As we’ve said, the story has made international news, but the version in the international press is clearly reflecting Guatemala’s version of events. Prime Minister Barrow was asked about the late response of the Belizean authorities in getting the true version of events out to the media.
Hon. Dean Barrow, Prime Minister Belize: President Morales committed to me his agreement to our mutual de-escalation of the tensions that had arisen over the Cebada incident. It is true that he maintained at all times his strong and vigorous protest over what he described as the unprovoked B.D.F. attack on innocent Guatemalan civilians and the ‘murder’ of the Guatemalan minor; and it is true that he repeatedly insisted on the need for justice for Guatemala and its citizens. But it is also true that I placed on record, and repeated throughout, the fact that the B.D.F. patrol had come under fire first, and had responded in self-defense, firing in the direction from which they had been shot at. I made the further point that the civilian members of FCD, who had accompanied the patrol, confirmed the B.D.F.’s version of events. I regretted the unfortunate loss of life of the Guatemalan minor but recollected that the B.D.F. had several times before come under fire in that very area from armed and dangerous Guatemalans engaged in illegal activities and pillaging of Belizean forests, environment and resources. Our military had every right to defend itself and our patrimony.
Brigadieerre Jones filled in the details of what transpired in the Chiquibul on that fateful Wednesday night.
Brigadiere Jones, Belize Defense Force: We saw the encroachments so B.D.F. and FCD decided to go and do the investigation to see how they could arrest the situation. Unfortunately the incident occurred on Wednesday night where the patrol at approximately five o’clock in the evening detained the first gentleman who was about thirty-three years of age. He was detained, he was questioned as to what he was doing in Belize and he explained that he was planting of course illegally inside Belize. They asked him if he knew where he was and he admitted that he knew he was in Belize. He also admitted that he has been doing that for years, planting illegally in Belize. So he was detained, and two hours after while the patrol was in the harboring position the patrol came under fire. The patrol returned fire. Bear in mind this was in the dark. The soldiers and the members of the patrol could not see who was firing at them and they could not see who they were firing at. So it was their right for self-defense. They defended themselves, unfortunately there was a fatality. The young boy was killed. It is not the practice of the B.D.F. or any army to engage minors and fire at them with the intent to kill them. His statements, I believe, were taken out of context because it was premature in that the investigation wasn’t concluded yet. He hasn’t been presented with the facts as yet because the O.A.S. is investigating the situation. They haven’t concluded their investigation so he could not have known the facts, so his statements are premature. He should not have made such a statement but he made the statement based on the information he had. But all military require training. Our soldiers follow rules of engagement similar to any other military and I restate that our soldiers and the member of the patrol acted in self-defense. Unfortunately it ended in a fatality.