CHIQUIBUL, Cayo District, Mon. May 16, 2016–Just as Belize and the Republic of Guatemala are preparing to enter talks in Ankara, Turkey, this weekend over what a Government of Belize press office release described today as “a cooperation mechanism for the Sarstoon River,” another incident involving the Belize Defence Force (BDF) and Guatemalans who were found to be illegally panning for gold in Belize occurred last Friday night, May 13, in the Chiquibul Forest Reserve.
A government press release dated Saturday, May 14, explained that a joint patrol involving BDF soldiers and members of the Belize Police Department and Friends for Conservation and Development encountered a group of between 10 and 15 Guatemalans in the Ceibo Chico area of the Chiquibul Forest Reserve.
The government release said the encounter took place around 7:45 p.m. on Friday some 7.0 kilometers east of the border, which is in Belize territory.
“The Belizean patrol detained three Guatemalan nationals, Carlos Roberto Perez Hernandez, 23; Edin Alexander Escobar Garcia, 17, and Solomon Martinez Pasqual, 21,” stated the release.
The press release added, “The patrol reported that Carlos Roberto Perez Hernandez advanced towards a member of the patrol in an aggressive manner with a machete and the officer fired a warning shot in the air, but Hernandez continued to advance. The officer then fired a second shot in self-defense and wounded Hernandez in the upper left arm.”
The patrol rendered first aid to Hernandez and he was later taken to the San Ignacio Hospital, where he was treated and then released back into police custody, the release said at its conclusion.
By Sunday, May 15, however, the Guatemalan government went on another international public relations offensive, disregarding the facts once again and accusing Belize military personnel of excessive force during the arrest, according to information presented in a BBC report yesterday, Sunday, May 15.
The Guatemalan government had reacted in a similar fashion when a Guatemalan teenager was shot and killed last month. They made pronouncements without ascertaining the facts of what happened, and the specific circumstances and sequence of events that led to such an incident, and it quickly became clear to many that they were not interested in confirming the facts, but in shaping a storyline that would suit the course of action they wanted to take.
“The Guatemalan Foreign Ministry rejected Belize’s version of events. It said that one person with a machete could not attack a ‘properly equipped and armed’ patrol,” the BBC reported.