General — 01 April 2015 — by Kareem Clarke
Gracias a Dios border marker plaque removed

BELIZE/GUATEMALA BORDER, Mon. Mar. 30, 2015–A bronze plaque with the name “BELIZE” that was recently erected by the Northern Territorial Volunteers (NTV) at the border marker known as Gracias a Dios in southern Belize has been unceremoniously removed.

The incident is believed to have happened during the latter part of last week, and this past Saturday, March 28, exactly one month after the plaque was placed at the site, leader of the Belize Territorial Volunteers (the activist group that started the initiative), Wil Maheia, told us that they found out about what had occurred last Friday, but up to now, it is not certain who removed the plaque and what were their reasons for doing so.

In a response to the news on his social media page, Phillip De La Fuente, a member of the Orange Walk-based Northern Territorial Volunteers (NTV), which is an arm of the BTV, said, “[I] don’t know what to say. [I] feel a little numb…but we were expecting something like this to happen.”

We contacted Antonio Giovanni De La Fuente, who is also a part of the NTV, by text on Saturday, and he told us that he was not aware that the plaque had been removed.

Antonio De La Fuente was the one who led the fateful expedition to place the plaque at Gracias a Dios at the end of last month when the group of 37 Belizean men, women and minors was detained by Guatemalan military authorities while on their return trip through the Sarstoon River, which separates Belize and Guatemala to the south.

Interestingly, Minister of Foreign Affairs, Hon. Wilfred “Sedi” Elrington, during his presentation at the 2015/2016 budget debate last Friday at the National Assembly in Belmopan, extolled the Barrow administration for its work in relation to the Belize-Guatemala territorial dispute.

He said, “Over the [past] 7 years, we have not only worked out a protocol for when we have difficulties with the Guatemalans, but in fact, we have successfully avoided any serious problems with the Guatemalans.”

Elrington added that “to attract [foreign] investors, there must be peace and security” and “no investors will come into our country if we are in a state of war – whether cold or hot – with Guatemala.”

Before discussing the still unresolved murder of Special Police Constable, Danny Conorquie, which happened at the Caracol Archaeological Site in September of last year, the Foreign Minister asserted that his ministry efficiently resolved the recent encounter between the NTV volunteers and the Guatemala military, which intercepted the “misguided” NTVs, reportedly in Belizean waters, and took them to Livingston, a coastal community on the east coast of Guatemala, for an overnight.

He said, “When some of our misguided people went across into Guatemalan territory not too long ago, it was the people from our Ministry of Foreign Affairs to whom they turned in panic and fright, and quickly, expeditiously, without any fuss, we were able to bring them back to their loved ones safely and soundly.”

“I have heard irresponsible statements being made in this House in response to the death of poor Mr. Conorquie. Two points on it – one, we are not in a position to do anything until we have the information as to who caused the death. Once we have that information, we can take action, because if it is a domestic matter, it is not really the purview of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs; that’s for [the Ministry of] National Security”, he added.

Wil Maheia has also pointed out that some of the coconut trees that were recently replanted at the other border point near Jalacte Village, Toledo last Sunday, March 22, have already been uprooted sometime last week as well.

Nevertheless, Maheia maintained that he and his group of nationalists will not be deterred by this latest turn of events, and will continue manning and demarcating the seemingly unregulated border points to the west and south of Belize, despite government’s non-support.

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