SARSTOON RIVER, Toledo District, Wed. Apr. 20, 2016–The top-ranking members of the Belize National Security apparatus, the Minister of National Security, the Coast Guard Commander and the Belize Defence Force Commander, all stood powerless just minutes after they had declared open the Forward Operating Base (FOB) on the northern bank of the Sarstoon River when a Guatemalan drone flew overhead, presumably on a video intelligence-gathering flight from across the Guatemalan base on the south side of the river.
In December, when the ground-breaking ceremonies for the construction of the FOB were held, a similar incident of Guatemalan violation of Belize airspace occurred, involving a Guatemalan drone flying over the FOB.
That first fly-over, however, was longer than today’s, which only lasted for approximately five minutes, and that could have been because the Guatemalans saw the Belize Coast Guard Commander take a rifle from one of his men on the dock, so the drone quickly went back and landed on its Guatemalan base.
Belize Coast Guard Commander, Rear Admiral John Borland, was asked whether or not the drone flight over the FOB is a violation of Belize sovereign airspace, and he replied that it was indeed a violation.
“Of course it is. It is breach of our security and it’s an act of brazenness on whoever sent that drone over here and it should not be condoned and it should be addressed. The same thing happened when we were here for the opening, the ground-breaking ceremony, and again it’s been repeated. We did address it at that time. It was not a welcome gesture for whoever is responsible and I hope we do so again. It should not be countenanced; it is a breach of our sovereignty, a breach of our airspace and it is nothing but outrightly disrespectful,” he said.
When he was asked, however, if Belize should have been justified in doing whatever was necessary to get the drone out of Belizean airspace, Admiral Borland replied: “Justified in doing whatever it takes has to be broken down. I think the first measure is to address it seriously at levels above me that it not be countenanced, not be tolerated, and not be repeated, but I feel completely disrespected today to see it repeated after the first time, and we addressed it and we thought the act would be discontinued.”
One reporter asked the Coast Guard Admiral, “Sir, we saw as well and correct me if I’m wrong, it appeared that you took it upon yourself, not that it was a directive from the Minister who stood there and said it’s in our airspace, did you take it upon yourself to walk out there on the dock and point toward it [with a rifle] as if you were going to shoot it down?”
Admiral Borland replied, “”Well, I wasn’t going to shoot it down; all I was trying to do was send a message that the thing was in our airspace and it should leave.”
Amandala asked Minister of National Security John Saldivar if we should have taken down the drone.
“Well, I think you are making an assumption as to the source of the drone; the last time one such event had occurred, we were told that it was the Guatemalan media, but that aside, yes it is an invasion of our airspace and I believe you saw that we were about to take appropriate action.”
The Minister’s “about to take appropriate action,” however, was not in sync with the remark of Admiral Borland, who was asked if he had intended to shoot down the drone, and pointedly replied that he had not intended to shoot it down.