Letters — 24 September 2016
Mario Lara writes Foreign Affairs Minister Elrington

Monday, September 19, 2016

Dear Honorable Minister of Foreign Affairs and/or CEO,

On Saturday, September 17, 2016, I was on a support boat that travelled to Sarstoon Island as part of the first ever Sarstoon Island Eco Challenge where several kayakers and canoers participated in a race from Barranco village to the Sarstoon Island, around it, and back.

I personnally observed Guatemalan military personnel and vessels in Belizean waters in front of our forward operating base. A Guatemalan military vessel followed one of the kayaks participating in the race completely around the Sarstoon Island. A drone operated by Guatemalan military also entered Belizean airspace. There is video proof of this available and I believe that our Belizean Coast Guard can confirm for you that this indeed occurred.

I fully understand the need for diplomacy. However, how is it that armed Guatemala military personnel and vessels are allowed in Belizean territory? Do the confidence-building measures allow for this? If not, why are we not lodging any complaints with OAS, UN, and the United States who supply Guatemala with military weapons?

Also, I observed many Guatemalan nationals fishing in Belizean waters with gill nets. Are permits issued to Guatemalan nationals to fish in Belizean waters? Are gill nets allowed?

Finally, there is a problem with the vast amount of pollutants (styro-foam, plastic bottles, and all sorts of nasty debris) washing up onto our Belizean shores and deteriorating our environment. There is no doubt that much of this is coming from Guatemala and Honduras. What efforts are underway to address this and other regional concerns affecting this area?

I would welcome an opportunity to meet with you, discuss this matter over the phone, or receive a detailed response via e-mail.

Sincerely and very respectfully,

Mario Lara

P.S. — I am a born Belizean with dual nationality living in the United Sates. I am on vacation here in Belize until Friday, September 23. Your prompt response would be greatly appreciated.

As a U.S. citizen who served in the U.S. Army, I am also copying this to the U.S. Embassy in Belize to ensure that they are aware of the situation and the concerns about the United States government supplying military arms to Guatemala, which is acting in an aggressive behavior towards Belizean (as well as U.S.) citizens in the area.

Copy to:  Ministry of Natural Resources; Ministry of Defence

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