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Jun 3, 2020

Life Continues as Normal in Arenal Village, Despite Rise of COVID-19 Cases in Guatemala

The main border points remain closed, but illegal border crossings are still taking place because every week we get an update on how many persons are arrested and charged for illegal entry.  In the west, at the village of Arenal, which is shared by both Belize and Guatemala, the crossing across the borders is a matter of routine and part of daily life. The coronavirus pandemic has not put a stop to the illegal activities.  But there is growing concern that a case of COVID-19 may have been detected in a Guatemalan town not far from Arenal.  It could potentially be imported to this side of the border and the Ministry of Health is monitoring the situation. News Five’s Hipolito Novelo has the following report.


Hipolito Novelo, Reporting

Located on the western border with Guatemala, life in Arenal Village continues as normal.


Marvin Manzanero

Dr. Marvin Manzanero, Director of Health Services

“Villagers are just crossing the border to do, continue to participate in illegal and contraband issues.”


The village lies on the border and half of it is on the Belize side. Director of Health Services Doctor Marvin Manzanero expressed his concern to News Five about the seemingly easy flow of persons crossing the border in Arenal. It is concerning not only because Guatemala is experiencing a spike in positive COVID-19 cases, but also because reports have surfaced of a possible case in a nearby Guatemalan town.


Dr. Marvin Manzanero

“There is a note although we have not been able to confirm that there was a case in neighbouring town. That is where the concern has to be.”


The people in Arenal live their daily life as if there is no border. They intermingle and buy goods from the Guatemalan side routinely. But change must occur. C.E.O. in the Ministry of National Security, Felix Enriquez says that B.D.F. patrols have increased in the area.


Felix Enriquez

Felix Enriquez, C.E.O., Ministry of National Security

“We have a regular patrol out there, B.D.F. and police. We have actually stepped up our routine patrols in the area from the B.D.F. side in Arenal. But like you said that community is a tricky one because the community is such that it is like families living from one side to the next. What we have to do is educate them. We have to make sure that our education process reached the families that are on the Belize side but as well those across. We have sent the Ministry of foreign affairs leading an effort for an education process that is taking place in Arenal and surrounding villages.”


Dr. Marvin Manzanero

“I think there has been an attempt to increase the patrols and surveillance at that community level but I don’t have the full details on what else has been done to try and curtail that.”


Hipolito Novelo

“Do you believe that the reason for this easy flow of traffic between the border there in Arenal by Belizeans and Guatemalans us because of lack of information received on their part?”


Dr. Marvin Manzanero

“My understanding is that there has been an education process at the community level in a language that they would understand. I am not trying to justify it but also understand that that is a part of their daily routine.”


…and it is for that reason that members of the community play a crucial role in effecting a change in Arenal.


Dr. Marvin Manzanero

“We also call on the community because it is not only the B.D.F. because even if you put B.D.F. and police, people will still find a way or mechanism to get around. People find and get creative ways of beating the system. I think it is a community effort as well.”


Reporting for News Five, I am Hipolito Novelo.

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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