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Jan 26, 2006

O.A.S. provides G.P.S. equipment for Belize, Guatemala armies

Story PictureThey are called “confidence building measures” but to some observers on both sides of the border relations between the armies of Belize and Guatemala may be getting too confident for comfort. Today the two forces, with help from the O.A.S., took another step toward reducing tensions on the frontier.

Janelle Chanona, Reporting
Before an audience of military officers, diplomats, and government representatives from Belize and Guatemala, this morning the Organization of American States Adjacency Zone Office officially handed over global positioning system and radio communication equipment to the Belize Defence Force and the Guatemalan Army.

Gen. Hugo Say Mutz, Cmdr., 1st Brigade, Guatemalan Army
?Definitely, this equipment will be very important to our duties…?

Brig. Gen. Lloyd Gillett, Cmdr., Belize Defence Force
?In 2005, over a hundred patrols were planned during the quarterly operational commander?s meeting between the Belize Defence Force and the Guatemalan Army.?

The donation itself is valued at five thousand dollars, but commanders of the Belizean and Guatemalan armed forces agree that the instruments will go a long way to making joint patrols along the border successful.

Brig. Gen. Lloyd Gillett
?Because of the terrain, because of the jungle, it?s hard even though we are in the same area, to meet up. Before, we had discrepancies in the type of equipment; each country was using a different type of G.P.S. and there were some discrepancies. Now we have the same equipment and we have radios to assist us to communicate together to try and get the contact to exchange information about what is happening in the area and to try and improve the security for the Belizean people.?

According to Commander of the B.D.F., Lloyd Gillett, the next patrol planning session is scheduled for February, at which time they will map out details for the next three months. But according to General Gillett, the very presence of the O.A.S. has cooled off many hot spots along the border.

Brig. Gen Lloyd Gillett
?There has been a significant decrease in the violence in the adjacency zone. I don?t know if you remember couple years ago we had problems with B.D.F. patrols being captured, we had problems with B.D.F. shooting people who trying to attack the patrols, all of that has decreased, all of that has been eliminated because the people in the zone see the B.D.F. and the Guatemalan armed forces cooperating. And I think that gives them confidence in the negotiation process, and it gives the negotiators the breathing space necessary to deal with the substantive issue, which is the differendum.?

Miguel Angel Trinidad, Dir., OAS Adjacency Zone Office
?Serving Belizean and Guatemalan people and governments, that is the reason for our presence here among you.?

Miguel Angel Trinidad is Director of the O.A.S. office in the adjacency zone.

Janelle Chanona
?This G.P.S. now will allow both sides to determine where they are. What are you using as the border line…because if Belize is saying definitively, there?s a border and Guatemala is saying, well…I don?t really know. What are you using as the reference point??

Miguel Angel Trinidad
?The usefulness of the G.P.S. equipment is to establish exactly the side, it?s not border definitely, because this is agreement between Belize and Guatemala governments. They agreed that meanwhile the definitive solution of the dispute, there is a special zone. In this case, it?s more important that the military from Belize and Guatemala to know exactly where [they] pass the line, to avoid different problems and trouble and confused situations. That is important because to avoid the problem with the communities, to improve the coordination, the synchronisation between the militaries of both countries. This is important support to avoid problems and mistakes.?

Janelle Chanona
?So you are calling it sides rather than countries??

Miguel Angel Trinidad
?Exactly, exactly…it?s a great help for us and Belize and Guatemala obviously.?

By all accounts, friendship has integrated itself into the confidence building measures established between Belize and Guatemala…A relationship that has raised concerns on both sides of the border.

Janelle Chanona
?A word that both the General from Guatemala and yourself used a lot was ?friendship?. Do you think there is such a thing as two armies being too friendly, especially since there?s this border dispute in the middle??

Brig. Gen Lloyd Gillett
?I don?t think that you could ever be too friendly. The thing is that friends do not attack each other, and so the more we are friends, the more likely we?ll be that we don?t attack each other, that we?ll understand each other, misunderstandings are dealt with quickly and efficiently. I think it builds confidence to the wider population and I think it helps the process.?

Gen. Hugo Say Mutz (Translated from Spanish)
?Definitely, among friends we can work better. The friendship between these two armies is very important so that we can understand one another and plan our work in a better manner. Apart from the friendship that can exist between our two armies, General Gillett has sent some of his soldiers to study with us in Guatemala so he knows many of the army officials there and that is favourable to the relationship between the two armies.?

According to the O.A.S, next on the list of their duties is to provide technical support to the recently appointed joint commission, headed by ambassadors Robert Leslie of Belize and Guatemalan Guillermo Rodriguez.

Miguel Angel Trinidad
?This commission has to give the following different interests between Belize and Guatemala: trade, migration, customs, coordination between police in Belize and Guatemala, student visas, etcetera, etcetera. This is the way, day-by-day to construct the peace and the coordination between Guatemala and Belize. This is the next step, a bigger step for us and Belize and Guatemala. ?

The joint commission has agreed to meet every month with the location rotating between Belize, Guatemala and the O.A.S. border office.

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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