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fobThis morning saw the long-awaited inauguration of the one hundred thousand dollar Sarstoon joint forward operating base. The modest building sits on the southernmost part of the mainland facing a military base of Guatemala which claims half of Belize’s territory including the Sarstoon area which has witnessed constant encounters between civilians, the BDF and Guatemalan Armed Forces.

Today’s inauguration was celebrated by the top brass of the Ministry of National Security and the heads of the Belize Coast Guard and the BDF who took the long trip South. They traveled from Punta Gorda in three BDF vessels and two Boston Whalers belonging to the Coast Guard. However, today was once more labelled as yet another flagrant violation of our sovereignty and territorial integrity. That’s because on arrival at the mouth of the Sarstoon, just in front of the Sarstoon Island which we know as Belizean territory, a Guatemalan gun boat sat inside Belizean territorial waters. As the Belize expedition approached, it gradually navigated into the Guatemalan side. But three other Guatemalan naval vessels remained. One of the two Colombian type vessels was clearly in Belizean territorial waters close to Belize’s Forward Operating Base. On the civilian side of things, Guatemalan fishermen, perhaps emboldened by the presence of their own authorities in the river freely fished alongside the Guatemalan military boats. Rear Admiral John Borland, commander of the Coast Guard noted that once the base becomes operational, they will address all the illegal activity.

Admiral John Borland – Coast Guard Commander

“You absolutely right I saw the same thing and I share the same sentiment, one of the Coast Guard responsibility at this location will be to deal with that illegal fishing and what we saw here today will be addressed in a very short term span of time because the Coast Guard is coming out here to do its job, to act responsibly but to enforce all our maritime laws within our sea spaces.”

But the fishermen and the boats aside, today like at the groundbreaking ceremony in December 2015, almost toward the end of the ceremony, a drone came over into Belizean airspace from the Guatemalan side. It hovered over the area until Rear Admiral Borland simulated as if he would shoot it down.

Admiral John Borland – Coast Guard Commander

“It is a breach of our security and it is an act of braveness whoever send that drone over here and it should not be condone and it should be address, the same thing happened when we were here for the opening, the ground breaking ceremony, and again it’s been repeated and we did address it at that time that it was not welcomed gesture for whoever is responsible and I hope we do so again and it should not be countenance it is a breach of our sovereignty and our area space and it is really nothing but the outright disrespectful.”


“Do believe that Belizean law enforcement personnel would be justified to do whatever it takes to get that drone from out of Belizean territory?”

Admiral John Borland – Coast Guard Commander

“Well, justified in doing whatever it takes has to be broken down, I think the first measures is to address it seriously at levels above me that it not be tolerated and not be repeated but I feel completely disrespected today to see it repeated after the first time and we address it and we thought that act would be discontinued.”


“How was it addressed?”

Screen_Shot_2016-04-20_at_8.18.39_PMAdmiral John Borland – Coast Guard Commander

“It was addressed through a diplomatic channel.”


“We saw as well, and correct me if I am wrong, it appeared that you took it upon yourself not that it was a directive from the minister who stood there and said it is in our airspace, did you take it upon yourself to walk out there on the dock and point toward it as if you were going to shoot it down?”

Admiral John Borland – Coast Guard Commander

“Well, I wasn’t going to shoot it down, all what I was trying to do is to send a message that that thing is in our airspace.”

The Minister of National Security, Honorable John Saldivar said we cannot even be sure that the drone was for the Guatemalan military:

Honorable John Saldivar – Minister of National Security

“Well, I think you are making an assumption as to the source of the drone, the last time one such an event had occurred we were told that it was the Guatemalan media but that aside yes it is an invasion of our airspace and I believe that you  saw that we were about to take appropriate action.”

As to why the Guatemalans were in Belizean waters, Borland added that they will first establish with the BDF and their Ministry if our neighbors were invited to be so close in their military vessels. Thereafter, they will request follow up through diplomatic channels. While the US and British Ambassadors were invited, they excused themselves saying they had to attend an event with the OAS secretary general. Similarly, the two ambassadors were missing at the Sarstoon FOB groundbreaking ceremony. In attendance were the ambassadors for Panama and Honduras.  

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