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The Dubious Border At Jalacte #458661
02/23/13 08:11 AM
02/23/13 08:11 AM
Joined: Oct 1999
Posts: 72,113
oregon, spr
Marty Offline OP

Marty  Offline OP
Guatemalans have sent a diplomatic note urging the Belizean government to intervene and stop Will Maheia and his Belize Territorial Volunteers from commencing with their project called "Clearing Our Borderline". It starts in Jalacte which is an area we visited with Maheia in 2008. At the time there was a dispute about a warehouse which a Guatemalan businessman had placed in Belizean territory. It took months to get that removed - even though it was squarely in Belizean territory. The businessman was form Santa Cruz Guatemala which is the Guatemalan village adjoining Jalacte in Belize. Through commerce and daily life, they are like sister villages, and they have established a much used - though unregulated border crossing. When we went there, we found out how difficult it is to two the border line. Tonight we repeat only a small excerpt of that story that noted the contrasts and the similarities between Jalacte Belize and Santa Cruz Guatemala.

Unlike Jalacte, it has electricity and Belizean shoppers come here for Gallo beers, and cheap products. The village - or most of it - is in Guatemalan territory - the cemetery for example is believed to be inside Belizean territory. But it's a fine, widely unknown line, and the entire village exists under the eye of the BDF treetops observation post - the sole indicator of Belize's domain in the area.

It is ground they are holding in hostile territory, the Guatemalans resent the military's presence, and after taping for few minutes it was made clear to us by a group of village leaders that our presence was also not welcome.

Back in Jalacte and after recovering from the grueling trek back under the midday sun, I considered this village, a small trading outpost, its jarring juxtapositions between of Guatemalan and Belizean branding, the commanding Guatemalan phone tower on the borderline, the fact that my phone had switched over from Telemedia to service from the Guatemalan phone company TIGO, which is the only phone service this and surrounding villages get - where by the way, they offer triple-up, not double up as we found out when this young Jalacte woman was putting in credits for her Guatemalan phone.

And moving as freely as phone signals, everyday the BDF looks on as scores of Belizeans and Guatemalans go back and forth between Jalacte and Santa Cruz. Their job is to hold the line - a line not marked in any way, a line whose true location is known only to technicians who use GPS devices, a line that is a good few hundred feet west of, behind this structure. It is either a matter for grave concern, or earnest hope.

Edgar Savedra,
"We live as a community in friendship. That is why we don't have any problems, we live in peace."

Wil Maheia,
"Every year Belize gets smaller and smaller because the road that we just came on, that is clearly inside Belizean territory and the people living there are Guatemalans. They think they are living inside of Guatemala, yet they are living on Belizean territory."

Ferdie's Brother,
"Belizeans with Guatemala, we are friendship. We and Belize, we are friends but I don't know what the people think and someday we argue with Belize but I don't know why. I just only want to ask that question, I want to ask somebody: why they noh come friends."

And how the technicians, politicians and diplomats deal with this illegal encroachment will largely determine what happens at the official level - but at the ground level, we suspect the free movement and informal trade will continue because these are neighbors and no policy or referendum can dictate their co-existence.

Maheia says he and his volunteers with their 100 machetes plan to start their clear the border drive in Jalacte at 8:00 am on Saturday. We imagine that would bring them right into the path of that cemetery we showed you in that story.

Guatemalans Object To Maheia's Border Clearing Effort

On February fourth, we told you about Will Maheia's dramatic drive to cut the line along entire border. Here's how he explained it then:..

Wil Maheia - PNP
"One of the things that we will be starting in 3 weeks' time - we have secured 100 machetes. We will begin to clear the border lines ourselves, just like when we started to place the flag it was one of us; two of us. Rufus when you went down there maybe it was 6-10 of us, now its bus loads. We will start to clear that borderline by had with machetes - one machete at a time and we will start from Gracias Adios, up the Sarstoon River and we will begin chopping and we will chop and chop until we get up to the Chiquibul and Caracol. I don't know how long it's going to take but in a couple of weeks we will start chopping along the borderline."

