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BDF opens Sarstoon Forward Operating Base; Guatemalan Armed Forces play spoiler on tour of Sarstoon Island

Posted: Friday, April 26, 2024. 2:38 pm CST.

By Aaron Humes: What should have been a day of triumph for the Belize Defence Force (BDF) with the formal re-opening of the Sarstoon Forward Operating Base (FOB) nearly threatened to become another international incident with the Guatemalan Armed Forces (GAF).

A formal statement from the Force indicated that as the official group of visitors to the base, including the Police, Customs, Immigration, Yaxche, and TIDE as well as the press, set off around 12:15 in the afternoon in three separate boats and entered the southern channel of the Sarstoon, the group encountered a Guatemalan Army patrol boat which demanded they leave and accused them of trespassing.

Force Commander Brigadier General Azariel Loria responded for the Belizean delegation clarifying that they were in Belizean waters and were entitled to passage without interruption. The BDF says that despite the explanation, the Guatemalan boat continued to trail behind the delegation, even as they navigated through the northern channel, remaining a few meters away from the FOB. Throughout the encounter, General Loria reiterated that the delegation was within Belizean waters, asserting their right to navigate freely. Despite the presence of the Guatemalan boat, the delegation completed their visit to the Sarstoon FOB without incident.

The Commander was sanguine about the incident afterward, telling reporters “It’s not frustrating to me because this is not the first time that they are there following us and we have been here on numerous occasions and they always follow us but we what we need to do it to have a bit of common sense and report it through the channels. It’s not for me to decide on what to do here, so I have directed my deputy commander, as soon as we reach camp, to document it, and send it to the Ministry of Defense and National Security and they, in turn, will send it to Foreign Affairs and then it becomes diplomatic, they will find a solution, they will know what else to do, to send a protest note to Guatemala, call them, I don’t know, that is above me,” adding, “We will keep patrolling what is ours and we will not stop.”

General Loria continued that Belize does not have to stoop to Guatemala’s level: “…our best weapon in this case is diplomacy. That is what we have to do. Diplomacy is our weapon, our pen is our sword, and that is how we have to treat it right now, to treat it diplomatically at this point in time.”

The Ministry of National Defence reaffirms Belize’s commitment to upholding its sovereignty and territorial integrity, ensuring its citizens’ and its personnel’s safety and security. The visit to the Sarstoon FOB underscores the collaborative efforts between the BDF, media, and interagency partners in promoting transparency and awareness of national security matters.

 

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