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Guatemalan Navy Aggression in Belizean waters

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Tuesday October 9th, an entourage of SATIIM board members and staff travel to GrahamCreek by boat. Upon approaching the Sarstoon River around 9:30 am, SATIIM (vessel Tol-0035) continued its journey by taking the North side of the Sarstoon River, instead of taking the South side around the island (which is the deeper channel of the Sarstoon River). Then we saw a Guatemalan Navy gun boat maneuvering in high speed heading toward our direction. The boat blocked our route forcing us to stop. The Guatemalan vessel had five military personnel.

One of them asked us who we assumed to be the one in charge, to identify ourselves, enquired what we were doing in the area and where we were going. We informed them that we were heading to a community meeting at GrahamCreek, a community inside Belizean territory. He asked if we had documentation (passport, captain license, and vessel papers).

The response to them was that we do not need a passport since we are within Belize’s territory but we had other necessary documents (captain license, vessel documents) that we could have produce. At this point there was a back and fort discussion with personnel from SATIIM vessel and the Guatemalan Navy officers, an attempt to clear up any misunderstanding and to assert our certainty that we were in Belizean waters.

Mr. Choc identified himself as the Executive Director of SATIIM and that SATIIM co-manages the national park, conducts monitoring activities within the area and that the team was on a routine mission to the area. Furthermore, we explained to them that we are from the organization and to verify this we showed them the name of the organization imprinted on the side of our vessel, which clearly states SATIIM and the T-shirts that some of our directors and rangers were wearing which had on the name and logo of SATIIM.

Personnel in SATIIM vessel asked what should be done and the officer said that we (SATIIM) should go with them to their base located on the south side of the river which is the Guatemalan side (Guatemalan territory) to inform them where we are going. We told them no because we do not have any documents which would make our entry illegal. We told them that we do not need to go there as we had no intention of going into Guatemala and that we were inside Belizean waters.

The officer who we assumed was in charge responded by saying that the land is for Belize and the river is for them (Guatemala). The captain of the Guatemalan Navy vessel said that if we (SATIIM vessel) did not stop, they would have shot at us (SATIIM vessel).

This discussion lasted for about twenty to thirty minutes. Eventually we insisted that we needed go. The officer in charge says that the next time we come to the area that we should go to their base to inform them. We told them yes we will do that. They then told us that we could go. We then proceed with our journey to GrahamCreek village.

Guatemalan Navy Aggression