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Feb 28, 2000

Prisoner recounts abduction

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That was the latest from Guatemala, but for those of you who missed News Five’s special report on Sunday, which aired again at noon today and is posted on our website, we’d like to repeat a portion of our interview with Police Constable Sanchez on Sunday. He and the entire patrol reported that they had been well treated but were anxious to come home. He recounted the incident which resulted in their detention. We also have comments from the Prime Minister’s press conference on Saturday.

Stewart Krohn, Reporting

News Five was allowed to speak with all of the Belizean prisoners at the detention center in Santa Elena but the BDF soldiers felt bound by military protocol and preferred not to speak on camera in the absence of orders from their commander. Police Constable Macedonio Sanchez spoke on behalf of the entire patrol. He told a remarkable story of being kidnapped, not in the bush, but in a family home.

Police Constable Macedonio Sanchez

“Well on Thursday morning about…I would say we left the O.P. at Treetops about 8:00, 8:30 and we were on routine patrol…we visited Jalacte and we were going to San Vicente. While we were at Mr. Chinte’s house, we had recently arrived at this man’s house, just about two minutes and we were sitting, speaking to him, when the lieutenant, Second Lieutenant Herrera saw some Guatemalan soldiers coming up the hill, ’cause we were on a hill. And, well we didn’t think about anything. I held my position, we all held our positions and they came and they spoke to us in a friendly manner, and they began measuring the exact location that we were, and they told us from there, that we were in Guatemala and on our map we were about let’s say 150 meters or more in Belize, because that’s the usual route that we patrol. I’ve been patrolling that area for some time now, because most of the time police patrol along with BDF in that area. And we always visit that man, he is more or less like a person that we do check-ups with.”

Janelle Chanona, Reporting

Is he Belizean or Guatemalan?

P.C. Sanchez

“His wife is Belizean, he’s a Guatemalan. His wife is Belizean; they are living in Punta Gorda. And his kids are going to the high school in Punta Gorda.”

Janelle Chanona

So they came up to you, and what did they say?

P.C. Sanchez

“Well after the dispute, they told us that they would have to detain us, and take us back to their base and well it was about twenty-five of them to four of us, so we could not really have a physical contact with them.”

Janelle Chanona

Did they point their guns at you and tell you?

P.C. Sanchez

“They did not point the guns, but as far as I could have seen, they had their guns made ready already.”

Janelle Chanona

So you all never drew weapons never?

P.C. Sanchez

“We did not draw weapons.”

Stewart Krohn

Did they confiscate your weapons?

P.C. Sanchez

“Yeah, they confiscated our weapons, while we were on our way to their base. As far as I am concerned, we were still in Belize when they took away our weapons. They just told us prior to the contact with their commander, they told us that we were going to…they were going to be bringing some surveyors and justice of the peace and we would go to the point of contact and check the location on the map and see whether we were in Belize, but that did not happen. They handed us over to the police and we were taken to San Luis.”

Stewart Krohn

In response to the kidnapping of Police Constable Sanchez and his BDF colleagues, on Saturday the Prime Minister held a press conference in Belize City. He reiterated Belize’s position that all efforts would be made to handle the men’s release diplomatically and that their position on the Belize side of the border was clear. He says he remains committed to a resolution of the current crisis as well as the overall Guatemalan dispute.

Prime Minister Said Musa

“Our borders are identifiable, recognized and internationally respected. The security and future prosperity of Belize demands that we should be free from any external threat to our sovereignty, independence, territory and national well being.

I rely on the discretion and goodwill of the Guatemalan Government and the support of the international community to resolve this matter peacefully through diplomatic means, so that Lieutenant Herrera, Lance Corporal Arana, Private Tzub and Constable Sanchez can return home as soon as possible.”

Since Saturday’s press conference, a senior level BDF officer has been dispatched to the Peten. The Prime Minister Musa has sent a protest note to Guatemalan authorities “strongly protesting the illegal action of Guatemalan armed forces entering Belizean territory and forcibly removing Belizean security officers to Guatemala.” A copy of the letter has been sent to the Secretary General of the United Nations, the Organization of American States, the Secretary General of the Commonwealth, the Caricom Secretariat, the Association of Caribbean States and the European Union. An unfortunate casualty of the kidnapping was the suspension, by Belize, of technical talks between Belize and Guatemala which were to begin on Friday in Miami. It would have been the first time since Belize’s General Election in 1998 and presidential elections in Guatemala late last year, that the two countries would have had formal meetings on the Guatemalan dispute. News Five’s Janelle Chanona and Cameraman Rick Romero, still pursuing the story in Guatemala, will have more on tomorrow’s newscast.

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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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