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Sep 12, 2023

B.T.V. Confronted by GAF during Sarstoon Flag Raising Ceremony

For the fifteenth time since Belize’s independence, the Belize Territorial Volunteers organized a trip to Sarstoon Island to plant the Belize national flag. And this weekend, like years past, they were met with hostility from the Guatemalan Armed Forces (GAF). According to reports, Guatemalan soldiers removed three of Belize’s flags after they were planted. The Leader of the Opposition is now calling on the Government of Belize to send an urgent diplomatic note to the Guatemalan President to “underscore the need for Guatemalan Armed Forces to adhere to international law, confidence building measures agreed protocols”. News Five’s Paul Lopez reports.


Paul Lopez, Reporting

Over the weekend, the Belize Territorial Volunteers carried out their fifteenth annual flag raising ceremony in the Sarstoon River. There is a growing interest among Belizeans to visit Sarstoon Island and that was seen this weekend when Belizeans from across the country travelled to Punta Gorda Town participate in the journey. The annual event is known for hostile encounters between Belizeans and Guatemalan Armed Forces. And, as seen in this video, this weekend’s trip was no different.


Audrey Matura

Audrey Matura, Attorney

“He is saying is that Belizean BDF has never come in this part of the water because the BDF knows this is not for Belize so why are we coming. I am telling him he is lying, I have been here before, this is not my first time.”


Wil Maheia

Wil Maheia, Founder, Belize Territorial Volunteers.

“First of all I am very pleased with the turnout. We had people from all over the country, from Orange Walk to Punta Gorda. We had one guy whoe brought his boat from Benque. He brought his boat from there. First time we had a bus from Belize City, a lot of Belize City people and from Belmopan as well. So, it was well represented. I feel good. It is a real grass roots movement of concerned Belizeans.”


Punta music was being played, as the five boats filled with Belizeans onboard meandered through the Sarstoon River, much to the delight of these passengers. The Guatemalan Armed Forces unrelentingly trailed the vessels along the river. Wil Maheia, the Founder of the Belize Territorial Volunteers, attorney Audrey Matura and a third individual can be seen standing on a log in the river, clutching a Belizean National Flag in their hands.


Wil Maheia

“So the Guatemalans have removed three of our flags. We are waiting for them to come for this one. They have to remove three of us.”


Wil Maheia

“And we said look that is ridiculous, the BDF was a couple hundred yards away and we will not allow them to take a fourth flag. We stood with the flag. The young lady’s name she is from Belmopan Comprehensive, Cristel Menchor, I mean for me that was motivation. If we have these youths we have to stand up for them. And, she spoke perfect Spanish, she let the Guatemalans know you can’t do this and we decided if you take this flag you will have to take three of us.”


Braving the waters of the Sarstoon River, Audrey Matura jumped in and swam to Sarstoon Island with a flag in hand. Wil Maheia followed behind her.  A third individual also made his way over. Together, on the island, they hoisted a flag.


Wil Maheia

“We decided then it was time to return but we wanted to leave a flag on the island. We knew that their boats might not be able to maneuver close to the island like that. So we went in there and put the flag deep into the island so that we left the flag there. Upon leaving we saw that they are trying to get into the mangroves so we know they more than likely probably had removed that flag as well. After the Guatemalans moved the third flag; I guess the BDF decided well now we have to do something. They went and spoke to the Guatemalans and saw the Guatemalans gave them back three of the flags they had removed. So when we were leaving we went to the forward operating base and asked if we could get back our flags.”


The United Democratic Party has issued a release condemning what they say is a violation by the Guatemalan Armed Forces. In their release, the party called on Prime Minister John Briceño and Minister of Foreign Affairs Eamon Courtenay to quote, “summon the Guatemalan Ambassador to Belize at once to protest this breach of our borders”, unquote.


Wil Maheia

“I don’t know if any other country in the world would allow another country to come into their country and take their flag down without an international incident or letting the world know this is disrespectful. So I hope the government of Belize will protest to the United Nations and the OAS and all those country who call themselves friends of Belize. I saw the release from the release from the Leader of the Opposition and when the PUP was in opposition they gave a similar release, so what is new, what has changed?”


Reporting For News Five, I am Paul Lopez.

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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