On Sunday August 16th over a hundred and thirty Belizeans ventured in to what might be the largest excursion of Belizeans to the Sarstoon Island. The company, lead by Wil Mehia of the Belizean Territorial Volunteers and Orlando De La Fuente from the Northern Territorial Volunteers, departed the dock at Baranco in five boats some minutes after 9 and headed to a sand bank at the mouth of the Sarstoon River. There, they held a brief ceremony and sang the national anthem as a show of patriotism. The delegation departed from the sand banks and with Belizean flags hoisted high in the air, moved in with the intention of rounding the perimeter of the island in an anti clockwise direction starting from the Northern channel of the river, which lies squarely on the Belizean side of the river. Ho wever, as the boats were making their way towards the island, Guatemalan military approached the delegation ordering them to stop and leave the area. In was an intense confrontation, all of which happened inside of Belizean waters. Our cameras were right there in the midst of it to capture the entire ordeal. Interestingly three members of the Belize Coast Gaurd were stationed at the dock in Baranco while Guatemala exerted authority over the entire perimeter of the Sarstoon Island. After the Guatemalan military had blocked them, intercepted them, and collided their vessel onto one of the Belizean vessels they declared that they were simply escorting the delegation on their trip around the Sarstoon island. We spoke to members of the delegation who were incensed and fully invigorated by what they had witnessed.
Orlando De La Fuente: I don’t know how much we would have accomplished because it’s a shame that we are in our territorial waters on Belizean licensed boats in our territorial waters and our military stays back while the Guatemalan military comes into our waters and tries to threaten us and tries to detain us and tries to stop us in our waters while our military is in Belize and stays back, that’s a real shame mien that’s a shame. If we don’t fight for it, we don’t deserve it . Now the Guatemalans, they did the exact bidding of the Belize Government, exactly what the Belize Government wanted them to do. I pointed out, I told Miss Magdalena of the OAS, I called her over and I said that we’re all throttling in the same direction because the Guatemalan boat never left my side and then the OAS pulled up on the other side and I said,” Miss Magdalena do you realize that this Guatemalan vessel is in Belizean waters? Don’t you think it’s your duty to tell them something, they’re in Belizean waters.” and she just raised her hands and nodded her head and didn’t say anything.
Victor Pollard: What I saw happen out here and what I saw the OAS citing to you is exactly what needs to happen, if our Government of Belize takes this case to the ICJ, first Guatemala has to quit their behavior what they’re doing our Belizeans. The OAS has enough information now because they were there, about 5 of them were there and they can’t tell lie because I was on that boat too.
Wil Maheia: Those Guatemalans are military men, all were official, they spoke perfect englsih, also they knew that they were in Belize’s water. They knew that they were in Belizean waters because when they looked back they could see Sarstoon island behind them on the left side of them. There was no confusion about that, absolutely no confusion. It’s just like mind boggling to me how we as a nation could allow a country to come into our country and bully our people while we have $100,000 coast guard boats sitting outside not even trying to intervene and try to support the Belizean people I mean it’s shameful that this government continues to operate like that, they do not provide protection for its borders, do not provide protection for its people that’s moving freely inside this country, it is downright shameful. You know next thing they’ll begin to tell Belizeans, “look, if you go south of the Sibun or south of Belmopan you’re on your own, or south of Baranco.” I mean it’s already happening, nobody is going south of Baranco. You cannot right now, as beautiful as this area is higher a tour operator boat outside of Punta Gorda to go for a trip up the Temash or up the Sarstoon river, no tour operator wants to put their boat south of Baranco. Not even the coast guards we’ve seen In those areas.
Audrey Matura-Shepard: They admit that when our BDF come into our waters, imagine, the Guatemalans shadow them by the Prime Ministers own addition in his press release. Shadows them in our waters, and not only that, have made attempts to intercept our boats, but yet they have done nothing. But thanks to the security council which we’ve never heard met before on such a serious issue finally meets, and now we know it. How have they responded? They claim that they responded military to military, but that has never been revealed to our people. Clearly it has been that our government has taken a position of weakness and that is why they know the Guatemalans know that they can do it and get away with it with our BDF. They know that it is our Prime minister who called off our Coast Guard off the cognizant when they were on the Sarstoon and then therefore know that we are free game and they can bully us. The only reason those 4 vessels on which you all were got away was the bravery of Mister De La Fuente, Orlando De La Funete who said nuh nuh nuh, because they wanted to cordon them and what they were taking, the vessel, the Guatemalan vessel was trying to push them into Guatemalan waters and he took control of the vessel and sped ahead and that gave the sign, once the OAS saw that the 4 vessels went ahead they followed, and that was the breakaway. But all of this, all of this conduct is indicative of the weak position our government takes on this issue of Sarstoon island.
Orlando De La Fuente: You know what we need to realize is that the status quo changed, and it has not changed for Belize’s benefit, the status quo has changed and our position has eroded. Sarstoon was never disputed before, now look at what happened today, when the Guatemalan vessels can come into our waters and try to prevent us, cut us off from trying to navigate our own waters in Belize, while the Belizean military stays back in Belize waters and just watches on orders from the government, so the status quo has certainly changed today. I think our position keeps eroding and our goal is a change of our foreign policy, that’s the ultimate goal we cannot keep down this path at all this is not good for Belize and the madness has to stop.