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#496383 - 10/03/14 12:22 PM US Southern Command “punks” Belize!  
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In a disclosure that has sparked nationalistic outrage in some quarters, Evan “Mose” Hyde, KREM TV manager, and Wil Maheia, Punta Gorda activist, captured several images at Hunting Caye last week of construction operations by a Guatemalan company, Binarq S.A., on Hunting Caye, the country’s southernmost island on the Sapodilla Range.

This morning on the KREM WUB, Hyde detailed what he had observed while on a recent vacation outing in the area along with Maheia: Guatemalans building a forward operating base on a Belizean caye, in a project financed by the US Government for the Belize Coast Guard. There are those who have asked whether a competent Belizean company could not have done the works, but beyond that, there are those who contend that the decision poses a national security risk for Belize.

One of those persons is Opposition Leader Francis Fonseca, who mentioned Hyde’s report in Parliament this afternoon, detailing that the Coast Guard contract to build is held by Guatemalans and every single worker is a Guatemalan national.

“There must be some national security risk in that taking place,” Fonseca opined.

“Somebody can’t be awake. We can’t all be sleeping over there in the Government. Who is looking after this matter?” Fonseca questioned.

National Security Minister John Saldivar confirmed that the Forward Operating Base (FOB) at Hunting Caye is being built by a Guatemalan company and that he is not comfortable with that fact, but added that the process was controlled by the Americans, who “have their own bidding processes that we must respect…”

“Would we look a gift horse in mouth and give up a much needed forward operating base?” Saldivar questioned.

Prime Minister Dean Barrow, who said that he had no knowledge that a Guatemalan company was building the Hunting Caye FOB, said that giving the contract to Guatemalans was a show of insensitivity.

“There is a degree of insensitivity… in terms of those who are gifting us this forward operating base, man, in contracting a Guatemalan contractor. I have a difficulty with that… In terms of vehicles that we are gifted that are emblazoned with flags of [the] gifting country, I have a difficulty with that. But I guess, ultimately, we need the assistance,” Barrow said.

He added that, “We have to recognize that there is no such thing as a free lunch and there are no gifts without strings of one kind or another.”

Barrow said that he is determined that Belize will pay its own way, because in the spirit of nationalism, Belize “can do without those gifts that come with those strings attached…”

Amandala spoke with a senior Ministry of Works official, who told us that there are qualified Belizean companies which can build such facilities.

CEO in the Ministry of National Security, Ret’d Colonel George Lovell, told Amandala that while he knew that some of the persons working there are Guatemalans, he was not aware that it was a Guatemalan company which had been contracted to do the work.

According to Lovell, the US Southern Command funds the construction of these buildings and the bidding process is “solely controlled and run by US funding agencies and authorities.”

“They send tenders out for bidding and it is done internationally,” Col. Lovell said, adding that the contract process has “nothing to do with the Government of Belize.”

Lovell disagreed with those who believe that using a Guatemalan company poses a security risk, saying that Belize does a great deal of business with Guatemala, including importing food items from that country.

Amandala was informed by a ranking Coast Guard official that Hunting Caye is located deep in the south on the border with Honduras and Guatemala, 20 miles due east of Punta Gorda and 20 miles from Honduras, but very close to Punta de Manabique, Izabal, Guatemala.

We were told that the building on Hunting Caye will be similar to the US$1.5 million Northern Forward Operation Base inaugurated on San Pedro last November.

The bases are intended to provide security presence to address issues such as narco-trafficking and human trafficking, as well as to provide other law enforcement support and search and rescue assistance.

The Coast Guard official with whom we spoke indicated that the Guatemalan company also built the base at San Pedro.

Lovell said that it may well be the same company, but he thought that it was John Usher (John D. Engineering) who had built the San Pedro facility. While we could not reach Usher himself, we did reach a close relative who told us that Usher did not build the San Pedro post, but a facility at Turneffe.

Of note is that the Sapodilla Cayes, including Hunting Caye, were included in the proposed tri-national ecological park included in the Ramphal-Reichler recommendations tabled under the facilitation process led by the Organization of American States (OAS), to help settle the territorial differendum between Belize and Guatemala.

