Features — 19 May 2015 — by Kareem Clarke
NTVs head to Garbutt’s Falls

BENQUE VIEJO DEL CARMEN, Cayo District, Mon. May 18, 2015–A large gathering of almost 200 nationalistic citizens, mostly from the Orange Walk District, joined the Northern Territorial Volunteers (NTV) yesterday, Sunday, as the border advocacy group ventured out on another of its customary expeditions – this time to Garbutt’s Falls in the Cayo District.

Located just about a hundred feet from the Benque border, the Garbutt’s Falls border marker is considered one of the most easily accessible boundary points as compared to Gracias Adios, deep in southern Belize, and Aguas Turbias in the Orange Walk District, which is the intersection point of the Mexican, Belizean and Guatemalan borders.

Amandala accompanied the crowd of men, women and children as they made the 10-minute journey along the river’s edge to assist in the refurbishment of the long-dilapidated marker.

After a brief ceremony which included the singing of the Belizean National Anthem, and recital of the National Prayer, as well as speeches from historian and former politician, “Don” Hector Silva, and Belize Territorial Volunteers (BTV) leaders, the Garbutt Falls Monument, which is notably on the verge of keeling over from the slope on which it is positioned, was freshly painted.

We later spoke to Antonio Giovanni De La Fuente about the four busloads of Orange Walkeños that came out to be a part of the activity.

He said, “All we did was to say that we are going to the Garbutt’s Falls Monument and the people of Orange Walk just turned out. We had to close off at four buses and I’m sure we could have had more, but because we knew that we would not be accompanied by any security forces today, we brought 4 buses only.”

“The people of Belize seem to be waking up and seem to want to come to visit their border points now, so that’s why this group [called the NTV] will not cease from its activities of taking Belizeans to their border monuments. We have effectively become a tour group and as long as Belizeans want to go, we encourage others to take them to the monuments and teach them that there are three monuments because we were not taught that in primary school,” he went on to say.

De La Fuente also lamented the fact, that authorities have seemingly turned a blind eye, as it relates to the upkeep of the general area surrounding the Garbutt’s Falls border marker.
He described the area – which was teeming with filth – as a “disaster”, and added that “nobody seems to care what’s happening behind here. This highway for illegal activities is well-trod and happening right under the nose of the Belizean immigration [authorities].”

“We brought some paint for the monument although it seems to want to topple over pretty soon, but I hope they will fix it before the rain starts”, he stressed.

BTV leader, Wil Maheia, was ecstatic at the massive turnout and referred to it as a “powerful statement” on the part of the Belizean people who have rejected the idea of resolving the unending Belize/Guatemala territorial dispute via the International Court of Justice (ICJ).

He said, “I’m happy to see the hundreds of Belizeans here who came to show solidarity and show the government that, ‘yes indeed, we do have a border.’ There’s nothing artificial about Garbutt’s Falls. I don’t know why the [Foreign Minister] insists that there is no clear indication of our border, but I would like to appeal to them to listen to the people who are saying no to the ICJ. If we go to the ICJ, we can lose land and sea, so it would be ridiculous for us to put our country at stake. The statement being made today is a very powerful statement, and I hope the government of the day takes charge and do what is right for Belize – say no to the ICJ and let’s maintain our borders.”

Maheia, who also serves as the leader of the People’s National Party (PNP), was joined by fellow “third party” political aspirants such as Robert “Bobby” Lopez and Paco Smith of the Vision Inspired by the People (VIP).

When we asked him about their participation, Maheia explained that “This is not a political or PUP thing, and not a VIP or PNP thing. This is a time when we unite across party lines and show that Belizeans and our country are first…This is the biggest gathering, the movement is growing and Belizeans are becoming more and more conscious.”

Well-known cane farmer and activist, Alfredo “Fred” Ortega, who brought out several members of his family, told us that they decided to visit the site because “It’s important that all Belizeans get to know where our border markers are.”

“So many of us have lived in Belize for so many years and many of us don’t get the opportunity to visit our border boundaries. I think that it is important that our schools put it in their curriculum [too], so that our children can start to learn about our border markers and the history behind it, how they [the borders] were developed, and who were the persons behind it”, he remarked.

After the 2-hour ceremony concluded, the group stopped in at the Xunantunich Archaeological Site while on their return trip.

During a previous NTV visit, to the Gracias a Dios border marker at the end of February, 37 volunteers, who had gone to place a bronze plaque with the name “Belize” on that monument, were hauled off to Livingston, Guatemala after elements of the Guatemalan Navy intercepted them 8 hours after the excursion had mistakenly entered Guatemalan waters for a few minutes.

Less than a month later, the plaque was mysteriously removed – presumably for its monetary value – without even the slightest response from Belizean or Guatemalan authorities.

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