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Jan 4, 2018

Guats Maintain Tight Hold on Sarstoon; “Allow” Belizeans to Visit

A fun trip to the Sarstoon River for members of a youth basketball team from Southside Belize City this morning threatened to become an international incident when members of the Guatemalan Armed Forces intervened to stop Wil Maheia’s Belize Territorial Volunteers’ boat crew from going around the Sarstoon Island, which both countries claim.  The soldiers first tried to persuade Maheia and the team coached by Clinton “Pulu” Lightburn, not to circle the island; then offered to “escort” them around. On the heels of Foreign Minister Wilfred Elrington’s pronouncement to us in December that Belizeans need not fear Guatemalan intervention to travel to the area, it may be that these soldiers didn’t get the memo from Guatemala City over the holidays. It took the intervention of the Belize Coast Guard posted at the Sarstoon Forward Operating Base to persuade the Guats to back off and there was no further incident reported. Maheia sent News Five video of the encounter and his reaction to it.

 

Clinton “Pulu” Lightburn and Future Shock Team

“Dust to dust! Ashes to ashes! Shoulder to shoulder! Border to border! From the Rio Hondo to the Sarstoon! Win, lose or draw, the bigger they come, the harder they fall! Belize: Defend! Attack! The time is now! Future Shock!”

 

Guatemalan Soldier

“I will ask you not to pass around this area.”

 

Wil Maheia, Belize Territorial Volunteers

“So we cannot go to the island?”

 

Guatemalan Soldier

“Which island?”

 

Wil Maheia

“That one. Our island?”

 

Guatemalan Soldier

“That island is still in dispute. So you cannot say that it belongs to Guatemala or Belize. There is a dispute. Until that is resolved then we have the authority to stop anyone from going there. So I will kindly ask you to please leave.”

 

Wil Maheia

“We will only go around the island.”

 

Guatemalan Soldier

“If you want you can go around it. We will accompany you so you can see it. Then you will need to leave. Yes?”

 

Wil Mahei

Wil Maheia

“As you could see from the incident this morning, that the Guatemalans came over into [the] Belizean side, armed military, with finger on trigger, and tried to prevent us from going around the island. But we held our ground and we insisted that it is our island and we are going to go around the island. And after we decided that we are going around the island, they told us, ‘we will escort you around the island.’ I said, you have to do what you have to do; we have to do what we have do. You can escort us if you want; we will do what we have to do. We will go around the island because you can’t tell us that we can’t go around the island. So we proceeded to go around the island. And then the Belize Coast Guard came and when they came, the Guatemalan military backed off a little bit and we completed our journey around the island.”

 

Reporter

“How did you feel when you saw the Guatemalan soldiers approaching us?”

 

Team Member

“I neva feel no way; I just mi no like how dehn come pah our side, in our territory.”

 

Reporter

“So you neva like that?”

 

Team Member

“No.”

 

Late this evening, Maheia said that this is not the first time the Volunteers have been able to circle the island; they did so during the Sarstoon Eco-Challenge in September. The BTV is planning to raise five thousand dollars to build a boardwalk on the island to take advantage of tourism opportunities and stake further Belize’s claim to the island. The BTV also plan commemorations of the 1859 Anglo-Guatemalan Treaty signing establishing the boundaries on April thirtieth and an excursion to mark the maritime boundaries established prior to the introduction of the Maritime Areas Act in 1992 – a twelve mile limit from the coast instead of three, among other events.

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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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