The second annual Sarstoon Island Eco Challenge took place on Saturday September 16th. This is a canoe race which sees paddlers leave from Barranco towards the Sarstoon Island. The winner is the one who circles the Sarstoon Island first, along the Belize side of the Southern Channel, and does it in the shortest time period. The event also seeks to raise awareness not only of the geographic location of the island, but also of the vulnerability of the environment.
This year’s event didn’t occur with less controversy than last year as there are reports that up to five Guatemalan Armed Forces boats showed up, entered Belizean waters and intimidated the participants in the race.
According to one of the Belize Territorial Volunteer leaders David Espadas, although it’s not his first time in the Sarstoon area, and neither was it the first time the Guatemalan military show their presence, it still made him a bit nervous.
David Espadas, Northern Territorial
“It is a little bit nerve wrecking to see the Guatemalan Armed Forces in our territorial waters once more because they are almost at the centre of the island in a straight line but it’s a bit nerve wrecking to see that our patrol boats is just about two hundred yards from the GAF and they are in our waters we cannot even go around our island because the GAF are right here it is nerve wrecking to see something like this. To all Belizeans let us be patriotic, not nationalistic because anyone can be a nationalistic person but we need to be patriotic, we need to love our country, to love our flag, to love our anthem we don’t want our national anthem to say from the no Sarstoon we want it to remain from the old Sarstoon not from the no Sarstoon because the Sarstoon is still ours we need to love our country, we need to be patriotics and let us give all our support to Will Mehijia and the Territorial volunteers.”
The GAF did not intervene or block the participants of the event, as they have done in the past. They also watched as Belizeans went on the island to recite the National Anthem.