Earlier this month, on April fifteenth, we reported that the Guatemalan Armed Forces attempted to block the Belize Coastguard from travelling on the Sarstoon. Wil Maheia of the Belize Territorial Volunteers was leading a team of Belizeans on the trip on the Belize side of the river. Maheia is the point man in Punta Gorda who helps Belizeans to travel on the Sarstoon. Well, reports are that the GAF is getting even more aggressive and attempting to assert further dominance on the Sarstoon. At the time, the ministry said the incident marked a higher level of interference by the Guatemalans and was discussing an adequate diplomatic response. Today, Maheia reports that he set out at about ten thirty this morning again on an expedition with a teacher and Belizean diasporan, Leslie Rudon. They did not go too far. According to Maheia, three gun boats from the GAF menacingly blocked them at the mouth of the river. The B.D.F. and Coastguard were not available and the situation became dangerous. So while in the past, the GAF would follow the Belizean vessels, Maheia could not get pass the gun boats today and returned onshore. He believes that the Guatemalans were attempting to force him to their side of the river. Maheia told News Five that today’s incident has amped up the aggression of the GAF since 2015. Here is how he described the incident:
Wil Maheia, Belize Territorial Volunteers
“We just got back from the Sarstoon area, not the Sarstoon Island and not even the Sarstoon River because this morning, as we approached the river, there were three Guatemalan gunboats—the biggest gunboat on the outskirts and two smaller ones blocking the channel where you enter the river. So we decided to call off our trip. There was no B.D.F. or coastguard in sight and we didn’t want to go there just by ourselves without the B.D.F. or coastguard around. So I can tell you right now that the mouth of the Sarstoon River is completely blocked for Belizeans. So Belizeans just can’t enter into the mouth of the Sarstoon right now.”
Following the April fifteenth trip, the Ministry of National Security said in its statement that “the Ministry notes that the Guatemalan military seemed to have been aware that Will Maheia was visiting the area and had boosted their resources in order to deliberately block his entrance. This incident has been reported to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and a strong protest is being lodged to condemn the actions of the GAF.”
Ministry of National Security Clarifies April 25, 2019 Incident at the Sarstoon
he Ministry of National Security clarifies that contrary to reports by Mr. Wil Maheia with regard to his attempted visit to the Sarstoon on April 25th, the Belize Defence Force/Belize Coast Guard Forward Operating Base (Sarstoon FOB) was in fact completely aware of the events that occurred.
The Sarstoon FOB reported that about 10:30 a.m. on April 25th, they observed a civilian vessel coming from the direction of Punta Gorda approaching the mouth of the Sarstoon and stopped about 1.5 km from the FOB. The patrol noticed that upon seeing the civilian vessel, the Guatemalan Armed Forces base deployed two Metal Shark vessels and a Columbian-type boat towards them. The BDF and BCG also deployed one of their Metal Shark boats towards the civilian vessel but noted that it had turned around and was heading back towards Punta Gorda.