Posted: Thursday, August 13, 2015. 6:30 pm CST.
Thursday, August 13th, 2015 Aaron Humes Reporting: The Belize Territorial Volunteers have continuously defied the pronouncements of local and foreign authorities against their visits to the southern and western border markers.
Those warnings have been repeated this week ahead of the Sunday, August 16 expedition to Sarstoon Island, even as there was a confrontation with Guatemalan authorities when BTV leader Wil Maheia and Orlando de la Fuente went to scout the area.
Today the Volunteers got support from the Opposition People’s United Party, who have authorized Senator Lisa Shoman, a former ambassador and Foreign Affairs Minister and official representative for the PUP on the Belize negotiating team, to attend. She has written Minister Wilfred Elrington, Guatemalan Ambassador to Belize Manuel Roldan Barrillas and officials on both sides of the border.
She told us that she was motivated to join the expedition because she did not feel the level of concern the situation occasioned from Minister of National Security John Saldivar who spoke on Wednesday, nor from BDF chief Brigadier General David Jones.
Shoman expects, although she noted that her position does not mean she should get special treatment, that local authorities will do their best to protect Belizeans who are, after all, going to territory they consider their own. If there are any incidents, she said, they will not be caused by Belizeans. The question, Senator Shoman says, is not whether Belizeans have sovereignty or not on Sarstoon Island – we do.
It is that we have a civic right to go to any part of our territory and expect to be protected by our leaders. Shoman says she has also contacted the Organization of American States (OAS) and they are tentatively expected to send observers along to the event.
This evening, almost on cue, the Government issued a release attacking the planned visit as a “political ploy” and noted that they consider it in the vein of her being a “private citizen” and not a Senator or representative of the bipartisan committee on the Guatemalan claim, since she has no authorization from either body.
They acknowledge the letter written to the local Guatemalan ambassador but not the one written to Minister Elrington. Claiming “great consternation,” GOB says Shoman is being “irresponsible” and concludes that, quote, “her actions are totally political. Her actions further demonstrate and expose the desperation of the Opposition to use this all important and deeply emotional national issue of the Belize/Guatemala border dispute for naked political gain.” End quote.
As for its own position, the release states, quote, “The Government takes this opportunity to caution and reiterate its position that has been expressed to the Belize Territorial Volunteers that it is imprudent and potentially dangerous for the organizers of this type of excursion to expose innocent Belizeans to the risk of inadvertently entering into Guatemalan territory.” End quote.
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