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#414767 - 08/26/11 08:49 AM GOB COMMENTS ON BORDER INCIDENT  
Joined: Oct 1999
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There have been reports in the media in Belize and Guatemala about an incident that occurred last week in which Guatemalan national Luis Alberto Garci¬a Pineda was injured by Belizean authorities. As expected the reports have been vastly different with Guatemalan authorities insisting that the incident happened in Guatemalan territory while Belizean authorities say the incident occurred in Belizean territory. Today Belize’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade says it is concerned about the incident which is indicative of an increasing trend of illegal activity by Guatemalan nationals within Belizean territory. Reports from the Belize Defence Force say the incident occurred east of the Adjacency Line on Belizean territory where five Guatemalan nationals on motorcycles armed with high calibre AK 47 weapons approached the area threatening the members of the BDF patrol who were there to meet with the Guatemalan armed forces in accordance with the confidence building measures agreed to between both countries. The report further states that after repeated warnings from the BDF to stop, the Guatemalan nationals continued to advance on the BDF personnel who were forced to act in accordance to their rules of engagement. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade says it reiterates that the Government of Belize is committed to the implementation of the Confidence Building Measures and calls on the Office of the Organization of American States, within the Adjacency Zone to conduct the necessary verifications to ascertain the exact location where the incident took place. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade says it is calling on the relevant Guatemalan authorities to put in place the necessary mechanisms to dissuade its nationals from entering illegally into Belizean territory and for its nationals to respect the Belizean law enforcement authorities.


#414772 - 08/26/11 08:53 AM Re: GOB COMMENTS ON BORDER INCIDENT [Re: Marty]  
Joined: Oct 1999
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Marty Offline
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GOB gives their version of shooting incident near Chiquibul National Park

Earlier this week we reported on the most recent armed confrontation between members of the Belize Defence Force on routine border patrol near the Chiquibul National Park during which a Guatemalan from nearby San Jose, Las Flores was shot. On Wednesday, the Guatemalan government complained about the incident and today the government of Belize followed suit. GOB says that the incident occurred on Monday east of the Adjacency Line on Belizean soil contrary to reports made in Guatemala that the shooting occurred on their side of the border. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs maintains that the encounter followed repeated warnings by B.D.F. personnel to desist from proceeding into Belizean territory. The five Guatemalan nationals, who were armed with AK-47 assault rifles continued nonetheless and further threatened members of the team who were in the area to conduct a link up patrol with Guatemalan Armed Forces. The incident later resulted in an exchange of gunfire. The government says it remains committed to the implementation of the Confidence Building Measures and calls on the office of the OAS within the Adjacency Zone to conduct the necessary checks to determine the exact location where the incident occurred.

Channel 5

#414774 - 08/26/11 08:57 AM Re: GOB COMMENTS ON BORDER INCIDENT [Re: Marty]  
Joined: Oct 1999
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Marty Offline
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Despite Concerns, BDF Goes Back to Sapote 2

For the past three nights we've been reporting on the border incident, which happened on Monday morning at 11:00 in the Sapote 2 area near Caracol, within Belizean territory. That's where the BDF shot 21 year old Guatemalan civilian Luis Alberto García Pineda who they allege was carrying an AK-47 rifle.

For the past two nights, the worry expressed to us by senior government officials has been about the terms and military configuration for a return to the area - where there are armed and hostile Guatemalans.

But it seems that was worked out at the official level between military officials from both countries. And so, today, without any great fanfare, the BDF returned to the area to meet the Guatemalan Armed Forces for the regular joint border patrol; the same patrol which had to be put off on Monday when the armed encounter occurred.

Minister of Foreign Affairs Wilfred Elrington received a briefing from the BDF this afternoon, and gave 7news and the Reporter newspaper an interview immediately after. Here's what he had to say about today's patrol and the genesis of this border problem:

Hon. Wilfred Elrington, Minister of Foreign Affairs
"There was in fact the usual Belize Defence Force and Guatemalan Defence Force link up in the very area, so that both militaries are behaving has happen - they are continuing to link up as they usually do."

Jules Vasquez
"I know there was some concern about what type of numbers would we return to the area with when we did return as we did today."

