Despite warning from the PM, BTV’s expedition to the border is a go!
Friday, April 29th, 2016
Saturday, April 30th will mark the 157th anniversary of the 1859 Boundary Treaty that defined the borders between Belize and Guatemala. In honour of the historic occasion, the Belize Territorial Volunteers (BTV) have organized an expedition to the border at the mouth of the Sarstoon River, while the Northern Territorial Volunteers (NTV) are organizing a trip to the Garbutt Falls monument. However, given the recent tensions with Guatemala, and the amassing of Guatemalan troops at the border, the Government of Belize (GOB) is strongly discouraging both treks. Despite GOB’s attempts to dissuade such activities, both group leaders have announced that the expeditions will go on.
According to Wil Maheia, leader of the BTV, one of the main reasons for the trip is to demonstrate support for not only maintaining, but also regaining full control of the Belizean territory. “Amid the most recent acts of aggression by Guatemala in the form of them claiming not only the Sarstoon Island, but the entire Sarstoon River, it is clear that a heightened awareness campaign must be maintained,” said Maheia. He reiterated that the losing of Belize’s sovereignty in that part of the country is greatly due to GOB’s continued, wilful negligence of the issue with Guatemala taking over the area.“ We are losing our country and we all must stand up and defend it.”
Even before the current high alert, GOB had advised that civilians heading to the border areas, especially in the Sarstoon, should proceed with caution. The possibility of the Guatemalan military blocking passage to the Sarstoon River does not faze Maheia. “There is always the scare tactic where some people will back out because they are scared. We are not going into Guatemala,” said Maheia. “One thing I know is that we are going to the Sarstoon this Saturday, April 30th and I encourage people to join along. We are leaving at 9AM from Barranco Village.”
On Monday, April 25th, Prime Minister Dean Barrow called on the BTV to change their minds from executing the trip. Barrow said that at the moment the climate is not right for an expedition into such a heated area. Furthermore, Barrow indicated that they will not only be putting themselves at risk, but the lives of the Belizean security personnel. “We have a forward operating base at the mouth of the Sarstoon River. If the Territorial Volunteers are somehow harassed or attacked by the Guatemalans, our security forces will need to intervene,” Barrow said. “I am appealing to the territorial volunteers, give peace a chance; allow us to work this thing out as we come up with a protocol.”
Following the official opening of the Forward Operating Base (FOB) on Wednesday, April 20th, on the banks of the Sarstoon River, Maheia, indicated that despite of this development, illegal fishing by nearby Guatemalans continues rampant. “As far as I know, and even the Minister of National Security, the Honourable John Saldivar said it during the inauguration of the base, the Sarstoon is within Belizean territory, that is in our constitution. For that reason we will continue to attempt to go to the Sarstoon Island,” he said. According to him, it is a very important date in which Guatemala agreed from the mid-point and deepest point of the Sarstoon River to the north belongs to Belize, while to the south belongs to Guatemala.
For his part, Giovani De La Fuente, NTV leader, said that their trip to Garbutt’s Falls remains as scheduled, and emphasized on the importance of the excursion. “It is very important to participate in this commemoration as it will show that we are willing to take responsibility for our own destiny as a people.” He mentioned that in the Prime Minister’s message trying to dissuade the activity, the message was only for the trip to the Sarstoon, Garbutt Falls was not included.
De La Fuente added that Belize needs a more courageous government and a smarter foreign policy. He also indicated that the security of participants in these events will continue to be their primary concern. He also indicated that interested persons wishing to join the expedition to Garbutt Falls should meet at the Western Border at 9AM on Saturday, April 30th.
Both Maheia and De La Fuente called on all political parties, non- governmental organizations (NGOs,) and civil society to participate in this annual historic commemoration.
Anyone with any questions or requesting further information regarding both organizations can contact the following the numbers, Wil Maheia 610-0978, while Giovani De La Fuente can be reached at 651- 6104.
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