The Minister of Foreign Affairs Hon. Wilfred Elrington said publicly that the government will not support activist Will Maheia and the Belize Territorial Volunteers’ border-clearing exercise planned for Saturday, March 2.
Maheia and the volunteers, equipped with 100 machetes, have pledged to demarcate the border between Belize and Guatemala beginning from the outskirts of Jalacte, moving southward to Gracias a Dios.
For the past few weeks, Maheia has been publicly emphasizing the need to clear the bush along Belize’s western border to stop the rising number of incursions of Guatemalans into Belizean territory.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs, however, has warned the public against any such initiative, because of the possibility that they mistakenly wander into Guatemalan territory and end up being detained by Guatemalan military personnel.
Elrington said to The Reporter on Wednesday that the demarcation of a border would only go smoothly when both contiguous countries consent to such an operation.
He underscored the fact that Guatemala has already expressed concern that the initiative may cause disturbances along the borderline, and trigger an international incident.
Chief Executive Officer in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, H.E. Alexis Rosado, said that the Guatemalan government, in their correspondence, informed GOB that they will make their concerns known to the Organization of American States.
Elrington has made several media appearances throughout the week emphasizing the dangers of the initiative, and pointed out that in the 43 years when the British troops were stationed in Belize, they never once tried to demarcate the border the way Maheia is proposing now.
Elrington said that the most important thing a Belizean can do, if he or she wants to assist the country in solving the territorial dispute, is to read all he can about the entire situation surrounding the claim.
He advises Belizeans to educate, inform and enlighten themselves and to discuss it widely over the coming months.
This, he says, will be the greatest service to Belize.
The Ministry also issued an official release on Monday citing an incident that occurred in 2000, when the members of a BDF border patrol, which was on Belizean territory, were taken into custody by Guatemalan authorities, transferred to a Guatemalan police station and charged for illegal entry with prohibited firearms.
The release also stated that under the confidence building measure, signed by Belize, Guatemala and the OAS in 2005, the countries are committed to avoid incidents that may trigger any tension.
The Reporter also spoke with Maheia, who says that he is unshaken by the Ministry’s comments and that he and the volunteers will proceed to demarcate the western border.
Maheia explained that he has procured the help of retired military personnel, reliable maps and two global positioning systems (GPS) to ensure that the volunteers remain within Belizean territory.
Maheia also said that the points, which the team will be travelling to, are recognized areas in Belizean territory, including recognized Belize Defense Force outposts.