A map of Belize and neighbouring Guatemala. (Google Maps)
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BELMOPAN Belize – The Belize government says it is not surprised at the latest move by Guatemala seeking to claim all of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) country ahead of a referendum early next year in the Spanish speaking country regarding the border dispute between the two Central American countries.
Guatemala is due to hold its referendum on March 18, 2018 and has launched a public awareness campaign that re-introduces a map of the country showing Belize as the disputed “twenty-third province,” with a dotted line indicating “Territory under Dispute.” Guatemala has been claiming Belize since 1821.
Foreign Affairs Minister Wilfred Elrington told reporters that the new map indicates that Guatemala has renewed its claim to the entire Belizean territory.
“The information that I have received is that the Guatemalans, in their campaign will be using maps of Guatemala that shows Belize is included as part of their territory. That has always been their position; they have always taken the view that they were claiming the whole of Belize,” he said.
The Foreign Minister said he has always been at “pains to say to the Belizean public that that is the case.
“Other people have suggested otherwise, but that has always been their position, so nothing has changed. What is important is that we need now to educate our Belizeans to understand, and I hope we can now come together and agree that in fact the claim relates to the whole country.
“You remember there was this controversy about all and any islands and Cayes and the like in the formulation of the claim? Because we wanted to make sure that the Guatemalans would not want to come back and claim that we did not deal with a certain area, so we want to go back and litigate on that.
“So it is good now that Belizeans will see they are claiming the entire country, and in fact make their decision based on the fact that we have got to deal with this in a united front,” Erlington told reporters.
At the end of their annual summit in Grenada in July, CARICOM leaders noted that both Belize and Guatemala had now completed their internal procedures required for the Special Agreement to Submit Guatemala’s Claim to the International Court of Justice of 2008, including its related Protocol of 2015, to enable these agreements to come into force and that the two countries have exchanged notes in this respect.
The regional leaders had expressed the hope that both countries can proceed with the required referendum “as early as possible, while reiterating “their unflinching support for the sovereignty, territorial integrity and security of Belize”.
Former foreign affairs minister Eamon Courtenay, has expressed disappointment that the government has not yet sent a diplomatic note to Guatemala regarding the latest move by the Central American country.
“Why hasn’t a diplomatic protest been sent? Two, why haven’t we engaged the OAS (Organisation of American States) which has superintendency over this process and saying that is an act of bad faith? Three, why haven’t the government of Belize come out immediately with a press statement condemning it to Guatemala and saying that it is just wrong? “
Courtenay said he was also disappointed that the authorities have not yet “galvanized our supporters on the international stage and said, this is going in the wrong direction?
“And I guarantee you that if Guatemala publishes a map like that, the Belizean people are going to reject any referendum held here and rightly so! But what has the Foreign minister said? Absolutely nothing,” he added. (CMC)