MELCHOR DE MENCOS, Guatemala, Mon. May 30, 2016–Almost 500 Guatemalan farmers from 36 communities protested against the Belizean government on Sunday.
Several of the protesters carried caskets as they marched through the streets in an effort to highlight the deaths of several Guatemalans who, they allege, fell victim to the Belize Defence Force.
Yesterday’s protest was the result of a press release which invited the participation of farmers from Melchor de Mencos, Dolores, San Luis and Potun, all Guatemalan villages.
Initially, the protest was supposed to be an outcry against stagnant economic activity resulting from increased tensions between Belize and Guatemala. However, that initial protest was overshadowed by a biased press release that was sent out by the residents and business owners within Melchor de Mencos.
On Saturday, the organizers of that rally released a statement to Guatemalan media stating their purpose was to, “… express the pain of all farmers in the area of adjacency zone and to strongly express our protest against the bloodshed of defenseless peasants. We will strongly be expressing our rejection of the violation of human rights by Belizeans. We will be demonstrating how unanimous our interests are in the territorial dispute” (as translated by Plus TV).
The statement, further translated by Plus TV, revealed the aim of the protesters: “1. Peace: Our life is constantly of restlessness and anxiety. 2. Justice: For all outrages against us the peasants. 3. Respect: Respect our rights as humans, and not to be treated like animals. 4. Help: For all communities in the adjacency zone. 5. The territorial dispute is to be resolved immediately.”
The residents marched from the entrance of Melchor de Mencos, along the principal streets and then the march concluded at the bridge near the Belize-Guatemala border.
The strange thing about the protest, however, is that the farmers do not appear to know the facts about the death of the Guatemalan teenager, probably courtesy of the success of the unrelenting media assault by the Guatemalan government against Belize, short on facts but long on threats against Belizean sovereignty, to suit Guatemalan political expediency.
The Guatemalan farmers, for example, talk about the “bloodshed of defenseless peasants” and “the violation of human rights,” and say that they want “respect.” Unfortunately, many have not compared the human rights history of Belize and that of the armed forces within their own country. The contrast is startling. The record of Belizean armed forces is relatively pristine, and does not contain a history of human rights violations, or in fact a history of much violence of any sort.
Because of their lack of knowledge about the truth of the incident, they have not asked the questions, “What were the Belize soldiers supposed to do when they were fired upon at night in the jungle, and what was a 13-year-old boy doing in the company of men who were farming illegally almost half a mile in Belizean territory?”
The Guatemalan farmers who were protesting should remember that the incident took place not just a few hundred feet or yards in Belizean territory, but almost half a mile away from the border, and AT NIGHT! What were the Belizean soldiers supposed to do – just stand there and get shot?
The Guatemalan farmers want “respect.” Well, how about GIVING respect by respecting our borders, refraining from wielding threats and weapons against Belizean patrols that are trying to peacefully protect valuable natural reserves from being pillaged by intruders, and remembering that in Belizean territory, Belizean laws apply.
Guatemala is for Guatemalans, and Belize is for Belizeans.