To stop communism in one of the UK’s last colonies, one man was handed over to a death squad and another was tortured. Only now is the truth emerging.

One of Britain’s last colonies, Belize became independent in 1981 but continued to rely on the UK military for its external defence, principally from Guatemala, until as late as 1994. Even today, the British army maintains a training camp there, at considerable cost to the taxpayer, and plans to enlarge its footprint after Brexit.

Despite this sustained military presence, the British media rarely reports on Belize unless it involves the powerful Conservative Lord Ashcroft and a tax haven scandal. As a result, the British public knows and hears very little about the Belize/Guatemala border dispute, especially as it has never spilled over into open conflict, unlike that of Britain’s other garrison in Latin America – the Falkland Islands. And yet the British army presence in Belize has not always been entirely peaceful.

There were moments when fighting came incredibly close. Periodic threats of invasion from Guatemala’s far-right military governments dominated the 1970s. By 1983, a year after the Falklands war, there was a real prospect of UK forces in Belize fighting a left-wing Guatemalan guerrilla group that most Britons have never heard of – the Fuerzas Armadas Rebeldes (FAR), a resistance movement despised by US hawks. Some of those same hawks today advise President Donald Trump: Republican Assistant Secretary of State Elliott Abrams, for instance, is now Trump’s special envoy on Venezuela.

There were casualties in this shadow war – a fatal betrayal, a mountaintop torture session and a family torn apart – but the evidence was buried deep inside vaults of paperwork and kept classified for decades. How much more remains secret about this undeclared battle in Belize is a matter for the British government to share with us one day. But this is what I can tell you so far.

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