Leaders of activist groups, Citizens Organized through Liberty and Action (COLA) and the Belize Territorial Volunteers (BTV) have mixed feelings over the announcement by Minister of National Security John Saldivar, that the Belize Defense Force (BDF) will break ground to construct the Forward Operating Base (FOB) at Sarstoon on December ninth.
Main activists on the issue, COLA, pressed the necessity of having a guarding base south of the border for matters of national security and protection of the environment.
COLA president Geovannie Brackett who has continuously advocated that a base at the Sarstoon would significantly help in controlling the exploitation of natural resources, noted the illegal activities carried out on border lines.
Will Maheia, leader of the BTV, also joins Brackett in that plea stating, “From an environmental stand point, hopefully it’s gonna reduce the amount of illegal fishing and logging taking place in the area”.
According to Brackett, the base is important because it is a strategic point for national security and we need to establish more outpost bases to protect the borders more efficiently.
“We welcome this and we see it as a victory for COLA because. We were very specific in our ‘build the base campaign’ that a base should be built. It was about establishing a base on the Sarstoon. We believe that we should not allow the Guatemalans to direct how we protect our borders,” said Brackett.
Brackett stated that although building the base may not prevent confrontations with Guatemalan military, such as the one that happened on February 28 2015 when 40 Belizeans, members of the BTV were held hostage by Guatemalan military on claims that they had crossed over into Guatemalan soil, it would assist in Belizeans knowing the border limits.
Brackett stated, “We cannot predict what would cause confrontation. It would certainly help, though in facilitating Belizean traffic in our waters. If we have an outpost out there, our soldiers can clearly advise us how far we can go into our waters and so for us it is a strategic point,” said Brackett.
Brackett and Maheia, believe that the protest during the visit of Guatemalan President-elect Jimmy Morales to Belize, influenced the decision to build the base rapidly, to reinforce his patriotism for the nation.
Unlike Brackett, Maheia is less optimistic of the completion of the base. He stated that building the base speeches have been made before. “It’s a good idea and I hope that it’s not just rhetoric. There has been talk about it for so long. I’m gonna go there to see if they really break ground,” said Maheia.