OTOXHA VILLAGE, Toledo District, Thurs. June 7, 2018– A press release issued by the Ministry of National Security a little over a week ago had stated that the alcalde of Otoxha Village, which is located on the Temash River in the Toledo District, had reported that some villagers had noticed areas along the border, in Belizean territory, that had been illegally cleared.
When interviewed, Wil Maheia, head of the Belize Territorial Volunteers (BTV), had informed this newspaper that he and a group of BTV members had visited the site and they reported that they saw a large amount of deforestation. The Ministry of National Security had said that they would increase BDF presence in the area.
Today, we spoke to Maheia again, and he told us that he met with the villagers of Otoxha a few days ago, and they had requested assistance to begin clearing the border lines of the bushes that had grown over the years. They want to do this in an effort to clearly mark the starting point of the territory of Belize, so that Guatemalan farmers cannot claim ignorance.
Maheia recounted a time, during the 80’s and early 90’s, when the border was cleared and maintained from Gracias A Dios to Garbutt Falls. He said that the villagers near the border, with help from the BDF, were expected to upkeep the border in their area at the time.
Now, the villagers of Otoxha want to bring this practice back, and would be willing to dedicate their time and manpower to do so. They also want to reinstall pillars that were once there, every half mile or so, to mark the border as well.
The villagers requested the protection of the BDF so that they can avoid encounters with the Guatemalans who are there illegally, but they have not yet received a response from the authorities.
When asked who would ultimately make the decision that the villagers can begin clearing the border with the help of the BDF, Maheia said that it would be the Ministry of National Security.
Maheia also said that the villagers are waiting on a response, but when they decide to take action, the Belize Territorial Volunteers would also offer assistance to them.