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Dec 19, 2017

Still No Sarstool Protocol, But Guatemala Relaxes

It is closing in on two years since the government was forced to temporarily close access to the Sarstoon River after Guatemalan military personnel started enforcing its claim to the entire river including Sarstoon Island.  The government proposed working on an accord with the Guatemalans concerning treatment of persons traveling up the river, whether B.D.F. soldiers or ordinary Belizeans who now have to seek permission from the GAF to traverse the river. In fact, it is felt that the Sarstoon has been lost to Guatemala and that the government’s attitude has always been one of appeasement on Guatemala’s continued refusal to accede even to talks regarding a Sarstoon Protocol. But today, Elrington said Belize’s sovereignty over its half of the river and our right to conduct business there is appropriate.

 

Wilfred Elrington

Wilfred Elrington, Minister of Foreign Affairs

“We also discussed the issue of the protocol in the Sarstoon; and that is something that she also pushed against, she was not ready to commit to that. But she did understand and appreciate that so long as we live together there is going to be incidents, and it is only prudent and sensible that we have a mechanism whereby we can deal with it if it is simply one –two-three, statements where we say when there is an incident I call you on the phone, you call me, or my general calls them or their general – you have to have some kind of protocol; that is natural and normal. And she is of course adapting the same position as the last foreign minister and there is resistance to committing to anything formal, but I think she understood the need for us to continue to discuss the issue, so that the ambassadors have a mandate now to see that they discuss the issue, to see how we could come up with some way of dealing with that in a rational way.  Belize was never allowed to travel up the Sarstoon; it has always been our right and entitlement. We look to nobody for permission to do that; we need look to nobody to allow us to do that; we go and we come as we are entitled to. We have had occasions when the Guatemalans have sought to interfere with that; we have resisted that strenuously, we will always resist it, so long as there is life in the body of our Defence Force people and of course Belizeans. We are not going to be deterred from doing that because that is our right and our entitlement and we have been using that Sarstoon River since maybe the seventeen-hundreds.”

 

Aaron Humes

“I say ‘allowed’ to take into consideration the Guatemalan position, because of course their view is that they own, they have possession of the entire river and Sarstoon Island….”

 

Wilfred Elrington

“They have not been behaving that way; that is not so. They have not been behaving that way because we have been going there every week, without let or hindrance; they have not been able to stop us from going there every week and we have to go there because we have to service our military station further up in the Sarstoon. So we have always used it as of right, we will continue to do that. But as I have been saying, from time to time there have been incidents where Guatemalans have sought to tail our people or try to stop them but we have resisted that and we will always resist that.”

 

Aaron Humes

“So as of right now, there should be no reason why any Belizean, who feels the need to go up the river for whatever reason, should expect any issue with the Guatemalan military or anybody trying to stop them from going?”

 

Wilfred Elrington

“Right, they should not.”

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