Now the date for the event has been set. It starts on Sunday March 2nd, when Maheia's group called the Belize Territorial Volunteers will begin a project called "Clearing Our Borderline."

A release from Maheia sent earlier this week says quote, "Over the past thirty years our borders have been neglected and as a result, several incursions have occurred into our beautiful, sovereign country. Guatemalans have come into the villages and pillaged people's farms and stolen their horses." It adds, "Our mission is simple, we exist to educate our people as to the reality of our Western border and to maintain a watchful eye, to ensure that Belize's territorial sovereignty is never called into question. " Today Maheia told us that he's gotten many calls from volunteers wanting to assist in the project. But he's also getting pushback. 7news has learned that Maheia has gotten a call from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs asking him to cancel the effort. That's because the Guatemalan Ministry of Foreign Affairs has sent Belize a diplomatic note warning that such an effort will create friction between the two nations and could force them to take it up with the OAS. We spoke with the Minister of foreign Affairs this evening and he made it clear that he is very opposed to the effort. He told us the problem is, quote, "Nobody knows where the border is ." End quote. Elrington added that whenever there is a border incident, the government has to go to a geographic institute to in South America to make a determination. Speaking of Maheia's group, he warned quote, "they could well find themselves arrested by the Guatemalans because there are no clear boundaries (along much of the border).

HE added quote, "they don't know what they are doing." He noted that when a boundary is being fixed usually a proper surveying team goes out to make a precise determination. He closed ominously, quote, "they will only cause an international incident and likely end up all in jail" end quote.

It's a developing story, but when we spoke to Maheia this evening, he told us he has not intention to cancel the effort.

Channel 7

Re: The Dubious Border At Jalacte [Re: Marty] #458921
02/26/13 07:41 AM
02/26/13 07:41 AM
Joined: Oct 1999
Posts: 72,113
oregon, spr
Marty Offline OP

Marty  Offline OP

Guats Sabre-Rattle, Foreign Ministry Cautions, Maheia Unfazed

On Friday we told you about Foreign Minister Wilfred Elrington's stern warning to Will Maheia and his Belize Territorial Volunteers about their project called "Clearing Our Borderline". Responding to a formal diplomatic note from the Guatemalans warning that it will cause friction along the border, Elrington said quote, "they could well find themselves arrested by the Guatemalans because there are no clear boundaries (along the border)."

To add to that, today, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs sent out what you might call a cautionary tale: it warns that quote, "any attempt…to clear the Western Border can give rise to serious danger…and we therefore strongly advise against participation in any such action." End quote. It also goes on to revisit an incident in February of 2000 when 3 soldiers and one police officer were arrested by 25 Guatemalan Military as they patrolled near Treetops, south southwest of Jalacte Village.

Despite these warnings, though, Maheai is going right ahead. Today he stopped by our studio to tell us why:..

Will Maheia
"The response has been overwhelming; I am humbled by the amount of support that we are getting throughout the country. I am proud of the Belizean people; they are the ones that motivate us to do what we do. We believe that we need to take care of this country, we need to take care of the country's border, I don't know of any country in the world beside Belize that doesn't have a mark border. I just think that it is our duty and obligation as Belizeans to ensure that our borders are secure. As part of the territorial volunteers - we've been together for a while now. The group that we are a part of has been in existence over a year now, but we've known each other for over ten years now, so we've been going into the forest for a long time just looking at Belize's resources."

Daniel Ortiz
"Sir, we understand that you have been receiving some pressure from our ministry of Foreign Affairs to cancel the initiative to clear that border line. Can you tell us about that and what is the stage at in which the Ministry of Affairs has contacted you or any member of your organization?"

Will Maheia
"Yes there has been some concern from the Ministry about what we are doing but I believe as Belizeans we have an obligation to our country; we have a right to safeguard the borders of our country and that is exactly what we are doing. We want to ensure that the encroachment stops, that the incursions stop and I believe as Belizeans it is our right, it is our civic duty to ensure that our borders are clear and free and that all of Belize remains Belize."

Daniel Ortiz
"The Minister of Foreign Affairs has spoken to Channel 7 saying that your initiative while nationalistic and patriotic could cause a border incident because there is no clear border, so we don't know where Guatemala starts and where it ends. He is saying that it could cause a friction between our neighbors."

