Features — 30 April 2016 — by Charles X
Battle for Sarstoon, Battle for Belize – a test of will

BELIZE CITY, Wed. Apr. 27, 2016–Everybody knows that Guatemala can overrun Belize militarily anytime it wishes. At a cost, no doubt, both in casualties (BDF soldiers will not just lie down and surrender, and they are known sharpshooters) and in their international image, where the stark violation of international law and code of conduct in the League of Nations is concerned. Its pariah status would be effectively confirmed and broadcast to the world. But so is the image of Israel, a very close ally of Guatemala, and they seem not to be bothered by that. They still have the support of the USA.

But there is something else, which has heretofore not been brought up; so said C.B. Hyde today. At the time Belize became independent, it almost immediately became a member of the British Commonwealth of Nations. So that, although we say we are “independent,” the Queen of England is still our official “Head of State,” represented in Belize by the Governor General.

That is interesting. With all her belligerence, and Belize not having an official “Defence Guarantee,” Guatemala knows this; perhaps that’s why she only keeps playing the bullying and intimidation game to get Belizeans to cower and bow down to her wishes. And, for fear of the large Guatemalan army and their reputation, our Foreign Minister and Prime Minister have been dutifully following the path of appeasement set by their Guatemalan counterparts.

Appeasement of a bully

But Belizeans are getting more and more fed up with the abuse that this policy has wrought upon our land, our sea and our people. “From proud Rio Hondo to old Sarstoon” means something to Belizeans; but it seems our leaders, for fear of military conflict against the much larger Guatemala, are willing to abide by “protocols” set by the Guatemalans. Violating our independence constitution and the very foundation of accepted international law and treaties, specifically the 1859 boundary treaty, Guatemala has “facily” and arrogantly declared that it will no longer respect the boundary line at the Sarstoon; and more than that, it will now assume ownership and sovereignty over the whole of the Sarstoon. And our elected leaders agree to tolerate that for now, while they plan to discuss with the Guatemalans new “protocols” for movement in the Sarstoon.

What the heck!! What the Guatemalans did was declare war on Belize! And our leaders’ response is to “stand down” (surrender), while we schedule discussions with Guatemala to form some new “protocols” at the Sarstoon. Are you crazy?! You say you are taking over my country, which is what that means (give an inch, then a mile…), and our leaders are sitting tight and talking about working out new “protocols” with the invader, just so we don’t have war and bloodshed? Do the Guatemalans want war and bloodshed, why they have made this outrageous and volatile move? Or is it that they have accurately calculated the wimp mentality and fearmongering dominating the Belizean leadership. If a bully knows you will back down, he will grind you into the dust.

“If a man has not found something he is willing to die for, then he is not fit to live.” Somebody (Martin Luther King?) said that.

Blame the Guatemalan president/government

All Belizeans, including the BDF soldiers involved in the shooting incident, lament the death of a 13-year-old Guatemalan boy in the dead of night inside Belizean territory. Guatemalan leaders are partly to blame for this most unfortunate incident, because they make little effort to educate their people that Belize is an independent nation, and our border should be respected. Which nation on planet earth will not protect its borders from intruders; and which border defence soldiers on planet earth, if in the dead of night come under hostile fire, will not respond in kind? The Guatemalan president used the death of the little boy, whose blood is on HIS hands, to try and rile up the Guatemalan people against Belize and our BDF soldiers. That little boy should be in school in Guatemala, not out in the night intruding into Belizean territory. And the parents also are to blame, for following their Guatemalan president’s propaganda and taking weapons along while intruding in Belizean territory, and using such weapons to aggress the Belizean defence soldiers.

Belizean and Guatemalan citizens are the best of friends in many cases; we share a lot in common. But the Guatemalan president and his military backers, who encourage Guatemalans to trespass on Belizean land, would like to see the Guatemalan people turn against the Belizean people, who have always welcomed them with open arms. That will not happen. The staged fiasco with the reports of Guatemalan prisoners attacking Belizean prisoner Budna in a Guatemalan jail, is only to help foment distrust and animosity between our two peoples. It will not happen.

The Guatemalan people are in the midst of their own struggle against their government’s collusion with large multinational companies, who are taking away their lands, trying to build big dams and mine for minerals in areas which will severely pollute their precious water resources, and cripple their means of livelihood. The Belizean people have common cause with the Guatemalan people; we are also engaged in our own campaigns against our government’s easy facilitation of big outside interests wanting to drill for oil on our precious Barrier Reef, wantonly destroying our mangrove islands in the name of tourism development, and giving concessions and tax holidays to wealthy foreigners, while local industries are struggling under burdensome taxes.

Belize is small, but has big connections

Belize only has a population of 350,000, while Guatemala is over 13,000,000, with a standing army of some 30,000 soldiers, while our BDF has a headcount of only about 1,500. So we think of ourselves as small; and we are. But according to C.B. Hyde, by virtue of our membership in the British Commonwealth, we have access to a much larger body of nations and people for support; which would not be the case if we were already a republic, as reportedly Jamaica is intending to become soon. But, as an island, they do not have a border problem with anyone.

