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Jun 25, 2013

Territorial Volunteers make a splash at Garbutt Falls

The lesson learned is that it doesn’t pay to take an unsanctioned ride in someone else’s property. But the same can be said for the Guatemalan nationals who illegally kill wildlife, harvest xate plants and cut down wood inside Belize’s Chiquibul forests. Illegal incursions and national pride are only two of the reasons why the Belize Territorial Volunteers (B.T.V.) have been visiting official border markers for Belize and Guatemala. On Saturday the B.T.V., led by its western affiliate the Belize People’s Front, visited the Garbutt’s Falls border marker which is located near the immigration checkpoint in Benque Viejo del Carmen. This is the fourth such trek, following on trips to the border line at Jalacte, Gracias a Dios and Aguas Turbias.   News Five joined a small group of about one hundred as they departed from Benque Viejo Del Carmen. 

 

Mike Rudon, Reporting

On Saturday morning a small group of Belizeans from as far as Orange Walk, Corozal and Toledo and a few foreign friends gathered in San Ignacio. The plan for the morning was an expedition to the border marker at Garbutt’s Falls, but prior to leaving, the group took a short walk through the market to spend a few moments with residents.

 

After a short road trip to Benque, the group detoured off the road a couple hundred feet from the Belize Immigration checkpoint at the border. That’s where our trek started, just next to the Mopan River with Guatemala a stone’s throw away.

 

The path we walked was well demarcated, though slippery because of the recent rains. According to retired BDF lieutenant Gilroy Requena, the path we used through the bush is the same one which is used by contraband smugglers from Guatemala.

 

Gilroy Requeña

Gilroy Requeña, B.D.F. Lieutenant (Ret’d)

“There has been continuous, I believe crossing of illegal people in Belize even since I have left over twelve years ago. As a matter of fact, last week when I was coming across from Guatemala to Belize, I noticed that there were some people waiting just at the entrance where we came in and I believe that more than likely those were illegal. So this continues. As you had noticed there was a canoe which is at the entrance where we were at the river bank.  I believe that is what is used to cross these people back and forth but like I said, during the dry season, people can virtually walk across without any problems. I don’t believe they will have any need for the canoe. But I am sure that there is a continuation of illegals coming across into Belize and of course I have also during my time see people who have crossed but again I was not within range of getting to them before they went across into Guatemala back. But yeah…it happens.”

 

Paco Smith

To our right was the raging Mopan…to our left was a chain link fence surrounding the Belizean border point and ahead was our destination, a cement monument which stood on the border line between Belize and Guatemala. It was an unremarkable monument, standing lopsided next to the fence, but its significance was unmistakable.

 

Paco Smith, Activist

“There are powers that be that want to let you feel that we don’t have a border. I am touching it right here, Nancy’s touching it, Wil’s touching it, you are touching it; we are here. This is Belize.”

 

Mike Rudon

“We’re standing right in front of the marker. Could you give us an idea of where Belize ends and where Guatemala begins?”

 

Gilroy Requeña

“Mike if you look up…this fence I believe was put up by…I’m not really sure but if you notice just above there is the O.A.S. office so to speak and then beyond that is where vehicle cross into both Guatemala and Belize where the vehicles are sprayed. So just along this fence, say on the western side, as you can see that is where the border really is. And that goes all the way down south all the way to the other border marking. And the across here straight up; all the way up north. So across the river where some guys were fishing earlier, they are standing in Belizean territory.”

 

We were so close to Guatemalan territory, in fact, that these two armed members of Guatemala’s military came down to see what was happening.

 

Nancy Marin

Nancy Marin, Belize People’s Front

“They walked down here to meet us and they were standing aside. We invited them to come over. I went and greeted them, I told them thank you for joining us and asked them if we could help them. They said they heard the noise and they just wanted to come down and see what was going on. They asked if there was a problem, we said no. We explained to them that we are trying to encourage Belizeans to come visit the marker and they said they agree; it is very important for Belize to know where their territory lies. So they had no problem. They told us okay, thank you and they left.”

 

There was no clearing on Saturday…and no planting of trees – but just a feeling of unity and achievement. For these Belizeans, and even for one young friend from a faraway land, the expedition was an important one.

 

Mike Rudon

“Why did you come out here today?”

 

Panashe Mukandatsama

Panashe Mukandatsama, Youth Cadet Corps

“To just notice the border and know more about my country since I am new here. I am here for six years in Belize from Africa and Zimbabwe.”

 

Mike Rudon

“So Belize is your country now and you wanted to see a little bit more about the border…”

 

Panashe Mukandatsama

“…And learn.”

 

And of course, there is the added benefit of sending a message to Belmopan.

 

Paco Smith

“There’s a saying that if you say things long enough or loud enough, people will start to believe it. and my theory is that with the propaganda that has been coming out again Belmopan, Guatemala City and certain areas in Washington DC, my fear is that Belizeans will start to believe that foolishness. So with groups like the Belize Territorial Volunteers, People’s National Front and regular Belizeans like myself and all the others that are gather here are making that statement.”

 

Nancy Marin

“It’s exciting especially to see Belizeans come from all over the place—Orange Walk, Corozal, Belize City, down south; get up so early and take that bus. It is a long trip to come here. It is exciting to see that people are interested in keeping our border intact.”

 

Mike Rudon

“What’s next? What happens after this?”

 

Nancy Marin

“Well for the Belize People’s Front, we’ve been trying to maintain and like you have seen, we’ve chopped the area and we are picking up the trash around here. But the main plan for us is to keep the area as clean as possible so that our authorities, the border management and immigration, can see clear from where they are in the office, down to the river and hope that that may stop a lot of the illegal incursions in this area.”

 

So with another excursion under its belt, what’s next for the Belize Territorial Volunteers?

 

Wil Maheia

Wil Maheia, Belize Territorial Volunteers

“Well you know summer is out now and lots of youth are out and about and we will do a youth for the border which will take place the twenty-sixth of July and we will go to the village of Poite or Otoxa and we will hike along the border planting coconut trees. At first we thought about mahogany trees and cacao trees, but coconut trees are very durable. So we will do some kind of marking with coconut trees. It will give the youths a very good experience to live and experience a different culture. We will be in Mayan territory and so we encourage youths from other parts of the country who have not seen this part of beautiful Belize and also experience the Mayan culture in full. We have already talked to the Mayan leaders and they agree for us to spend the night in the village.”

 

The BTV also plans to continue to highlight illegal incursions into Belize and to keep pushing the government to clear the border. Mike Rudon for News Five.

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2 Responses for “Territorial Volunteers make a splash at Garbutt Falls”

  1. Belizean Pride says:

    wish i could go on these trips, real patronage move, like the way the guat cops dealt with the activist, peacefully and showing that this problem is just a bunch of politicians of the guat side that keeps bringing this old scam of trying to take half of the Jewel which they will never accomplish.

  2. aij says:

    just happy to see groups of belizeans making a positive impact for the country. we always need more positivity and unity.

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