BELIZE CITY, Thurs. Aug 20, 2015–Shortly before 1:00 p.m. on Sunday, Wil Maheia, the founder of the Belize Territorial Volunteers (BTV), expressed his frustration with the Organization of American States Observers (OAS), who were out on the Sarstoon River, where Guatemalan navy boats were behaving aggressively against the BTV, which had led a small flotilla of four boats in an expedition to Sarstoon Island, which is in Belizean territory.
Speaking on KREM Radio, Maheia said, “We need to run the OAS out of Belize.”
Maheia and Northern Territorial Volunteers leader, Orlando De La Fuente, and supporters who had undertaken the journey, were under constant threat from the Guatemalan navy, whose boats were deliberately bumping their boats, while the largest of the small flotilla was blocked by Guatemalan navy boats from going any further to circle Sarstoon Island, which was the goal of the expedition.
When someone from one of the Belize boats asked an OAS observer to share their GPS coordinates to verify that the expedition was indeed in Belizean territorial waters, the OAS official, presumably from the OAS Adjacency Zone office, simply shrugged her shoulders, indicating that she didn’t know, would not share that information with the besieged BTV, or could do nothing about the belligerence of the Guatemalans.
As it turned out, however, not even the OAS observers were exempt from the Guatemalan aggression, because their small boat, named Good Times, was intercepted by the Guatemalans but was released shortly after.
The OAS has brokered a number of initiatives between Guatemala and Belize, and has implemented a number of policies as an approach for the two neighbors to peacefully co-exist, while at the same time, it works at trying to resolve the old territorial dispute between the two countries.
As a result of the Guatemalan actions in the Sarstoon River on Sunday and other incidents that have shown the organization to be lacking in vigor on occasions that call for it to take a stand for Belizean rights, however, the OAS is fast becoming a hard-sell for many patriotic and nationalistic Belizeans.
Can you imagine, Belize and Guatemala have just come off a so–called “Week of Peace” with the visit of the Guatemalan Foreign Minister to Belize and the various activities the OAS sponsored just last month, and now this?
Yesterday at his press conference, Prime Minister Dean Barrow announced that the Government of Belize has received the OAS report on Sunday’s incidents in the Sarstoon River involving the BTV and the Guatemalan navy. That report, though, was in Spanish.
Today, Amandala was able to confirm both from the OAS Adjacency Zone office in Belize and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs that there is an English version of the OAS observers’ Sarstoon River report. Asked if the report was going to be made available to the media, we were told that that has not yet been decided.
Following Sunday’s showdown in the Sarstoon River, however, the parties are now reportedly heading back to the OAS headquarters in Washington to work out some new “operational protocols” for the militaries of both countries.
Belizean leaders have so far accepted the various OAS initiatives to settle the territorial dispute which have resulted in agreements such as the “Facilitation Process,” “Confidence-Building Measures,” “Adjacency Zone” between the two countries, “Military to Military exchange,” “a Special Agreement or compromis,” and the list goes on.
And through it all, Guatemalan aggression and disrespect of Belize continue.
(The OAS efforts, beginning around 2000, were to promote good bi-lateral relations between Belize and Guatemala.)