C.B. Hyde says that, while we are still a part of the British Commonwealth of Nations, our prime minister has the facility to request an audience with the Queen, our official head of state, and seek her intercession to see that her Caribbean “possession” does not have its territorial integrity violated by a much larger and belligerent neighbor. It is incumbent on Her Majesty to come to the aid of her dominions in times of crisis. It wouldn’t take much to put Guatemala in her place. With this blatant violation of the 1859 border treaty, made between Great Britain and Guatemala, Her Majesty could be moved to exert her influence where it matters most, in convincing Guatemala to recede to the accepted border line at the Sarstoon, and refrain from her adventurous posturing.

A question of leadership

But our prime minister has done no such thing. He has consistently plied the route of discussion and handshaking with the Guatemalan president and foreign minister; and every step of the way they insult us with their outrageous declaration of disrespect for our border.

So, according to our P.M. in his press conference on Monday, Belizeans must be thankful for being “unscathed” after the Guatemalan threatening deployment of forces on the western border over the past weekend. That is the narrative of our prime minister. The bluff of the belligerent bully has obviously worked. And now our P.M. is running in panic mode, warning our BTV not to proceed with their planned expedition to the Sarstoon to mark the 157th anniversary of the signing of the 1859 Border Treaty. Imagine, for fear of Guatemalan aggression, we are told to refrain from visiting our own border, which has now been occupied by enemy forces. So, how many “square centimeters” of Belize have you given up so far in your third term, Mr. P.M.?

Unless and until this matter is taken up at the ICJ, the border between Guatemala and Belize remains as in the 1859 border treaty, and as on the independence of Belize on September 21, 1981. No less than the United Nations General Assembly declared that. Who is Guatemala to declare otherwise? Who are we to run scared of this belligerent bully?

Guatemala es nuestro

Guatemala cannot sustain a war against any international force, or her government will fall down flat within from indigenous and citizens’ rights insurgencies. Belize’s leaders look easy, but the rich Guatemalan elite, who control the military and the government, know better than to discount the fighting spirit of our Belize Defence Force. History has recorded the tenacity of “los diablos del infierno.” Besides, touch Belize, and you start a revolution the likes of which you never imagined at home, Mr. Morales. Freedom-loving Belizeans will help our Guatemalan brothers and sisters to rid themselves of the domination and exploitation of the oligarchical ruling politburo that has kept them in landless poverty and subjugation.

Rather than following the misleading trick by their corrupt leaders in saying “Belice es nuestro,” our Guatemalan brothers and sisters need to turn the phrase around and start demanding of their leaders that “Guatemala es nuestro,” and that they want and demand their rights to land and clean water for healthy living. Belize is free, and Guatemala can be free also. Rise up, our Guatemalan brothers and sisters; and take back your country from the corrupt military oligarchs that have kept you landless and poor, while they have all the land and live in the lap of luxury! Tell your leaders to “leave Belize alone,” and attend to the needs of the Guatemalan people!

This land is my land

A leader cannot be a leader of a people, if he cannot look an enemy in the eye, and say to that enemy – My friend, we can discuss many things, and try to agree on many others, and disagree on some; but there is a line that you will not cross, and I will not cross. Therein lies our respect for each other. This land is my land; your land is your land. What I am saying to you here and now, is that, it is not possible for you or anyone to scare me into giving up my land. No matter how big your army, how many guns or tanks, how many you have killed before, and how many more you are willing to kill. You will have to kill me, and it will not be without a fight. But you cannot get me to willingly give you my land.

When P.M. Dean O. Barrow told Admiral John Borland, who was standing his ground on Sarstoon Island, Belizean land, with the Belizean flag, to “stand down,” he ceased being, in my mind, the prime minister of Belize. This cowardly act, in violation of our Constitution, has so emboldened the belligerent bully, that now they are claiming sovereignty over the whole of the Sarstoon. And our P.M. is still talking about discussing “protocols” for the Sarstoon with Guatemala? What kind of leadership is this?

Battle for Belize

Either you are prepared to stand and fight, and let the belligerent bully know that, standing our ground on the established and time-honored border line, unless and until the ICJ decides otherwise; or you send out a hue and cry, “bawl and holler” to the whole world about the atrocity that the belligerent bully is attempting to do to us at the Sarstoon. But no, our leaders do neither. They are learned attorneys. They will discuss “protocols” with their Guatemalan friends. Shaking hands and back-slapping their Guatemalan counterparts. And here we are now. Our prime minister used the strongest possible language to dissuade “these people,” “those people,” the “misguided patriots,” Belize Territorial Volunteers, from going on their peaceful expedition to commemorate the anniversary of the 1859 treaty that established the boundaries of our nation, Belize. How can we sing our national anthem…?

“There is nothing to fear but fear itself.” Inform the Guatemalan high command, civilian and military; inform the OAS; inform CARICOM; inform the American Ambassador; inform the British High Commission; inform the Secretary General of the United Nations; inform Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth the Second; inform our friends to the north, Mexico; inform our other Central American neighbors – Honduras, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Costa Rica and Panama; let the whole world know, that the Belize Territorial Volunteers will be making a peaceful journey by boat around our southern border line at the Sarstoon, as established and recognized by the United Nations Charter on Belize, Independence Day on September 21, 1981. The Belize Territorial Volunteers are a peaceful, unarmed, patriotic group of civilians who believe that our borders are sacred, the words of our national anthem have meaning – “…from proud Rio Hondo to old Sarstoon…” – and no foreign nation has the right to stop Belizeans from traversing their own territory – Land of the Free by the Carib Sea.

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