Hon. Wilfred Elrington, Minister of Foreign Affairs
"I didn't get the sense that it was larger than the usual. It's not the first time they have had encounter with this particular individual. In this particular case this gentleman Rigoberto Guitierriez is a man who is in fact in Belizean territory - there is no question about it - has had arms found in his premises on the Belize side and he is an irritant for the Belize Defence Force and we are doing all in our power to try to ensure that he is relocated but it is very lucrative for him to be over here because he seems to facilitate the illegal activities - they found a saw in his house and some gasoline. We know that there has been a lot of cutting of the timber and he seem to be very much involve in that kind of activity."

Jules Vasquez
"Is it that we can't eject him because of the rules of the AZ (adjacency zone)?"

Hon. Wilfred Elrington, Minister of Foreign Affairs
"Yeah only the terms of the adjacency zone as I understand it - those people who have been occupying areas prior to 2000 I think, you have got to get their concurrence to have them remove. That was the agreement to remove them - you would really have to have their concurrence."

Rowland Parks, Reporter
"Even if they are in possession what would be illegal arms and ammunition under our jurisdiction - we cannot enforce that?"

Hon. Wilfred Elrington, Minister of Foreign Affairs
"We can. We can enforce all our laws. But it seems to me that there was some agreement that in the case of those who are in occupation prior to 2000 - the mode of removing them would be with their agreement."

Jules Vasquez
"Do we make any apologies? in this particular case the civilian that got shot is a 21 year old David Garcia Pineda. Do you have to apologize to anyone for him being shot?"

Hon. Wilfred Elrington, Minister of Foreign Affairs
"It is not up to our understanding that we have to. I don't think the Guatemalan authorities are expecting us to apologize either."

Jules Vasquez
"And the reason we don't have to apologize is because he was shot in Belize."

Rowland Parks, Reporter
"And he was posing a threat with an AK-47."

Hon. Wilfred Elrington, Minister of Foreign Affairs
"That is our position but even though it is our position we still are putting the matter to the OAS so that they can come up with a definitive position."

Jules Vasquez
"You cannot freely engage with firearms within the adjacency zone - there is the little brown book."

Hon. Wilfred Elrington, Minister of Foreign Affairs
"They should not be doing that. People should not be using firearms."

Jules Vasquez
"So then did our military used justifiable force within the adjacency zone?"

Hon. Wilfred Elrington, Minister of Foreign Affairs
"That is going to be ascertained. That side of the adjacency zone was squarely in Belizean territory and it is my view that our authorities have the power and the responsibility to defend the territory and if they have to use force in the process to my mind that is our entitlement; that is our right."

Jules Vasquez
"Deadly force?"

Hon. Wilfred Elrington, Minister of Foreign Affairs
"That is our entitlement; that is our right. They could have been kill too."

Jules Vasquez
"Now if we are unable to eject a hostile Guatemalan civilian from our own land, is it not time to revisit the adjacency zone protocols if the OAS is incapable of mustering the funds to relocate him and we are face with someone who is provoking other Guatemalan civilians against out army in our land. Something has to be done."

Hon. Wilfred Elrington, Minister of Foreign Affairs
"Good observation and something needs to be done and I agree with that but that something has to be done by us. You see it is our country, it is our land and I like to say to people that we now are in the driver's seat - when I say we, I mean you and me, the people of Belize, all the leaders of Belize and the Government of Belize. It is our country, we all have a collective responsibility to sit down and decide how are we going forward in relation to this problem and so we as a people have got to sit down and decide now what are our priorities? What is our resource base? can we afford to increase the amount of soldiers we have on the border? Can we afford to increase the amount of policemen we have on the border."

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs put out a statement today saying that quote: "the incidentoccurredon Belizean territory, where 5 Guatemalan nationals on motorcycles armed with high caliber AK-47 weapons approached the area threatening the members of the Belize Defence Force Patrolafter repeated warnings from the BDF to stop, the Guatemalan nationals continued to advance on the BDF personnel who were forced to act in accordance to their rules of engagement."

