Government warns Belizeans about clearing border between Guatemala and Belize
Thursday, February 28th, 2013
The Government of Belize (GOB) today issued an official warning against a group of Belizeans to cease from their plans to clear the Belize-Guatemala borderline. Toledo based activist Wil Maheia announced a few weeks ago that he had secured 100 machetes and was recruiting people for a group called Belize Territorial Volunteers who would be taking it upon themselves to clear the borderline. It’s a strong and bold move, but one that the GOB says is “dangerous” and can cause “tension.”
The statement from the Belize Ministry of Foreign Affairs explains that the area is part of what Guatemala and Belize has been committed to work on together; to reduce problems as part of the confidence building measures. Those measures were put in place because of continuous confrontation that had occurred on the borderline as a result of the Guatemala territorial claim over portions of Belize.
In his social media account (Facebook) Maheia explains that “the planning continues for our trip to clear the Belize borderline with Guatemala. Today (February 25th) we will meet with Santa Elena villagers and San Antonio villagers. Yesterday we met with the Belize Territorial Volunteers in San Jose and people are fired up to show the world we have a border and we Belizeans love our country and since the PUDP’s have neglected it, we will clear it and show the world where our borderline is at…we will all show up in the village of Jalacte on March 2nd and start clearing the line.”
GOB is not taking Maheia’s intention lightly and last week the Ministry of Foreign Affairs asked Maheia to “cancel” the effort. In addition, The Guatemalan Ministry of Foreign Affairs has sent Belize a diplomatic note warning that Maheia’s effort can create “friction” between the two nations and could force Guatemala to “take up” the matter with the Organization of American States (OAS). The Minister of foreign Affairs Wilfred Elrington is quoted as very much “opposed to the effort.” He is quoted by 7 News as saying that “Nobody knows where the border is…. they don’t know what they are doing…. they will only cause an international incident and likely end up all in jail.”
GOB sent out a follow up to Elrington statement where it indicated that “in discharge of its duty to ensure the safety and security of all persons in our country, hereby advises all members of the public that any attempt on their part to clear the Western Border can give rise to serious danger to themselves and we therefore strongly advise against participation in any such action. Proposed efforts as reported in the media may conduce to a disturbance of the peace and to unnecessary tensions between two countries, contrary to the long-standing efforts that successive Belize Governments have been working hard to secure.”
The release also makes reference to a February 24, 2000 incident in which a Belize law enforcement patrol team was illegally detained by Guatemalan authorities. The GOB press release quotes the then Prime Minister Said Musa detailing the then incident in a February 26, 2000 press conference. “ We call this press conference today (February 26, 2000) to provide you with the facts as we know them surrounding an incident that occurred on Thursday morning (February 24, 2000) in an area of Belizean territory near our Belizean Defense Force border posts at Treetops, south southwest of Jalacte Village in the Toledo District.
Our information is that joint BDF/Police border team, comprising Second Lieutenant Romaldo Herrera, Lance Corporal Lucio Arana, Private Luciano Tzub and Police Constable Macedonio Sanchez, were on a routine patrol along a route used by our security forces well within Belizean territory when they encountered a group of about 25 uniformed Guatemalan military personnel.
The BDF/Police team established itself to be within Belizean territory, but the Guatemalan patrol disputed this. In an effort to prevent an incident, the BDF/Police team agreed to move to the Guatemalan post of Santa Cruz along with the Guatemalan patrol to await the arrival of senior officers from both sides to verify the location of the encounter.
On their arrival at Santa Cruz, the BDF/Police team was transferred to San Luis and placed into the custody of the police where they were informed that they would be charged with illegal entry and possession of prohibited firearms. They were later moved to Santa Elena where there is a district court to await the arrival of a magistrate. They have since been detained in Santa Elena awaiting trial. I rely on the discretion and good will of the Guatemalan Government, and the support of the international community, to resolve this matter peacefully through diplomatic means, so that Lt. Herrera, Lance Corporal Arana, Private Tzib and Constable Sanchez can return home as soon as possible. Our two nations can then continue to build bridges of friendship, understanding and peaceful co-existence, with mutual respect. I also make an open call on all parties at home to resist the temptation to try and use the Guatemalan issue to divide our people. This is a matter that affects the national interest of Belize and we must all remain firm and united in defense of Belize’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.”
According to the GOB press release, under the Confidence Building Measures signed in September of 2005 Belize, Guatemala and the OAS are committed to avoid conflicts or incidents on the ground conducive to tension between them.
GOB says that it reiterates the call for all Belizeans to refrain from using the Guatemala issue to cause tensions and to divide our people.
Maheia explained that he has visited the borderline with about ten others and now he plans to do so with bus loads, where they will start to clear that borderline by hand and 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,” stated Maheia on Friday February 22nd when interviewed by 7 News Belize.
Belize Territorial Volunteers will start their bold initiative on March 2nd.