Prime Minister of Belize, Right Honorable Dean Barrow declared Monday that the immediate crisis is over. The PM was speaking at a press briefing held in Belize City to address recent troubling developments with Guatemala. As the nation is aware by now, and the international community for that matter, a 13 year old Guatemalan boy who was in Belizean territory illegally at 7 p.m. last Wednesday night in the Chiquibul Reserve, was shot and killed when the BDF came under fire from the Guatemalan poachers and responded by returning fire. When the bullets stopped and the Guatemalans had apparently fled, BDF discovered the dead child behind some bush. His father, brother , and other Guatemalans, had escaped, leaving the wounded teenager in Belizean territory but they apparently took back with them to Guatemala a story of a random, unjustified killing by the BDF of innocent villagers. Guatemala’s Prime Minister Jimmy Morales issued a stern message of condemnation of the BDF and escalated tensions by declaring a mobilization of Guatemalan troops to enforce Guatemala’s “sovereignty over the Sarstoon” and to man the adjacency Zones along the borders. It has been a tense few days and a stressful weekend for Belizean diplomats and Security heads, but according to the Prime Minister, President Morales has committed to “mutual De-escalation and says that any immediate danger has now passed.
Hon. Dean Barrow, Prime Minister Belize: I am wholly satisfied, based on the N.S.C.’s review of all the facts and its discussion of the pathway forward, that the immediate crisis provoked by Guatemalan President Jimmy Morales’ extraordinary address to his nation after the exchange of fire between Guatemalan civilians-who fired first-and the BDF leading to the death of a Guatemalan minor, is over. I am convinced that diplomacy, Belize’s invocation of the Confidence Building Agreement, and its call for peace and the de-escalation of the threat and tension created by the Guatemalan response and the measures that had been announced by President Morales, has worked. Our position has been noted and supported by the international community, and ultimately accepted by Guatemala. There has therefore been success in defusing the situation to a point where the return to normalcy has begun, and the two countries can start again to work on the reiteration and expansion of the protocols governing the complex relations between us.
In fact, the Prie Minister said that as far as he can see, the Guatemalan leaders, including the Guatemalan Minister of Defense, have been back pedaling in toning down their reaction.
Hon. Dean Barrow, Prime Minister Belize: Then last night the Guatemalan Foreign Minister spoke to our Foreign Minister and repeated the position of his President regarding the commitment to peace and de-escalation. You put all this together and on that basis, Ladies and Gentlemen, that I say, I repeat that any immediate danger has passed and our nation can, for the moment, rest easy
As has been reported, the OAS has stated that it will be conducting investigations into the matter, as requested by both nations, as an independent entity. However, critics of the OAS have highlighted the use of the OAS statement which says that the OAS ““…repudiates the death of a Guatemalan minor at the hands of a Belizean patrol” as further evidence to distrust the OAS. When asked about his sentiments regarding the OAS press release, PM Barrow says that the use of the word “repudiates” stuck out like a sore thumb, but he still has full confidence in the OAS.
Hon. Dean Barrow, Prime Minister Belize: I don’t know who the drafter of the statement is. That word stuck out like a sore thumb and I have to believe that there may have been some difficulty- at first I thought it was originally in Spanish and something may have been lost in translation – I have to believe there is some difficulty with the drafter and that when you look at the rest of the statement it jars…that word is at odds with the balance of the text, so I have to believe that is some sort of a slip. But speaking about the O.A.S. generally, I understand Belizean concern. If it helps, the Guatemalans give the O.A.S. hell too. For me, whatever slipups occur…whatever missteps take place, and in the course of human endeavor slipups and missteps are inevitable, I am very pleased that the O.A.S. is involved in the way it is. I am very pleased that there is their office in the adjacency zone. I am very pleased that they are able to drive, to lead the impartial investigation. When I spoke to Secretary-General Almagro on his visit to Belize last week, I was satisfied that he clearly understands the issues, he seized on all the ramifications