Shooting Incident in the Chiquibul National Park – The Government of Belize has requested the support of the Organization of American States (OAS) in conducting a verification exercise to ascertain the facts surrounding the shooting incident which occurred on Wednesday, April 20, 2016, in the Cebada area of the Chiquibul National Park in western Belize.
According to initial reports, Belizean security forces were on a patrol to investigate illegal clearings in the protected area. At about 5:00 p.m. on Wednesday, April 20, they detained without incident, 33-year-old Guatemalan national Jose Maria Antonio Reyes, who was found conducting illegal activities in our Chiquibul National Park.
As darkness descended later in the day, at about 7:00 p.m. the patrol came under fire. The patrol returned fire in self-defense and decided to depart from the location which is approximately 580 meters east of the border. Prior to departure they conducted their standard clearance procedure and discovered the seemingly lifeless body of a minor.
The body was later identified as that of Julio Alvarado, he was transported to the nearest hospital where he was pronounced dead. A post mortem was scheduled to be conducted on Thursday, April 21, 2016 in Belize City.
Jose Maria Antonio Reyes was transferred to the custody of the San Ignacio Police where he awaits an appearance before a Magistrate.
The Government of Belize very much regrets any loss of life and will be conducting its own investigation. The Government remains concerned about illegal activities along our borders and will continue to engage the OAS and the Government of Guatemala with a view to stemming the illicit activities of Guatemalan civilians who are becoming increasingly more violent toward our security and law enforcement authorities.
Belize Prime Minister Rejects Statement Issued by the Guatemalan President
Guatemala President Jimmy Moralez issues statement on shooting incident
The Office of the Prime Minister rejects the version of events in the statement by President Jimmy Morales made to the Guatemalan public on April 21, 2016 regarding the incident in Belize’s Cebada area of the Chiquibul National Park.
The press release from the Government Press Office stated – “Belize has a long history and tradition as a peace loving country, respectful of international law, human rights, and with a strong democratic culture where the rule of law has always prevailed. The Government and people of Belize always abide by these strong and unshakeable traditions. Accordingly Belizean Security Forces and law enforcement officials would never perpetrate an armed attack on civilians especially minors except in exercise of the right to self defense.
The Government of Belize reiterates that the mandate and authority given to Belize law enforcement and security agencies to enforce Belizean laws and protect Belize’s natural resources and territorial integrity is at all times implemented on the basis of recourse to the use of force only as a last and justified resort. But respect for life and rights must always include respect for the life and rights of Belizean law enforcement officials and security forces. In this case the BDF reports of the incident indicate that our patrol in Belizean national territory came under attack to which they responded in justifiable self-defense. It is to be pointed out that the patrol included civilian personnel from the NGO group, FCD, and those personnel confirm the fact that our patrol simply responded after they were fired upon and were in fear for their lives.
This latest shooting attack on Belizean officials is part of a continued pattern of aggression by Guatemalan civilians engaged in illegal activities on Belize’s side of the Adjacency Zone. In this regard, the Office of the Prime Minister recollects the earlier attacks which resulted in the murder of Special Constable Danny Conorquie and the shooting of Sgt. Richard Lambey.
Belize wishes to remind the Government of Guatemala that both countries are committed to the Confidence Building Measures signed in 2005 which obliges both Governments to act responsibly in word and indeed when dealing with any incident that may occur along the border.
In this regard, we find the statements made and position taken by President Morales to be unhelpful and inflammatory. The current amassing of Guatemalan troops in the border areas, including the Sarstoon River, only adds volatility to the tensions already created by illicit activities in these areas.
For its part, the Government of Belize will continue to abide strictly by the Confidence Building Measures and we urge the Government of Guatemala to do the same.”