In just four months, the Guatemalan navy has entered illegally inside Belize’s sovereign waters , not once, but twice. Today they may have made a third incursion into Belize, this time causing possible damage to Belize’s precious barrier reef. The incident occurred about one o’clock this morning. Reports are that two Guatemalan vessels were transiting to Isla Mujeres, Mexico, when one of them ran aground of Belize’s Barrier Reef in the Glover’s Reef atoll, South East of Belize City. According to CEO in the Ministry of National Security, likelihood is that the matter will be pursued for monetary damages for destruction of a precious natural resource. But, he says, there must first be a proper investigation.
George Lovell – CEO, Ministry of National Security
“There are several things that we are doing. First of all we have to establish precisely what happened on the ground. We know that they have claimed to have been going to Mexico and so we have our officials confirming that that is in fact so. I can tell you that the initial report that I received from my Coast Guard is that the Mexican confirmed that the Guatemalans had a port call and they confirmed that the manifest that they have speaks to the people that were on this vessel that went grounded on our reef. So, it would appear that it was a legitimate passage. Now, the circumstances will only be clearer when our task force goes out there and do the relevant investigations.”
Lovell told us that depending on the outcome of the investigation, lead official personnel on the vessel are being held.
“As we speak, we are engaging our Guatemalan Foreign Affairs Ministry. Our Foreign Affairs Ministry has been dialoging with them from the time we were made to understand that the grounded had occurred. We will do what is necessary to ensure that we can; first of all established what happened and make the protest at the highest level, for us to get whatever compensation is necessary for that may have occurred with this grounding.”
“The persons on the boat, are they cooperating with officials as to providing statements?”
“Yes, yes. There seems to be no problem at this stage. “
‘Payment for the damages, how would that proceed?”
“Through Foreign Affairs. There will be diplomatic notices given to the Guatemalans and then we will take it from there.”
Guatemalan counterparts requested that a vessel come into Belizean waters and transport the cadets on the stray vessel out of there and Belizean authorities have agreed. Investigations continue into the matter.