The Guatemalan Armed Force accosted the Belize Defense Force Personnel at the Sarstoon in the area of Belize’s Forward Operating Base on Saturday March 12, 2016. The Government of Belize issued a statement on the incident saying that GAF approached the FOB, though they never actually attempted to come on to our land, and “..behaved in an extremely hostile and threatening manner, insisting that our troops should not be at the Sarstoon. The Belize Forces stood their ground and after some time the GAF withdrew”. Sources say that the Guatemalan military told the BDF that the BDF needs to inform GAF of any further trips on the Sarstoon River. The GOB release says that “Despite the ultimately peaceful end to the standoff it is clear that tension with Guatemala over the Sarstoon and Belize’s insistence on its sovereignty rights in accordance with the 1859 Treaty Demarcation of the river, is at an all-time high.”
This recent aggression by GAF comes two weeks after another aggressive episode, that time against civilians trying to visit Gracias A Dios via the Sarstoon River on February 27th, 2016. The Belizean boats were blocked from accessing the Sarstoon by Guatemalan army boats. As we reported, Wil Mehia and the Belize Terrtiorial Volunteers were making a commemorative trip to the Sarstoon in memory of the trip that happened in February of 2015 when Belizeans were illegally detained by Guatemalan Armed Forces and taken to Livingston. This past weekend’s stand off between GAF and the BDF in the Sarstoon is not the first. If you recall, in May of 2015, there was a twenty –six hour standoff between GAF and BDF when the BDF were on the SArstoon Island doing reconnaissance for the building of a Forward Operating Base, and they were approached by Guatemalan military who told them to leave. During that stand off, Guatemalan and Belizean diplomats were in communication and at the end, the BDF were instructed by Belize’s Government to withdraw from the Sarstoon Island. It is what led to the entire “build the Forward Operating Base campaign” taken on by various Belizean activists and that pressure resulted in the commencement of the building, but not on the Sarstoon Island. Instead, Belize has begun building on the northern banks of the Sarstoon River. That is where this latest stand off occurred on Saturday. According to GOB’s press release issued on Sunday, “In the intervening period the BDF Commander General Jones had spoken to an opposite member in Guatemala and Prime Minister Dean Barrow had sent a message to President Jimmy Morales……Talks are to take place in Washington on Tuesday, March 15th, between the two sides under the auspices of the OAS, and in the meantime Belize has informed key members of the international community, including the US and the UK, of the extremely critical situation.” The press release also says that a strongly worded protest note is being sent to Guatemala by the Belize Ministry of Foreign Affairs. That Belize delegation to the Washington talks includes Assad Shoman as the representative of the Opposition, as the Prime Minister has personally briefed Opposition Leader John Briceno on the latest incident.