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Mar 2, 2015

Expedition Leader Details Frightening Experience at Sea

But with the emotional homecoming out of the way, the question remains – how could the unthinkable have happened? How is it that a Belizean vessel carrying Belizeans could have been seized at gunpoint by Guatemalan military and taken to Livingston? Mike Rudon spoke to those on the boat and put the pieces of the puzzle together. Here’s that story.

 

Mike Rudon, Reporting

The mission of the Northern Territorial Volunteers was to travel to Gracias a Dios and refurbish the marker there. They have done so at two other border markers, so this was the last. They got to their location early that morning, and did what they had to do, including installing a bronze plaque to proudly claim Belizean territory. So where did it all go wrong? Expedition leader Giovanni de la Fuente says it was when they were heading back home that evening.

 

Giovanni De la Fuente

Giovanni De la Fuente, Expedition Leader

“Upon exiting the Sarstoon River the Guatemalan military approached our boat, ordered us to stop, threw a rope over our boat and proceeded to tow us about half mile out to sea where they had a large Coast Guard vessel that was awaiting us. Due to the size of the waves and the weather they could not make a transfer, so we steamed on our own power to Livingston and we spent the night in Livingston. This morning we had some negotiations with the Commandant of Livingston and we were released.”

 

That’s the story in a nutshell. There were no charges and the Captain was released without penalty. The captain, Guillermo “Memo” Avila, only had to sign a document with six points – the main one being that the boat had entered Guatemalan waters early that morning by accident, a distance of one hundred yards and a time of approximately ten minutes.

 

Giovanni De la Fuente

“He signed off on that paper because it’s the truth. On our way up the river there are many tributaries and creeks and he accidentally took one of these creeks for approximately five minutes, less than five minutes and we covered a distance of approximately one hundred yards, then we noticed we were on the wrong route and we turned back. So that is the truth, and we agreed that he should sign off on that truth and then we departed from Livingston.”

 

Reporter

“Sir just to clarify something. You are saying that the reason you all were detained is because for five minutes the Captain went up a creek earlier in the day, but when you all were detained you all were in Belizean waters?”

 

Giovanni De la Fuente

“Good point. Let me tell you. The report says that seven o’clock in the morning we accidentally entered a creek for five minutes and traversed one hundred yards. We were detained at approximately five o’clock in the evening. So we accidentally entered that creek in the morning, and eight, nine hours afterwards while exiting the Sarstoon River, we were just at the mouth of the Sarstoon, the Guatemalan military pulled up on us and took over the vessel.”

 

De la Fuente says that there were moments of real danger on the trip, including the seizing of the vessel in very rough seas.

 

Giovanni De la Fuente

“If any member was exposed to any danger it was caused by the Guatemalan military that took over our vessel and insisted in high seas that we were to be towed to the Coast Guard vessel that they had parked a half mile off the coast. It was during their towing that we were being slammed, water in the boat, that the Captain Memo insisted that if we were to be towed we would sink, and he insisted that they remove the tow rope and that we would steam to the vessel under our own power. At that point two more Guatemalan military jumped into the boat. They took off the rope and instructed him to steam to the vessel. When we got to the vessel there was almost a collision and they realized that in these high seas you cannot make a successful transfer.”

 

Aboard the Dore, members of the expedition included children, young students, women and elderly persons who signed onto the trek to show their patriotism. They did that, but perhaps got more than they bargained for.

 

Alfredo Ortega

Alfredo Ortega, Detained by Guatemalans

“It was very rough because we didn’t think that that would happen. Because they escorted us way down to where we wanted to go and they waited for us and they brought us back. It only happened that when we arrived at the mouth of the river that they just came beside and said that they had to detain the boat. And that is when everything just went in a different direction. They took us way down to Livingston. It was very rough…it was a very rough experience.”

 

Shantel Espadas

Shantel Espadas, Detained by Guatemalans

“As a Belizean I was very angry and mad because they were detaining us in our Belizean waters. We were there marking our territory, our prime land. That’s ours, that is mine as a Belizean and my words can’t explain how I felt. I was angry, I was upset, I was mad…outraged at something that was uncalled for. That’s our waters, our land. They have no reason to be shadowing us to our land, on our waters.”

 

According to De la Fuente, it is difficult to rate the government’s response to them being detained. In fact, he says he cannot comment on that response because as far as he is concerned there was no response. Mike Rudon for News Five.

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Viewers please note: This Internet newscast is a verbatim transcript of our evening television newscast. Where speakers use Kriol, we attempt to faithfully reproduce the quotes using a standard spelling system.

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1 Response for “Expedition Leader Details Frightening Experience at Sea”

  1. CEO says:

    I bet you if this was a boat load of British Soldiers or Americans, the sons of bitches would have never done what they did.

    But when our leaders open the door with disparaging statements our people are left to fend for themselves.

    I like what Will is doing to encourage and teach our people the importance of territorial integrety!

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