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Jul 26, 2019

National Security Minister Comments on Latest Sarstoon Showdown

National Security Minister John Saldivar says he was surprised when he was informed that Guatemalan Armed Forces continued to attempt to prevent Belizeans from traveling on the Sarstoon River.  That is what happened on July twenty-third when Wil Maheia was escorting SATIIM representatives to Black Creek to investigate reports of illegal logging by Guatemalans in the area. The group of seven Belizeans was actively pursued by two Guatemalan gunboats filled with armed Guatemalan soldiers. The ministry confirmed via press release on Thursday that the expedition was being escorted by the Belize Coast Guard in a B.D.F. metal shark-type patrol vessel when they were intercepted.  The GAF commander was not mincing words when he told Maheia that the Sarstoon belongs to Guatemala and the group should turn back. The B.D.F. patrol commander informed the GAF that they would not and that the civilians were being escorted by the B.D.F.  The Belizean vessels proceeded along the river; however, some four kilometers short of its destination, the B.D.F. patrol vessel developed mechanical issues and had to return to base. The government has said that it views this latest action by the GAF as “very disappointing and demonstrates bad faith at a time when both countries have made significant progress in moving towards a permanent solution to the long-standing unfounded territorial claim.”   A protest note has been fired off to the Guatemalan government.  Minister Saldivar today told the press that Belizean forces would never allow the GAF to take control of our Sarstoon River and island.


John Saldivar

John Saldivar, Minister of National Security

“We are very concerned about it and our release states that we have made a complaint via the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. It caught us a little bit, I would say, by surprise because things have been pretty relatively calm down there since the I.C.J. vote. But we will continue to resist any attempts by the Guatemalan army to take control or to deter us from what we need to do in the area. We have launched a strong complaint and hope that that deters the Guatemalans from any further such action.”


Hipolito Novelo

“Has the protest note be sent to the O.A.S.?”


John Saldivar

“Well, it is certainly been sent to Guatemala and I am sure that the O.A.S. will get a copy of that communication.”



“The decision to always backed down doesn’t that give the Guatemalans an idea that they are having control?”


John Saldivar

“No, I don’t think we have always backed down. That has not always been the case. I can certainly tell you that once it is military to military and there are no civilians involved, we do not back down; we carry out our mandate. But the decision is on a case by case basis and when civilians are involved, we’ve had to think about the safety of those individuals. We don’t necessarily want to get in a military conflict once we have civilians on board. So it is a case by case decision but I can say categorically that the army when it is own, our B.D.F. when we are our own, conducting our patrol, we have never allowed the Guatemalans to deter us. I believe in this case a decision was made to turn back which may have been the better decision at the time to avoid any conflict but no, we are not giving in to these sorts of behavior from Guatemalan army.  I continue to think that it is base on the individual who is up there. It is not a collective decision by the Guatemalan army itself. I continue to believe that until proven otherwise. So hopefully we can get the matter to solve once our general speaks to their general.”


Hipolito Novelo

“Do you anticipate that the GAF will try again to deter Belizeans from going to the Sarstoon?”


John Saldivar

“I continue to repeat I believe that base on who is leading the force the Guatemalan army in that area it seems to depend on the personality or on the agenda on the individual since I don’t think it is something that is driven by a particular policy to the military of Guatemala.”  

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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