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Mar 29, 2001

Burned drug plane discovered in Toledo

It appears that farming is not the only illegal activity being undertaken by Guatemalans crossing into Toledo. Recent discoveries by the Belize Defence Force indicate that several illicit airstrips on the Belize side of the Sarstoon River have been used by Guatemalan nationals to facilitate drug transshipments. On the evening of March twenty-first a B.D.F. patrol observed a plane circling in the area of the upper Sarstoon and when they investigated the next morning they found the burned remains of a small twin engine aircraft. The plane had apparently made an unsuccessful landing on an illegal airstrip near the banks of the Savery Branch of the Sarstoon some three miles east of Gracias a Dios Falls. The airstrip in question had previously been disabled by the B.D.F. by making large holes in the dirt runway with explosives. The drug runners had attempted to repair the damage but it is believed the plane’s landing gear collapsed on contact with the uneven surface. No signs of the pilot or drugs were found in the area and it is not clear whether the plane was there to deliver or pick up a shipment of U.S. bound narcotics. On Wednesday the B.D.F. discovered another previously disabled airstrip one mile to the east, this time on the north bank of the Sarstoon River in a spot called “Happy Home”. It too had been rehabilitated and was being readied for use as several drums of gasoline and two cycle lube oil were found on site which could be used by high powered skiffs. There is no road access to either clandestine airstrip and authorities strongly believe that the manpower required to rebuild the runaways could only have come from the Guatemalan villages lying south of the river. The remote frontier area around the mouth of the Sarstoon has long been a hotbed of drug activity, as there are numerous creeks for boats to hide and a very limited police presence by both countries.

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