Will Maheia
"I don't expect that there will be a border incident. We will be on the Belize side of the border; we don't have any intention to go into Guatemala. We believe we know where the Belize border is. I would like to invite the Foreign Minister or the people from the Foreign Ministry to come down so that we could visit the border together. I think that it is clear from the days of the British the marker at "Gracias Adios" stands as a marked point where the border is at and we could go north from there. I know we will not be in Guatemalan territory. If Guatemala comes over and try to do us anything that would be basically Guatemala would be infringing on our right as Belizeans to move around freely which the constitution gives us the right to move freely in our country."

Daniel Ortiz
"But at the same time it's an area that's in dispute. What if there is response from the Guatemalan side?"

Will Maheia
"If there is response from Guatemalan side of course we are peaceful people; the people in our group are peaceful and we don't want to cause any confusion but we want to send a strong message that enough is enough - it is time for Belizeans to take back our country, it is time to stand up for what we believe in because on a daily occurrence Guatemalans continue to invade Belize and when will it stop. I think as Belizeans we have to go there. Like I say the group that we are in - we've been together for more than 10 years now and we've known each other for a long time, so we are concern about this and we continue to see in front of our eyes the incursions that are taking place. We believe that our borders have been neglected for too long."

Maheia's effort starts on Saturday at Jalacte.

The press release from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs says that under the Confidence Building Measures the parties are committed to avoid conflicts.

Channel 7

Re: The Dubious Border At Jalacte [Re: Marty] #459117
02/28/13 08:05 AM
02/28/13 08:05 AM
Joined: Oct 1999
Posts: 72,113
oregon, spr
Marty Offline OP

Marty  Offline OP

Hon. Wilfred Warns Again

Wil Maheia and his Belize Territorial Volunteers are going to clear the border on Saturday - and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs has made it clear, they're on their own.

That's because Belize's Foreign Minister has said they are threading on dangerous ground and face the possibility of getting arrested. Additionally, the Guatemalans have sent a diplomatic note to Belize's Ministry of Foreign Affairs warning that such an initiative will only exacerbate border tensions.

Foreign Affairs Minister Wilfred Elrington has already publicly warned against the initiative due to its risk of causing a border incident, but as we showed you, Maheia is unfazed and leaning on what he calls overwhelming support from the Belizean public.

Today, Elrington was at another function, and 7News got a chance to ask him in person if his Ministry will accept Maheia's public invitation to accompany them to see first-hand that they don't intend to cause friction with Guatemala.

Here's how he responded:

Hon. Wilfred "Sedi" Elrington - Minister of Foreign Affairs
"The Government will not accompany him. The Government is advising that it's a dangerous initiative, and certainly, the Government is not going to do anything that could jeopardize the lives of its citzens, whether they are officials or other citizens."

Daniel Ortiz
"But, isn't this a confidence building exercise for the Belizean people exercising their nationalism?"

Hon. Wilfred Elrington
"I do not know how you could regard it as a confidence building measure. As I say to people, the British were here from 1948, when they brought their troops because of the potential danger they saw coming to Belize from Guatemala. So, they stationed troops here from 1948 until 1991, and they were here during all that time. They never once attempted anything like what is being attempted by Mr. Maheia. Bear in mind, that up until 1981, the country belong to the British; it was theirs, and the border situation existed just as it exists today. They did not think it prudent to take such a step. We tend to subcribe to the view of the British that it is not prudent to do that. I don't think that there is any reasonable-thinking Belizean who would not want to have such a demarkation. Everybody would want to have it because it would make life so much easier. The problem is that you have contiguous countries, you can't make a demarkation without the concurrence of the other side, and the Guatemalan's have been resisting doing that. And that's the only reason why it has not been done."

"Can you tell us that if these - because it surely seems that Wil Maheia will continue to go ahead with the border clearing, if they are arrested by Guatemalans, is it the opinion of the Ministry that they're washing their hands, that nothing will be done or couldn't be done to get them out?"

