B.D.F. Commander Addresses Sarstoon Situation; No Protocol in Place
Every time Belizeans travel up the Sarstoon River, they are told by the Guatemalan Armed Forces to “Respecte el Protocolo.” But is there a protocol that Belizeans must follow to enter the Sarstoon River? On this side of the border, Belize Defense Force Commander, Brigadier General David Jones confirmed today that both countries have been unable to agree on one, but that the GAF is enforcing political directives. He says that Guatemalan soldiers have been told to observe, but not interfere, with the Belize Defense Force’s patrols as well as those N.G.O.’s like SATIIM. Jones also told News Five that the only protocol Belizeans need to follow is to check in with our Forward Operating Base and not with the GAF.
Brig. Gen. David Jones, Commander, Belize Defense Force
“The officer that had stopped the SATIIM vessel was explaining to them what they deemed is a protocol in the area. On record there is no protocol agreed between the Guatemalans and the Belizeans either politically or militarily. As I have said in many interviews before, we would like to see a protocol signed next month, at least by next month. That is only hopeful; it is not necessarily that it will happen. It depends at the political level if their foreign affairs and our foreign affairs agree to it. Until then, the Guatemalans maintain their stands that the entire river belongs to them so it is expected that they will continue to stop our civilians because whenever anyone enters that river, they have an interest in what is happening there. And if they are not sure who are in there, they will stop them and explain to them that they will be accompanied or followed. The political direction to General Perez is that the river belongs to them so his direction is that they are to patrol the area and their direction is that they have the right to follow our patrols and see what is happening. So that is expected to happen, but they are not going to stop our N.G.O.s or soldiers from going up to Cadenas and patrolling in the Sarstoon River. We are still supposed to go in there unhindered. The young lieutenant, from what I had seen on the news, was explaining that SATIIM is supposed to check in with the Belize forward operating base and then check in with the Guatemalans. That’s not our stance. Our stance is whenever any Belizean vessel checks in at the Belizean Forward Operating Base; there is no need for them to check with the Guatemalans.”