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Guatemalans harass Belizeans again!

By Benjamin Flowers
Staff Reporter

Civil society partners, political third parties, and the opposition People’s United Party (PUP) have condemned the recent harassment of Belizeans on the Sarstoon river by Guatemalan Armed Forces (GAF).
The Belize Territorial Volunteers (BTV), Belize Network of NGO’s, the Belize Progressive Party (BPP), and the PUP, have all issued statements against the breach of Belizean sovereignty and called on the government of Belize to take strong, decisive action against it.

BTV Leader, Wil Maheia, explained that the GAF came to intimidate the participants in the 2nd Annual Sarstoon Island Eco-Challenge. The challenge gathered around 30 participants to row canoes down the Sarstoon, going around the island. During the challenge, Guatemalan soldiers came into Belizean waters and stopped several of the canoe paddlers, asking them questions. They also escorted a vessel carrying two Belizean Coast Guard officers to the nearby Forward Operating Base.

“The Government of Belize has an obligation to its citizens that were harassed by the Guatemalan military; they need to send a protest note to the Guatemalan government and also to the United Nations Security Council because Belize is a member of the U.N.(United Nations),”Maheia said.
The BNN, which represents over 140 NGO’s registered under the NGO Act, characterized the incident as “unacceptable” and said that the incident is of grave concern because it endangers all Belizeans who wish to exercise their right to move freely within their own country.

The BPP condemned the government’s failure to defend Belizeans within their own territorial waters, calling GOB’s non-responsiveness to the issue an “inexcusable abrogation of duty”. The party also added that GOB’s lack of a suitable response is magnified by the season, where Belize should be celebrating its independence.
PUP Leader, John Briceño said that the continued violation of Belize’s sovereignty by Guatemalan officials is a progression of what has taken place since the current administration rose to power. Briceño said he thinks that GOB is trying to get Guatemala into negotiations by appeasing in situations such as this latest encroachment, but he feels that appeasement has only caused Guatemala to grow bolder.

“Half of the Sarstoon river coming north belongs to us, including the Sarstoon island. And these soldiers had absolutely no excuse, absolutely no reason to be there except to try to intimidate us.”
He emphasized that the Guatemalans are just pushing to see how far they can take their claim of the entire Sarstoon. Up to press time, GOB has not given an official response to the incident.

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