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The Government of Belize has sent an extremely strong note of protest to the Guatemalan Government. Prime Minister Dean Barrow announced this today in an afternoon Press Conference in Belize City where he said that he, unlike the Foreign Minister Wilfred Elrington, did believe and accept what has been reported by the Belize Territorial Volunteers and the media when it comes to trip to the Sarstoon where Guatemala entered Belizean waters.

The PM said that he was walking into the press conference from a meeting with the National Security Council where the decision was approved. He added that government has received a report from OAS Representative Magdalena Talamas on the BTV’s visit to the Sarstoon. In that report, the OAS indicates that four of the territorial volunteers’ boats made it to the Sarstoon Island and circled it by entering the North Channel and exited the south channel. One boat was prevented from taking the route.

Screen_Shot_2015-08-19_at_8.03.09_PMHonorable Dean Barrow – Prime Minister or Belize

“The O.A.S. reports that even the four small Belizean boats were at first intercepted by the Guatemalans before they were able to proceed toward the island, and both that temporary interception of the small boats and the permanent interception of the bigger boat took place, as I understand Ms. Talamas, as what she describes as the mouth of the Sarstoon River. It is my belief that what the O.A.S. calls the mouth of the Sarstoon River is clearly in Belizean waters and that the Guatemalan navy committed an incursion when they intercepted our boats at that spot. The territorial volunteers and the Belizean media confirmed the fact of this incursion and General Jones and Admiral Borland, after viewing video footage, fully concur.”

But the report, which is in full Spanish and is yet to be translated and made public, does not state whether Belizean boats entered Guatemalan waters. This question says the PM remains unanswered.

Honorable Dean Barrow – Prime Minister or Belize

“The volunteers say no and the O.A.S. doesn’t say yes. But regardless of what may later be established on that score, the Guatemalan incursion certainly happened first, and any unwitting Belizean entry into Guatemala by unarmed civilian boats is of a different order completely from the deliberate violation committed against us by a presumably well-armed Guatemalan navy. An extremely strong protest note has therefore been prepared by our Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and was approved just now by the N.S.C. for immediate dispatch to the Guatemalan Foreign Ministry with a copy to the O.A.S.”

Still, there are varying view points on how the government should have handled the matter, specifically in regards to ensuring the safety of its Belizean citizens visiting the Sarstoon. Should the military have escorted the group? Does the government give up sovereignty to the area? The PM clarified that doubt.

Honorable Dean Barrow – Prime Minister or Belize

“I say right off that the answer to both questions is an unqualified no. But let me tell you why that is so. Guatemala claims the river Sarstoon, not in the same way as it claims other portions of our country. Their position is that what we know to be Belize never included the Sarstoon River, and that our border in that area stops on the bank of the river on the Belize side, so then entire Sarstoon was always part of Sarstoon territory and recognized as belonging to them. We consider that to be completely wrong and against both history and geography. We therefore, unequivocally maintain that the boundary between the two countries is the mid-channel of the Sarstoon River through knowledge from time immemorial and stated in the 1859 treaty. And we accordingly continue to declare that we are sovereign over our half of the Sarstoon River. We say this, we mean this, and we will never change this. And as it is with the Sarstoon, so it is with all of Belize. This territory is ours, the entire 8867 square miles of it and our sovereignty over our country which not only our military but ultimately all of us are prepared to defend to the death is unalterable, unshakeable, immovable.”

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