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Apr 19, 2016

O.A.S. Secretary-General Visits Belize

Secretary-General of the Organization of American States Luis Almagro arrived in Belize today as part of a scheduled two-day visit to promote the culture of peace at the Adjacency Zone. Details of his itinerary have not been confirmed, but we do know that today he met with Prime Minister Dean Barrow, Minister of Foreign Affairs Wilfred Elrington and Chief Justice Kenneth Benjamin. On Wednesday, Almagro will be in the west for a cultural program at the Adjacency Zone.  We also know that there was a tentatively scheduled press conference set for Thursday in Belize City. We say tentative because information which reached us late this evening suggests that the press conference will be held at the P.G.I.A. since Almagro leaves earlier than initially planned.  As for the other movements of O.A.S. Secretary-General, best information is that he has a scheduled flyover of the adjacency zone with the B.D.F. on Wednesday as well as meetings with the Leader of the Opposition John Briceño and with Briceño’s advisory commission which includes former P.U.P. Foreign Ministers Eamon Courtenay, Godfrey Smith, Assad Shoman, Said Musa and Lisa Shoman. Interestingly, he will not be at the launch of the Forward Operating Base in the Sarstoon to maintain impartiality, we are told. Government ministers as well as the diplomatic community have been invited to attend the event. All this brings us to the rejection of the eleven proposals presented by Belize to Guatemala on the Sarstoon.  Those proposals were outlined on April twelfth by Elrington. 

Wilfred Elrington

Wilfred Elrington, Minister of Foreign Affairs [File: April 12th, 2016]

“The channels of the Sarstoon River shall continue to be freely navigable by vessels and boats of each of the two countries without any interference or trailing by the other. The second…whenever any vessels of any one of the parties approaches the base of the other party or any other vessel, it shall reduce its speed as a token of respect and friendship and to avoid injury or damage to persons or property. Three…the law enforcement and armed forces of both parties shall refrain from any threatening, abusive or unfriendly actions, words or behavior of any kind with respect to each other in and around the said river. Four…law enforcement and armed forces of both parties shall respect the right of the citizens of each other to make lawful and environmentally sustainable use of the river for fishing and recreation. Five…the parties shall cooperate to prevent or limit hazards and reduce and eliminate adverse consequences arising from floods, droughts and incidents involving substances hazardous to water. Six…the parties shall cooperate on the basis of sovereign equality, mutual benefit and good fate in order to promote and achieve the goals of this agreement. Seven…the parties shall cooperate in preventing and countering any illegal activities including drug trafficking, human trafficking, arms smuggling, contraband and other illegal activities of a transnational nature. And to this end, the parties may develop plans and conduct joint law enforcement and military patrols or operations including search and rescue which may include the participation of third countries. Eight…the parties shall cooperate to avoid incidents on the Sarstoon River conducive to tensions between them. in the event of such an incident, the parties should immediately communicate with one another to contain it, resolve it and prevent its recurrence. Nine….as a matter of courtesy and to promote good working relations, commanders assigned to the Sarstoon River may visit each other by mutual arrangement to discuss matters of mutual interests. Ten…the parties shall, on a regular basis, exchange information. This includes an undertaking for any one party to inform the other party, beforehand, of any non-routine activity in or near the Sarstoon River. By mutual arrangement, the parties shall install practical means of radio and other communications to facilitate these exchanges. Eleven…if a dispute arises between the parties as to the interpretation or implementation of this protocol, they shall seek as soon as reasonably practicable to resolve it by negotiation and should they fail to satisfactorily resolve any such dispute, either of the parties may request the Secretary General of the O.A.S. to use his good offices to propose a solution to this dispute and the other party hereby agrees to accept such offices and to comply in good fate with the recommendations of the Secretary General.”


The Ministry of Foreign Affairs has declined to comment on the matter, even as reliable sources tell us that it was discussed in Cabinet today. Guatemala has also presented counter proposals but says it will retain the status quo in the Sarstoon which means that any Belizean vessel, whether civilian or military, must ask permission from the GAF posted at the mouth of the Sarstoon before entering the river.  What will be the next move by the Government to deal with the new aggressive stance by Guatemala is still to be determined.

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1 Response for “O.A.S. Secretary-General Visits Belize”

  1. Spike says:

    Unfortunately Mr. Luis Almagro will also have to ask permission from Guatemala to travel up the Sarstoon River!

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