Honduras would have been the third nation to help administer this tri-national park, along with Belize and Honduras, since it has been noted that Honduras has also alleged ownership of the cayes in question.


#496394 - 10/03/14 02:15 PM Re: US Southern Command “punks” Belize! [Re: Marty]  
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Remember the US Embassy debacle in Moscow?

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#496508 - 10/07/14 05:19 AM Re: US Southern Command “punks” Belize! [Re: Marty]  
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Barrow Administration Says US Contract Was A Gift; Opposition Says that Is Unjustifiable

During the Sitting of the House of Representatives last week Thursday, Fonseca brought up the fact that one of Belize’s security bases at Hunting Caye, being funded by the United States of America, is being built by a Guatemalan Company. During this climate of tensions between both countries, Fonseca says that Governments decisions to allow it is of grave concern. Prime Minister, Dean Barrow, told the media on Thursday that he was not informed and Minister of National Security, John Saldivar, says that Government could not say no to a gift from the USA. Fonseca’s says that Barrow’s and Saldivar’s reasoning are unjustifiable.


“The Prime Minister’s expression of ignorance on this matter is alarming and we should all be concerned. He sits as the Chairman of the National Security Council and he is saying, as the chairman of the National Security Council, the Prime Minister of Belize he did not know who was building a military facility in his country; he did not know. That is alarming and disturbing, that is a degree of recklessness and incompetence; that really is troubling, deeply troubling. So I was not at all satisfied by either of them and I said it this morning that it’s not too late for them to correct this matter, we are not a beggar nation, any proposal from the American Government, yes we are not being hysterical about Guatemala, we know that we want better relations with Guatemala and we know that Guatemalan companies do a business in Belize that is a reality but when it comes to our national security we have to draw the line. There should be no company representing a country which claims our Belize doing work for our National Security Ministry, doing work for our government building security facilities like this forward operating base and I understand there have been other projects as well, so there is absolutely no excuse for that. In other countries somebody’s head would have to roll for something like this happening. The Minister of National Security or somebody else their head would have to roll for that type of decision, giving a contract to build a security facility to a country who is claiming ownership of your country. It’s absolutely disgraceful so I am very worried about the response of the government.”


#496607 - 10/09/14 04:29 AM Re: US Southern Command “punks” Belize! [Re: Marty]  
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Saldivar: Why No Red Flags at Hunting Caye

The one minister of Government who did know about the arrangements made for the construction of the Forward Operating Base was John Saldivar, the Minister of National Security.

Saldivar hasn't been granting interviews to the press for months, but he agreed to a press encounter today at the ceremony for the Police recruit intake number 90. The media took the opportunity to ask him why a Guatemalan company building the Hunting Caye Facility didn't raise any red flags, and here's how he responded:

Alindy Marisol Amaya - News Director, KREM News

"In relation to the operating base of the coast guard, in the wake of your comments in the national assembly and those of prime minister Dean Barrow, they have said that, that's not enough, heads should roll because there seems to be the sense that people, or yourself, may have been aware that Guatemalans were in fact constructing it. There is a threat in Guatemalans knowing the ins and outs, the exits of those security facility."

Hon. John Saldivar, Minister of National Security

"I don't believe that anyone in the security aparatus would have allowed for this to happen if they felt our national security was threatened by the fact that the Guatemalan company was doing the construction. We understand the sentiment of our Belizean people and the matter have been reviewed. We have already been in communication with US embassy with respect to some flexibility in their procurement guidelines."

David Ortiz

"What will happen at this time with this Guatemalan contractor for the operating base, will they continue?"

Hon. John Saldivar

"At this point, no decision has been made to discontinue."

Alindy Marisol Amaya

"Sir, did you know about it?”

Hon. John Saldivar

"Yes I did."


"It is made known that the prime minister did not know about it. Today we spoke to minister Hulse, he did not know anything about it until it was mentioned at the national assembly. Why did they not know anything about it? And why were you the only person that knew about it? Shouldn't there be a direct line of communication between you guys?"

