And in the spirit of the new partnership and national unity, Guatemala appears to have forgiven Belize for scaring them with the planned forward operating base at Sarstoon Island in the Toledo District. As it turns out, the Guatemalans thought Belize may have been violating the confidence building measures which frown on anything resembling a military buildup along the border or in the Adjacency Zone. Their Foreign Minister, Carlos Morales, explains.
“If you read the confidence building measures, it says that our commitment is to do not build another base after this signature of this instrument. It was signed on 2000. Then we are doing and Belize and Guatemala did it, with respect all the military bases we have in that moment and this is why we didn’t remove. This is the only one. I think the other one is in Melchor de Mencos – something like that. What we are doing, is that we are trying to implement this very important agreement that we signed in 2000. Guatemala and Belize, both countries are respecting this agreement that we signed in 2000.”
The Amandala’s Adele Ramos in an e-mail forwarded to multiple media houses this afternoon including PLUS News states that neither CBM document – signed in 2003 and 2005 (and not 2000 as Minister Morales erroneously stated) says nothing about holding back on militarization of the border areas. Guatemala had similarly objected to a military post at Machaquila in western Toledo though Belize was establishing its presence there to fight illegal activities by Guatemalans. She says, “It is the sort of argument being made for the South — which is not included in the so-called [Adjacency Zone]. There is nothing in the CBMs to say that Belize conceded to such an agreement, as was claimed this morning by the Guatemalan Foreign Minister. Now, he talks about a new protocol for the Amatique Bay, which was never covered within the text of the CBMs.” Be that as it may, it appears the dispute is over and the base’s construction can go ahead – and the decision, according to Elrington, is all up to Belize.
“This morning we discussed, as one of the first items, this issue of the forward operating base and as soon as the Foreign Minister got a clearer understanding of what was intended and what is our objectives, they had no objections to it. The fact that they had an objection may or may not have stopped us from doing it but we make that final decision, we make that call. The intention is to keep our people safe. We are not going to do anything that is going to jeopardize the safety and security of our people. That is the only thing that retards us from acting. But, we made it very clear to our Guatemalan friends that we are having problems with criminals, we are having problems with drug dealers and that we need to put this forward operating base there . It is going to be manned by the Coast Guard and the police etc and they had no objections to that. “
“So, will we move forward as if though they had not voiced any problem?”
“We will move forward and we will build the base.”
“As soon as it is convenient to us.”
No timeline has been given. Guatemalan President Otto Perez Molina is making a state visit to Belize in December.