BELIZE CITY, Thurs. Dec. 12, 2015–The question of how many Belize Defence Force (BDF) soldiers are currently manning the Chiquibul National Park – the area where incursions by Guatemalans is the most problematic – was raised today when our newspaper spoke with BDF Commander David Jones about the proposition that more BDF officers should be deployed to protect the country’s borders.
Jones told us that he could not disclose the information to us, since we would, in turn, make it public. We asked him if he could at least indicate what percentage of the force is deployed to the border, since he could not tell us exactly how many, but he also declined to provide that information. We asked how many soldiers are deployed to man a conservation post, but he also refused to disclose that information.
“We have soldiers in there,” he asserted, adamant that he won’t tell us how many.
According to Commander Jones, “We have arrested the situation quite a bit.”
He said that they plan to establish a new conservation post at Cebada; however, the challenge is getting an access road pushed through. We asked how far the nearest access point is to the post, and he said it is roughly 20 miles.
According to Jones, the Government has pledged to provide funds for the access road; funds have already been earmarked for the conservation post, and a contractor has already been engaged.
“We are continuously patrolling the area. It’s not just the Chiquibul… We have to patrol the entire length of the border… The Chiquibul is not even a third of the area,” Jones told us.
According to the Commander, Belize and Guatemala military officers continue to engage in regular quarterly meetings, as well as link-up patrols, which are done weekly at different locations on Belize’s western border with Guatemala.
We also asked the commander for an update on the report that the BDF would be obtaining a few military crafts. He told us that the BELL-407 chopper—the same one which mysteriously landed in Belize last August and was abandoned—would be put into operation next year.
Commander Jones said that they have received an official letter stating that the chopper now belongs to the BDF. He said that the chopper would help the BDF to deploy and extract troops from the jungle, as well as to transport persons detained for illegal activities in the area.
Two more aircrafts are to be imported from Taiwan, but those will only be deployed after training, which Jones expects would also be undertaken in 2016.