And as a rejoinder to yesterday's mildly inflammatory release from the Guatemalan ministry of Foreign Affairs, Belize's ministry's release adds, quote:

"The Ministry of Foreign Affairsof Belize once again calls on theGuatemalan authorities to put in place the necessary mechanisms to dissuade its nationals from entering illegally into Belizean territory and for its nationals to respect the Belizean law enforcement authorities."

Channel 7

#414803 - 08/26/11 12:12 PM Re: GOB COMMENTS ON BORDER INCIDENT [Re: Marty]  
Joined: Oct 1999
Posts: 57,770
Marty Offline
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Wellington Ramos On Belize-Guatemala Border Issue

By Wellington C. Ramos

Belize is a former British colony that is situated in Central America between the countries of Mexico, Guatemala and the southeastern coast of Honduras. This country was encountered by a British pirate Peter Wallace, who was on his way to Jamaica when he had a shipwreck. Due to the shipwreck he discovered logwood and mahogany and the British decided to settle on the land to ship these items to Great Britain in mass quantities.

In the beginning of the settlement, the Spanish crown asked the British to leave because they had obtained this land in the Treaty of Tordesillas that was signed between their country and Portugal in 1494. The British refused to leave the territory and granted it Crown colony status in 1862. In 1964 Belize was granted Internal self government and then independence on September 21, 1981.

The British and the Spanish dispute over the territory finally led to the Battle of Saint George’s Cay on 10 September 1798. Since then, the Spanish crown left the British settlers to remain on the land.

When the Spanish colonies of Latin America and the Caribbean broke away from Spain in 1823, they all declared themselves independent nations. At that time, Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador, Costa Rica and Nicaragua were all one country known as the Central American Republic which lasted from 1823-1841, with the capital located in Guatemala City. Later on these countries that made up the republic started to have their differences and severed their ties with Guatemala, which led to separate countries in Central America today. Guatemala was born as a new nation in Central America after 1841, with disputed borders with the other territories due to the Captaincy General administration that was established under Spain.

Since 1859, the country of Guatemala has been claiming Belize as its territory and has failed to recognize the country as an independent and sovereign nation. Prior to the independence of Belize, the British government drafted several proposals to try and solve this dispute, namely: the Webster Proposals, the Maritime Areas Act and the Heads of Agreement, but they were all rejected by the Belizean people.

Since the independence of Belize in 1981, the government of Belize has made several attempts to resolve this dispute with Guatemala but to no avail. Prior to the independence of Belize, Guatemala had threatened to use military force to retake Belize on several occasions but due to the presence of British forces in Belize they were unable to achieve their objective. Unfortunately for the country of Belize, since independence the British government has significantly withdrawn its military forces and Belize is now vulnerable to an attack by Guatemala.

Also, there have been mass migrations of native Maya Indians moving from Guatemala into Belize’s territory due to military atrocities committed against them, drug traffickers, squatters and criminals stealing logwood, mahogany and artifacts from Belizean soil. These incidents are causing increased tensions at the Belize-Guatemalan border between the Belize Defence Force, the Guatemalan military and the civilians from Guatemala. Neither the Guatemalan armed forces nor the Belize Defence Force have the personnel to stop these incidents from occurring.

Plus, due to the series of tensions that occurred in the past, Guatemala and Belize had signed an agreement in 2001 with the Organization of American States (OA S) to limit the amount of soldiers each country can have, in order to decrease the tensions at the border. For the country of Belize, the amount is about 1,000 troops and for Guatemala about 25,000 troops.

In the year 2008, Guatemala and Belize signed another agreement to submit the Guatemalan claim to the International Court of Justice (ICJ) for final resolution, after it has been approved by the legislative bodies of both countries and the people in a referendum. The legislative bodies of both countries have approved the proposal but the referendum is still pending.

The Guatemalan government is aware of all of the border violations but has not done anything to stop their citizens from migrating into Belize, stealing Belizean logwood, mahogany, artifacts and committing other border infractions on Belizean soil.

In international diplomacy, there is something called “border baiting”. This is when a country is aware of all the illegal activities taking place on its border but does nothing because they want the incidents to escalate so that they can use it as the justification to use military force against the neighbouring country.

