Headline — 11 June 2013 — by Adele Ramos
Kaibiles for Petén-Belize border

Guat prez Pérez Molina had said he would use the Kaibiles “in anti-narcotics efforts”

Amandala has confirmed from official sources in Belize that the Guatemalan military plans to beef up its presence inside the Petén, right next to Belize’s Western border, with a deployment of its elite special forces – the Kaibiles.

In April we reported that Guatemala’s military is acquiring six state-of-the-art light attack planes: A-29 Super Tucano airplanes, from Brazil. Guatemalan officials have indicated that the planes would be used in anti-narcotics operations, as well as in efforts to combat deforestation caused by illegal logging and other unsustainable activities in the said Petén region.

Chief Executive Officer in the Belize Ministry of National Security, Ret’d BDF Col. George Lovell, said that he learned about a month ago of Guatemala’s plans to put a number of battalions in Petén, near the Belize border, and those battalions “could be made up of Kaibiles.”

“We are concerned. We look at these things and… make an assessment of what is the implication of the amassing of numbers along the borders,” said Lovell.

He added that discussions about such issues take place at a military-to-military level and even in regional meetings. This particular issue was raised with Guatemala at the level of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and Guatemala said that they are repositioning troops, but not indicating a posture of aggression towards Belize, the CEO said.

Belize Ambassador to Guatemala, H.E. Alfredo Martinez, confirmed that the amassing of military troops in Petén, adjacent to Belize, is something Guatemala has announced in the past; however, the deployment has been announced in relation to anti-narcotics efforts, he told us, not as a reaction to the recent shooting of a Guatemalan by Belize security forces.

The Ambassador said that if such troops are deployed within a kilometer of the Belize-Guatemala border—what the Guatemalans call the “adjacency zone”—they would have to notify Belize.

According to the Ambassador, the Kaibiles are also posted for training in Poptún City, Petén, and that is “very close to Belize.”

Guatemala president Otto Pérez Molina had signaled back in 2012 that he would use the Kaibiles in anti-narcotics efforts. Subsequent reports spoke of a deployment of this military unit to the Guatemala-Mexico border.

A report now appearing in the Prensa Libre, one of Guatemala’s leading newspapers, indicates that Guatemala’s Ministry of Defense has indicated plans to redeploy the Kaibiles, specifically in areas near the Belize-Guatemala border, after a Guatemalan was recently shot by Belizean military.

The report said that Minister Ulises Anzueto had indicated that the “attack” occurred in Río Blanco, “near Tikalito,” on the Guatemalan side, in Flores Chiquibul, Dolores, Petén.

Ambassador Martinez said that they don’t go by what Prensa Libre says. He told us there has been no formal protest note from the Government of Guatemala in relation to the latest shooting incident involving the Guatemalan who, Belizean authorities said, appears to have come illegally into Belize to farm.

“As far as we are concerned, there is no diplomatic note of protest,” said Martinez. Asked if there is any dispute over the location where the incident happened, he said, “As far as I know, no…”

However, both Ambassador Martinez and CEO Lovell told Amandala that the Organization of American States (OAS) had been asked to conduct a verification exercise.

Col. Lovell said that the OAS has not yet reported back to his Ministry, but he was informed earlier today that the OAS wanted to go back to the area with some metal detectors to see if they could find any other “empty cases or rounds.”

According to Ambassador Martinez, the report from the Belize Defence Force has indicated that the incident happened 1.8 kilometers inside Belize, well beyond the 1-kilometer zone included in what Guatemala calls “the adjacency zone.”

The Ambassador said that because of the unfounded territorial claim Guatemala continues to maintain over Belize, they tend to hold the position that any such incident happens in Guatemala. It could be 10 miles inside Belize, and that would be their official line, he said. “We don’t pay them any mind when they do that,” the Ambassador told us.

The Ambassador said that the BDF do not fire unless they are fired upon, and in this case, “there was aggressive action…”

He said that the OAS was asked to conduct a verification exercise “for the sake of transparency.”

Lovell told us that Belize police are also conducting a separate investigation into the incident.

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