BELIZE CITY, Thurs. June 2, 2016–Belize received its Independence from Great Britain in 1981, supposedly on the premise of a defense guarantee to protect the country from invasion by Guatemala; what Belizeans did not know is that Britain was very preoccupied with helping Guatemala leaders, who now stand accused of mass massacres in their home country, to suppress their opponents, some of whom were said to have been operating in Belize.
Information recently published by an international news source pointed to “Britain’s covert collusion” with the regime of Efrain Rios Montt, on trial for mass genocide, at the height of the 36-year civil war—an alliance which the report, recently published by Vice of Canada, is said to being called into question by files discovered at the UK National Archives. Montt is also said to have been backed by the US and Israel, from whom Guatemala reportedly received arms and aid support.
“The commander of British Forces in Belize, Brigadier Pollard, had secret meetings with Guatemalan military officers linked to serious human rights abuses, where intelligence on guerrilla activity was exchanged. He had several meetings with Colonel Tobar Martínez, who was in charge of Guatemala’s northern Petén region,” the report said.
(Amandala’s research indicates that Anthony John Griffin Pollard, CB CBE DL, also known as “Tony Pollard,” was commander of the British Forces in Belize from 1983 to 1984.)
The Vice report added that, “Pollard and his intelligence chief met with the former commandant of Guatemala’s Kaibiles commando training school.”
Shadows of that secret alliance were cast recently, even as Belize again faced a security threat from the Guatemalan army. Days before Guatemala moved to deploy thousands of its troops, including the Kaibiles special forces, aka “the killing machine,” to its borders with Belize (as it claimed atrocities by the Belize Defence Force after a minor was shot in what the Belize Government said was an act of self-defense), the UK Government announced that the new British Defence Attaché was “strengthening the UK’s defence relationship with the Guatemalan army.” Many Belizeans have considered the development to be ironic, to say the least!
The UK Government statement dated April 18, 2016, said that Colonel David Strawbridge MBE, a serving officer in the British Army, had paid a three-day-visit to Guatemala to initiate his new role as the UK’s Defence Attaché to Guatemala.
“The British Ministry of Defence’s (MOD) mission is to protect the security, independence and interests of the UK at home and abroad, working closely with allies and partners,” the statement said.
In sharing an online post on the UK statement, one Belizean expressed the view that Britain is in bed with “the enemy.”
The Vice article published this week, dated May 31, 2016, is titled, “How the British Army Cooperated with the Murderous Guatemalan Regime.” (That story appears on page 41 of this edition of Amandala.)
“In 1983, Britain had a garrison of 1,500 soldiers stationed along the Guatemalan border in neighboring Belize, which was a former UK colony. Politicians in Westminster and the public thought that the British army was out there to stop Guatemala invading Belize, a move it had long threatened.
“In secret, however, Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher allowed her troops to help the ruthless Guatemalan military dictatorship eliminate its internal opponents,” the report said.
It added that even though rank-and-file soldiers possibly did not realize their patrols targeted guerrillas, senior British officers were well aware that was the purpose.
“Royal Air Force (RAF) pilots made reconnaissance flights over the Belizean jungle looking for guerrilla camps, and British troops carried out secret foot patrols. UK soldiers even used a Guatemalan rebel informant for one patrol, before sending him back to Guatemala, where he was arrested and later murdered by government gunmen,” said the report.
The Brits implanted Alan Jenkins to “effectively run” the Belize special branch and he put suspected guerrilla activists under surveillance in what the files call ‘Operation Octopus,’ the report said.
“British personnel in Belize also helped police to spy on rebel sympathizers in urban areas. UK aid money funded a British policeman,” it revealed.
According to the Vice article, “The files also reveal that a British policeman conducted urban surveillance of guerrilla sympathizers in Belize under ‘Operation Octopus.’ And even though diplomatic relations with Guatemala had been cut, the foreign secretary allowed British soldiers to play Christmas volleyball matches with enemy troops.”
Even as troops from Guatemala and Belize are at odds due to Guatemala’s persistence to block Belize’s use of its portion of the Sarstoon River, there are efforts to similarly “socialize” soldiers from both sides, with support from Britain.
The Foreign Minister of Belize, Wilfred Elrington, and the Foreign Minister of Guatemala, Carlos Morales, recently held talks in which they proposed joint training for soldiers from both neighboring countries as a means of diffusing “heightened tensions” caused by Guatemala’s pushback of the Belize Defence Force and the Belize Coast Guard from the Belizean side of the Sarstoon River. Elrington and Morales were in London last week, lobbying for funds towards settling the border controversy, and they also asked for funds to support the proposed military training.
The strongest voices in support of Belize’s cause have come from CARICOM, the Commonwealth and the African, Caribbean and Pacific Countries (ACP), which have gone beyond calling for peace to placing on record their support for Belize’s territorial integrity.
However, there have been questions about where two world superpowers lie when it comes to defending Belize’s position: the United Kingdom/Britain, the European country from which Belize received Independence in 1981; and the United States, which wields major political power across the globe.
Belizeans are starting to get some answers.