The Organization of American States has issued a definitive statement on the illegal incursion into the Chiquibul Forest Reserve by Guatemalan farmers a week ago which led to the death of one of the men. Two others are currently in the custody of Belizean law enforcement authorities. The updated OAS statement, which is posted on the organization’s website, does not include an apology as was demanded by the group Citizens Organized for Liberty Through Action. But it does fall in line with official Belize government accounts of what transpired on July nineteenth. The release says that Belizean authorities notified the OAS office in the adjacency zone that an incident had taken place in the Toledo District involving Belize Defense Force soldiers and a group of three Guatemalan citizens, which had resulted in the death of one of the Guatemalan citizens and the arrest of the other two who were charged with illegal entry into the country and illegal logging in a protected national park. According to the OAS statement, arrangements were made to visit the site of the incident to verify the facts of the incident and to interview the parties involved. Currently, a detailed report with the results of the investigation is being prepared and will be submitted shortly to the governments of Belize and Guatemala. The OAS statement now puts on record, that organizations admission that the incident happened more than three kilometers from the Adjacency Zone and inside of Belize’s territory. The Guatemalan citizens, according to the OAS statement, were felling trees in a protected national park; and that the deceased Guatemalan citizen was carrying two firearms at the time that he was confronted by the BDF. Today at the start of the sitting of the House of Representatives, Minister of Foreign Affairs Wilfred Elrington spoke on the issue, again reiterating his belief that the whole incident was taken out of context and that no harm was meant.
WILFRED ELRINGTON – Minister of Foreign Affairs
“I will be the first to say that the Belizean people had every right to find the OAS statement objectionable. Those statements however wrongly reported elemental facts about the incident and the English version even misquoted his Excellency, Secretary General’s statement. The Secretary General is a person with whom I have engaged with and with whom I have every confidence that he is a distinguished and honorable man and that he and his Secretariat will not knowingly do anything that could be detrimental to Belize’s interest. In fact, the Organization of American States is rarely a state to which every country in this hemisphere belongs from the United States, from Canada up further north to Chile further south and all the Caribbean countries. The Secretary General really is merely the spokesperson for the organization and certainly we are clear that the countries of the organization would not in fact have endorse the statement as it came out because it clearly would not have reflected their own sentiments. Mr. Speaker the Guatemala is a sensitive one in Belizean society, it have left deep scars in our body politic and is the source of much anxiety among our citizens. Success leaderships in this country have recognized that only united as one people can we overcome this most direct existential treat of being as a nation. Independent and sovereignty, in deed Mr. Speaker I would like to emphasize that the present UDP Administration is simply following the road map that was lead and drafted by the then government in power People’s United Party, government lead by the right Honorable member for Fort George, the Hon. Said Musa when he Prime Minister of this country. The initiative to engage the OAS to establish the adjacency zone to give authority to the OAS to determine the solution in the failure of agreement was all lay down set out by the People’s United Party government. When we came into office we thought that that was the correct approach and we have been subscribing to that road map, we have not directed from it in any way because we think it is in fact the correct position that have been inducted on this matter. Mr. Speaker elements around us might be tempted to make a name for themselves by beating their chest and using this issue as a political football and instill uncertainty and fear among our citizens. I appeal to those members and to members of the Honorable House and to the citizens of this country to commit themselves to stay in the course of addressing our international problems through diplomacy and political discourse by all peaceful means and for us as a nation to stay united. By virtue of Geography and History Mr. Speaker Belize has been placed in Central America next door to Guatemala. Neither Belize nor Guatemala will in fact be able to change our position in this earth.”
The OAS statement says that while the full investigation is yet to be completed, it is important to note that the Government of Belize has given Guatemalan authorities full access to interview the arrested Guatemalan citizens, as well as to the autopsy of the deceased, during which a Guatemalan forensic doctor was present. As we have reported previously, a vice ministerial level meeting will be held at OAS headquarters in Washington, D.C. on Tuesday of next week where this latest incident, as well as other priority issues on the bilateral agenda will be discussed. The Belize delegation will be led by Chief Executive Officer in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs Alexis Rosado. His support team will include ambassadors Nestor Mendez, Fred Martinez and Lisa Shoman and the Commander of the Belize Defence Force, Brigadier General Dario Tapia.<< Read other news