Update on Belizeans detained by Guatemalans

Last night in our newscast, information was still sketchy but we told you about a Mennonite farmer who was detained by Guatemalan military near Green Hills behind Spanish Lookout area. Today, we have more information on the incident. It was not only one farmer who was detained, but two Belizeans who live in areas surrounding Spanish Lookout. Reports are that the CEO in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Lawrence Sylvester, yesterday confirmed that the men are back in Belize safe. According to our colleagues at KREM, this afternoon Sylvester said that the OAS Adjacency Zone Office was “looking into” the incident and he had no more details. According to reports received, a ranch which is the property of the father of one of the detainees was reportedly set on fire. The son, a Mennonite businessman, set about trying to put out the fire using a tractor with a water sprayer. He had also hired a bulldozer operator to create a firebreak. At around 2p.m., while the businessman was in the middle of his pasture, some 10 men in military fatigues surrounded him and began hitting the windshield of the tractor with machetes. He stopped because he feared he would have been shot. Moments later, he was being walked with his hands tied behind his back to the Guatemalan border. However, he was able to call his watchman to apprise him of the situation before the Guatemalans took his phone. Also present with the Guatemalan military were men in civilian clothing, one of whom appeared to be in charge and even told the Guatemalan military to rough him up. He was questioned by the group leader whom he told that he was a Canadian national on visit to Belize. They declined to answer his questions saying only that he was being taken to a vehicle. He was marched for about three quarters of a mile and eventually, (after almost four hours) was released by the soldiers who told him he was being let go because of the nationality he claimed. His tractor was also driven into Guatemalan territory, and was damaged in the process. Meanwhile, the bulldozer and the operator were marched into Guatemalan territory from another area of the ranch by members of the same Guatemalan group. Reports are that the operator was able to escape after 6 p.m. by driving through the fire. The Guatemalan soldiers reportedly ran after him but they could not follow because of the blaze. Of interest is that on Thursday, there was a social media post from a Guatemalan national believed to be from an environmental conservation agency speaking of a fire in El Esfuerzo, Peten, which he claims was caused by careless Belizeans. He posted that the Guatemalan military, environmental organizations CONAP, ACOFOP and firefighters were putting out that fire but say nothing of having encountered Belizeans. We are told that the Belizean businessman observed a new Toyota Hilux pickup and three other vehicles in the area where he was taken. Two of the vehicles had steel racks in the back. Officer Commanding San Ignacio Police, Superintendent Richard Rosado this afternoon told our colleagues at KREM News that no report of this incident has been filed at the Station. But the story does not end there. This morning, elements of the Belize Police Department’s Special Patrol Unit as well as from San Ignacio Police were deployed to the Yalbac Area which is also near Spanish Lookout. Sometime around 8 a.m. they received a distress call from a man claiming to be a Guatemalan who frequents Spanish Lookout in search of employment. Superintendent Rosado did not want to indicate what the Guatemalan cited was happening to him, but the commanding officer did indicate that they concluded, after their operation, that it was a prank call. He explained that from the time his officers left the station until they arrived in the general Yalbac area, they had been in communication over phone with the caller but they were unable to locate him. The operation was called off until after 1 this afternoon. Now that is the police version. Our sources on the ground tell us that, allegedly, the Guatemalan military came back into the Belizean side this morning and questioned the watchman on the ranch where the fire started. We cannot say for sure but this is what may have prompted the call to police. Other information is that later on, Guatemalan media also arrived in the area asking for an interview but this information is unconfirmed at this time. We will keep following this story.vlcsnap-2016-05-16-15h33m13s673 vlcsnap-2016-05-16-15h33m15s387 vlcsnap-2016-05-16-15h33m17s982 vlcsnap-2016-05-16-15h33m20s839

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