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Sep 18, 2017

Guats Strike at Sarstoon Eco-Challenge Participants

Over the weekend, Belizeans were harassed and turned back from traversing the Sarstoon River and circling the island during an organized canoe race at Belize’s southern boundary. The Belize Territorial Volunteers’ second-annual Eco-Challenge canoe and kayak race was threatened to become an international incident this past Saturday. Guatemalan gunboats manned the entrance of the river, menacing Belizean paddlers. Guatemalan national newspaper Prensa Libre’s report claimed that the Guatemalan naval infantry brigade acted “in defense of national sovereignty” after observing that participants did not have the authorization or permission of the Guatemalan government. But as Wil Maheia of the BTV told us this afternoon via telephone, the show went on.

 

Wil Maheia

On the Phone: Wil Maheia, Belize Territorial Volunteers

“We had close to thirty paddlers from Barranco to Sarstoon Island, and we were excited about the new category that we had this year, the female category and coincidentally it was a good thing that the top two paddlers were members of the Belize Coast Guard. But once we arrived at the mouth of the river near the island we were met with no less than five Guatemalan gunboats which were very intimidating, and actually at times putting the kayakers’ lives in danger, because the way they were going with their boats would cause waves that could sink the kayakers; so it was very unprofessional and immature on their part.”

 

Reporter

“They did not attempt to stop the race, per se, but they seemed to interfere with some of the participants, is what you’re telling me?”

 

Wil Maheia

“Yeah, they stopped a couple of boats from going around the island. It was because we continued to push forward and we were determined to go around the island; but they tried to stop us, but there were so many boats that they could not stop all the boats. So once some got through, the others got through as well.”

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