Hon. John Saldivar

"I imagined at this point we are reviewing our procedures with respect to what people need to know and don't need to know. That needs to be reviewed and it is obvious now the matter is a very sensitive one for the Belizean people, so we will make the necessary changes to our policies.”

As we told you, Hunting Caye is one of the country's southern-most islands in the Sapodilla Caye Range.

Hon. Hulse Hunting For Illegal Labourers At Hunting Caye

Since the murder of Special Constable Danny Conorquie at the Caracol Archaeological Reserve two weeks ago – the entire country has been under a heightened state of security awareness.

Which made it the perfect time to find out that a Guatemalan Company, BINARQ, was building the US Funded Coast Guard Forward Operating Base on Hunting Caye in Belizean water. It’s the kind of no brainer that begs the question, “what were they thinking?” by having Guatemalan civilians building a Belizean military facility.

Minister of Labour Godwin Hulse, who has been taking a hard line on labour related issues for immigrant workers, told the press today that as soon as he was informed of the Hunting Caye contractual arrangement, he tasked a labour team to investigate whether or not the proper permits were received to get Guatemalan Civilians working at the site. Here's how he explained it:

Hon. Godwin Hulse, Minister of Immigration

"When it came to my attention, I immediately summoned our CEO and our director from both labour and immigration to dispatch a team down there to give me a full fledge report as what happened. Let me make it categorically clear, the contract is one thing but who you employee is another. Nobody can work in Belize, who's not a Belizean without a work permit - that's the law and we're going to up hold it and nobody can enter Belize without a proper immigration status - that's the law and we're going to uphold it. No matter who gave contract, and from whom is paying and that is the position. Before we can make a final statement, we have to know what their status is, what they're doing here and how and that sort of things."

Alindy Marisol Amaya - News Director, KREM News

"Are you disappointed the information wasn't brought to your attention prior to it being brought up in the house?"

Hon. Godwin Hulse

"Of course, we all should have knows. It's one government, what ever happens we all should know, there is no excuse for that or reason why we didn't know. As quickly as we found out, we dispatched a team to do our work and we will report to the media as soon as we are completed with that. I repeat again, nobody will work in this country that doesn't have the proper legal documents to do so."

Mike Rudon, Reporter - Channel 5 News

"Sir, what would be your position if you find out that they do not have the proper documents, you're the minister of immigration and labour, what would be your position then?"

Hon. Godwin Hulse

"We'll have to expel them, i'm saying that categorically. We cannot have people in this country working without the proper documents and there is no ifs, buts or maybe and there's no excuses for that. Let me just make the policy clear because it comes up all the time, we at the ministry of labour has established that you must find Belizean workers for every job you do in this country. If, and there is a process of finding Belizean workers, if you can't find Belizean workers, then you are allowed to bring the foreigners but you must apply. The foreigner is then given a temporary work permit and you must have Belizeans you employ. We have never given cart branch to any company to bring all foreigners and goes with ASR, Green Tropics, that goes with NCL, any company and we won't change from that.”

Channel 7

#496651 - 10/10/14 04:59 AM Re: US Southern Command “punks” Belize! [Re: Marty]  
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A Halt On Hunting Caye Construction By Guatemalan Company

"Stop it!" That's the letter that the United States Army Corp of Engineers - sent to the Guatemalan Company that's building the Coast Guard Forward Operating Base on Hunting Caye.

A press release from the Ministry of National Security half an hour ago announced that all construction at the Base has ceased. The release says, quote, "This action came about after consultations between the Ministry of National Security, the Belize Coast Guard and the United States agencies in Belize."

It continues, "this remains in effect until a satisfactory policy decision can be arrived at among all parties…" The Ministry has committed to keep the public informed as soon as an agreement is reached with the United States Army Corp of Engineers.

And while that's sure to garner popular public sentiment, the release takes it one step further by seeking to exculpate National Security Minster John Saldivar in the quite embarrassing mess. It says, quote, "BINARQ, the Guatemalan company in question, was contracted to build the Hunting Caye Base in 2011, months before the current Minister of National Security, Hon. John Saldivar assumed the portfolio." And it goes further to say quote, "there was no obligation or requirement on the part of the new Minister to report the details of these contracts to Cabinet."

