Guatemalans have no respect for their side of the “Adjacency Zone” – much development on their side of the border in the restricted Zone, and the OAS knows this
“They are taking us for a joke,” says Wil Maheia
The Belize Territorial Volunteers (BTV) headed west to the Belize-Guatemala border over the weekend, in their second activity to begin the on-the-ground clearing of the border, which they contend will serve not just to show where Guatemala ends and Belize begins, but which they believe should also mitigate escalating incursions inside Belizean territory by Guatemalans who venture over to hunt, log, farm, and cut xate palm for sale on local and foreign markets.
However, when the team of about 60 persons, ready with cutlasses to chop, arrived at the border, they found that the area had already been extensively developed for agriculture, with a road depicting where the border is located, so not much chopping was needed.
“We couldn’t clear anything. Everything was already cleared,” BTV founder, Wil Maheia, told Amandala.
Two officials of the Organization of American States (OAS) were there at the site, Maheia said. They had been asked to attend as observers.
A third person with a camera, who may have been a photographer for Guatemala’s Prensa Libre newspaper, was seen in the background, Maheia added.
According to Maheia, the OAS rep tried his best to discourage the BTV from proceeding west, and kept telling them: “this is the line…”
However, Maheia said, the BTV’s GPS device, which gave them the geographic readings where they were standing, indicated that they had a couple hundred meters more to go before reaching the border.
A Maya of Guatemalan ancestry but who was born and raised in Dolores on the Belize side of the border told KREM News’ Perry Smith that from the time he was born, he knew that the border was further west.
When they ventured further west, the BTV was surprised to see that big business interests have developed lands on the Guatemalan side of the border, right up to a recently developed road that runs along the Belize-Guatemala border. They also had to walk through a corn field which the team said was illegally planted on the Belize side of the border.
Maheia told our newspaper that a plantation of what seems to be African Palm was seen right next to the border.
This is notwithstanding the agreement the countries have made under the OAS, that there should be no developments in what they call “the adjacency zone” – which is essentially that area spanning a kilometer on either side of the Belize-Guatemala border. The BTV said that by all appearances, Guatemala has not been respecting that agreement.
Maheia told Amandala that the OAS reps, who identified themselves as Sergio Benitez, Director Office of the General Secretariat in the Adjacency Zone, and Juan Carlos, an OAS rep of Honduras, drove right up to that same spot in their Land Cruiser, using the road on the Guatemalan side. The BTV had to hike arduous terrain from the Belize side to get to the same spot.
The BTV believes that the reason the OAS reps did not want them to proceed further west is because they did not want the Belizeans to see the developments that have been occurring on the Guatemalan side of the border.
Maheia told us that he saw trucks and containers in the area on the Belize-Guatemala border.
“They are taking us for a joke,” he commented, saying that the developments are contrary to the agreements that say that there should be no new developments in “the adjacency zone.”
“We should not accept an adjacency zone,” Maheia urged. “We should develop, demarcate and man our border.”
He told us that they plan to proceed with tree planting along the border in just a few weeks. The BTV intends to plant mahogany, Belize’s national tree, along the border on April 30, to mark the date that the 1859 Boundary Treaty was signed by Britain and Guatemala.
In the summer, he said, they intend to initiate a cacao planting project along the border for children, who can reap the fruits to pay for their educational expenses.