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Jan 29, 2010

B.D.F. says claims of military incursions into Guatemala are false

29-1-10-2The widely circulated Guatemalan newspaper, Prensa Libre, carried a provocative article this past Wednesday, claiming that members of the Belize Defence Force have been entering and raiding two villages on the Guatemalan side. It is all ironic because the reverse takes place frequently, and it is well documented that Guatemalans too often encroach on Belizean territory.  In the report, Prensa Libre identifies Sarstun Abajo and La Finca Villages in Livingston—directly south of the Sarstoon River, as the villages that have been raided, for two years. The article alleges that the B.D.F. soldiers have been stealing fishing equipment and household goods daily and that the Guatemalan farmers have been intimidated and some captured. And the villagers are calling on the Guatemalan Government to take action. At the celebration to mark the B.D.F. anniversary at the Price Barracks today, Commandant, Brigadier General Dario Tapia, told News Five that this is not the first time that Prensa Libre has been making allegations against the force and said the story was purely “to make mischief”.

Dario Tapia

Dario Tapia

Brigadier General Dario Tapia, Commandant, B.D.F.

“That is not what a professional defense force does. And certainly the allegations in Prensa Libre are allegations. We have done our own internal investigation. We certainly don’t go into Guatemalan territory to go and do what they are alleging. So we also know what kind of news media is Prensa Libre; it makes a lot of unfounded allegations against the Belize Defense Force. This is not the first time. Couple years ago, they were saying that we were going after destroying the illegal crops that are inside Belizean territory that we have been going there with war tanks and destroying the crops and getting into Guatemalan territory. So really and truly, I am not bothered by what Prensa Libre—we have known the reputation of Prensa Libre—so I am not concerned at all about the allegations made by Prensa Libre. I have cleared that, I have spoken to my ministry and certainly I would like the Belizean people to understand that we the Belize Defense Force are professional. I would want to discard that as a rumor or someone that wants to create mischief between our countries. We are there, we patrol the Sarstoon River. We have to; it’s our territory. So really and truly, I guess you wanna speak to Prensa Libre to prove it. Yes indeed there are Guatemalan communities that live along the Sarstoon River and as you may be aware, there is also a Guatemalan detachment at the mouth of the Sarstoon River and so when we patrol those areas, they become concerned because certainly they would not want us to be present. But unfortunately for them, it is our territory and we have to patrol our territory. We cannot give up any land and so we will patrol it, we will continue to patrol it and we will not back off.”

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