This seems to throw former minister Doug Singh rather squarely under the bus. And while Saldivar let his former cabinet colleague take the force of the blow, the fact it that as current minister didn't attempt to put a stop to the contract - as he could have, proven by the fact that he successfully did so in less than a week since it was exposed.

Channel 7

#496655 - 10/10/14 05:23 AM Re: US Southern Command “punks” Belize! [Re: Marty]  
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The Ministry of National Security hereby announces that the United States Army Corp of Engineers, the US agency responsible for the construction of the Hunting Caye Forward Operating Base, has issued a letter to the Guatemalan company BINARQ which has had the effect of causing all construction at the Base to cease. This action came about after consultations between the Ministry of National Security, the Belize Coast Guard and the United States agencies in Belize. The Ministry of National Security is insisting that this remains in effect until a satisfactory policy decision can be arrived at among all parties that takes into consideration the sensitivities expressed by sections of the Belizean population.

The Ministry takes this opportunity to clarify that BINARQ, the Guatemalan company in question, was contracted to build the Hunting Caye Base in 2011, months before the current Minister of National Security, Hon. John Saldivar assumed the portfolio. Minister Saldivar was briefed on the ongoing Hunting Caye and San Pedro projects, shortly after being appointed as the Minister of National Security in the second term of the United Democratic Party government. This also means that as on-going projects that were approved prior to our second term, there was no obligation or requirement on the part of the new Minister to report the details of these contracts to Cabinet.

The Ministry of National Security reiterates its commitment to full transparency in the conduct of government business and will keep the public informed as soon as an agreement is reached with the United States Army Corp of Engineers.

#496805 - 10/15/14 04:51 AM Re: US Southern Command “punks” Belize! [Re: Marty]  
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Coast Guard Commandant: There Was No Security Issue At Hunting Caye

But, as we told you, it caused quite a public uproar in the discussion of national security when it was discovered that the Guatemalan company, BINARQ, was building the Forward Operating Base for the Coast Guard on Hunting Caye, one of the southernmost islands in the Sapodilla Range.

Last week Thursday, the United States Army Corp of Engineers sent the company a letter to stop construction, which was almost 75% complete. The public critics say, however, that the company shouldn't have gotten that far before it became public knowledge. So, today, in an effort to allay fears that the security of the nation has been breached by the Guatemalan employees who worked on the building, the Commandant of the Belize Coast Guard held a press conference in which he explained the vetting procedure.

Admiral John Borland told the press today that the The Hunting Caye Project came about at an opportune time for the Coast Guard, when they realized that facilities built years ago was rundown. The upgrade was first requested by Coast Guard in 2005, but it was notnot approved until late 2010.

Borland explained how the Guatemalan company got the contract, which came through the Status of Forces Agreement, signed in 2007.

Admiral John Borland - Commandant, Belize Coast Guard
"At the time the contract was awarded under the Status Forces Agreement of 2007, where there was an agreement that the US government could use any contractor that qualifies and that usually meant to the lowest bidder. All parties including Belize did not object to this policy. By this time we had recently entered into the second round of confidence building measures which were designed to reach an equitable and peaceful solution of the territorial differendum between Belize and Guatemala - that would be general, definitive, honorable and permanent on the land insular and maritime issues. It also had as an objective the treatment of economic commercial tourism cooperation integration and other transitory measures of good neighborliness. It was against this backdrop that no one offered any objections to the contract being awarded to the Guatemalan company BINARQ, an international company that works in various countries and has done similar projects in the region."

From there, the Commander went on to explain the military perspective on why Guatemalans building the facility isn't considered a security threat.

