Is there institutional negligence with illegal encroachers on Belizean Territory?
On August eighth, the Friends for Conservation and Development detained two Guatemalans who were farming on our side of the border. That’s not exactly a rare event, but in this case, the farming was being done on a twenty-acre plot of land within the Caracol Archaeological Reserve. The men were handed over to the San Ignacio Police, which is standard FCD protocol whenever they encounter illegal encroachers. That’s where the story reportedly took a twist. Reports are that when the time came to press charges no department came forward. The Archaeology Department allegedly passed the ball to Forestry, stating that the farming was not an offense under their Act. Forestry passed the ball right back, claiming that since the farming occurred within an Archaeological Reserve, it wasn’t their responsibility. Today News Five asked Minister of Foreign Affairs Wilfred Elrington about what seems to be a very clear case of institutional negligence after FCD had done all the work to detain and transport the men. Elrington says he doesn’t know all the details, but pointed to a chronic lack of government resources.
Wilfred Elrington, Minister of Foreign Affairs
“People at the Forestry Department are very limited. They have problems dealing with the rosewood, much less having to deal also with incursions, you see? So it is not a deliberate desire not to do…it is just that you’re very limited in what you can do. But what we need to do is we need to be able to work together, have the resolve to work together. And we at the Ministry of foreign Affairs…that is one of the reasons why we are so active in courting people like Mexico and the OAS and other countries to help us to give up the resources to be able to protect our society properly to ensure that we maintain our independence and our territorial integrity intact. Whatever criticism can be leveled at the authorities, one must not lose sight of the fact that they are very stretched and they have very limited resources. Let me tell you one of the realities in relation to that whole forest area. The situation there is that we are so very limited in terms of our own resources that whenever somebody is injured back there, we don’t have the wherewithal to take them out. So many times you have to actually bring them out on a stretcher…two soldiers walking together one in the front one in the back alternating. And many times you only have a small group of people out there. So that even dealing with people who are encroaching is difficult.”
“But sir, the FCD did all that hard work for the authorities. They extracted them from the Caracol Archaeological Reserve, brought them to the San Ignacio Police Station, and yet there was still that institutional indifference.”
“I’m not agreeing with you that there is institutional indifference…I don’t know the details. But I can tell you that we have a serious human resources constraint.”
News Five was unable to get confirmation from the San Ignacio Police Formation whether or not both Guatemalans, Melecio Recinos and Jaime Antonio Diaz, were in custody.Email This Story