Hon, Wilfred Elrington
"No, certainly not, as a matter of fact, it is because of this issue, that we are so concerned. When Belizeans go across the border, whether it is Mexico, or Guatemala, and get into trouble, the most we can do is give them assistance through our embassies, help them to find a lawyer, help to educate them as to the legal process over that side. That is as much as we can do. We can't do anything else to get them out. If we tell you, and you still want to go and do it, that's your business, but it is not reasonable for you to decide that you are still going to go, and ask our poor soldiers now to go and risk their lives to get you out of a problem which you invited and brought upon yourself. It's not reasonable."

The initiative starts on Saturday morning at Jalacte, and 7news will be there.

Channel 7

Re: The Dubious Border At Jalacte [Re: Marty] #459490
03/05/13 07:06 AM
03/05/13 07:06 AM
Joined: Oct 1999
Posts: 72,113
oregon, spr
Marty Offline OP

Marty  Offline OP

Belize Territorial Volunteers demarcate Belize’s border lines

On March 2nd, 2013, the Belize Territorial Volunteers (BTV) spearheaded by Wil Maheia of PG TV and the People’s National Party (PNP), met at Belize’s border with Guatemala, to carry out a cleanup campaign to clear vegetation on Belize’s side of the border. The group consisting of 150 volunteers began the work at Container Hill from sunrise to late afternoon.

The contingent had representation from various social groups including Citizens Organized for Liberty through Action (COLA); the University of Belize; the Belize Coalition for Justice; BelizeCan, a NonPartisan, nongovernmental Organization established as a “Watchdog Group” to strengthen the Democratic principles and social justice in the Nation of Belize; Belize Grassroots Youth Empowerment Association, various media representatives, along with Belizean men, women and children.

According to Maheia, the day was a successful one with approximately 20 meters being cleared along Belize’s side of the border. “The day went without a hitch. During our preliminary work,we discussed the border and pointed out exactly where it is at.. As we walked along the road, we met up with Guatemalans who had with them the presence of a representative from the Organization of American States (OAS) who confirmed, after verifying his GPS coordinates, that the Guatemalans were indeed on Belizean soil.” After a conversation with the Guatemalan neighbors Maheia stated, “rather than being arrested at the border as the Foreign Minister [Hon. Wilfred Elrington] had indicated, there were hugs instead.”

The Belize Territorial Volunteers plan to continue clearing Belize’s side of the border. Cayo and Orange Walk volunteers will now set to plan their individual campaigns and clear border lines along their districts. “We just want to clean up our country. To clean the overgrown vegetation on our side of the border,” stated Maheia, “This is not the first time such an initiative is being carried out. The same exercise has been conducted many times peacefully before without incident or conflict. We simply now will carry out the job that has been neglected for so long.”

Belize Territorial Volunteers are a group of volunteers, concerned Belizeans who live mostly on the south, along the border, and are concerned about the incursions into Belize. The initiative BTV, was started by Wil Maheia and this year they began a campaign called “Clear Our Borderline” with the first clearing taking place on March 2nd, 2013.

Belize territorial Volunteers chop along border

There were dire forecasts from the Minister of Foreign Affairs and from the security forces, as Belizeans prepared to make the symbolic journey to the border with Guatemala. Officials warned that the move would be seen as aggressive and could invite a violent response from Guatemala’s residents and from the army. Guatemala’s president Otto Perez Molina was quoted saying that his government was on high alert because of the planned expedition.  B.D.F. Commander David Jones advised Belizeans that while the symbolism of the trip was laudable, it wasn’t a smart move. But organizer and activist Wil Maheia was undeterred, and on Saturday he was joined by a group of patriotic Belizeans as they headed south to the border. Freelance reporter Mike Rudon joined the determined group and has the story from the border.

Despite much effort to deter Belizeans who decided to travel to the border with Guatemala and clear the land, early Saturday morning a group of about one hundred headed to Jalacte, which is the country’s most south-western village, on the border with Guatemala. They came from every corner of the country, and flew the Belizean flag proudly was villagers looked on from the roadside. The destination was the border, the intention to clear a symbolic line and the message was echoed proudly by those who made the journey.

