Guatemala sends 3,000 troops to disputed border with Belize
Guatemala has sent 3,000 troops to its disputed border with Belize as “preventive measure” after a 13-year-old boy was shot dead.
The two countries are disputing the shooting’s facts in the latest territorial dispute. “It is not a declaration of war,” Guatemala defense minister Williams Mansilla told reporters.
Julio Rene Alvarado Ruano was walking home from working in the fields last week when he was shot. His father and brother were also wounded, according to Mansilla.
Belize disputes the account, calling it a “justifiable self-defense.” Belize’s government said in a statement Friday its security forces were investigating illegal land clearing in the Cebada area of the Chiquibul National Park in western Belize when they detained a Guatemalan man suspected of illicit activities. It said the patrol came under fire around nightfall and shot back in self-defense. Before leaving just inside Belizean territory, the soldiers found the boy’s body, the statement said.
In a scathing response, the ministry said, “It is regrettable that the defense forces of Belize are the only army in the Latin America and Caribbean region that fires on unarmed civilians from another country.”
The U.S. State Department said it was “deeply concerned” but “urge calm and restraint by both sides, and we call for a full investigation of the facts surrounding this tragedy.”
The Organization of American States office in the adjacency zone is planning an investigation at the request of both governments. “The OAS General Secretariat repudiates the death of a Guatemalan minor at the hands of a Belizean patrol and urges both sides to redouble efforts to establish a lasting peace in the adjacency zone between the two countries,” the OAS said in a statement.