Wednesday, June 17th 2015.BMG: A few days ago, Belizeans contended with illegal Guatemalan craft invading our waters and potentially damaging our Barrier Reef. Today, the story is told of five Belizean men detained in Guatemala by the Guatemalan Army. The shocking account describes mental torture, as the men were arrested, beaten, abused and chased for miles, army rifles aimed at their backs.
After the unnerving ordeal, all five men were forced to plead guilty to charges of disorderly conduct, in an effort to end the abuse and return home. Fines were paid at a San Peten courthouse, and in an interview with a local media station, PNP border activist, Wil Maheia, shared this ominous account:
“These guys are respectable guys. One of them I’ll even vouch for the UDP councillor knowing I’m a PNP. He’s a decent young man and the other guy that was with him, Mr. Martinez and Mr. Romero – they are decent young men. I could tell you that nobody in Punta Gorda Town could say they have ever seen these guys drunk and disorderly. I mean it’s unfortunately they targeted these guys. I am even wondering if they stood out; because they are two black guys who stood out and were probably the only guys that stood out in the amount of people that were visiting at the time. The military being the Guatemalan military, always wanting to show itself decided – well we will just have some fun this weekend. Basically that is how they operate. Belize is a signatory to those war conventions and when the military arrest a person from another country or capture in this case in my opinion, kidnapped. They should treat them according to the human rights laws. At no time should they cock a gun or put a gun to their head. These guys did not kill anybody, they did no commit any crime. So again, this is an area where our government should send a letter to the Guatemalan government and to the UN protesting the treatment of Belizeans by Guatemalan military. It’s clear, it’s right there in the convention. You cannot treat human beings like that – forcing them to run 4 miles with gun at their heads a lot of the time. It’s shocking, when you hear the stories from these guys, it’s really, really shocking and I am calling on the government, it’s not too late to send a message to Guatemala – they got to start behaving themselves.”
Wil also went on to affirm that levels of aggression displayed by Guatemalans has been rising:
“There’s definitely a stepping up on the part of the Guatemalans. Recently the coconut trees we planted, I was told by people living in the area that it wasn’t just Guatemalans civilians who rooted the coconut trees – but actually Guatemalan military personnel who came on Belize’s soil and up rooted those coconut trees. I think this continue to happen because we are like nonchalant about the border. Guatemala continues to intimidate us, we continue to show weakness. Since that coast guard incident, I have been to the border several times myself; recently as last Sunday. I have not seen the Belize military. So when something like this happens internationally in any other country in the world, the country would step up it’s military presence at the border. What did we do? We stepped down instead of increasing our military presence at Sarstoon Island. We decrease and now there is no presence at Sarstoon Island. So it’s like giving into them. At the end of the day this is Belize and we are Belizeans and at no time should we be afraid to venture into any part of the country. Right now I know that the Belizean tour operators out of Punta Gorda don’t want to send their boat up the Sarstoon. So economically we are losing because they are afraid and I don’t think we should be afraid.”
Despite the rising concerns of Belizean citizens, the Government of Belize has yet to directly issue a complaint to the Guatemalan government. However, a letter was sent to the OAS on Monday, noting that OAS officials assisted in the release of the five men, but quotes, “there are serious concerns arising from complaints that have been received from these citizens of Belize of their alleged mistreatment and abuse at the hands of officials of the Guatemalan Armed Forces, and by the alleged false charges brought against them.”
Belize Media Group will have more on this story as it continues to unfold.
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