General

Border clearing effort was without incident

BORDERThe Belize Territorial Volunteers set out to demarcate the western border last Saturday, but were surprised by heavily deforested areas, friendly relations with Guatemalans, and representation from the Organization of American States.
Armed with 100 machetes, Will Maheia, the volunteers and other supporters made the two kilometre hike from Jalacte village to their out post called “Container Hill”, located some 300 meters form the border.
When the party arrived at “Container Hill” they had to clear some 20 meters of overgrown bush to set up their base of operations. However, much of the surrounding area had been cleared and farms set up by Guatemalans who have crossed into Belizean territory.
Maheia explained that hundreds, possibly thousands, of acres had been cleared. He said that that level of incursion is the reason the BTV are so adamant about clearly differentiating between Belizean and Guatemalan territory. He also spoke of a well-defined road that links Jalacte with Santa Cruz, Guatemala. The road, he says, shows signs of heavy traffic in and out of Belize.
Using GPS, members of the BTV ventured to the edge of Belizean territory and spoke with Guatemalans on the other side of the border. After a brief exchange, the volunteers and Guatemalans came to an understanding and later cordially shared a watermelon at the borderline.
Guatemalan military personnel were in the area but a representative of the Organization of American States, who identified his self as Sergio, asked them to maintain some distance to keep tensions low. Sergio later confirmed that the road actually does run from Guatemala into Belizean territory. BDF soldiers were also in the area in the regular course of their duties.
Maheia told the Reporter that the support that the BTV has received has inspired them to hold another event on April 30. He explained that on that day, to commemorate the 1859 agreement between Britain and Guatemala which called for the erection of the monuments at Gracias á Dios, and Garbutt’s Falls, the volunteers in Punta Gorda, Cayo and Corozal, will plant 30 mahogany trees near their border line.
Despite numerous warnings from the Minister of Foreign Affairs Hon. Wilfred Elrington that the initiative to clear the border would send international tensions soaring, about 150 people showed up to the event according to Maheia. He said that the event had country-wide support, and underscored that the some who came from Orange Walk had to leave from there at midnight to make it to Jalacte on time.
Elrington said that according to information he received the event went well because the volunteers did not venture close to the border, which mitigated their chances of having any confrontation. He maintained that his primary concern was that the volunteers not put themselves in harms’ way.
Both Belizean and Guatemalan governments had perceived the initiative as one that could upset the already agitated relations the countries have, with the pending simultaneous referenda in October.
Guatemalan press quoted their President Otto Peres Molina, saying that his government would be on “alert” for a group of Belizeans wanting to erase any demarcation between the countries. His alertness prompted Guatemalan officials to write a letter of concern to the OAS about the possibility of their territory being breached.
Similarly, Elrington had sternly warned Belizeans not to join the volunteers, saying that if they were to be picked up by Guatemalan military personnel for stepping onto Guatemalan territory, GOB could only assist them with securing a lawyer for their trial. He contended that the British in their entire occupation of Belize did not think it prudent to clear the border line, and said that he “subscribed to the at view.”

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