The government and people of Belize must now question what is Guatemala’s motive. Based on their record of human rights abuses and military threat of invasion towards Belize in the past, they cannot be trusted. Belize must now seek other countries to come to their rescue by signing a defence pact with viable countries in the world.

The British have already left Belize and have no intention of defending the country after their three hundred and forty three years of exploitation and colonial rule. With the discovery of oil in Belize, many countries in the world have interest in Belize now. Guatemala is also determined that they will not relinquish their claim until they get a part of the country or something of value for it.

If these tensions continue, it will lead to a BDF soldier killing a Guatemalan citizen or soldier or a Guatemalan soldier killing a BDF soldier or citizen, which could lead to an uncontrollable situation at the border. Our government cannot afford to wait until this situation reaches that climax. Guatemala is good at reneging on the agreements they have signed and it will not be difficult for them to sever diplomatic relations with Belize.

#414891 - 08/27/11 08:26 AM Re: GOB COMMENTS ON BORDER INCIDENT [Re: Marty]  
Joined: Oct 1999
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Marty Offline
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OAS investigates border Shooting

A shooting incident involving a Belize Defence Force Patrol along the Adjacency Zone prompted the government of Belize to issue a press release late Thursday, August 25. In the release, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade expressed his concern about the incident, noting “the increasing trend of illegal activities by Guatemalan nationals within Belizean territory”.

“The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade wishes to reiterate that the Government of Belize is committed to the implementation of the Confidence -building measures and calls on the Office of the Organization of American States, within the Adjacency Zone to conduct the necessary verifications to ascertain the exact location where the incident took place.”

The BDF patrol shot a Guatemalan civilian, Luis Alberto Garcia Pineda, in his hand around 11:00 Monday morning, August 22.

The BDF high command reports that the patrol was in the area to rendezvous with its Guatemalan counterpart for a joint patrol when it was threatened by the approach a group of five Guatemalans on motor cycles, armed with AK-47 assault rifles, and the Belizean patrol acted in self defence.

BDF Commandant Brigadier General Dario Tapia told The Reporter that the soldiers had a right to defend themselves.

General Tapia said he is confident that the soldiers will be exonerated when the Organization of American States (OAS) looks into the incident.

But the incident has prompted the Guatemalan Ministry of Foreign Affair to issue a statement on its web site, which disputes the official report that Pineda was on the Belizean side of the border.

The statement further alleges that the BDF had “trespassed in the home of Mr. Roberto Felipe Gutierrez and fired several shots, resulting in a wound to Mr. Luis Alberto Garcia Pineda’s hand.

“The Ministry of Foreign Relations has also requested that the Government of Belize instruct its security defense forces to strictly observe the confidence-building measures which are in effect, with respect to the human rights of those persons who live in the Adjacency Zone between our countries.”

Guatemala has lodged a protest with the OAS office in the Adjacency Zone to verify these actions in accordance with the spirit of the Confidence Building Measures to determine what had happened, the statement said.

The official position is that the BDF patrol was in the Chiquibul forest near the Caracol Archeological site in an area known as Sapote, within Belize border.

According to General Tapia, on Thursday, August 25, OAS officials accompanied the BDF and the Guatemalan military to the area where the incident had occurred.

BDF Colonel Javier Castellanos told The Reporter that the meeting was a part of the Confidence Building Measures, where both countries’ military meet to plan patrols for a three-month period.

Castellanos said the area where the shooting incident occurred in El Sapote is about 100 meters from the border.

Castellanos added that it was necessary for both militaries to go back to the area to get the confidence of the people. “We have a professional relationship with the Guatemalan military, and the OAS will submit a report to both countries,” said Castellanos.

Belize’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, Hon. Wilfred Elrington, spoke to The Reporter following a briefing from the BDF.

Elrington said that both militaries are acting as if though nothing untoward had happened. He described the relations between the two militaries as excellent.

Asked if he is concerned about the tone of the Guatemalan report, Elrington said that he is not concerned, because there are different groups in Guatemala with different attitudes toward Belize. He said the report might have been put out by the Commission de Belice, a group that has showed a hostile attitude toward Belize.

Elrington said that more and more Guatemalans are coming into Belize, and we just have to find a way to deal with it.