Dickie Bradley

Dickie Bradley, Attorney

“Belize is ours; Toledo is part of Belize and that we feel that it is important to say that we have a right to walk and to even do a symbolic as well as a real clearing of our side of this beautiful earth that god has given us.”

Lita Krohn

Lita Krohn, Belizean

“I asked my son, what do you think of this clearing of the land along the border and he said someone’s got to do it. And that is why I am here. Someone’s got to do it and that’s why I am here. I just want to show support. I really believe that we have to stand our ground and show that we love our country; if not, what’s the purpose.”

David Barnett, BGYEA

David Barnett

“Mein it’s the most patriotic thing I’ve ever done in my life. To come and actually see this border that these guys say don’t exist and the people here say they know when they reach Belize and when they don’t reach Belize. And the next thing, they told us is that there will be dense jungle; there is no jungle here. the road is almost paved.”

Edward Young, Belizean

“We need to make a stand. We need to stop rolling over for the Guatemalans and we need to stake our claim. If we don’t stake our claim then they have every right to come in and encroach. We need to mark our territory. Our government had failed to do so from the time of independence. The border was kept when the British was here. When they left, it has been neglected as you can see. So if the government isn’t willing to do it, the people should rise up and do it. That’s why I am here.”

At Jalacte the group disembarked from their vehicles and prepared for the next leg of the trip, a half an hour hike to Container Hill, which lies on the border with the village of Santa Cruz. There were repeated and serious warnings from government officials and the military about the density of the jungle on the border, but nothing could have been further from the truth. The land was well cleared and while the journey was taxing, the scenery was well worth the trip.

Community activist and organizer of the outing, Wil Maheia, picked Container Hill to be cleared, since it has been established that it does lie within Belize’s border.

Wil Maheia

Wil Maheia, Belize Territorial Volunteers

“Today, we come here to show the Belizean people that Belize do have a birder and a border that should be maintained. The message that we want to send to the people of Belize and the government of Belize is that we do have a border and we need to maintain the border. Belize seems to be the only country in the world that I know of that do not take care of their border.  The land that we are standing on, clearly as you can see we have Guatemalans coming in, occupying our land and we have thousands of Belizeans that cannot even get a piece of land. If you look all around us, all this has been deforested, all this has been clear and I can tell you that it is Guatemalans who are farming on our land right now.”


David Pech

David Pech, Belizean

“I was a B.D.F. in 1979. I was a member of the second intake and I patrolled this border. And I came here after so many years to prove to the government and the whole world that we have borders. They are saying now that we don’t have borders and I know [we do] because I have been to Gracias A Dios border, to Garbutt falls monument and the one with Mexico, the three-faced monument. So I patrolled those areas so I know that we have borders. And then I wanted to see it for myself. That’s why I am here.”

Lloyd Jones

Lloyd Jones, (Ret’d) B.D.F. Major

“I don’t see anything wrong with a bunch of Belizeans coming along and observing where the border might be. I think Wil’s gesture is more of a symbolic gesture than anything else because you couldn’t possibly clear the border without proper surveying equipment and so on. So it is more of a symbolic thing and it serves to stir up patriotism and nationalism and I think we need more of that in Belize.”

From Container Hill the group looked down on the community of Santa Cruz, marked by this well-traveled road. There was no sign of the Guatemalan military, even though one person we met on the way claimed that soldiers were nearby. We did get a glimpse of six B.D.F. soldiers far up on the hill looking down, but they did not approach. The first contact with the Guatemalans was made by Orange Walk businessman Orlando de la Fuente, who headed down to the road to speak to the persons assembled there looking on curiously.

Orlando de la Fuente

Orlando de la Fuente, Belizean

“The road that you see right here just west of us is on Belizean territory and the border is about thirty meters beyond that. So we felt confident and we walked up to the border. At first the people weren’t very friendly, but then we bought a watermelon and we split it open and we invited them to come and eat some watermelon which they did. A couple of them were very friendly and they said that among the people within the villages that there are no problems. But one thing stuck out in my mind, even the Guatemalans want a defined border. They said if we know where the border is then there won’t be any problems; neighbors will live in better harmony.”


