Since the unfortunate incident that occurred on Wednesday evening between members of the Belize Defense Force and a group of Guatemalan civilians which resulted in the death of a 13 year old Guatemalan minor, tensions between Belize and Guatemala have been on an all-time high. Although we have heard from Prime Minister Dean Barrow as it relates to the incident, the Belize Defense Force until today had not given an official statement about the occurrence.
Today a press conference was held in Belize City to discuss the incident and present were Prime Minister Dean Barrow, Deputy Prime Minister Gaspar Vega, Minister of Foreign Affairs, Wilfred Elrington, Minister of National Security, John Saldivar, Brigadier General David Jones, Commander of the Belize Defense Force and Belize Coast Guard Commander, Rear Admiral John Borland.
During the press conference, Brigadier General David Jones, spoke for the first time about the incident, maintaining that his soldiers fired, in the dark, in defense of their lives.
Brigadier General David Jones - Commander of the Belize Defense Force
“The patrol deployed in the area because of our reconnaissance that was conducted by our defending aircraft, whenever we do such reconnaissance operation we do subsequent foot patrols I the ground to confirm what we’ve seen from the air, we saw the encroachments so BDF and FCD decided to go and do the investigation to see how then can arrest the situation unfortunately the incident occurred on Wednesday night where the patrol at approximately at about five o’clock in the evening they detained the first gentleman who was about 33 years of age; he was detained, he was questioned as to what he was doing in Belize and he explained that he was planting of course illegally inside Belize we had asked him where he was and he admitted that he knew where he was in Belize and he also stated that he has been doing that for years, planting illegally in Belize, so he was detained and two hours after while the patrol was in their harboring positon the patrol came under fire and the patrol returned fire, bear in mind this was in the dark so the soldiers and the members of the patrol couldn’t see who was firing at them and couldn’t see who they were firing at so it was their fight for self-defense, they defended themselves unfortunately there was a fatality, the young boy was killed.”
General Jones also seemed to take offense at suggestions by Guatemalan Foreign Minister in a statement which he claimed that the BDF needed more training as they did not follow proper rules of engagement in the incident that involved children
Brigadier General David Jones, Commander of the Belize Defense Force
“Rules of engagement to minors it is not the practice of the Belize Defense Force or any army that would engage minors and fire at them with intent to kill them, his statements I believe was taken out of context because it was pre-mature in that the investigation wasn’t concluded yet, he hasn’t been presented with the facts as yet because the OAS are investigating the situation, they haven’t conclude their investigation so he could not have known the facts so his statements were pre-mature so he should not have made such a statement but he made the statement based on information he had.”
Also in response to the assertion made by the press release issued by Guatemala on Friday of last week where it alleges that a total of 10 Guatemalan civilians, had been killed since 1999 by the BDF, Jones said that each investigation found that the Belizean soldiers involved in those incidents, also acted in self-defense.
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