Belizean Coast Guard and Guatemalans have standoff in Belizean waters

The Belize Coast Guard, Belize’s naval military force, had a standoff yesterday and today with the Guatemalan military personnel in Belizean waters. As incredulous as that sounds, Plus News was able to confirm those reports with the CEO in the Ministry of National Security today, Colonel George Lovell. According to the CEO, the timeline of events that occurred near the Sarstoon island between both armed forces lasted between 10 am yesterday morning and midday today.

Ret’d. Col. George Lovell – C.E.O., Ministry of National Securityvlcsnap-2015-06-01-09h48m13s234

“We had a coastguard patrol that went into the Sarstoon area yesterday and at about midmorning, between ten and eleven, while they were in the area of the Sarstoon Island, they were approached by Guatemalan naval patrol which went there to inquire what was the coastguard activities in the area. The commander of the patrol at the time informed them that they were in Belize and that they should leave. The Guatemalan patrol then left and later on that evening they came back and they came back with I think there were two vessels and a captain who was in charge of the detachment from the Guatemalan navy. The commander of the Belize Coastguard’s patrol had a very good dialogue and communication with the captain and the captain initially had asked them to leave. They then informed the captain that listen, we are in Belize; this is sovereign Belize; you are the ones who have now committed an incursion.” 

The Guatemalans refused to leave at first and the dialogue continued. The Belizean Coast Guard reported the matter back to base who in turn reported it back to the Ministry of National Security. From then the diplomats took charge of the situation.

Ret’d. Col. George Lovellvlcsnap-2015-06-01-09h47m57s48

“I, in turn, got in touch with foreign affairs—both the minister and the C.E.O. were incidentally in Guatemala—and so I called the embassy there and I explained to them what had transpired and we asked for them launch a protest. That protest was launched and we are still awaiting word as to what the Guatemalan position is. Since then, we have completed what we went out there to do. The coastguard patrol has moved back to the mainland and the Guatemalan patrol I was told moved back to their base on the other side.”

Reporter

“At any point during the dialogue, was there any threat of open hostility between the two forces?”

Ret’d. Col. George Lovell

“I believe that the two commanders on the ground were professional enough to ensure that whatever could have happened did not happen.

 

In the backdrop of this blatant incursion of Guatemalan military personnel into Belizean waters is the recent signing of an amendment to the referendum agreement held on Monday earlier this week. The amended agreement allows for Guatemala to host a referendum without Belize to decide whether or not to go to the ICJ to resolve the long drawn out territorial dispute. The actions on the part of Guatemalan military goes in stark contrast to the amiable nature of the signing in which the Foreign Minister of Guatemala said Belize and Guatemala need to work together for a common future. Colonel George Lovell gave his opinion on what might have sparked the confrontation.`

 

Ret’d. Col. George Lovell

“I believe that because of the suddenness of having a presence in the area longer than we would normally do may have created the kind of concerns that they had initially.”

Reporter

“Some persons might say to you that we do not need to inform them; we will be in our territorial waters.”

Ret’d. Col. George Lovell

“That’s the position that the Ministry of National Security had and that’s the reason why there was no information given, shared. But you know, the current situation that is going on in Guatemala and what we are trying to achieve between the government of Belize and Guatemala, sometimes a little sharing of information doesn’t hurt.”

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