Visitors to the Sarstoon River are now being escorted by Belize Defense Force officers during their visit to the river. In previous times, visitors were allowed to visit the Sarstoon River without the need for any authorization or armed forces escort. However, times have changed. Last week, the Belize Friends for Conservation reported that while on a visit to the Sarstoon River, they first had to report to a BDF base in the area in order to receive authorization. BFC further reported that while being escorted on Sarstoon by BDF soldiers, they were also being followed by Guatemalan armed forces. BDF Commander Steven Ortega was asked to explain why visitors now need authorization and escorts before entering the Sarstoon. Here is how he responded.
BDF Commander Steven Ortega: I believe some months ago we, the Ministry of National Security made mention of it in the media, that there is a procedure for going up there and the procedure is, you check in at the base we have there, we document all your details and then you go and do whatever business you need to go and do up the Sarstoon river or in the area. The accompaniment is just to ensure that you are not troubled. IT has always been the stance that we have reported from the beginning, you report to the conservation post, you declare your intentions, and then we move forward from there.
Ortega further stated that both Guatemalan Armed Forces and the Belizean Defense Force continuously communicate in order to maintain peace.