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Jul 19, 2018

Improved Benque/Melchor Border Crossing is Inaugurated Out West

It took two months to clean up a long standing problem at the western border where pedestrian and vehicular traffic, as well as illegal activities, were posing persistent challenges to law and order.  A perimeter fence that has been erected will allow for the efficient flow of traffic and assist authorities to better control illicit operations in the area known as “No Man’s Land.”  The fence and facility were constructed by the Belize Defense Force in record time and was opened today. News Five’s Isani Cayetano reports. 

 

Isani Cayetano, Reporting

Traversing the western border at the Benque Viejo crossing is routine for persons residing or doing business in its vicinity.  For others, passing through checkpoints on either side of the boundary and having to stand in snaking lines that often extend beyond the respective buildings, can prove a bit challenging.  With the recent construction of an outdoor facility to control the ebb and flow of traffic entering or leaving Belize, passage should be less cumbersome.

 

Said ‘Badi’ Guerra

Said ‘Badi’ Guerra, Director of International Affairs

“This area, before the project began, gave way to disorder, unwanted and dangerous incidents that put at risk the lives of our public servants and of the people who cross back and forth on a daily basis on this area better known as the Adjacency Zone.  As you are well aware of, we did have and continue having incidents.”

 

Those occurrences, some violent, prompted the Ministry of National Security to take decisive action in safeguarding the frontier.  It can be argued, however, that the erection of a perimeter fence is belated, as it should have been a measure put in place by the Government of Belize from the onset.  Nonetheless, the project which began on May fourteenth is complete and operational.

 

Said ‘Badi’ Guerra

“I remember coming to the O.A.S. Office here and meeting with all the border agents, both on the Belize side and the Guatemalan side to try to maintain that peace and cordial working relations, to iron out our concerns and seek a better way of working together, exchanging ideas, et cetera, all to maintain the peace and security of what use to be a very porous entry point.”

 

Administered by the Border Management Agency to ensure that movement of people and freight is done in the most efficient and protected manner, the addition of the chain-link enclosure, as well as a guard hut, is much needed.

 

John Saldivar

John Saldivar, Minister of National Security

“There was a big problem here at the border with respect to the security of those who traverse the station, as well as those who work at this station and it has been resolved with a simple solution.  It is indeed a very short time ago that the National Security Council commissioned the Ministry of National Security to take hold of this project which had been in the pipeline for at least the last six years to address the security issues that were observed here at the Benque/Melchor Border Crossing.  The fact that just two months ago the work started and two months later is completed, speaks to the professionalism and commitment of the Belize Defense Force and especially its Light Engineering Company.”

 

Due to its location between adjacent border communities, the area continues to see an influx of drugs, weapons and undeclared currency which poses a national security risk.  These threats having been taken into consideration, Belize Defense Force personnel will maintain a permanent presence at the border.

 

Azariel Loria

Col. Azariel Loria, Deputy Commander, B.D.F.

“We have a lot of illegal activities, transnational in nature, because countries are involved.  I think last night there was news about, of something happening in Melchor, somebody from Belize was arrested and it’s not only Belizeans that are the bad guys, we have bad guys all over the world.  So our intent is to try to minimize to assist the civil authorities in trying to minimize all the illegal activities which appear to be rampant at this stage, specifically contraband.  We have to arrest contraband.”

 

But illegal cargo is not all that flows through this region.  The border remains the primary transshipment point for legitimate goods destined to other parts of the country from neighboring Guatemala.

 

John Saldivar

“This border crossing point is now a major hub for extensive commercial exchanges.  It is a critical point for agricultural trade and indeed for a large amount of merchandizing going both ways.  It is a daily passageway for hundreds of students coming from Melchor to attend classes in Belize and it is a critical checkpoint for tourists crossing to and from Belize and Guatemala.”

 

Reporting for news five, I am Isani Cayetano.

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