Posted: Monday, September 26, 2016. 1:32 p.m. CST.
By BBN Staff: As anticipated, Foreign Minister Wilfred Elrington made mention of Guatemala’s hostile behavior towards Belize in his speech after Guatemalan President Jimmy Morales told the UN that Belize wasn’t cooperating as a good neighbor.
“Our diversity, national identity and pride has long been a source of strength for our people. We have never cowered in the face of repeated threats to our security by our neighbour Guatemala. We remain steadfast in our resolve to protect and preserve our sovereignty and territorial integrity. Though many a peril lurks along our forested borders, and in our maritime and riverine territories, we determinedly protect and patrol our borders to ensure the safety and security of our homeland. Simultaneously our untiring diplomats strive mightily to resolve the longstanding territorial dispute, our paramount foreign policy goal, by utilizing every diplomatic channel and means at their disposal,” Elrington said in his speech.
“Regretfully, though not unpredictably, in the last eighteen months, there have been hostile incidents between civilian and military personnel of both Belize and Guatemala in the Sarstoon River, our southern border. Guatemalan naval personnel repeatedly impeded the peaceful ingress and egress of Belizeans both civilian and military on the River, wrongfully claiming the river to be theirs. However, as the northern side of the river is Belizean territory, the unimpeded use and enjoyment of that side of the river is the right of every Belizean citizen. Belize therefore promptly and properly protested each such attempt. Additionally, we engaged our Guatemalan counterparts in dialogue, under the good offices of the Secretary General of the Organization of American States with a view to putting a speedy end to that potentially perilous practice,” the Foreign Minister said.
Elrington also spoke about the independent OAS report on the shooting of the Guatemalan minor.
Over 1,000 words of his 2,613 words speech was on Guatemala’s aggressive and antagonistic behavior toward Belize.
“Belize’s only wish is to live in peace and harmony with all our neighbours, including Guatemala. We fully appreciate that with each passing day with more and more Guatemalans trespassing into our country, despoiling our natural resources and engaging in illegal and destructive activities, the potential for violent incidents and conflicts becomes more and more probable and problematic. This situation makes for a prompt and peaceful end to this anachronistic and unfounded claim over our country an urgent imperative,” the Foreign Minister argued.
He also stated that continuous illegal entry by armed trespassers from Guatemala into our western border persists despite Belize’s efforts to patrol. “These trespassers pan for gold, hunt for wild game and birds, pillage our Mayan temples, illegal logging, cultivate crops including marijuana. These occurrence happen day and night. Our waters have been compromised in this process and our coral reefs choked to death by sediments that run off mountain sides. This has a devastating impact on our environment”, he stressed.
Very importantly, he made mention of the murder of Special Constable Danny Conorquie and the ambushing of a BDF sergeant who was shot by Guatemalan trespassers early this year.
He explained that to Belize’s regret, a Guatemalan minor was fatally shot when he and his father and brother came in contact with a Belizean patrol in our protected National park in the dead of the night. The Belize police began investigation immediately and officials from the OAS commenced their own investigation. Belize, at the request from Guatemala, asked the secretary of the OAS to launch a special official independent investigation into the incident. The OAS commissioned two qualified specialists.
He also said that at that time, Guatemala expressed no reservation as to their competence, suitability or otherwise to undertake the investigation. The investigation revealed that prior to the incident, the minor was detained a month before by Belizean security personnel and carried a .22 caliber rifle and wild game. It also states that the deceased, his brother and father were in Belizean territory the night of the incident. None of the wounds inflicted were caused by weapons carried by personnel of the Belize defense force. Shots were fired by both groups the Guatemalans and the Belizean joint patrol. The morning after the incident, civilians and the Guatemalan army entered illegally, visited the site, contaminated the scene and withdrew and withheld evidence that could have been useful for the investigation, the report revealed.
He also shared the fact that Guatemala has launched a fanatical public relations campaign against Belize falsely alleging that the death of the minor was at the hands of the BDF. “The Guatemalan president publicly announced the increasing of troops along our western and southern borders. That investigation, however, is objective and impartial and established the fact of Belize’s correctness from the start. It absolves Belize of all blame of that incident”, he said. “Guatemala has publicly rejected that report which is unacceptable as they had specifically requested and agreed to this.”
Elrington also spoke on a number of other issues at the assembly including the recent Section 53 ruling.
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