Saturday, February 23, 2013

Jalacte Belize village, Santa Cruz, Guatemala village straddling border line in BELIZE

The Dubious Border At Jalacte
posted (February 22, 2013)
As we told you earlier in the newscast, the Guatemalans have sent a diplomatic note urging the Belizean government to intervene and stop Will Maheia and his Belize Territorial Volunteers from commencing with their project called "Clearing Our Borderline". It starts in Jalacte which is an area we visited with Maheia in 2008. At the time there was a dispute about a warehouse which a Guatemalan businessman had placed in Belizean territory. It took months to get that removed - even though it was squarely in Belizean territory. The businessman was form Santa Cruz Guatemala which is the Guatemalan village adjoining Jalacte in Belize. Through commerce and daily life, they are like sister villages, and they have established a much used - though unregulated border crossing. When we went there, we found out how difficult it is to two the border line. Tonight we repeat only a small excerpt of that story that noted the contrasts and the similarities between Jalacte Belize and Santa Cruz Guatemala.
Unlike Jalacte, it has electricity and Belizean shoppers come here for Gallo beers, and cheap products. The village - or most of it - is in Guatemalan territory - the cemetery for example is believed to be inside Belizean territory. But it's a fine, widely unknown line, and the entire village exists under the eye of the BDF treetops observation post - the sole indicator of Belize's domain in the area.
It is ground they are holding in hostile territory, the Guatemalans resent the military's presence, and after taping for few minutes it was made clear to us by a group of village leaders that our presence was also not welcome.
Back in Jalacte and after recovering from the grueling trek back under the midday sun, I considered this village, a small trading outpost, its jarring juxtapositions between of Guatemalan and Belizean branding, the commanding Guatemalan phone tower on the borderline, the fact that my phone had switched over from Telemedia to service from the Guatemalan phone company TIGO, which is the only phone service this and surrounding villages get - where by the way, they offer triple-up, not double up as we found out when this young Jalacte woman was putting in credits for her Guatemalan phone.
And moving as freely as phone signals, everyday the BDF looks on as scores of Belizeans and Guatemalans go back and forth between Jalacte and Santa Cruz. Their job is to hold the line - a line not marked in any way, a line whose true location is known only to technicians who use GPS devices, a line that is a good few hundred feet west of, behind this structure. It is either a matter for grave concern, or earnest hope.
Edgar Savedra,
"We live as a community in friendship. That is why we don't have any problems, we live in peace."
Wil Maheia,
"Every year Belize gets smaller and smaller because the road that we just came on, that is clearly inside Belizean territory and the people living there are Guatemalans. They think they are living inside of Guatemala, yet they are living on Belizean territory."
Ferdie's Brother,
"Belizeans with Guatemala, we are friendship. We and Belize, we are friends but I don't know what the people think and someday we argue with Belize but I don't know why. I just only want to ask that question, I want to ask somebody: why they noh come friends."
And how the technicians, politicians and diplomats deal with this illegal encroachment will largely determine what happens at the official level - but at the ground level, we suspect the free movement and informal trade will continue because these are neighbors and no policy or referendum can dictate their co-existence.
Maheia says he and his volunteers with their 100 machetes plan to start their clear the border drive in Jalacte at 8:00 am on Saturday. We imagine that would bring them right into the path of that cemetery we showed you in that story.

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