By Benjamin Flowers
The Government of Guatemala, this week, sent a diplomatic note to the Government of Belize, which among other things, stated that they expect Guatemalan fishermen found inside Belizean waters illegally to be left alone.
At the ground-breaking ceremony for the Coast Guard forward Operating Base along the Sarstoon river on Wednesday, Minister of National Security John Saldivar read a translated portion of the correspondence.
The diplomatic note, as read by Saldivar said: “This ministry (Guatemala’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs) expects that the operations that will take place on that base will not interfere with the artisanal fishing activities of the inhabitants of the area.”
Chief Executive Officer in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Lawrence Sylvester, explained that while it is not protocol for the MOF to discuss the contents of diplomatic correspondents, he could confirm that fishermen were referenced in the diplomatic note.
The reference, however, was only a small portion of a larger correspondence, which formed Guatemala’s response to GOB’s invitation to attend the ceremony. Due to protocol, Sylvester did not disclose GOB’s position on Guatemala’s expectations or if GOB would respond to the statement.
Guatemala made the reference in connection with statements Minister of Foreign Affairs Wilfred Elrington had made to their foreign minister, Carlos Raul Morales, during his visit to Belize. Elrington’s statement was that the FOB would be used for internal security purposes.
The United Democratic Party (UDP), in their manifesto had promised the FOB’s construction would be a priority of the new UDP administration. The base’s construction is one of several changes being made to the Coast Guard.
Those changes include the changing of the name from the “Belize National Coast Guard Service” to the “Belize Coast Guard,” clarifying the duties and functions of the Coast Guard, and introducing new qualifications for appointment to the office of Commander of the Coast Guard.
The Belize National Coast Guard Amendment Bill 2015 was tabled at the House of Representatives on Friday