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Jan 31, 2001

Border survey complete; results expected soon

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The technical exercise of establishing the exact coordinates of Belize’s border with Guatemala has been completed… but the man who took the measurements is not quite ready to go public with his findings. Under the terms of the January seventeenth meeting in Miami between Belize and Guatemala, the Pan American Institute of Geography and History was given the task of determining the exact location of the three main border monuments at Gracias a Dios, Garbutt’s Falls and Aguas Turbias. The institute was also asked to determine the distance from the border, called the adjacency line in the agreement, of the three settlements of Machaquila, Rio Blanco and Valentin Camp. Belize has maintained that these Guatemalan squatter communities are well inside Belizean territory and outside the one kilometre wide adjacency zone east of the line. After four days on the job, assisted by Belizean, British and Guatemalan military forces and observed by Belizean, Guatemalan and OAS diplomats, eartographer Paul Peeler has completed his work. News 5′s Stewart Krohn caught up with Peeler and OAS representative Chris Hernandez-Roy at the airport as they were about to return to OAS headquarters in Washington.

Paul Peeler, Cartographer

“I think we were very successful in completing our mission, which was to survey three reference points and then to locate the exact positions for three settlement communities. We plan to completed the mission yesterday, but were weren’t able to, but we finished up this morning early.”

Stewart Krohn

“Let me ask then, you have now made the final scientific determination as to where those three markers are?”

Paul Peeler

“We’ve made a determination using the latest technology that will allow us to vary position within a centimetre or two and we just have to reduce the data in St. Louis, Missouri and then we’ll be able to furnish that information to the parties, Guatemala and Belize.”

Stewart Krohn

“Could we be so bold as to ask for your advanced opinion as to what those co-ordinates are?”

Paul Peeler

“We’re averaging thousands of readings that are taken with the GPS receiver over a twenty-four hour period. We had a GPS station operated twenty-four hours a day for each of the three stations, so there are thousands, probably seventy-five, eighty thousand readings. All those have to be averaged and the accuracy determined, so that won’t be done until we go back to a large mainframe computer in St. Louis.”

Stewart Krohn

“Does that mean you would also not be able at this point to determine which side of the adjacency line, and whether or not the adjacency zone includes the three settlements.”

Paul Peeler

“Until we have the final positions, I wouldn’t want to comment on where each of those settlements are, other than that we have located them and have taken precise positioning for each.”

Peeler, president of the institute’s Commission on Cartography, told News 5 that apart from the elaborate logistics of reaching the remote sites, the actual technical work was routine. He added that the Pan American Institute of Geography and History was proud to be of service to two OAS member countries. Although both Guatemala and Belize have traditionally accepted the three border monuments as marking the line between the two countries, they have not agreed as to the actual coordinates of the three sites and by extension the true location of the borderline. Belizean officials have expressed confidence that their interpretation will be substantiated by this latest scientific survey.

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