Earlier this week, we reported on the confrontation which transpired at the Sarstoon between the Guatemalan Armed Forces and a Group of Belizeans as the Guatemalan authorities once again blocked the group’s path, averting them from traversing further up the river. As we told you, the GAF claimed that the group was in Guatemalan territory and therefore, requested that they present a valid document which authorizes their visit to the area.
Today the Ministry of National Security issued a statement indicating that the matter has been reported to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, prompting that Ministry to lodge a strong protest to the Guatemalan Government. The Ministry of National Security considers the incident to be, quote “Very disappointing and demonstrates bad faith at a time when both countries have made significant progress in moving towards a permanent solution to the long-standing unfounded territorial claim.” End of quote.
The release further provided details of the incident which unfolded on Tuesday indicating that the Belize Defence Force Forward Operating Base (FOB) reported that at about 9:23 a.m., a Belizean vessel carrying seven civilians, including Leader of the BTV, Wil Maheia and Martin Cus of the Sarstoon Temash Institute for Indigenous Management (SATIM), approached the FOB, requesting escort to traverse the Sarstoon River to conduct an investigation on alleged illegal activity reportedly occurring in the area of Black Creek.
As the group was being escorted by the Belize Coast Guard in a BDF vessel two GAF vessels intercepted the civilians and asked them to turn around. The BDF patrol commander informed the GAF that they would not do so and that the civilians were being escorted by the BDF. Reports state that the Belizean vessels proceeded along the river, however, approximately four kilometres short of its destination, the BDF vessel experienced mechanical issues and was forced to return to base.
Additional reports are that Guatemalan authorities refused to allow the civilians to proceed unescorted and insisted that they return… which they did.