Guatemala troops move near Belize border

Guatemala troopsBELIZE JOURNAL PT. 1 on Guatemala troops. We must pray now that 500 Guatemala troops have been sent by President Jimmy Morales to its eastern border with Belize. The move was a reaction to the April 20 death of 13-year-old Guatemalan Julio Alvarado at the border. Morales said that Alvarado’s eight wounds from bullets fired by Belize Defense Force (BDF) soldiers show that his death was not in justifiable defense.

BDF says illegal encroachments from Guatemalans were detected by a Defender flyover. The soldiers investigated. At about 5 pm they found and detained one suspect. He admitted that he was planting on what was Belize’s side of the border. At about 7 pm when it was dark the Belize patrol came under fire. They fired back in self-defense, unable to see what they were firing at. Later they found the body of Alvarado. The gunfire also wounded his 11-year-old brother and 40-year-old father. No Guatemala troops were present to verify this BDF report. Morales claims that the Guatemalans were on Guatemalan land and that the BDF fired first. He recalled his ambassador to Belize. He also demanded that the shooter be turned over to Guatemala.

Guatemala troops

Guatemala President Jimmy Morales

Secretary General Luis Almagro of the OAS (Organization of American States) was visiting another part of the contested border at the same time. He said the OAS would launch a formal investigation into the boy’s death. He appealed to both countries to go to the International Court of Justice to settle their border dispute. Guatemala does not acknowledge the border. On many of Guatemala’s official maps, Belize is shown belonging to Guatemala. President Morales said he was sending the Guatemala troops to “exercise strict sovereignty” over the territory it claims.

Earlier on the same day as Alvarado’s death, Guatemala had just refused to consider an 11-point border protocol proposal offered by Belize. Belize had just opened a forward operating military base at the mouth of the Sarstoon River at its southern border. Guatemala troops have a military base located on the other side of the river. That same day Guatemala sent navy boats to watch the Belize base’s opening ceremony. A drone from Guatemala flew over to observe the ceremony. Belize Admiral John Borland pointed a gun at the drone. It rapidly returned to the Guatemalan side.

Both Morales and Belize Prime Minister Dean Barrow were in New York while these events were unfolding. They were attending the UN signing of the Paris agreement on climate change. Barrow met Morales there in the margin of the session. The two heads of state agreed to deescalate the tension. They sought to avoid military confrontation between Belize and Guatemala troops at the border. Barrow also met with the UN Deputy Secretary-General and the CARICOM (Caribbean Community) Secretary General about the border crisis.

The BDF, the Belize National Coast Guard, and the Belize Police Department remain on high alert at the border. The opposition People’s United Party leader John Briceno called the Guatemalan response irresponsible and unprovoked. He said that Belize posed no threat to Guatemala. He demanded that Guatemala troops must be withdrawn now. PUP Senator Eamon Courtenay warned that Morales’ declaration of sovereignty over the Sarstoon River coupled with the troop buildup could amount to an illegal annexation…

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