By Benjamin Flowers
The Government of Belize (GOB) will establish a forward operating base on the Sarstoon River, despite Guatemala’s concerns, declared George Lovell, Chief Executive Officer in the Ministry of National Security, this week.
Lovell, speaking on Guatemala’s objections to a base in the area, explained that the government is only holding consultations with Guatemala and the Organization of American States (OAS) to be cooperative.
Lovell maintains however, that the area designated for the base is clearly within Belizean territory and therefore, the Government of Belize can exercise its sovereignty.
“We’re not asking for permission. We’re just going to the meeting to see what their concerns are”, Lovell said this week.
The ministry is hoping to convene the meeting towards the end of the month.
When GOB indicated its plans to set up a temporary patrol base in the area, Guatemalan responded by referring to the agreement of May 28-29, stating that nothing should be done in the area until the territorial dispute has been settled by the International Court of Justice.
The area continues to be a source of controversy. Last year the Belize Territorial Volunteers were stopped and questioned by a Guatemalan military boat official, within Belizean waters.
Some 40 volunteers were taken from the area and detained by Guatemalan authorities in February this year.
On May 28 a Guatemalan naval vessel told the Belize Coast Guard, that they needed to cease their patrols because they were in Guatemalan waters. The Coast Guard did not budge despite having a much larger Guatemalan vessel approach them with the same instructions to leave.
Minister of Foreign Affairs, Wilfred Elrington, said that despite the incidents Belize and Guatemala maintain friendly relations.
“We are not in a relationship of hostility with the government of Guatemala. In fact they are one of our nearest neighbors,” Elrington said. “Nothing that they have done, as far as I am aware, has indicated any hostility.”