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Jul 27, 2015

Guatemalan FM in Belize

Guatemalan Foreign Minister Carlos Raul Morales and Ambassadors of the Group of Friends of Belize are in the country this week to promote a program entitled culture of peace as a confidence building measure. The initiative is being coordinated by the office of the Organization of American States which maintains a presence at the Adjacency Zone along the western border. There will be a much anticipated symposium on Tuesday, although the media has now been informed that there will be no question and answer session. Today, at a press briefing which featured all those officials including our very own Foreign Minister Wilfred Elrington, the media did get its chance to engage, and engage it did. Mike Rudon was there and has the story.

 

Mike Rudon, Reporting

Today’s press briefing provided an ideal opportunity to engage the highest diplomatic officials of both Belize and Guatemala on issues pertaining to the ongoing territorial claim. The relations between both countries have been somewhat strained of late – though that seems to be more the sentiment on the streets than in any official quarters.

 

Wilfred Elrington

Wilfred Elrington, Foreign Minister, Belize

“The relationship at every level has been very good, very cordial, very peaceful and very calculated…not kneejerk. When we have difficult moments we call each other at the Foreign Ministry level, at the Prime Ministerial/Presidential level and at the technical level and we work it out. Belize’s military works side by side with the Guatemalan military…Belize Police work with the Guatemalan Police…so we have a harmonious relationship that really is the envy of the world.”

 

Carlos Raul Morales, Foreign Minister, Guatemala

“What we agreed today is to establish a protocol where our agencies will work together to avoid the crime, because the crime is the real enemy of both countries, not the Guatemalan population or the Belizean population. We are very clear where exactly we want to go. We are very clear what exactly we want for our countries, and we know that our people in Guatemala and in Belize, in both countries, criticize Minister Elrington and myself because we have this partnership. But you know…I feel good, I feel very good, because I know I am promoting the peace, and this is more important for me.”

 

Carlos Raul Morales

But what was important to the media present was the issue of the Forward Operating Base at the mouth of the Sarstoon. Guatemala has objected to the idea. According to Minister Morales, the confidence building measures signed in 2000 and 2005 include an agreement to not construct additional military bases in the adjacency zone, and to not increase the military presence from either country in the adjacency area. But this morning there was some agreement on the formulation of a protocol between both countries which would govern that area in the Sarstoon.

 

Carlos Raul Morales

“He told me that this is not going to be a military base. It is going to be a Coast Guard base that depends on the Police. What we want exactly is to avoid incidents, because it is demonstrated that every time there is an incident it damages the bilateral relations. And I am very sure that the Belizean population and the Guatemalan population don’t want to be enemies. They don’t want to feel anything bad against the other country.”

 

Interestingly, Guatemala does maintain a full-time military presence at the mouth of the Sarstoon, even though they take issue with Belize for even proposing the construction of an FOB.

 

Carlos Raul Morales

“Our commitment is to not build another military base after the signature of this instrument. It was signed in 2000. Then we agreed, and Belize did it and Guatemala did it too, with respect to all the military bases, we have until that moment…and this is why we didn’t remove – this is the only one, I think the other one is in Melchor de Mencos. But what we are doing is we are trying to implement this very important agreement which we signed in 2000. And we are, Guatemala and Belize, respecting that agreement that we signed in 2000.”

 

So what exactly does that mean? Will Belize be allowed to construct a Coast Guard forward Operating Base…and if so, when? Foreign Minister Elrington intervened for that one.

 

Wilfred Elrington

“Let me just take the question. The decision as to whether or what base will be built in Belize is a decision that is made entirely by the government of Belize. There are two phases really…we have a National Security Council where the issue is raised and then we have the Cabinet which finally gives the approval. Since we have been in government in 2008 Belize has built no military base along the border anywhere. We have operating posts along the entire Western border to protect the border from criminal activity and for people who are coming in unlawfully. A similar type of operation was agreed upon as early as 2008 to be put on the Sarstoon side of the river. As far as I am concerned, that decision still remains.”

 

In fact, the Foreign Minister says that Belizeans can go to the Sarstoon Island whenever they want…at their own risk, of course.

 

Wilfred Elrington

“Get me carefully. You see there are certain areas in Belize City that I encourage my people not to walk because you can get stray bullets. You can walk if you want, but prudence dictates that I will not walk there and I will not encourage you to walk there. That is all that I was saying to the people down South. And you see why it is wise that I told them that…because in the name of bravery or nationalism they would claim to want to go and plant coconut trees along the border, but they don’t know where the border is, so they end up planting coconut trees in Guatemala. So what is the ultimate consequence of that? They can be arrested and imprisoned.”

 

As far as a timeline is concerned, Elrington says that G.O.B. will build the Forward Operating Base as soon as it is convenient for them to do so. 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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2 Responses for “Guatemalan FM in Belize”

  1. carlos says:

    ” but they don’t know where the boarder is ” so who knows ? Does the BDF know ? does the cabinet of ministers know? Are they governing a country and don’t know its boarders? What a shame?

  2. Al says:

    A country without a border is not a country. Now you can see why Guatemala believes they can take part if not all of us. Convince the world Belize has no borders, and thereby having rights to their claim. And Elrington swallowing it hook, line and sinker.

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