Latin America & Caribbean

Belize-Guatemala border tensions rise over shooting

Guatemalan soldiers patrol near the border with Belize. Photo: 21 April 2016 Image copyright EPA
Image caption Guatemala has deployed 3,000 troops on its border with Belize, reports say

Tensions between Guatemala and Belize over a border dispute have risen sharply after a shooting incident in which a Guatemalan teenager died.

Guatemala says the 13-year-old boy was attacked by Belizean soldiers. Belize says its troops shot in self-defence after coming under fire.

Belize also accuses Guatemala of "amassing" troops along the border.

Guatemala's claim to parts of territory governed by its neighbour dates back to when Belize was a British colony.

Belize's government said the Guatemalan teenager was shot dead on Wednesday in the Cebada area of the Chiquibul National Park, on the western border with its larger neighbour.

Guatemala said the incident happened in a community which is on the border between the Guatemalan department of Peten and Belize.

Guatemalan President Jimmy Moralles later described the incident as a "cowardly and excessive attack", and called for those responsible to be brought to justice.

Defence Minister William Mansilla said Guatemala had deployed 3,000 troops on the border, according to the AFP news agency.

"It is a preventive measure, it is not a declaration of war," he was quoted as saying.

Meanwhile, Belize's government said Mr Moralles' comments were "inflammatory".

Belize said its patrol came under fire and was forced to shoot back in self-defence.

It added that the body of the teenager was found just inside Belizean territory.

The territorial dispute between the two Central American nations dates back more than 150 years.

Belize became independent in 1981, however Guatemala did not recognise it for another decade because of the land dispute.

Earlier this week, Luis Almagro, the head of the Organization of American States, visited both countries in an effort to resolve the situation.

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