursions?”
Lt. Col. David Jones
“Okay, in particular that area, we have continuous patrols in the area so we’re not going to move out from there. So every day we have presence in that area. We work closely with the Guatemalan counterparts [and] we have regular meetings with them. As soon as incidents like these occur we inform them. They are informed of the area and we corroborate the information that we got and they try to assist us from their side who may have been committing these incursions into Belize and we work from there. But we are working closely with the Guatemalans but constantly we’re going to keep patrols in that area.”