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Belize Gov’t comments on Sarstoon River incident

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BELMOPAN, Belize (CMC) — The Belize Government is disputing reports made by the Belize Territorial Volunteers (BTV) that the Coast Guard and army did not intervene to prevent Guatemalan gunboats from preventing a BTI vessel from entering the Sarstoon River.

“Yes, as you guys know that we just got back from the Sarstoon area, not the Sarstoon island or not even the Sarstoon River because…as we approached the river there were three Guatemalan gunboats: one on the outskirts, which was the biggest gunboat and the two smaller ones blocking the channel where you enter the river, so we decided to call off our trip.

“There was no BDF (Belize Defence Force) or Coast Guard in sight, we didn’t want to go there just by ourselves without the BDF or Coast Guard around, so I can tell you right now that the mouth of the Sarstoon River is completely blocked for Belizeans, so Belizeans just can’t enter into the mouth of the Sarstoon right now,’ BTV representative Wil Maheia, told reporters.

The BTV is a group that predominantly promotes visits to the national border markers with Guatemala and Mexico.

But, in a brief statement, the Ministry of National Security said it wanted to clarify the situation that occurred on April 25 at the Sarstoon.

It said that contrary to reports by Maheia with regard to his attempted visit to the Sarstoon on April 25, the Belize Defence Force/Belize Coast Guard Forward Operating Base (Sarstoon FOB) was in fact completely aware of the events that occurred.

“The Sarstoon FOB reported that about 10:30 am on April 25, they observed a civilian vessel coming from the direction of Punta Gorda approaching the mouth of the Sarstoon and stopped about 1.5 km from the FOB.

“The patrol noticed that upon seeing the civilian vessel, the Guatemalan Armed Forces base deployed two Metal Shark vessels and a Columbian-type boat towards them. The BDF and BCG also deployed one of their Metal Shark boats towards the civilian vessel, but noted that it had turned around and was heading back towards Punta Gorda,” the statement said.

But the chairman of the main opposition People’s United Party (PUP), Henry Charles Usher, said the incident “is just another case in violation of our territorial integrity in violation of our sovereignty.

“It’s really a violation of international law and it goes way beyond the Ministry of National Security just writing these protest notes or the Ministry of Foreign Affairs just writing these diplomatic, protest notes. omething has to be done about it and we have been saying this for years.”

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