Brigadier General David Jones advises against border clearing activity

All this week we have been covering the plans of a group called Belize Territorial Volunteers to begin clearing and marking the border between Belize and Guatemala, starting on Saturday. We have previously heard from Foreign Affairs Minister Wilfred Elrington who has disassociated the Belize Government from the initiative – and from the Guatemalans, who have warned that they will be looking out for any straying onto their territory. Well, yesterday, Commander of the Belize Defense Force Brigadier General David Jones weighed in. In speaking with the media after a handover ceremony in Ladyville, General Jones strongly urged against the Volunteers continuing their efforts.

General David Jones:
vlcsnap-2013-03-01-19h27m18s209I sympathized with the patriotism that these people have. However I don’t believe it’s a wise idea because as I soldier walking up and down the border especially the Western border with Guatemala it is difficult in some areas to determine exactly where the border is. Even us as soldiers stray sometimes into Guatemala. Inadvertently sometimes we meet up with the Guatemalan armed forces – they were courteous enough to escort us back and there have been cases where Guatemalan soldiers also have strayed into Belizean territory and out of courtesy we escort them back to where they belong. Some of the terrain is so thick, some of the trees are so thick, even with the global position system that we have you cannot tell that you are in Belize or in Guatemala. It is easy to create an international incident and this is something we should try to avoid because working along with Guatemala we are aware of the  territorial dispute and we would like to have a friendly relationship with the Guatemalans.
Now if they stray into Guatemala which is very possible, which is between 75%-100% it will happen they will be under Guatemalan law and it’s not like the border is where you can stand and look and see where it is. You cannot so that because for many miles along the border its jungle and its open pasture in some areas. It’s not like there is a line there that you can stand up and say that yes you are in Belize or you are in Guatemala – that is not the case. It is very easy to go over to Guatemala and it is very easy to create an international incident.

General Jones insists that should the Belizeans get into trouble, local authorities can do little to protect them.

General David Jones:
If such an incident occurs; if it occurs in Guatemala we have no jurisdiction. We as the Belize Defense Force will not be able to help them. If something occurs in Belize and it’s their right then the law authorities in Belize will protect them. However if they commit an offense over in Guatemala and they are captured by Guatemalan authorities they are on their own.  

Even more importantly, the BDF, which regularly patrols the area along the border, will not be going out of their way to get involved in any confrontations.

General David Jones:  
We have patrols along the border and we have observation posts along the border and we have other priorities that we need to deal with now. We have explained to these people already that what they are doing is not something sanctioned by us. We as the Belize Defense Force do not agree with it and we would prefer that it doesn’t happen.
They have been warned by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. They have been warned by the Ministry of National Security and we are not going to deploy soldiers out there, because we don’t want to have any unfriendly with our neighbor at the moment. We are going through a process right now that will lead up to a referendum to decide if the country is going to the ICJ and I definitely do want to let it seem as if though there is some military standoff between Belize and Guatemala. That would be very irresponsible, and we’re not going to condone it.

Despite the warnings, the effort is expected to go ahead tomorrow, Saturday

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