And since his GPS showed that the area of the road was still within Belizean territory, the media decided to head down and speak to the persons gathered there. Far from being aggressive or violent, the Guatemalans were more than happy to take a moment to hang out with us. The Alcalde of Santa Cruz Alvaro Paredes says that they live in peace with the Belizeans on the border.

Alvaro Paredes

Alvaro Paredes, Alcalde, Santa Cruz

“The truth is we haven’t had any problems with the villagers on the other side. We have actually worked together in harmony and hand in hand.”

The OAS was present, or at least a representative was, but as you can see he took pains to leave when the media approached him. Paredes, and others gathered there, told us that they believe that where they were standing is actually on Belizean land, and they would want the border to be clearly marked so that they would know for sure.

Alvaro Paredes

“We have not had any incident on the Belizean side nor on the Guatemalan side regarding which side is ours and which side is there’s. if there was a defined boundary, we would respect that. But for the moment, there is no definitive line that would allow us to act in that manner.”

The actual clearing of the land which took place was more symbolic than anything else. In fact, there was very little chopping, but the trip was a success by any definition, and invoked a deep sense of patriotism in those who made the effort to come out, even as they expressed their disappointment in Government’s efforts to discourage the venture.

Dickie Bradley

“How wonderful it would have been if our government could have said, the president of Guatemala can say anything. Wil Maheia has a right to go there and clear the border. He needs to be very careful; we will have B.D.F. out there to advise him. Do not go beyond that point, but do not be afraid of what Guatemala is telling you. That would have been a better approach than to give the impression unu deh pan unu own. If dehn pick unu up and go with unu, all I could give unu dah wah number fi wah lawyer.”

Phillip de la Fuente

Phillip de la Fuente, Belizean

“Belize is ours. There is no disputing that; that Belize is for Belizeans. And if we just give up, anybody will walk over us. Belize is ours; let’s keep what is ours.”

Carolyn Trench-Sandiford, Belizean

Carolyn Trench-Sandiford

“We have a lesson to be learnt from today; that the B.D.F. on the own cannot protect and defend Belize. The people on their own cannot protect and defend Belize. We need the B.D.F. and the people of Belize together to work in partnership to protect this country that we call Belize.”

Giovanni Brackett

Giovanni Brackett, President, COLA
“It was important for us to be out here to show solidarity with Wil Maheia, who is the COLA representative for Toledo as well. So we had to be out here to show the government that this is not an activity to increase tension between the two countries. How is it that government can just neglect its citizens by saying you are on your own? Completely just neglecting and saying you are on your own. If anything happens, you are on your own. Mien it shows the low level of patriotism that our government has and we are completely disappointed with our officials. And kudos to those who are out here today.”

By early afternoon the group headed back to Jalacte satisfied that the message was sent, and that message is resounding and clear.

Edward Young

Edward Young

“Dis da fi we country; from the proud Rio Hondo to the old Sarstoon. No one will give it to us, we need to take it; it is ours. So get involved if you are not already.”

Mike Rudon

“We came out here today not knowing what to expect. According to the government and the B.D.F., there might have been armed troops on the border; there might have been Guatemalan people on the border being aggressive.

Mike Rudon

But it was nothing like that. We met friends, we spoke to people on the border and the one thing we found out is that nobody knows exactly where the border is. The people we spoke to weren’t sure if they were in Guatemala or Belize. What we can tell you after what is a successful day is that the people who made the trip today, who made the journey today, came back with a greater sense of achievement and pride. Reporting for News Five, I’m Mike Rudon.”

About one hundred persons from a wide cross-section of the community made the trip to the border area. There was no mobilization of the B.D.F., even though Guatemala’s Prensa Libre newspaper makes notice of the event, and claims that the B.D.F. was mobilized as a preventative measure.

Channel 5

Re: The Dubious Border At Jalacte [Re: Marty] #459575
03/06/13 08:41 AM
03/06/13 08:41 AM
Joined: Oct 1999
Posts: 72,113
oregon, spr
Marty Offline OP

Marty  Offline OP


Amandala Editorial

The high tension in the nation of Belize on Friday was reflected in the nationally broadcast meeting of the House of Representatives where, early in the afternoon, the elected PUDP representatives of the people, perhaps realizing how irrelevant the following morning’s border clearing expedition of the Belize Territorial Volunteers (BTV) was and would be making them and their discourse, began lashing out at one another across the aisle in all kinds of personal, scurrilous and scandalous attacks. It was the worst House exchanges we have ever heard.