There is no question that the man who was shot was on Belizean territory. The BDF had found arms in his house on more than one occasion, but the OAS has been unable to relocate him.

It seems very lucrative for him to be in Belize. They have found a chain saw in his house, and it appears that he is engaged in illegal logging operations, Elrington said.

Removal of Guatemalans who are illegally on Belizean land has to be done with their concurrence, Elrington disclosed.

Some have been removed with funds provided by the OAS. But due to the international economic situation, the OAS is short of funds, Elrington said.

The Reporter

#414998 - 08/28/11 07:23 PM Re: GOB COMMENTS ON BORDER INCIDENT [Re: Marty]  
Joined: Oct 1999
Posts: 57,770
Marty Offline
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Border Incidents Threaten Stability

BY: Charles Trew
Succotz & Washington, DC
WEDNESDAY, August 24, 2011:

The latest incident in a string of clashes during 2011 at the border between Belize and Guatemala threatens to become the most serious threat to stability between the two countries in years.

On August 24 the Guatemalan Prensa Libre published an invective article concerning the events of August 22 in which Belizean Defense Forces (BDF) soldiers shot a 21 year old Guatemalan at the border named Luis Pineda.

Expanding on a previous article the day before, the piece made new accusations and used language with ominous implications.

Above the article "Youth shot during incursion by Belizean soldiers," a subtitle to the piece describes the border area in unusual terms. The area where the shooting took place is "las cercanias de la linea divisioria aun no definida entre Peten y Belice," instead of the normal term "frontera," or "border." The unwieldy description that described Mr. Pineda as a poor campesino resident in the

"vicinity of the undefined line of division" is a clear rejection of Belizean sovereignty.

In addition, the article claims it was actually Belize that launched unprovoked multiple attacks on Guatemalans.

One witness is identified as a human rights official from Poptun named Gonzalo Aldana. "At least 10" BDF soldiers are described as having taken children hostage and then making other campesinos beg for their freedom on their knees. The BDF troops are then said to have made an "incursion,"

going to the residence of Mr. Pineda's parents and launching a full blown attack.

This latest incident took place at the same time the BDF soldiers involved were waiting for Guatemalan counterparts to arrive as part of a joint patrol team in the border area. These exercises are supposed to be "confidence builders" except the last two times the Guatema¥lan military never showed up.

On Monday it seems they sent a surrogate team instead. Somehow it does not provide much confidence, at least not the kind intended.

It seems well clear that Guatemala has been resorting to provocations this year for reasons not totally clear. Meanwhile, there are small armies of thieves plundering Belizean hardwoods, xate, Mayan artifacts, birds and anything else of value.

It's only in the last few months that Belizean enforcement is really begining to reflect reality in this area.

There has to be a much more aggressive enforcement policy. Until recently, most thieves were let go, sometimes even with their equipment.

The outnumbered Belizeans attempting to protect against the onslaught have often been unarmed, even as the Guatema¥lans frequently carry military grade weapons.

In this latest clash on August 22, Major Dalton Roches of the BDF noted to the media that 5 Guatemalans crossed into Belize and one had an AK-47 assault rifle. The others had handguns and machetes.

In response to this latest border incident, Prime Minis¥ter Barrow has requested Organization of American States (OAS) involvement, calling the situation "very, very, serious." He has also refused to discuss any policy scenarios with the media citing the sensitivity of the situation.

At first glance this seems a sound policy. Megaphone diplomacy is the last thing needed with a situation that is already a tinderbox.

The OAS currently maintains a "tripwire" facility in the no-man's land at the Western border between the two countries. The OAS would have the authority to intervene in the case of an invasion or other hostile action. Whether the OAS would shoulder that responsibil¥ity is another matter and hope¥fully the world will not have to find out the hard way.

Meanwhile Belize needs to develop and implement some serious long term strategies for the border.

Belize will certainly need international assistance in this area. A military solution is simply not possible because of the tremendous disparity in the size of the two military institu¥tions. Furthermore the sheer size and remoteness of the border area make effective enforcement a massive and expensive proposition.

Hopefully the quiet diplomacy currently underway will yield some positive results. The first test will come in two weeks when the next joint "confidence building" patrol is set to meet in the Chiquibil.

The Cayo Star

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