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Jun 6, 2018

Change of Heart over Border Fence in the West

The start of construction of a perimeter fence by the Belize Defence Force at the western border triggered an uproar by taxi drivers from Guatemala who claimed they were being put out of the area. The B.D.F. maintained that the fence was being built to provide security and to ease traffic congestion.  Today, we re-visited the area to see the progress of construction since its start in May. Interestingly, some who had questioned the initiative now have a change of heart. News Five’s Isani Cayetano.

 

Isani Cayetano, Reporting

Since it began on May fourteenth, construction of a perimeter fence at the Benque Viejo border crossing has been ongoing.  The project is an initiative that is spearheaded by the Ministry of National Security in an effort to better organize and manage the flow of traffic at the western border.  From the Belize Defense Force, a team of builders has been working diligently to erect a security booth, as well as a chain link enclosure which will separate certain areas that can and cannot be accessed by the commuting public.  Guatemalan tour operator, Roberto Garrido, believes that ultimately the project will be worth the short-term inconvenience it is presently causing.

 

Roberto Garrido

Roberto Garrido, Guatemalan Tour Operator

“This is not going to be bad, this is going to be better, this fence that they are building here and organizing it it’s going to be better.  It’s not going to affect anybody.  It’s not going to affect us.”

 

Isani Cayetano

“Now in the beginning I understand that you guys were abruptly moved from here without being told exactly what the purpose was.”

 

Roberto Garrido

“Yes, you’re right.  That was like that because they didn’t say nothing, they just came like that and, you know, here there’s a lot of taxi drivers and they didn’t know what was going on.  But after a little while we knew because they told us so we got to know what was the reason for and why they are building this.”

 

According to Chief Executive Officer Felix Enriquez, the infrastructure, coupled with the full-time presence of law enforcement personnel should also act as a deterrent to crimes being committed in the immediate area of the Adjacency Zone.

 

Felix Enriquez, C.E.O., Ministry of National Security

“In terms of incidents happening there, there have been several incidents that lend itself to explain why we need to improve security.  Recently there were some deaths that happened at the border.  On a daily basis, we have students trafficking to and fro.  The Organization of American States, the O.A.S. Office is there as well and so what happens there is very important in terms of promotion of trade and the free flow of traffic to the country, to both countries.”

 

For that to be achieved, a team of soldiers attached to the BDF Light Brigade will execute an architectural plan for the construction of the barrier.

 

Felix Enriquez

Felix Enriquez

“What they will do is improve the fencing, so they’ll install a gate that closes off to a certain extent the traffic going out and restrict how that is happening and of course monitor what is coming in, so that the agencies that are there: customs and immigration could have a better hold of things.  So they’ll be working in conjunction with the Border Management Agency to get this done.  It should be done quite quickly, we expect within six to eight weeks the entire project will be finished.”

 

Once completed, the movement of people and goods across the border, should see an overall enhancement in the ease of traffic.

 

Isani Cayetano

“In terms of the traffic, in terms of people coming across either side of the border, what has that been like in your observation, since the beginning of this construction work?”

 

Roberto Garrido

“Well it’s been a little rough right now because it’s under construction, right.  But I think when it’s finished it’s going to be more better, it’s going to be more organized.”

 

Isani Cayetano

“Now you’re saying to me that with this fence being built, it will be better in terms of the organization of the entire area.  You’re someone who travels across the border a lot.”

 

Roberto Garrido

“Yes, I mean I am here every day because I am a tour guide in Guatemala and I work for some tour operators in Belize and I wait here for my tourists so I think it will be more organized and that will be good, you know.”

 

Isani Cayetano

“The procedures, however, will change a bit because at the end of the day you will have to go through a different process to cross the border.  Do you think that that will slow down your business?”

 

Roberto Garrido

“No, that will never slow down our business, that will be better, more safe.  It’s going to be a lot safer for us, you know.”

 

The work is on scheduled for completion in the coming weeks. Reporting for News Five, I am Isani Cayetano.

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