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May 17, 2016

Much More on the Guatemalan Detention of Mennonites

Tonight we have more details on the alleged kidnapping of two – not one, Mennonite farmers who were clearing fire breaks on a large plot of land which adjoins the Guatemalan border last Thursday. To recap, in Monday’s newscast, we brought you Roger Plett’s very compelling story of being taken off his tractor by Guatemalan military, marched into Guatemalan territory and then tied. When told he would be transported to an unnamed location in Guatemala, Plett told his captors that he was Canadian, and just visiting Belize. Tonight, we continue our coverage, starting from the moment Plett was able to get a call out to farm supervisor Manuel Ayala. Mike Rudon was the story.

 

Mike Rudon, Reporting

This is Plett land, three miles of which adjoins the Guatemalan border, seen at the end of this road. Last Thursday, Roger Plett was being held captive there, beyond that tree-line in Guatemalan territory. He managed to make one call before he was tied up and his phone taken away. That call was to Manuel Ayala, the farm’s supervisor, who was supervising work being done by a bulldozer.

 

Manuel Ayala

Manuel Ayala, Employee of George Plett

“I went by where the bulldozer was and I stood there watching the bulldozer working when suddenly I received a call from Roger Plett which said Manuel, where are you. I said I am by the bulldozer. He said how far…I said again by the bulldozer. And then in the background of the phone call I heard somebody say somebody has to be responsible for this. So I knew something was wrong at that moment and what I did is I called my boss which is Roger Plett’s dad and I told him George…take the loader and the grader and move out because something is wrong here. Because I knew the way Roger was expressing himself and what I heard in the background.”

 

And even as Ayala says he tried to make sense of what was happening, Guatemalans seized the bulldozer.

 

Manuel Ayala

“When I walked closer to the bulldozer which was about twenty-five feet away, I saw five soldiers rushing in toward the bulldozer. There was a guy dressed in civilian clothes in a white T-shirt. The five soldiers came and stopped the bulldozer from working. Two of them jumped on the bulldozer, along with the guy in civilian clothes. I didn’t hear what they told him, but I saw the movements. When I saw the driver of the bulldozer like he raised back the blade of the bulldozer, swung around and went into Guatemala. Two of the soldiers went on the bulldozer along with the civilian guy while the other three walked behind the bulldozer into Guatemala. So we knew something was wrong and I walked out.”

 

So back to Roger Plett, still detained. He told us that he heard the bulldozer drive past him and further into Guatemalan territory, but didn’t know what was happening. After telling his captors he was Canadian, they started escorting him back toward the border line.

 

Roger Plett

Roger Plett, Alleges Detention by Guatemalan

“While I was walking out I noticed that they had brought the tractor across the border line into the Guatemalan side. When I reached the tractor they started taking pictures of me getting back into the tractor. But I personally believed they wanted the tractor to stay there. They thought the tractor was too damaged for me to bring it back out. I saw that the left front tire was completely off of the rim. The step was bent back against the tractor tire. My spare tank with the water at the back was broke, all bent with a couple pieces broken off. When I climbed back into the tractor I saw that the steering wheel was broken and hanging to one side, but then they told me all right, you can go now, leave. But with the tractor so damaged I didn’t know how I was going to bring it out. But since I know my equipment very good. I managed to keep a rock under the axle to keep the tire in the air and I brought the tractor out using the side brakes. The side brakes – you have one for the right tire and one for the left tire. Like that I brought the tractor out, steering the tractor with the brakes.”

 

So then…Roger Plett makes it back into Belizean territory. That leaves the bulldozer driver, Rudy Friesen, and his bulldozer still well within what had suddenly become very dangerous ground. He had been put to work in Guatemala, clearing land for a fire break, but told them he was running out of fuel.

 

Roger Plett

“My dad managed to get a hold of the bulldozer driver. The bulldozer driver had told them that he only had fuel for one hour, so he needed to come back to the Belizean side to fuel. So they said all right, they would send a couple people with him and to tell his boss to bring the diesel personally. Then he was bringing the bulldozer out and the bulldozer drive told me later that they were walking along behind the bulldozer, and when he started to steer this bulldozer into the Belizean side they started to run after him. To escape them he drive the bulldozer through the big fire and they couldn’t follow him through the fire.”

 

As the driver fled for safe ground – well, maybe fled is too fast a word considering he was doing it in a bulldozer – Plett deployed a drone to try and catch sight of the men who had captured them.

 

Roger Plett

“I got a report saying that there were two more soldiers along the road waiting for him…I guess waiting for the diesel. When I heard that I took my plane which has a camera set up on it…it’s a live stream to my remote. I took my pane and I circled the bulldozer, so that if the military men had approached the bulldozer I would have them on camera. I circled the bulldozer all the way until he reached into the safe area. All the while I did not see any military personnel. Maybe they heard the plane circling the bulldozer and didn’t want to approach it because they knew that if we have them on camera it’s a whole different situation for them.”

 

So that ended a hectic Thursday for the farmers – Roger Plett and Rudy Friesen, back in Belizean territory. 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 “Much More on the Guatemalan Detention of Mennonites”

  1. Hatari says:

    And what did our inept police do? Attempt to accuse Mr. Plett of fabricating the incident and then detain Mr. Ayala for 48 hours on a trumped up charge of committing a “Mischievous Act”. Now what kind of BS is that?! For those of us who work in that area on a daily basis, it is very disturbing. The police won’t even accept “Trespass” charges on people found trespassing on private property. They claim that it is a “Civil Matter.” They are without a doubt “Useless”!

  2. Belizean Pride says:

    AS USUAL DROP OUT AND WANNA BE POLICE OFFICER UNPROFESSIONAL WHAT DO WE EXPECT WHEN DEALING WITH SERIOUS NATIONAL SECURITY ISSUE LIKE THIS, NOTHING!!! THEY CAN’T EVEN TAKE A STATEMENT LONE BIG FAT BELLY POLICE ARE SITTING GRUMPY READY TO KICK UP DRUNKEN JOE ONLY.

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