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Officials: Belgian Hostages Held by Guatemalan Farmers Freed


MrsLeo

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Scary experience for some belgian tourists not far from Santo Tomas

 

http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,338234,00.html

 

Thanks for posting this on the Guatemala board. I emailed Javier of Hotel Casa Rosada in Livingston to get more details. His wife is Belgian so I wondered if the tourists had been staying with them. They had not.

 

Here's what he said just now:

 

Yes, this is very bad news for us. Actually this event happened in the Rio Dulce, last Friday morning around 10:30.

 

The Belgian are in good health after being freed, the big responsible of all this happened is the Government, because they never attend the demand of the peasants.

 

The damage is done. The 4 tourist didn't stay with us they were travelling from Livingston to Fronteras Rio Dulce, but of course Belgian TV called us very late Friday Night and Yesterday when they were freed, so I talked on the news in Belgium.

 

One lady was contacting me for a trip next week but I decided to be honest with her and explain the situation because I didn't want to take any risks doing trips in the river.

 

So, I am not doing any trips the next weeks, but tourist are still coming and travelling in the river but of course with no stops.

 

Take care,

Javier

 

P.S. from Flashdog. Gus' hotel is next door to Javier's. If you are booked with either Javier or Gus in the next couple of weeks, please contact them to see if they have made any modifications to their tours.

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Phyllis, I got to meet Javier and his wife last year and they are kind wonderful people. The way he is handling this situation just reinforces how I felt about them. I will let folks from our upcoming cruise know what's going on, thanks for emailing him, if you speak to him again soon, let him know how much we appreciate his candor, and send him or wishes for a quick resolution to this conflict.

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Sure will. We were his first cruise ship tour. I told the people on our roll call that I was going even if no one joined me, but it would be cheaper for me if we got 6 people. No trouble at all. Everyone wanted a good tour.

 

At the time Santa Tomas was a brand new port and I could not find a tour I wanted, so contacted various agencies and hotels in the area to see if they offered anything to their own customers. I went to some port evaluation websites, too, and someone had stumbled onto Hotel Casa Rosada and mentioned Javier, so I found his website. He was already giving tours (but at the wrong times for cruise ship passengers) so I asked him if he could do it.

 

At the time he was not cleared for Santo Tomas, so we met him in Puerto Barrios (so for one cab fare we got to see Santo Tomas and Puerto Barrios) and he took us over to Livingston and there we had coffee, toured the grounds and made our luncheon selections (most of us had tapado yum) and off we went to the Rio Dulce. He said the most he wanted to take would be 7, and preferably only 6, so we had plenty of room to move around in the boat without feeling cramped. No one had to sit by someone not in his/her family.

 

I liked the personableness of his place and him in particular. Such a gentleman. We have kept in communication even when he goes to Belgium each spring, for two or 3 years.

 

I'll let him know your expression.

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From the sound of it Gus is not cancelling any tours. Here is a copy of an email I just received from him.

 

Hi Deb:

Livingston still safe. The only thing we are doing is re routing our tours to different areas away from Rio Dulce, for safety reasons. The Mayan people of Livingston have been misguided by outsiders who perpetreated the act. (my people - the Mayan indian of area are humble and non-violent- we are also fighting for their rights in within the legal system. The outsiders who are responsible for this act, are problably out of country according to the newspapers. Please post this message on cruisecritic to let every know that we are still doing the Humanitarian Tour. Best regards, Gus

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It is worrisome, but just be glad you are now aware of the situation and are in a position to make an informed decision. The people who I feel sorry for are the ones who will unknowingly leave the ship and place themselves in danger without being warned about this situation. Javier who emailed Flashdog earlier has suspended River Tours completely for the next several weeks, so that means to me, it is necessary to use caution. He is a lovely man we were fortunate to meet when we were there.

 

If you would like to pop by our March 30th roll call, I have a couple of links to news articles and other info if you want more information about it. I doubt that I will venture too far from the ship with d/h and my two little children, but I am a bit more neurotic about this stuff than the average bear.

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I, like you, am not sure which route we will take. But I would think that Gus will probably change things around a little depending on his info, for what is the most safe for all of us. This is a decision that probably will be made on a week to week basis, depending on if there are any more problems or not.

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http://guatemala.usembassy.gov/wardene20080227.html

 

Please read this carefully!

 

 

Warden Information

 

Livingston, Izabal

 

American Embassy Guatemala

American Citizen Warden Program

 

February 27, 2008

 

Dear American Citizen Warden:

The following is a Warden Message concerning security in the Livingston-Rio Dulce area. Please share the following information with the American citizens on your warden list, and any other Americans you know, as soon as possible. It should be disseminated as widely as possible within the American citizen community. Please contact the American Citizen Services section via e-mail (amcitsguatemala@state.gov), fax (2326-4655), or telephone (2326-4405) if you have any questions. Thank you very much for your support and assistance.

-------------------------------------------------------------------------

WARDEN MESSAGE

Livingston, Izabal

 

Although all police taken hostage last week in Livingston, Izabal, were released unharmed, the Embassy has now been informed that negotiations between the government and local indigenous communities have been suspended, and threats of further actions are being made against police, businesses and foreigners in the Rio Dulce and Livingston area of Izabal as well as the areas of Alta and Baja Verapaz . The Guatemalan Tourist Assistance Office (ASISTUR) informed the Embassy that there is a high possibility of protests and of road blockages. There is currently no police presence in Livingston and the police station is closed. The Embassy has also learned that hotels in the area have been advised not to accept any new visitors and to provide additional security for guests who choose to remain at hotels.

In light of these events, ASISTUR advises -- and the Embassy strongly endorses – that American citizens avoid travel to the Rio Dulce and Livingston area as well as Alta and Baja Verapaz until the current situation is resolved. ASISTUR also advises that tourist groups who are already in these locations remain in their hotels. American citizens who chose to travel to the area are encouraged to check with ASISTUR at 2421-2800 extensions 1301, 1305 and 1306, or the U.S. Embassy at 2326-4405, for the latest information before traveling.

Americans traveling abroad should regularly monitor the Department's web site at http://travel.state.gov where the current Travel Warnings and Travel Alerts, including the Worldwide Caution, can be found. Information on security can also be obtained by calling 1-888-407-4747 toll free in the United States, or, for callers outside the United States and Canada, a regular toll line at 1-202-501-4444.

The U.S. Embassy in Guatemala is located at Avenida Reforma 7-01, Zone 10, Guatemala City. Please contact the American Citizen Services section by phone at 011-(502)2326-4405, by fax at (502)2326-4655, or by sending an email to amcitsguatemala@state.gov. The after-hours emergency number is 011-502-2331-2354 or (502)2331-2354

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