Posted: Sunday, July 9, 2023. 6:33 pm CST.
By Breaking Belize News Staff: The Belize Territorial Volunteers (BTV), led by Wil Maheia, plan to establish a security operation at the Sarstoon Forward Operating Base, reportedly abandoned due to the absence of a continuous military presence and structural instability caused by coastal erosion. According to Maheia, the BTV reached out to the military to offer assistance in managing erosion and rebuilding the sea walls but received no response, as reported by the Amandala.
“We believe it is important for the base to be there, and for Belizeans to be there, and to establish a presence on the Sarstoon,” Maheia announced during a Zoom press briefing on Tuesday, July 4.
The Sarstoon Forward Operating Base, opened in 2016, was meant to house a 24-hour military operation to assert Belizean presence in the tense waters of the Sarstoon River. Guatemalan soldiers frequent this area, heightening the need for a permanent presence. However, erosion issues have caused significant damage, necessitating the temporary evacuation of the Belize Defence Force (BDF) troops.
Brigadier General Azariel Loria, Commander of the Belize Defence Force, refuted the claims of the BTV’s leader, insisting they hadn’t granted the group permission to occupy the base. “That building belongs to the Ministry of National Defence and Border Security, and we have not given authority or permission for anyone else to occupy it,” he told the Amandala.
Contrary to Maheia’s assertions of abandonment, Brigadier General Loria said BDF soldiers have patrolled the area bordering Guatemala daily for the past two weeks.
The BTV, unfazed by Loria’s remarks, stated plans to occupy the base on Saturday, July 8, unless a round-the-clock military presence is reinstated. The Brigadier General did not disclose their response to this potential action, noting that the battalion commander in the south has received orders regarding BTV’s planned occupation.
Despite the dispute, all parties agree that the Sarstoon Forward Operating Base requires significant renovations. These improvements, first outlined by the Minister of Defence in December 2022, have yet to begin.
“We are crunched for resources, but now we have the funding. We had the funding since we got the new fiscal year, and we are working towards it,” Brigadier General Loria stated, addressing the delay.
Wil Maheia remains committed to supporting the base’s restoration, highlighting BTV’s past success in environmental conservation. “We have Ewart Garbutt and all those volunteers who saved Silk Caye, a whole entire island, and they did that in a month,” he commented to the Amandala.
However, Brigadier General Loria declined BTV’s help, preferring a long-term solution to the base’s erosion problem. He reiterated the military’s intention to maintain a permanent station in the region, underscoring the base’s strategic importance.
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