Admiral John Borland - Commandant, Belize Coast Guard
"The company was only involved in the construction of the physical structure. Thus, they know the exact location and material the building was constructed from. This of course would be pubic knowledge to all and does not constitute a security breach. The 4 elements that constitute a security breach are espionage, sabotage, subversion and terrorism. Espionage could not be achieved as they would not be involve with any of the systems that constitute the operational capabilities of this forward operating base. They would not be involve in the communications, surveillance, weaponry or security mechanisms of this outpost. As for sabotage, this could not be as the monitoring and the quality control system of the army corps of engineers that inspect the building at the end of every phase of construction and at the end of each month would easily identify anything that would compromise the structural integrity of the building. This will also take care of the planting of any listening or bugging devices that may be used. Note also that an army corps of engineer personnel is permanently attached to the project. Subversion on the other hand could not be achieve, as the integrity of our forces and civilian leadership remain uncompromised. Threats from direct attack or terrorism could not be associated with the project as the company is vetted and they in turn vet their workers. This company is in no way associated with any elements of the Guatemalan military or subversive elements. At this point as you all are aware, the stop order issued by the US Southern Command Arm Corp of Engineers is in effect and will remain that way. As of last Friday we have met with our US counterparts to discuss the way forward and requested that the remainder of the project which is about 75% completed be subcontracted to Belizean personnel. The company has agreed, but the final decision lies with the army corps of engineers based on what funds are still available for the project."

But, at the heightened state of awareness, persons in the public have associated the armed incursion at Valentin with the construction of the base. When that question was put to the Commander, he explained that they have to be treated very different.

Admiral John Borland - Commandant, Belize Coast Guard
"I see the situations being very different where the group in the Chiquibul is an armed and hostile group. I cannot based anything I see on hypothetical questions because I can only speak for the facts that I know as it applies to maritime security. But an armed and hostile group in the Chiquibul has to be treated differently from a civilian company that has been cleared, that has been vetted, has had a reputation of working throughout the region and has not in any way compromise any nation's national security. It has to be two different situations."

Channel 7

#497465 - 10/31/14 04:42 AM Re: US Southern Command “punks” Belize! [Re: Marty]  
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USA To GOB on Hunting Caye: Give It To The Gautes or Pay Your Own Way

The other security issue of national importance, which was discussed at the press conference today, was the Hunting Caye forward operating base for the Coast Guard. As has been widely reported, the US Army Corp of Engineers subcontracted it out to a Guatemalan contractor named Binarq. After public uproar made that untenable the contract was cancelled and other options were sought. But, it seems no Belizean firm was big enough to meet what are known as the prequalification terms to be eligble for a US Corp of Engineers contract. So, the US gave Belize two choices. The Security Minister outlined them today:..

Hon. John Saldivar, Minister of National Security
"We have been advised by the US Army Corps of Engineers that at this point there are only two options for Belize; one, that the construction of the forward operating base continues under the existing contractual arrangements with BINARQ and no change in their workforce configuration. Option 2 is for the Government of Belize to complete the construction of the forward operating base. These two options were presented to Cabinet on Tuesday by my ministry and Cabinet has made a decision to go with option 2 which is for the Government of Belize to continue and complete the construction of the forward operating base."

Hon. Dean Barrow, Prime Minister
"I am perfectly happy with the decision of Cabinet that in the final analysis we should be prepared to spend the 1.6 million dollars to complete what is after all our forward operating base - our facility. That decision is not in any sense meant to be a rebuke to the United States of America. The fact is that in contracting with the Guatemalans, they did what the status of forces agreement signed by the last administration perfectly entitle them to do, so they can be no quarrel with them."

Mike Rudon, Ch5
"You said in your address that the decision by the government at this point to take it over is not a rebuke to the US. Have you thought that maybe it might be a rebuke from the US - maybe in light of the decision taken with the Ebola threat?"

Hon. Dean Barrow, Prime Minister
"Hope I am not being naive, but I know that the President of the United States made this powerful speech saying that his policy is that right makes might and not might makes right. I take him at his word and I therefore am certain that one thing has nothing to do with the other."

But there is a caveat: the Guatemalan firm Binarq did contact the government today to discuss a possible compromise. Saldivar told us what is proposed:..

Hon. John Saldivar, Minister of National Security
"As of today though we have receive a subsequent correspondence from the Army Corps of Engineers that indicates that BINARQ might be acceptable and agreeable to some compromise. If we are able reach a compromise with them, the matter will be taken back to Cabinet. We are hoping that BINARQ will agree to some configuration which we will still have to take back to Cabinet, but it basically involves the employment of Belizean workers."

