Many Belizeans around the country have been marking the nation’s 30th year of political independence from Great Britain. The People’s National Party (PNP), which was birthed out of Belize’s southernmost district, Toledo, decided to mark this anniversary with a flag-raising near Jalacte, a border village that sees virtually unchecked cross-border traffic with Guatemala, but which has in recent years been in the media spotlight due to illegal incursions by Guatemalans.
What the PNP met this past weekend surprised them. Amandala viewed the video clip of the incident, documented by PG TV, and this is how a police officer on patrol in the area with the Belize Defence Force (DF) responded to the PNP’s flag-raising:
Officer scolding PNP: “Young man, please tek down da flag fi me, yuh no. A di warn yuh. Please tek down dah flag fi mi. You have wah amout a meters weh you can’t put nothing....
Wil Maheia, PNP leader: “But di [Guatemalan] man put ih fence. You wah tell di man that dat dah di adjacency zone?”
Police to the Jalacte village chairman, on-site: “You shoulda mi tell deh bally no do this maan. No man. Deh can’t come do weh deh want yah at all.”
Maheia commented that Guatemalans can come and do what they want, but Belizeans cannot do what they want?
Two years ago, the Organization of American States (OAS) had to be called in to oversee the removal of a bodega put up on Belizean soil by Guatemalan farmer, Leonel Arellanos. Amandala has confirmed that the farmer has continued to exploit Belizean terrain, and had even put up fencing over the Belize side of the border.
Brigadier General Dario Tapia, commander of the Belize Defence Force, has confirmed to Amandala that Arellanos had started to put up a fence on Belizean territory in the Jalacte area, but three weeks ago, he agreed to take it down voluntarily.
Amandala contacted the Ministry of Foreign Affairs today to get an official report, but we could not speak with anyone who could tell us definitively what is happening in the Jalacte area. The officer we did speak with declined to go on record, and told us that he knows nothing of any complaint regarding incursions at Jalacte.
A PG police source told Amandala that a visit was made to the area about a month ago and the fences there have been there “ever since.” He told us that they partner regularly with immigration and customs to do checks on the border.
The police source also told us that he has no knowledge of any conflict between police and the PNP. When we asked Tapia about this claim, that PNP had been told that it could not post a flag at the border, he said that such matters they would refer to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
Maheia told Amandala that despite police resistance, they still hoisted the Belize flag 70 feet high in the air, atop a tree in the area—so high the police could not take it down.
He also noted that the area that continues to be exploited, allegedly by Arellanos, has no grass and there is a fence near the road.
“How did he have enough time to clear that land?” Maheia questioned.