Editorial

Editorial

Belize has had to send BDF soldiers to parts of the border in Punta Gorda to discourage Guatemalan farmers from squatting on portions of the Chiquibul Forest Reserve and using the land for farming.

This is not the first time that Belize has had to assert her authority over the land, but it is the first time that Guatemalan farmers have come over in such numbers and penetrated so deep into Belizean territory to take over land that does not belong to them.

This is a trend which we expect will continue, and as Guatemalan farmers put their labour and money into clearing and planting, we expect to see increasing resentment and resistance towards our BDF patrols. The border situation has become volatile and dangerous.

Guatemalan authorities can do something to discourage its citizens from trespassing and squatting on lands beyond their border, but the truth of the matter is that they do not have any incentive to do so. We will hear from them only if someone gets hurt or killed.

Guatemalan farmers who come over to plant their crops do not generally realize the risks they are taking. If they start coming over in larger numbers, Belize will have a problem of immense magnitude, and enormous expense. The problem is compounded because there is no physical barrier to warn Guatemalans that they are crossing the line.

Belize should aim for a policy to de-militarize the border. We believe that can be accomplished by activating a non-militiary border patrol composed of native Ketchi Indians in Toledo who know the country and who have been trained to patrol the border to detect any sign of occupancy. They would carry no arms apart from a machete, but should have a special telephone that they can use to call for back-up.
Their job would be to inform Guatemalans, not to confront them. If encroachers become belligerent, the patrol should call for help.

A patrol corps composed of native Ketchi Indians need not be expensive. The men would earn nominal wages and only spend a week or two at a time in the forest before they are relieved.The corps should be big enough to maintain a steady presence at or near the border at all times. The earnings of the men so chosen would be a welcome source of income for their families of Toledo.

Ketchi men who have served in the Belize militiary have established their reputation for dependability and hard work. They will make Belize proud!
Belize will need this border corps whether we take the dispute to the ICJ or not. If we decide to go to the ICJ to obtain a ruling, Guatemala will be forced to recognize it, and the work of patrolling the border will become much less dangerous.

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