SATIIM is asking if there is a new international directive for travelling in the Sarstoon River. That’s because the Guatemalan military informed SATIIM on Tuesday, April 5th 2016 that all visits to the Sarstoon must be reported to them. Froyla Tzalam, SATIIM’s Executive Director said that over its many years of monitoring along the Sarstoon, SATIIM has never had to inform Guatemala of its patrols before and the Belize Defence Force Outpost station was informed of the SATIIM patrol and had granted permission to proceed up the Sarstoon. She explained.
Froyla Tzalam, SATIIM’s Executive Director: My patrol team had gone out on a routine visit to the Sarstoon area to monitor as we have been doing for the past years, and when they came out of the Black Creek Area, they encountered a Guatemalan Military Vessel waiting for them. What started off as basically a potential hostile and aggressive situation quickly simmered down to the level headness of our team. But basically they were told that they could no longer monitor or no longer enter the Sarstoon unless they went and got approval from the Guatemalan Military. Now for us that’s a break in our usual patrols because we have being doing it for many years and this is the first time that we are being told by the Guatemalan Military that we need to now inform them of any visits in that area.
SATIM says its job of monitoring the Sarstoon Temash National Park (STNP) has now become difficult with this new directive from the Guatemalan army and they are concerned it will lead to more illegal activity.
Reporter: What’s going to be your next step? Are you going to continue to monitor that area?
Froyla Tzalam, SATIIM’s Executive Director: Well it’s our mandate; we’re very concerned because a lot of illegal activities take place in that area. There’s illegal fishing, there’s a lot of illegal logging and the community members and SATIIM are very much concerned because as you’re aware, since we’ve had our co-management agreement revoked, there has been no monitoring officially by no government agencies in that area, so the way that SATIIM has the mandate to go ahead and see what’s taking place.
In a statement issued today, SATIM says, and we quote, [SATIM QUOTE] “ While the Belize government unilaterally ended SATIIM’s co-management agreement in the Sarstoon Temash National Park, community patrols have continued to report increased activity as a result of the large paths blasted through the park for oil exploration. These paths established easy access from the Sartsoon River straight through previously virgin areas. Alarmed with the increasing environmental damage, SATIIM continues to work with Mayan communities to monitor and document the damage in an otherwise neglected ‘protected area. Ms Tzalam says a letters have been sent out to Belizean authorities and government about this latest development.
Reporter: You have informed the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, have you informed them verbally, writing?
Froyla Tzalam, SATIIM’s Executive Director: I informed a personnel from the Ministry, I was unable to get to the CEO and after that discussion I then sent a formal letter and I copied it to the BDF, the Seal of National Security, Leader of the Opposition, all development parties and even the OAS representative.
Reporter: Has the CEO from the Ministry of National Security or the Minister or anybody from foreign affairs contacted you after you contacted them?
Froyla Tzalam, SATIIM’s Executive Director: No not as yet, I just contacted them this afternoon because we just basically got the word when the patrol came in this morning about what had transpired yesterday so it’s stil fresh.
SATIIM says it is also publicly asking that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs clarifies the situation for Belizeans using the Sarstoon River.