Belize Territorial Volunteers made their point at the border

vlcsnap-2013-03-04-20h14m14s61The Belize Territorial Volunteers made their point at the border this weekend. After being told that they would not have Government and military support and under threat from Guatemala for what President Otto Perez Molina has referred to as “erasing” the border, there were questions of whether the group would lose their nerve. But they did not – and on Saturday 175 Belizeans showed up for the tasking of clearing the Belizean border. The expedition took off from Punta Gorda Town after seven and reached Jalacte by 8:45, carrying Belizean flags and those infamous machetes. Nearly every sector and class of Belizean society was represented, from lawyers to businessmen to politicians to grassroots activists. The group hiked to the top of “Container Hill,” the hill where businessman Leonel Arellanos briefly and defiantly placed a container, provoking a near-standoff with Belizean and Guatemalan military personnel. According to organizer Wil Maheia, Saturday’s effort was all about showing that it can be done.

Wil Mahria:
vlcsnap-2013-03-04-21h00m57s211We are on what the call – Container Hill. This is the exact site that we are standing right now that a container was a few years ago and was put here by a Guatemalan businessman. When we brought it to the attention of the public – because we had brought it to the attention of the Belize Government before, but they didn’t do anything. It was when we brought it to the attention of the general Belizean public that put pressure on the Government that they did something about it. The OAS had known about this all the time and they didn’t do anything until the Belizean people demanded that they did something. So this hill that we call Container Hill is here on Belizean territory today because Belizeans spoke up, because Belizeans did what they had to do.

Maheia pointed out that it was not too late for the Government to join the effort.

Wil Mahria:
As you can see, everyone here is 100% Belizean. We have so many people out here and I am just so humbled by the amount of phone calls, messages, texts and prayers that have come our way so that we can be here today and be safe. Safety is our number one concern. We are here on Belizean territory; there is so disputing whether or not this is Belizean territory and despite of the fact of the jungle that they claim to be here, I am glad that you are here today so you can that we are losing forest on a daily basis. They are coming into our territory and deforesting. If you look around us, you see the poles over there – that came in long after this so-called comprimé. That cell tower that’s behind you, came in just a couple years ago, long after the so-called comprimé or the adjacency zone which we do not respect. We have a border and we intend to keep our border and we will clean our border. Unlike what they are trying to lead you to believe that we don’t have a border, we have always had a border. We have with us today ex British military personnel who used to patrol the border on foot. So everyone is here. We have several retired BDF officers that are here today that know that there is a border. So there is no disputing whether or not there is a border.

PLUS News spoke to more of the prominent Belizeans joining the movement. First we hear from People’s United Party (PUP) executive Carolyn Trench-Sandiford.

Carolyn Trench-Sandiford – PUP executive
vlcsnap-2013-03-04-21h10m31s55Because I believe I have an obligation as a Belizean, to not be afraid of protecting and defending what is ours. We have an obligation as Belizeans to ensure that future generations can come to the same spot and know that it is Belize and the only way you can do that is to ascertain your presence and that is what we are doing here today.

Giovanni Brackett
How do you respond to the warning from the Government in terms of this might be an exercise that can increase tensions between the two countries?
Carolyn Trench-Sandiford – PUP executive
I think it is disheartening, because our leader must at all time – yes be cautious, yes be responsible, but at the same time we must be firm and decisive in protecting and defending what is ours. Our Constitution is very clear as to what our border is and as Belizeans we have an obligation as I said to protect and defend what is ours. If we don’t do it, who will do it for us?

Former BDF Lloyd Jones insists that it’s up to Belize to do the work to protect the border.

Lloyd Jones – Former BDF:
vlcsnap-2013-03-04-21h12m20s143No, the Government is going to have to do its homework, that is the function of the Government and I think Wil is kind of forcing their hand if you will. He is saying “If you don’t want to do it, I will do it” and kind of putting them under some pressure. This is the function of the Government and they along with the Guatemalans have go do it. I think the Foreign Minister made some comments the other saying that the only reason the border has not been cleared is because the Guatemalans have refused to do it. Well then they must find the means to compel the Guatemalans to do it. But we need to establish where our borders are and make it clear that there is a divide between Belize and Guatemala.

Daniel Ortiz:
The support from Mr. Wil Maheia. We are all civilizations who aren’t trained to travel along this sustained effort. Do you think they can maintain it with just nationalism alone, without the endurance required?
Lloyd Jones – Former BDF:
Well I think it is going to be a challenge. Like with most things in Belize, you have that surge and then people kind of fall off. But I think Wil is going to have to maintain the vigilance and the awareness and I think certainly between now and October there is going to be a sustained effort because of this ICJ nonsense that they are trying to force on us. So at least between now and October sixth, yes.

Former British Officer George Guest, now chairman of the Crooked Tree Village Council, tells us why he thinks Wil Maheia has it right.

George Guest – Former British Officer:
vlcsnap-2013-03-04-21h16m03s64I’m supporting him as a Belizean who wants this land for Belize.  It’s not for Guatemala.  Why do everybody have to keep on going and saying we’ve got to go to the ICJ?  What for?  Just say no to the ICJ.  Guatemalans can’t do nothing. It’s not for them.
The Brigadier General, David Jones, has got enough experience, but what he’s afraid to explain is that he was told what to say. You can’t see any deep, dense jungle here. It’s already been cleared along the border, from a little road to where a truck could go down.  I don’t know where he get this “deep, dense hungle”, that you can’t walk through. No, he wrong.

About the Author