The territorial, aerial and maritime dispute between Belize and Guatemala has given rise, in the recent past, to serious incidents between the military forces of the two countries. The most recent was the May 28th confrontation between the Guatemalan Military and the Belize Coast Guard in the Sarstoon Island.
When it comes to island in the Sarstoon River, a part of it is on the north side of the midline and therefore it’s in Belizean territory and another part of it is in Guatemalan territory, on the south side. Investigations have determined that Belize’s Coast Guard was on Belizean waters preparing for a forward operating base that is intended to be constructed there. In a show of courtesy and in order to preserve the diplomatic process, the Guatemalans were informed of Belize’s intention to build the FOB. But their response was not one expected by the Ministry of National Security.
George Lovell CEO in the Ministry of National Security
“We had informed the Guatemalans that we had plans of having a temporary facility placed on the mouth of the Sarstoon and we had informed them that we had intentions of going out there. As you know, the coastguard was out there around the twenty-eight, twenty-ninth of May and we had that initial encounter with them. We wanted to be clear whenever we go into that area because of the sensitivity of the area that we not just inform them of what we’re doing but I want to be clear here, we are not asking them permission or approval for what we do but we do it simply because there is a process we are going through, a diplomatic process and we wouldn’t want to do anything from a military standpoint to put that in jeopardy. And so, what we would normally do is to tell them, by the way you will see our people down in that area and we would give them an idea as to what sort of activity we are up to in that area so that we won’t have to be uncertain as to what we are doing and they can keep their people informed as to what is going on. When we did that we received a note yes, from the Guatemalans saying that they were of the opinion after the twenty-eighth of May incident that we were not going to do anything in that area until after we reached some definite position through the ICJ. That was not our understanding. We believe that our place where we want to place our temporary forward operating base which is primarily for law enforcement purposes, we want to ensure that we keep our border safe, our people who operate in that border safe, it’s something that we do not need to go to any country and get permission from in order to do so. And what our coast guard have planned on doing and what the Government of Belize has planned on doing is clearly in line with us maintaining sovereignty and maintaining law and order in those areas where we haven’t had problems in the past and you know we have had problem in the past and so we are trying to ensure that we carry out with the mandate that our security forces have and the Ministry of National Security has and the mandate that our people call for and that‘s what we intend to do. Now there will be discussions and so we’ve decided to wait until those discussions take its course and then we’ll take it from there.”
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