Last night, we showed you the comments from Foreign Affairs Minister Wilfred Elrington the Guatemalan encroachment on Belizean territory that is taking place on the Western edge of Benque Viejo Town, in the Cayo District. That's where the Belizean land-owner, Jorge Emiliano Espat, owns the land he inherited from his father and grandfather.
He says that his family has owned it for several generations, and now, he is slowly losing it to the Guatemalan encroachment that is taking place in the area known as Barrio El Juda. He is frustrated with the glacial pace of Government's efforts to reverse the situation through diplomatic channels. And in the meantime, the Guatemalan Campesinos living in the area are moving more and more into his land.
To give you a clearer picture of his problem, the media went with him today to his properties that are under pressure. Daniel Ortiz has that story:
The trip to Jorge Espat's land, the part of Belizean territory under pressure from Guatemalan encroachment, started in Benque Viejo. The press had to take a canoe ride over the Mopan River, and then came a 40 to 50-minute hike through jungle terrain, heading west.
The first signs border activity came in the form of a makeshift garbage dump, across from this picado road.
According to Espat, the only real indication of the border between these 2 countries was this road.
Jorge Espat - Claims Guat Encroachment On His Land "Presently, we are very close, this is the back road from Melchor, Belizean territory is my property. The only thing dividing Guatemala and Belize is the adjacency zone that is this road we are standing on."
Daniel Ortiz "So explain to us, we see a lot of garbage and you said this is your property right. What has happened? You think this has been done by the people from the other side?"
Jorge Espat "Definitely, as I had mentioned in my previous interview, people over this end they take out material, do their building, do their foundation and there are some big holes dug up and they use it as a garbage dump. As you can see, there's a lot of garbage over this end."
So, if you're following along, the road is in the Adjacency Zone, or what should be the border between Belize and Guatemala.
These screenshots taken by one of the Belizeans on the trek show our GPS positions which he pulled up on his phone. And as you can see, the further along we went, the more the road slants to the right, into Belizean territory. And with that slant, came the homes and farms that these Guatemalan folks have built for themselves.
They justify this road as their marker for where Guatemala ends, and where Belize begins. From Espat's perspective, over the last few months, they've edged more and more into Belizean territory, and into his family's private property.
Daniel Ortiz "Are these encroaching on your territory on the Belizean side?"
Jorge Espat "That is rightly said, that is so."
Daniel Ortiz "Explain to us how you know this."
Jorge Espat "Because firstly, this is something that has been happening and because it is a reoccurring issue, political support is not there and actually, based on the road and the findings as well. I have the findings and I have always been of the belief my guide is that road, that is the marker, that is the line. So automatically, the road supposed to be going further up and it came towards my property."
Daniel Ortiz "They're on your property and on the Belizean side. Is there anything that can be done to remove these people?"
Jorge Espat "I mean well, what can I do? It's a delicate situation as I explained before. This is a government situation, we need the support from the government, the government needs to get involved."
Our presence in the Barrio El Juda area did not go unnoticed. One by one the Guatemalans who have taken over this location as their home started to come out of their houses to investigate who we were.
That gave Espat an opportunity to approach a few of them to state his case that they are moving too far into Belizean territory, and into his land. Eventually, that led to an extended back and forth about who is right, and who is wrong. These people are adamant, they assert that they are in Guatemalan territory, and they are well within their rights to be here.
It became a back and forth with Espat insisting that they produce papers to prove ownership. They responded that he should do the same.
At one point, it appeared as though members of the press were taking on a mediation role in trying to reason with them. We did sense an undercurrent of suspicion from these people; some of them pulled out phones to capture our activities while we were among them.
And then, we finally arrived at the unfinished house from Guatemalan Paula Reyes. Viewers will remember that this construction in question is what finally brought Espat's plight to the attention of the nation.
Jorge Espat "The lady with the investment for the concrete building has seized but there again, yes the squatting continues."
Daniel Ortiz "Now explains to us sir, you just had an extended back and forth with the Guatemalan persons who are squatting on your land. They are insisting that this is Guatemalan territory and that they aren't doing anything wrong and anything against you specifically. What was that interaction like for you?"
Jorge Espat "Well as you can see it's very risky. I mean of course, they will put up a fight and there again, it's sad because then as far as I see it, we don't have the assistance from government, the backup, the support. I may be a person that they claiming that I am impatient but I rather be impatient than being a sitting duck. We need to do something, I need to do something, I can't afford to be a sitting duck. The longer we take, the bigger the issue."
We'll have a bit more from this trip in tomorrow's newscast.