Shooting incident in Chiquibul National Park continues to strain border relations

Wednesday, September 7th, 2016

Another shooting incident involving the Belize Defense Force (BDF) and Guatemalans occurred on Wednesday, August 31st within the Chiquibul National Park. The Government of Belize (GOB) issued a press release on Thursday, September 1st, stating how an BDF reconnaissance patrol came under fire upon approaching an illegal settlement approximately 259 meters east of the Belize-Guatemala border. No one was reportedly injured, but incidents like these continue to put a strain on the relationship between the two countries.

Chiquibul National Park Photo courtesy: Tony Rath

Chiquibul National Park
Photo courtesy: Tony Rath

According to Commander of the Belize Defense Force, Brigadier General David Jones, the purpose of the patrol was to follow-up on an official Order to Leave (OTL) that was issued the previous week to 15 illegal settlers within the Chiquibul.

It was reported that when the BDF patrol approached the location of the illegal settlement, unidentified persons initiated gunfire. In self-defense, the BDF patrol returned fire and withdrew to safety. However, Jones stated that he couldn’t confirm if the open fire came from the illegal settlers, or if the shots were fired from persons hiding in the bushes.

The Organization of American States (OAS) Office in the Adjacency Zone has been asked to coordinate logistical arrangements between both the Belizean and Guatemalan law enforcement agencies, and to witness compliance with the OTL.

BDF commandant, Brigadier General David Jones

BDF commandant, Brigadier General David Jones

The OAS is also investigating two other incidents involving shootings in the Chiquibul area: Special Constable Danny Conorquie, who was shot to death at Caracol in 2014 and BDF Sergeant Richard Lambey, who was shot March 2016. However, those investigations remain incomplete.

“The only way for this to stop is for the Guatemalans… to stop their people; we can’t stop the people from coming in,” commented Jones to the media.

Encroachment in Chiquibul are linked with poverty on the Guatemalan side of the border, which drives Guatemalan laborers into Belize for survival. Jones believes that Guatemalans are being encouraged to come into Belize, and it is possible that they are being financed with the proceeds of organized crime.

Investigations continue in hopes of identifying the person(s) involved in this most recent shooting incident.

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