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Audrey Matura Shepherd

Belizeans detained by Guatemalan military

Belizeans detained by Guatemalan military

Tuesday, March 3, 2015. AARON HUMES Reporting: This afternoon Captain of the vessel “Dore”, Guillermo Avila, who quickly became the center of an international incident between Belize and Guatemala over the weekend, told his story for the first time to reporters in Belize City today.

Flanked by attorney Audrey Matura Shepherd, Avila says that he was advised by Giovanni de la Fuente to take the accidental left turn that took him one hundred yards into apparent Guatemala waters down a tributary of the Sarstoon River.

Audrey Matura Shepherd

Audrey Matura Shepherd

Avila says this is the first time that he has captained a boat for any expedition up the Sarstoon River although his boat service does regular runs from Punta Gorda town to Livingston in Guatemala.

Avila explained that as soon as he recognized what took place he turned back and was then stopped by personnel of Guatemalan military however it was not explained to him that he violated any international principles related to crossing the border illegally.

Instead he was asked for particulars related to his vessel ad the number of passengers he had on board.

Guatemalan military

Guatemalan military

Avila says that the military accompanied the group to Gracias a Dios and passengers too pictures with them.

They also assisted him in getting fuel for the boat in the town of Modesto Mendez located across from Gracias a Dios.

The Guatemalans waited until the return journey when the group had almost cleared the Sarstoon River to stop the vessel and order it towed to Livingston citing alleged concerns over safety.

After spending an overnight which included speaking to the Harbor Master, Avila was made to sign under duress a document purports to release the Guatemalans from any alleged violations of the Belizean groups’ rights.

However Avila maintains that he did nothing wrong and that he wants his name cleared so that he can continue carrying on business.

According to Matura Shepherd, the government has shown a lack of initiative in not insisting immediately on investigating what happened to the Territorial Volunteers.

Instead, she said, the government has chosen to castigate them for stepping outside their boundaries in doing work meant for the Belize Defence Force.

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