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Jun 10, 2015

Immigration Minister Comments on Sarstoon River Standoff

Prime Minister Dean Barrow has refused to speak on the very significant confrontation between Guatemalan and Belizean armed forces on Sarstoon Island. It happened two weeks ago and there has been no official statement from the Government. What has been confirmed, though unofficially, is that the Coast Guard was on a ten day mission, and were ordered to leave the area without completing that mission. Foreign Minister Wilfred Elrington told News Five that the Prime Minister personally dealt with the matter, which would suggest the order to back down came from him. Today, just to get some sort of official perspective, News Five asked Minister of Immigration Godwin Hulse for his take on the matter. Interestingly, he told us that he understood that it was the Guatemalans who stood down, and not the Coast Guard.

 

Godwin Hulse, Minister of Immigration

“My understanding is, and of course I wasn’t there, is that our Coast Guard held their ground and did just the reverse and ordered the guys to stand down, and they stood their ground until the diplomatic back and forth could be dealt with, and my understanding is that it was dealt with successfully. You have to understand that the Guatemalans, even though they are moving towards a more open and liberal approach to this issue still continue to claim parts of our territory and there are elements within the Guatemalan military that still feel more or less strongly about that which may not be in concert with how their government feels. Our position is completely separate. We control, own and will preserve all 8866 square miles of our territory. And that’s non-negotiable.”

 

Godwin Hulse

Mike Rudon

“Sir I understand that is the position but don’t you think that withdrawing our forces from Sarstoon…”

 

Godwin Hulse

“No, but we didn’t withdraw. We didn’t withdraw. That’s not my understanding at all. We stood our ground until such time that the Guatemalans stood down and then…and we haven’t withdrawn. My understanding is that the island that the forward base will be…it was a reconnaissance mission to see where we could put a forward base, and my understanding is that the forward base will still be placed in the Sarstoon.”

 

Mike Rudon

“I went to Sarstoon Island a couple days after that and the people in Punta Gorda are saying that they are afraid now to go into that area even though it is known as Belizean territory. I’m talking about the tour operators and fishermen.”

 

Godwin Hulse

“But then they have to make that expressively known. Because my understanding is that the Coast Guard continues to patrol the area, and I can’t comment any more than I’ve been told. I am not responsible for the Ministry and I haven’t been down there but that is what I’ve been told and I go by the reports that we have.”

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