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May 11, 2016

SATIIM Responds to Relaxation of Sarstoon Law

Froyla Tzalam

Aside from the B.D.F., Coastguard and Police, others are similarly being blocked from traversing the Sarstoon River. The Sarstoon and Temash Institute of Indigenous Management, SATIIM, is one such N.G.O.  Its park rangers were prohibited from traversing the Sarstoon River last Thursday when they checked in at the Forward Operating Base before commencing their monthly patrol.  Of concern to SATIIM is that the existence of a pair of Guatemalan Armed Forces vessels at the estuary of the Sarstoon River would still prohibit its rangers from traveling upstream even with permission from local authorities.  News Five spoke with Executive Director Froyla Tzalam by phone this evening and she says that the mere presence of local law enforcement in the area is a deterrent for illegal activities.

 

On the Phone: Froyla Tzalam, Exec. Dir., SATIIM

“We went up on the Sarstoon and they were not allowed to go on by B.D.F. and so they did not go up that way to manage the activities. They had to go up to the Temash and then walk from there to the hotspot area. We were about to report on that when we saw the press release that the Government of Belize issued on Monday afternoon and so we responded to that. So while we welcome the relaxation, we are not convinced that that will allow us passage up the Sarstoon because according to the reports that I received, my team basically observed two Guatemalan vessels at the Sarstoon River and clearly they were there on what is considered the north and the south side of the river. In my mind, even if we were to get lawful permission from the SI in Belize, we will still have to go and ask the Guatemalan vessels permission to go up the Sarstoon. And SATIIM is not willing to do that unless that is the protocol that is coming from the government of Belize. And as far as I am aware, that is not the situation. So the situation for us is that we will not be able to traverse the Sarstoon River in order for us to do our monitoring until there is actually a status quo because certainly all observations from last week are that the Guatemalans are in control of who enters the Sarstoon River.”

 

Isani Cayetano

“Based on your rangers entering that area through the Temash and the observations that they subsequently made, is there anything that they can report or you can report is taking place in the area of the Sarstoon either by incursions into Belize or what have you?”

 

On the Phone: Froyla Tzalam

“It is a good hike coming from the Temash so they were not able to go exactly where they wanted to go, so we can’t really say at this time to what extent activities have increased. But coming on the Temash River, we welcome the presence of the Coast Guard as well because we know that that presence alone minimizes illegal activity and for us definitely we know that areas that seem to be of great interests is our waters which is based in the Temash. The Temash relatively lesser as oppose to the Sarstoon that has more activities so that is why you would not see as many gillnets set up on Sarstoon as you would on the Temash River. We don’t know what the extent of the illegal activities area; but what we can say is that the presence of the Belize Authorities would possibly minimize that. However, for our patrol purposes, we would not be able to go up the Sarstoon as we had in the past until government comes to an agreement as to what protocol or regulations will now be enforced at the Sarstoon.”

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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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