Opposition Leader Johnny Briceño wants tougher stance on Guatemala

By Marion Ali, Assistant Editor

Leader of the Opposition, Johnny Briceno has done something which other opposition leaders have shied away from doing. He called on Prime Minister Dean Barrow at his Coney Drive office in Belize City on Wednesday. for a one-on-one over Guatemalan intransigence.
The two men discussed recent incidents between Belizean civilians and the Guatemalan military on the Sarstoon. After the meeting, Briceno referred specifically to the most recent incident, when boats from the Guatemalan Coast Guard blocked a group of Belizeans from entering the Sarstoon river and from Sarstoon island. He told the media the People’s United Party is of the view that the government should tell Guatemala in no uncertain terms that Belize will not accept that sort of behavior.

He pointed to incidents where Guatemalans have been caught panning for gold Belizean rivers, the slashing and burning, illegal logging, and the planting and harvesting of marijuana in the Chiquibul Forest Reserve. He pointed to illegal fishing that Guatemalans engage in on Belizean territory.

“We believe that we should send a very strongly worded letter or diplomatic note to the Guatemalans telling them that they were in our territory and that we will not allow them to do that; that they are in our territorial waters and we stand by that position. We also believe that we need to …. consider internationalizing what is happening on the ground…We need to make that known to the world what Guatemala is doing and that we find it unacceptable. We need to do everything possible for other countries to know what is happening on the ground,” Briceno insisted. He suggested furthermore that Belize should recall its man in Guatemala, Ambassador Alexis Rosado to Belize for consultation.

“We are not in any instance saying that we must break diplomatic relations with Guatemala. What we are saying is…your Ambassador is on the ground in the country and he knows exactly most of what is going on better than us here in Belize. In this case we believe that the government should called in Ambassador Alexis Rosado to properly brief the government as to what is taking place in Guatemala. Is the President in control of the country? Or Is it the military? What is going on? What is the Foreign Minister of Guatemala saying? What is the media saying? What are the people saying in Guatemala?” Briceño wanted to know.

rice˜õ said Belize needs to internationalize the country’s plight with Guatemala to let other countries know what is going on and to record our displeasure.

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