Guatemalan Shot in Belizean territory Print E-mail
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Thursday, 25 August 2011 00:00

The government of Belize is seeking the assistance of the Organization of American States following the shooting of a Guatemalan man who was within Belizean borders armed with an AK-47 assault rifle on Monday.

The Guardian spoke with General Dario Tapia, officer commanding the Belize Defence Force who explained that sometime around 11 on Monday morning the BDF was in the process of doing a link up patrol with their Guatemalan counterparts in the Chiquibul Forest near to the Caracol Archaeological Site in an area known as Sapote 1 when they saw 3 children running from the area.

Shortly thereafter the patrol saw 5 Guatemalan men making their way into Belizean territory on motorcycles. One of the men was armed with an AK-47 rifle while the others were armed with short arms and machetes. Tapia explained that when the men on motorcycles arrived in the area they put down their motorcycles and assumed positions within the forest. One of the men who arrived stood his ground and began to make threatening gestures at the BDF patrol, in so doing this caused the soldiers to open fire before being fired upon. This led to an exchange of gunfire during which the patrol retreated from the area.
As a result of the exchange, a man identified as Luis Alberto Garcia Pineda is alleged to have received injuries to his left hand.

The version of events varies significantly according to Guatemala’s Prensa Libre. According to that newspaper which is know to incite the Guatemalan public with their wild tales of abuse by BDF soldiers, the incident was much different. The newspaper is saying that the men had gone into the area on Monday evening after they had received reports that the BDF soldiers were holding three young persons who were in the area collecting firewood. The newspaper continues with its version stating that the men who had come to aid the young persons were forced to kneel and beg for their release. When the patrol was leaving the area, the newspaper claims, the soldiers opened fire on a number of homes in the area.

General Tapia explained to the Guardian that the BDF soldiers make frequent patrols in the area know as Sapote 1 and which the Guatemalans living in the area refer to as San Jose Las Flores Chiquibul. The Sapote 1 is one of two remaining Guatemalan settlements that is in Belizean territory. According the Tapia, BDF patrols are always met with hostility when they do patrols in this area. As for the incident Tapia said that currently the Organization of American States is conducting investigations to determine whether or not it was the BDF’s weapons which caused the injury to Garcia. He added that patrols in the area will continue by the BDF. The modus of the joint patrol will be changed with the Guatemalan soldiers making their way into the area before the BDF does so to minimize the hostility between the civilians living in the area and the BDF officers. Those meetings to finalize the patrol set-up was being done until late on Wednesday evening in Guatemala.