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Feb 26, 2010

Tourists speak of detention during Guatemalan blockade at western border…

guatemalan border 2Travel across the Western Border continues to be disrupted by a demonstration that started since Tuesday. News Five found out today that teachers in Belize are not the only ones who want a pay raise. Guatemalan teachers have taken their protest outside their capital and to their bordering towns with El Salvador, Mexico and Belize. The teachers want the Guatemalan government to give them a sixteen percent pay raise and to make their point, a group has blocked the bridge on the Melchor side of the border.  Pedestrians can move freely but vehicular traffic is only allowed at intervals.  While immigration department on the Belize side still has a steady flow of people to process, the Customs Department is processing two extreme numbers of containers through the border. Customs normally logs forty entries on a daily basis, but those numbers are down to half on some days while on others, they go up to as many as ninety when the teacher’s vacate the area.  The Guatemalan protestors have targeted trucks with containers, and only allow a few cars and SUV’s to cross every three to five hours.  News Five spoke to a California couple who was traveling to Belize with their children and were detained for several hours at the Benque Viejo border.

Gregg Bucy, Detained at Western Border by Guatemalans

“We pulled up to the Guatemalan border and tried to leave and it was blocked; we were unable to. We sat there for two hours and waited for them to open the gate for us.”

Jose Sanchez

“And when that didn’t happen?”

Gregg Bucy

“There was no alternative; we just had to sit there. We were running out of time for the countries we could be in and needed to leave Guatemala; it was imperative for that. We’ve been travelling for five months.”

Marilyn Marincas, Detained at Western Border by Guatemalans

Marilyn Marincas

Marilyn Marincas

“It’s just a frustrating experience. It’s an international border. The teachers may well have a good reason for their strike; I have no comment on that, it’s not my issue but that’s an international border. They have no right to keep tourists in their country when they want to leave. There are immigration constraints on how long we can be there, how long we can be in Belize and how long we can be in Mexico.  We’re travelling with two small children, it’s boiling hot. We sit in the sun at the border for two whole hours and it’s boiling hot while most people pass through walking. I think they’re trying to stop probably the truck traffic because that will have an impact on their government and the situation. It’s absurd for them to have detained tourists.  I think it’s wrong.”

Jose Sanchez

“I understand an incident occurred because you were trying to get the vehicle across.”

Gregg Bucy

“Yeah, it probably wasn’t the smartest thing as I took the situation into my own hands. I had the ability to break the lock and tried to do that but was physically stopped from doing that. But it was probably not a wise decision on my behalf to take matters like that into my own hands. I should have been a little more patient but we were frustrated and I just wanted us to continue on our travels.”

Jose Sanchez

“Were you attacked?  Were you pushed? What happened?”

Gregg Bucy

“No. they never laid a hand on me. It’s just that I would put the cable through the lock and they would take it down. They took it off my truck and then they took the cable from me for about the time that we were there. But they did give it back to me in the end so I can’t complain there.”

Jose Sanchez

“An important question I want to ask you is; the Guatemalan authorities, the police at the border, did they do anything?”

Marilyn Marincas

“The police were completely unsympathetic.  I kept saying these people don’t have the right to detain foreign nationals on Guatemalan soil. They don’t have to right to do that; you’re the police.  You need to do something about that. He said “you need to be patient. You need to be patient.” And I kept trying to explain to her, I don’t have time to be patient. I have two small children, I’ve got a lot of miles to drive to our next destination and it’s wrong. It’s not fair and no, the police were absolutely not helpful.”

Gregg Bucy

“They came across as sympathetic to their cause. And they helped them in achieving what they wanted to achieve today.”

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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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1 Response for “Tourists speak of detention during Guatemalan blockade at western border…”

  1. Citizen says:

    Can Belizeans learn from our neighbours? Can we stand up for our rights? These guys are standing for theirs and others try to ‘impose’ their will. If you are a tourist on another country you need to understand that you’re not in your land and people, especially if they are protesting for a cause, will not soften their stand just for YOU.

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