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Jun 18, 1999

Witnesses say Guatemalan was fleeing B.D.F. when killed

Contrary to the official statement by the government that the shooting death of a Guatemalan citizen in Arenal, at the border between Belize and Guatemala was self defense, today the Amandala newspaper reports that eyewitnesses claim Mateo Ramirez was shot while fleeing from a B.D.F. solider. Reporter Melvin Flores says witnesses told him that on Saturday June 12th Ramirez had come from his home in El Rondon, a settlement in Guatemala to sell beans to a friend Piedad Melendez in Arenal. He encountered a B.D.F. soldier who asked for his papers and since he had none, panicked when the soldier said he was going to arrest him. According to the Amandala, Ramirez got into a scuffle with the soldier and his ten year old son attempted to fight the soldier off. Ramirez apparently grabbed the soldier’s testicles during the fight and then ran back to Melendez’s house and told her about the incident. When the soldier, identified as Sergeant Aladin Hererra approached, Ramirez fled the house and was trying to climb over a fence in a neighbor’s yard when Hererra reportedly fired a shot hitting him in the forehead. Witnesses claim the bullet went through a latrine, the neighbor’s yard, Ramirez’s head and then lodged in a tree. Ramirez’s son saw when he fell down dead. Witnesses say Ramirez did not have a machete, as the B.D.F. have claimed, but that there was an old one stuck in the earth close to where Ramirez was shot. Villagers say they attempted to cover the body when it began to rain, but B.D.F. soldiers arrived and took it away. The account obtained by the Amandala differs significantly from that of the B.D.F. which have maintained that the Guatemalan refused to allow a B.D.F. patrol to search his bag, then attacked the patrol and fled back across the border, only to return a few hours later and attacked the patrol with a machete. Earlier this week photographs of a deceased man clutching a machete were leaked to the press as proof that he was armed. The incident has created an international controversy with Guatemala demanding an explanation and posting additional soldiers in the border area. Guatemalan newspaper Prensa Libre has characterized the shooting of a man they say was an evangelical preacher as an unprovoked attack against one of their citizens and another example of incursions across the border by Belizean military personnel. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs which met with Guatemala’s Ambassador to Belize Rafael Salazar earlier this week has agreed to forward the results of the autopsy on Ramirez to the Guatemalan government as well as a report on the incident. Guatemala is reported to be pressing for criminal charges to be filed against the Belizean soldier. The Belizean government maintains that the death occurred on the Belizean side of the border and was an act of self-defense.

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