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Three Guatemalans detained in Belize for illegal entry and firearms possession

GeneralThree Guatemalans detained in Belize for illegal entry and firearms possession

Photo: Rifles confiscated by joint patrol from the Guatemalans

by Kristen Ku

BELIZE CITY, Mon. Apr. 15, 2024

Friends for Conservation and Development (FCD) announced in a press release last week that three Guatemalan nationals were detained by a joint-forces patrol in Belize’s Chiquibul National Park.

On April 11, 2024, a patrol composed of members of the Belize Defence Force, FCD, and the police’s Special Patrol Unit encountered the individuals near the border. Those persons were subsequently arrested and are to be charged for illegal entry and possession of firearms.

The detainees were found within the park’s boundaries, some 400 meters from the border, an area well-known for illegal activities such as gold panning and crop cultivation by the community of Monte Los Olivos.

The operation, described as non-hostile by Rafael Manzanero, the executive director of FCD, resulted in the individuals surrendering their arms with full compliance, and they were then taken to the San Ignacio police station. “It was nothing really hostile. So, they were just basically commanded to put their arms on the ground, which they did. And so, then they were detained. And I believe their case will be coming up tomorrow in the morning,” he said.

The three Guatemalans, identified as Rigoberto Caal, Hector Canan Hernandez, and Isaias Caal Coc, were found with a .22 rifle, a 16 gauge shotgun, and a homemade handgun, along with live rounds.

The FCD has reported the incident to the Forest Department and Immigration Department for further action, as the organization itself does not possess the authority to lay charges.

The Deputy Chief Officer at the Forest Department, John Pinelo, has claimed that they do not have much detailed information on the incident, since, according to Pinelo, the FCD had not provided an official report to the Forest Department.

“We have not received yet any official report from FCD, which is unfortunate, because we should be the first ones they should send the report to,” Pinelo said. However, he confirmed the signing of 2 charge sheets for the officers in San Ignacio to proceed with legal actions.

AMANDALA reached out to Tanya Santos, the CEO of the Ministry of Immigration for comment, and she affirmed that the detainees could face charges for illegal entry into the country.

The situation in the Chiquibul National Park area has been a challenge, with ongoing efforts to deter illegal activities, including cross-border incursions for illegal hunting and crop cultivation.

The FCD continues to engage in both direct patrols and bi-national dialogue to mitigate conflict and protect the national park’s integrity.

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