BELIZE CITY, Thurs. Mar. 7, 2019– Rumors have been swirling about an encounter on the Sarstoon River involving three boats, in one of which Minister of National Security, John Saldivar, was traveling. The rumors went as far as saying that the Guatemalan Armed Forces (GAF) fired on the Belizean flotilla.
That, however, apparently was not the case. The BDF were fired upon by Guatemalan civilians, according to Minister of National Security John Saldivar.
This afternoon, we were able to speak to the Chief Executive Officer in the Ministry of National Security, retired colonel, George Lovell, who confirmed that indeed, their boats were followed by the GAF at “a tactical distance.”
Lovell stressed that both countries have the right to use the river. “Like we have a right to traverse the river, they have one too,” Lovell said.
We asked Lovell if Belizean officials or military personnel have ever decided to follow the Guatemalans at a “tactical distance” on the Sarstoon River.
“They wouldn’t stop us to do so if we choose to do so,” Lovell replied.
We asked Lovell if the incident which occurred was a matter that required a diplomatic protest note.
Lovell replied, “No.”
“I was on the vessel and we had some civilians along with us,” Lovell said. “The Minister went on a tour of the south. We went to Barranco, and we went to Cadenas, where we were given a brief by the BDF Observation Post commander, and then we went to Gracias Adios and viewed the monument,” Lovell explained. “There were three vessels and there were in excess of 35 persons. It was quite a large delegation,” he said.
In an interview on 7News last night, Minister Saldivar confirmed that BDF soldiers were fired upon by Guatemalan civilians.
“…What I did find, though, on my trip to Cadenas, as I have said publicly, is that just a few days before, when our soldiers were destroying some plantations in the area, they were fired upon by civilians in that area. But they managed to complete their task,” Minister Saldivar told 7News.