Channel 7

#498179 - 11/21/14 04:08 AM Re: US Southern Command “punks” Belize! [Re: Marty]  
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Hunting Caye Base “Come-Down” Complicated

The last time we reported on the Hunting Caye Forward Operating Base, it was with the news that the US Embassy had told the Government of Belize that if it doesn't allow the Guatemalan company, BINARQ to build the facility, then Government must do so itself.

That left only one choice - because with the public uproar over a Guatemalan company building a security facility for Belize - there's no way government would go there. '

So, the Government of Belize will take on the project and finish the Hunting Caye base. It will cost the public purse about 1.6 million dollars to complete the works, and it also puts the Coast Guard's plans for that base on an extended delay.

The Commandant of the Coast Guard discussed it with us today:

Admiral John Borland - Commandant, Belize Coast Guard
"We can't tell you who will take over the construction, but as you heard the CEO speak I think on Tuesday following Cabinet meeting that the Government of Belize has decided that we will take on the responsibility of completing the project and he went to term to explain the process on how this project will continue. It has to be advertised; the tendering process has to take place, contract has to be awarded and that takes a little bit of time considering the amount of protocol that has to go in it. But yes I can't give you a timeline, but the government of Belize has committed to completing this project as a government funded project."

Daniel Ortiz
"Sir, doesn't that push back your plans as commander for the usage of that base? Wouldn't you have wanted it to complete a quicker time?"

Admiral John Borland - Commandant, Belize Coast Guard
"You know what I want and what the reality is are two different things. I have my strategy, I have my plans. When policy doesn't match strategy, this is what happens. I will not miss a step in conducting operations out in Hunting Caye in that area of responsibility. We are currently conducting operations. We have a facility there, it not may be state of the art as we want to be, but we can survive. Survivability is there and we will continue to work and when this project does come online, we will be a little delayed, but it will welcomed."

This evening, we contacted George Lovell, the CEO of the Ministry of National Security, and he told us that way Hunting Caye project played out could have negative effects future projects that the US Government has planned for Belize. He notes as per oversight procedures that the US employs, whenever a project is incomplete and the Government has spent the kind of money it has done in the case of Hunting Caye, it is considered a failed project. That then triggers an intensive review about the circumstances surrounding its failure.

Channel 7

#498400 - 11/27/14 04:27 AM Re: US Southern Command “punks” Belize! [Re: Marty]  
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Is Hunting Caye F.O.B. Still a Joint Belize/U.S. Effort?

Wilfred Elrington

On Tuesday, News Five had an opportunity to speak with Minister of foreign Affairs Wilfred Elrington on a variety of issues, including the murder of the Panamanian diplomat. We also asked for, and got, an update on the Coast Guard Forward Operating Base on Hunting Caye. Last we heard, at a press conference hosted by Prime Minister Dean Barrow, the US had basically washed their hands of the project, and G.O.B. was taking it on. So have they? We asked the Minister of Foreign Affairs, and he thought they had, but says the door isn’t quite closed on US collaboration just yet.

Wilfred Elrington, Minister of Foreign Affairs

“I think that the government has in fact decided that we would take on the responsibilities to pay for it given the circumstances under which it was being built. I don’t know whether that is the final situation in terms of whether other efforts will not be made to see whether this matter can be resolved. It is a matter again, the way it is reported and the way it is viewed by certain members of the public suggests that the whole thing was done in poor taste and the like and there are people who have strong feelings as to what was being done especially given the fact that it involved Guatemalan workers. And I don’t know to what extent one wants to be critical of the position taken by the government, but I don’t know whether that is the end of the matter. I think that the Americans, who are clearly our allies and friends and certainly who did not intend to offend or harm our country, would want to see how they can resolve this situation in a win-win situation. So they still may still be making overthrows to the government in trying to see how it can be salvaged.”

Elrington told News Five that the matter has not affected the relations between the US and Belize.

Channel 5

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