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May 29, 2015

Standoff On the Sarstoon: Belize Coastguard versus Guatemalan Navy

George Lovell

There is tension tonight following a twenty-six hour stand-off between a Coast Guard Patrol and Guatemalan naval personnel in two vessels near the mouth of the Sarstoon ended at midday today. The confrontation, as it is being called by the Ministry of National Security, happened at ten am Thursday when Guatemalan soldiers in a small vessel approached Coast Guard personnel on a reconnaissance mission and informed them that they were in Guatemalan waters. Coast Guard personnel in turn cautioned the Guatemalans that they were in fact in Belizean waters, and there ensued a tense dialogue. Today, the Foreign Minister, Wilfred Elrington is in Guatemala, but C.E.O. in the Ministry of National Security retired Colonel George Lovell told News Five that a formal protest has been issued.

 

Ret’d. Col. George Lovell, C.E.O., Ministry of National Security

“We had a coastguard patrol that went into the Sarstoon area yesterday and at about midmorning, between ten and eleven, while they were in the area of the Sarstoon Island, they were approached by Guatemalan naval patrol which went there to inquire what was the coastguard activities in the area. The commander of the patrol at the time informed them that they were in Belize and that they should leave. The Guatemalan patrol then left and later on that evening they came back and they came back with I think there were two vessels and a captain who was in charge of the detachment from the Guatemalan navy. The commander of the Belize Coastguard’s patrol had a very good dialogue and communication with the captain and the captain initially had asked them to leave. They then informed the captain that listen, we are in Belize; this is sovereign Belize; you are the ones who have now committed an incursion and so we are asking you to leave. They initially refused to and the dialogue continued and eventually they moved back across where we would know the border to be on to the Guatemalan side. We informed them that we were going to report it through the chain, which we did. The commander of the Coastguard patrol informed his headquarters who in turn relayed the information to me. I, in turn, got in touch with foreign affairs—both the minister and the C.E.O. were incidentally in Guatemala—and so I called the embassy there and I explained to them what had transpired and we asked for them launch a protest. That protest was launched and we are still awaiting word as to what the Guatemalan position is. Since then, we have completed what we went out there to do. The coastguard patrol has moved back to the mainland and the Guatemalan patrol I was told moved back to their base on the other side.”

 

Mike Rudon

“At any point during the dialogue, was there any threat of open hostility between the two forces?”

 

Ret’d. Col. George Lovell

“I believe that the two commanders on the ground were professional enough o ensure that whatever could have happened did not happen. I think that they were mature enough to hold their positions and at the same time not to try and incite any kind of hostility.”

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