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FCD and BDF address cattle ranching by Guatemalans on Belizean land

GeneralFCD and BDF address cattle ranching by Guatemalans on Belizean land

The establishment of cattle ranching fields by Guatemalans on Belizean territory is well-documented, and decisive actions are now required. 

BELIZE CITY, Mon. Sept. 12, 2022 

The Friends for Conservation and Development (FCD) met with the command of the Belize Defence Force last week to discuss and formulate an effective strategy to address the ongoing issue of illegal cattle ranching by Guatemalan nationals on Belizean land — in some cases in protected areas. This issue has been ongoing for years but has reached a point where adaptive strategies need to be put in place by security personnel. The two entities are constantly patrolling the Belize-Guatemala border and on a frequent basis encounter cattle ranchers and other Guatemalan nationals in protected areas in Belize, where they have been illegally using a variety of Belizean natural resources.

Key protected areas in Belize such as the Vaca Forest Reserve, Caracol Archaeological Reserve area, Columbia River Forest Reserve, and the Chiquibul National Park have been used in part by Guatemalan ranchers over the years, despite the consistent presence of FCD and Belizean authorities.

The security personnel are now moving toward implementing more decisive action to address the incursions, which continue to advance further and further into Belize’s territory – causing large swaths of our pristine forests to be destroyed to create grazing land for cattle and thus impacting the integrity of protected areas.

While cattle ranching has been ongoing and more widespread in recent years, Guatemalan nationals have also engaged in poaching, illegal agricultural activities, and hunting in our national protected areas. Readers would recall that in 2014, Danny Conorquie, a Belizean special constable, attached to the Tourism Police Unit, was shot dead near the Caracol archeological site, and there are a number of instances of Guatemalan nationals being found and detained by Belizean operations. 

Last year, soldiers from the BDF and FCD finally destroyed a farm in Belize owned by a Guatemalan whose surname is Jimenez. That farm, which had a crop of beans and cucumbers, was destroyed in that operation, which was sanctioned by the OAS, but not without some resistance. At the time, reports were that as many as 30 civilians and 60 Guatemalan soldiers gathered to display their disapproval of the operation. Reports are that members of the FCD were even shot at by Guatemalans during the exercise.

The soldiers from Guatemala reportedly crossed the Belize side of the border and were told by members of the Belize Defence Force that the operation was OAS-approved before they requested that the Guatemalan soldiers return to their side of the border. 

The meeting between the FCD and BDF is an attempt to chart a part forward to address the concerns raised due to the consistent cattle ranching in the short and medium term.

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