There was almost a full-fledged international incident on the border between Belize and Guatemala this past weekend, after a 36-member party and the captain of their boat was detained by Guatemalan military authorities near the mouth of the Sarstoon River around 5:00 Saturday evening. They were on their way back from an expedition to the border marker at Gracias A Dios where they placed a plate marking Belize’s name.
The trouble started on their return, as expressed by tour leader of the Northern Territorial Volunteers, Giovanni de la Fuente. He says that in planning the expedition, the group got no support from Belize’s authorities, though he notes that they never asked for it.
“The Minister of National Security was invited to be a guest speaker at this ceremony. At no point in time did we ask the BDF to escort us to this particular point. The Minister of National Security was informed through a hand delivered registered mail, the office of the Honourable Prime Minister, as well as the Ambassador.
We paid visits to the BDF Camp in Orange Walk Town, explaining to them how many persons would be going, what date, with a specific itinerary. So they knew who was going, at what point of time we should be at what point, and let me tell you that the BDF were a no show when we arrived at this monument.
The Guatemalan Military showed up while we were installing the plaques, and they were very respectful. They did not try to stop us, and we proceeded with our explanation while we were looking up to an area where the BDF have their post.
They were up there, and they did not come down, not even to pay us a courtesy call.”
Giovanni de la Fuente and his cohorts are glad to be back home; but he says they are equally as eager to go back to plant Belize’s marker on the borderline. But as he points out, it is not primarily their responsibility.
Giovanni de la Fuente
“It’s always good to be back home. It’s good to be around people who still love Belize.
The group isn’t wavered. They’re already speaking about another expedition to this monument called Garbutt Falls in the Cayo District. That monument is in a state of disrepair. It’s almost falling into the river. It needs to be painted, and there is no plaque on it indicating Belize.
Of course, it’s not our duty to be installing plaques. So we invite the Government to see that these monuments are properly taken care of. It’s in the Adjacency Zone Agreements called Confidence Building Measures. Both governments have signed off, agreeing that they will protect [and] maintain these three areas that serve as markers between Guatemala and Belize.”
The group was welcomed home on the dock in Punta Gorda with a spontaneous burst of the national anthem from a cheering crowd. Overall leader of the Belize Territorial Volunteers Wil Maheia says that whoever believes they were trying to make trouble is missing the point
“The big help came from the fact that there were the Cuban Diplomats on board. I did get a call from a Belizean Diplomat in Guatemala City, who told me that she was trying to do whatever she can to make the Belizeans free.
This is our country. All eight thousand, eight hundred and sixty-seven square miles belong to all Belizeans. So if you are telling us Belizeans that we care agitating when we walk or defend our country, then I consider those who make those statements very unpatriotic.”
According to Wil Maheia, several diplomats and other very important persons were on board, which helped facilitate the relatively speedy resolution of the case.