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Aug 26, 2015

Military Aggression at Sarstoon Was News to Her

Every Tuesday, the Belize Defence Force heads up the Sarstoon to the observation post at Cadenas where shifts are changed. That’s been happening for years, but suddenly there are claims of consistent aggression and encounters between the B.D.F. and Guatemalan military in the Sarstoon. In fact, there is a claim that just two weeks ago, the Guatemalan navy threatened to ram the B.D.F. vessel, culminating in the threat of a gunfight. That news came as a complete surprise to the public, and even to Senator Shoman who serves on the Bi-Partisan Commission and says she certainly would have, or at least should have known about these happenings in the Sarstoon.

 

Lisa Shoman

Lisa Shoman, Opposition Representative, Bi-Partisan Commission

“I heard that and that shocked me profoundly and let me tell you why, Rowland. I have never received a brief as a member of the bipartisan commission or otherwise from the B.D.F., from the NSC or from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to say to me that this is what was occurring. I heard General Jones to say no, this wasn’t always happening. But I have to tell you definitively, before December 2007, Greg Ch’oc, definitively stated to me because at that time, they use to go as far as Cadenas to help with resupply and at that point in time, Greg was saying to me that this was the first time that that had happened to them in 2007. So if this has been an ongoing pattern since I left government and up to now, I can tell you definitively that I have not received a brief—either verbal or written—to say to me that we were being required to haul over, allow an escort or threatened to be shot. And that is something very serious and very grave and we should be at all times, acting in such a manner that the Guatemalan government is under no illusion as to that we are not going to tolerate that cause we should not tolerate it. I can say to you definitively when I discussed it with my then counterpart, Gerth Rosenthal, who is very respected…respected diplomat, former Security Council Member, former president of the Security Council…he and I spoke about it and at the time, he was saying to me that their military was suggesting that we should use the shallower, northern channel and leave the southern channel to them. And at the time, I told him that we definitively objected that because the Sarstoon is our southern most boundary; we claim up to the midpoint of the channel. That is not international waters; that’s internal waters. There is no space at that point for a territorial sea. Up to the midpoint of the channel in the Sarstoon, I repeat, is Belizean internal waters and we will not give up our claim to that because that is—as article one points out—the main navigable channel of the Sarstoon. And we claim that island. That is clear; it has always been that way.”

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