There was high tension in Belize on Friday because Belizeans did not know how the BTV expedition, led by Wil Maheia, would turn out. The Foreign Ministry and the National Security Ministry of Belize had both done their best to frighten off Maheia and the BTV in the days leading up to the expedition. This was because the Guatemalan government had sent a diplomatic note the Friday before, February 22, branding the expedition’s stated border clearing mission as provocative. The Belize government immediately panicked, and did everything in their power last week, short of tying up Wil Maheia and the BTV, to prevent the expedition from setting out for the Jalacte/Santa Cruz border between Belize and Guatemala.

Wil Maheia was calm and steadfast throughout. He had traveled the road from Punta Gorda to Jalacte hundreds of times, and his core group of Toledo-based BTV were also hardy and experienced on the road and in the jungle.

As it turned out, the activities of the BTV expedition were somewhat different from what most Belizeans had understood these activities were going to be. Where the BTV drove and trekked on Saturday was not heavy bush and jungle border. Between Jalacte and Santa Cruz, the border is pretty much cleared already, so there was no danger of crossing the border into Guatemala “by mistake.”

Still, Maheia and the BTV made a brave show of commitment to national sovereignty and territorial integrity for and on behalf of the civilian population of Belize, at home and abroad. This was unprecedented in its drama, and audio and video footage of this expedition, we predict, will make Saturday, March 2, a historic day in the annals of independent Belize. The people of Belize were glad to be assured on Saturday evening of the safety of the brave members of the expedition, in exchange for a scaling down of the original mission goal.

In Guatemala, their leading and arguably official newspaper, Prensa Libre, in their Sunday, March 3, edition referred to “30 Belizean protestors” at the border. It is important to note that Prensa Libre felt the need to reduce the actual amount of the Belizean expedition to a quarter of what it actually was. The fight between Guatemala and Belize is a fight for public opinion points on the regional and international level. On Saturday, Belize scored points, and the Guatemalan government felt compelled to reduce the Belizean score.

While the Guatemalan government, militarized as it is, has always been willing, and cynically so, to take advantage of their superiority in military numbers and firepower to frighten Belizeans on the ground, the Guatemalan power structure has, since the late 1980s and especially since the formal end of their civil war in 1996, been fighting to clean up the regional/international image of the ruling oligarchy and military. If the region and the world believed, as we Belizeans do, that what historically brutal Guatemala wanted to do was overpower a smaller, democratic, Christian neighbor named Belize, regional and world opinion would pressure Guatemala significantly. So, Guatemala has been working to create a civilized, even benign, image for itself, but complacent and seemingly overconfident Belizean governments have been ignoring Guatemala’s public relations advances.

Wil Maheia’s BTV expedition, as small as it was, has changed the nature of the conversation. Anything that makes the people of Belize become a living reality in the newspapers and on the television screens of the region and the world, increases Guatemala’s difficulty where asserting the claim is concerned. Where we are, is the backyard of Washington, the world’s superpower. The American people are different from the American government. Like all human beings, the American people like fair play and justice. But, the American people are not cosmopolitan. In most cases where American foreign policy decision makers side with regional/international oligarchies and dictatorships, the American people know nothing about these countries and peoples. We Belizeans have to find ways to force the people of the United States, just 600 miles away, to “check out the real situation” between Belize and Guatemala. We can do this relatively easily if we have the national and diaspora will.

The Belize Territorial Volunteers proved on Saturday that the Belizean people can take this Guatemala bull by the horns when our elected leaders are dropping the ball. The first duty of the government is protecting the sovereign territory and personal security of the Belizean people. For different reasons, the elected leaders of Belize have given the people of Belize the impression that they are abdicating their duty. On Saturday, the tail, then, had to wag the dog. That’s the real.

Power to the people. Power in the struggle.


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