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Aug 26, 2011

Investigation into B.D.F. and Guatemalan poacher shooting incident

Javier Castellanos

All week we have been reporting on the shooting of a Guatemalan which the Belize Defence Force maintains happened on this side of the border and east of the Adjacency Zone in the Chiquibul area. Representatives from the B.D.F., the Guatemalan Armed Forces and the Organization of American States met on Wednesday in a quarterly meeting to discuss joint efforts in patrolling the expanse of the Chiquibul National Park.  Top on the agenda was the confrontation in Sapote Two which resulted in a shootout between B.D.F. personnel and a group of armed Guatemalan men who illegally ventured into Belizean soil.  Twenty-one year old Luis Alberto Garcia Pineda came under machine gun fire. The B.D.F. says the group approached them threateningly with an AK-47. The Guatemalan government has expressed concerns about the incident on their official website, claiming the shooting happened in their territory. Now, at the request of both Belize and Guatemala, the Organization of American States which acts as a mediator operating within the Adjacency Zone has launched an investigation into the matter to determine where the incident took place.  Attending Wednesday’s meeting in Peten was B.D.F. Deputy Commander Javier Castellanos.

Col. Javier Castellanos, Deputy Commander, B.D.F.

“It is a quarterly meeting.  It has always occurred and it is either hosted by the Belize Defense Force in Belize, by the OAS at the office in Benque Viejo or by the Guatemalan Armed Forces.  So it was a routine, quarterly meeting that occurred.  Of course the incident was [discussed], of course it came up.  What we do during this meeting is discuss the three months activities that occurred, the incidents.  We discuss them by both parties, facilitated by the Organization of American States and then we plan.  It’s a projection for the next three months, a patrol program where both militaries conduct linkup patrols in the [Chiquibul National Park] along the Belize/Guatemala Border so it wasn’t a meeting specifically for this incident.”

Isani Cayetano

“In terms of how this matter is being dealt with I know that there have been varying reports on either side of the border as to what exactly transpired.  Within that meeting itself what was arrived upon?”

Col. Javier Castellanos

“Well first of all the OAS is now conducting a verification as we speak of the incident that occurred.  What happened as a result of that meeting it was agreed that both militaries would go back to the location where the incident occurred and they went back yesterday.  Both Guatemalan and Belizean militaries went back to the exact location in the presence of the OAS and that was done as a matter of confidence building and to show the Guatemalan nationals who live near the area that there is cooperation between both militaries at a professional level.  And it went quite well, both militaries went yesterday [and] the OAS went and verified the exact location where the incident occurred and the area, it appears to be, back to normal and we are quite happy that so far it has been going quite good for us.”

Isani Cayetano

“It would seem as though these encroachment that you referred to earlier are getting more and more brazen.  The first report of the B.D.F. encountering illegal loggers and xateros and what have you in the area and the most recent one where there were five men on motorcycles armed with AK47 assault rifles.  How is the B.D.F. planning to deal with further incidents where there’s an armed standoff?

Col. Javier Castellanos

“Well, again that was discussed at the meeting.  First and foremost the Belizean military we have a, the soldiers have a right to self defense.  It is an area administered by Belize and the laws of Belize apply.  So the soldiers have a right to defend themselves.  Of course we must exercise caution.  We must exercise justifiable force and we must have respect for human rights when operating in that area.  And what came out of it is that we must be more careful and we must maintain a communication network whenever we are in the area.  Of course we will not go in there alone [and] on the opposite side the Guatemalan military will be there.”

According to Castellanos a tripartite agreement for routine patrols of the Belize/Guatemala Border, specifically near the Chiquibul National Park, for the upcoming quarter was signed by all parties.

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1 Response for “Investigation into B.D.F. and Guatemalan poacher shooting incident”

  1. Lucas says:

    If I understand correctly, according to the Geneva Convention, once an individual even though dressed in civilian clothes carries and point a weapon against a uniformed, at that moment said individual ceases to be a civilian and is considered a combatant and thus, must be treated as such. According to the Minster of Defense as reported by the Amandala, we need 3 millions to raise an extra company but do not know where to get the money. I would suggest take it from LOIS. In the same Amandala, General Tapia gave some very disturbing information. He reported that they have seen official Guatemalan maps for the distribution of land that extend inside Belizean territory. I urge the govt. to deal with this situation before it becomes explosive. BELIZEANS; we must sleep like the rooster: WITH ONE EYE OPENED.

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