On Friday we told you about a standoff between the Belize Coast Guard and the Guatemalan Navy that lasted almost 26 hours. Authorities said the coast guard ventured on Thursday morning last week to the Sarstoon Island, which lies squarely in Belizean territory, to do reconnaissance for the possibility of constructing a foreword operating base on that island. During their operations, a Guatemalan navy vessel approached them inquiring their presence and requesting them to leave. The captain of the Coast Guard Vessel stood his ground even when the Guatemalan navy left and returned with backup. The captain of the Coast Guard acted in the confidence that the Sarstoon island lies squarely in Belizean territory since Belize’s border line with Guatemala is defined as the deepest channel in the river south of the island. The matter went into the hands of the diplomats which, after making some calls, saw the impasse come to an end. But what really happened? Well according to Minister of Foreign Affairs Wilfred Elrington, who was in Guatemala at the time, the Prime Minister called the Coast Guard back to base, eight days earlier than scheduled and that diffused the situation. So, it would appear that Belize retreated from Belizean waters In the backdrop of this incident was the foreign Minster’s “No Clear Border” comment referring to the maritime borders with Guatemala and Honduras. It has been argued that these same comments made by the foreign Minister in early May of this year and repeated again last week Monday during the signing of the Amended Compromis, gives Guatemala an excuse for further incursions into Belize like the one that played out last week on the Sarstoon Island. Retired BDF Major Gilberto Swazo added his voice to this argument.
“When you as the foreign minister is saying without any kind of remorse that we know or do not have defined boarders and we do not have the will to say that we will stand behind you as the military soldier, then that leaves us in doubt and it is jeopardizing our lives. I believe that the Belize Defense Force personnel and the Coast Guard personnel are well within their rights to be afraid of serving as well as they can because of the policies and the comments that are being made by the Government of Belize. We also see where the foreign minister complements the actions of the Guatemalan Military saying that they are constraint and we are the ones that were aggressive when we were the ones being constraint that anybody else. They were the ones in our territory, in our faces and yet still the foreign minister complemented the Guatemalan Military and has not even uttered a word in support of complementing our guys, our Coast Guard. What is that? What the hell are we doing?”