The Belize Territorial Volunteers (BTV) of Toledo, operating under the leadership of Mr. Will Maheia do not have the authority or the resources to define the Belize Western border with Guatemala.
But this is not what the volunteers have set out to do.
The Belize-Guatemala border was defined in the Treaty of 1859, and there is no need for us to go over that ground again. But it has become necessary to remind Guatemala that this land is ours, and we intend to defend it. The Western Border demarcates the limit of Guatemalan sovereignty and jurisdiction.
We must also remind ourselves that Guatemala has made her claim to Belize a constitutional issue by inscribing Belize as part of her territory in her constitution. More recently, there were reports of plans to incorporate Belize on the Guatemalan map inscribed on her new passports.
The decision to incorporate Belize in her constitution makes it illegal (unconstitutional) for any person or party in Guatemala not to support her claim. Even our Belizean diplomats are constrained in their discussions (with Guatemala) to refer to the western border as “adjacency zone” in deference to Guatemala, whose constitution would make believe that there is no such border..
Moreover, Guatemala does not exercise any restraining authority over her citizens in Petén, who make frequent incursions into Belize for the purpose of plunder, illegal mining or seasonal (milpa style) agriculture.
Belize has been obliged to maintain an active border patrol which is costing our country millions of dollars, and we have been reduced to a state of near-futile resistance in the face of the menacing population bulge pushing into southwestern Belize.
Belizeans have longed for a more active resistance to the Guatemalan claim and to Guatemalan provocations, and until the arrival of the Belize Territorial Volunteers, we did not know how to do this.
The bold action of this citizens brigade in Toledo has shown Belizeans that there is something we can do. We don’t have to accept Guatemalan aggression by supinely lying down and waiting for the diplomatic mill to grind ever so slowly. In our view, the Belize Territorial Volunteers are not trying to define or demarcate the western border. That has already been done!
They are merely saying: “Look, this is our border! We have marked it so that you will know when you cross over from Guatemala into Belize”.
The Belize Territorial Volunteers do not represent the Government of Belize. But they do represent a growing consensus among Belizeans that we ought to be doing more to re-affirm our claim to our land-something that the international community can see and support.
For diplomatic and other reasons the Government of Belize may have good cause to distance itself from the grass-roots actions of the Belize Territorial Volunteers. That’s all right. But Belizeans have a right to protest against what Guatemala is doing to Belize, and this protest by the BTV is a grounds well movement, involving working Belizeans.
Is there a political agenda behind the activity of Mr. Will Maheia?
Indeed there is! Mr. Maheia is the leader of the Toledo People’s National Party and it would be most unusual if he did not aspire to political recognition. As a young Belizean, he has the right to aspire, as do so many other young men and women of this young nation.
We admire his energy and his leadership, and we hope that his initiative will bear fruit.