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Nov 15, 2016

Guatemala Controls Southern Boundary; Infringing into Belizean Territory

A report of the latest military encounter on the Sarstoon River, involving village leaders, as well as a team of and park rangers attached to SATIIM, has been filed with the Belize Defense Force. This encounter comes several weeks after B.D.F. personnel came into contact with members of the Guatemalan Armed Forces as they traversed the southernmost river.  While the government did not renew a sharing co-management agreement, the Sarstoon Temash Institute for Indigenous Management provides oversight of the national park and collects data which is disseminated to the Forestry Department.  According to Executive Director Froyla Tzalam, there is evidence of infringement within the area.  This recent episode with the Guatemalan military saw the team being escorted to an area upriver known as Black Creek.

 

Froyla Tzalam

Isani Cayetano

“Insofar as previous visits made into the area, what are some of the reports coming from your rangers in terms of either deforestation, continued incursions and what-have-you?”

 

Froyla Tzalam, Executive Director, SATIIM

“It would be continued encroachment into the area.  We still have to take out gill nets in the Temash River in particular.  We have seen evidence of comfrey palms being harvested close to the mouth of the Sarstoon, so we surmise that it’s too far away for our communities to go so somebody else must be going in that area.  So we’re noticing a higher degree of activity, not necessarily with logging but with the extraction of other resources, so we need to maintain a presence because we know that the moment we stop visiting the area there’s going to be a higher incident of encroachment.”

 

Isani Cayetano

“Was there any resistance on the part of your rangers, in terms of this particular encounter with GAF?  Were there any threats made, what was that particular incident like in terms of reporting back to you?”

 

Froyla Tzalam

“Well, we learned from the first incident and one of the things we have been doing is making sure that whenever they go they must not put themselves in any kind of danger.  One person will speak and not everybody will talk at the same time.  [They are] to clearly state that they are there for monitoring purposes only and that’s how we’ve been doing it.  So for this trip there was no threat.  I mean, if you look at the video, it’s very calm, the whole encounter and GAF did accompany us as far as Black Creek.  So they said they would do and they said next time we go there we need to get permission.”

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