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OAS elections and new Guatemala, Belize conflict


Rickey Singh

OAS elections and new Guatemala, Belize conflict

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THE ORGANIZATION of American States (OAS) now seems to have some additional monitoring to do to ensure a prevailing healthy political climate for the conduct of its forthcoming June annual meeting in Guatemala.
For, in addition to the meeting being the occasion for choosing a new Secretary General and Assistant Secretary General, there has now emerged new and developing tension relating to the colonial-era territorial dispute arising from Guatemala’s claim to Belize.
The main parliamentary opposition People’s United Party (PUP) has issued a warning of troubles ahead if the Guatemalan government does not withdraw a new map being circulated that includes Belizean territory.
Contending that Guatemala plans on distributing some four million passports with the new map claiming Belizean territory over the next decade, the PUP is urging the government of Prime Minister Dean Barrow to request a change in venue for the OAS annual meeting to avoid conflicts over what is viewed as “a provocative act”.
Not only does the PUP favour a boycott by OAS member countries if Guatemala remains the venue, it has also called on Mr Barrow to signal whether his administration would be prepared to support a planned initiative by the opposition that entry into Belize be denied to anyone holding a Guatemala passport with a map showing parts of Belize.
It is of relevance to note here that against this latest renewal of Guatemala’s claim to Belizean territory, a Guatemalan candidate is among potential contestants for the post of Assistant Secretary General to succeed the outgoing two-term Albert Ramdin from Suriname.
It so happens that Belize’s ambassador to the OAS, as well as his Guyanese counterpart,  is also a candidate for this No. 2. spot. There is likely to be at least three candidates seeking the post of Secretary General which is being vacated by two-term Miguel Insulza, a former Foreign Secretary of Chile.
The Caribbean Community (CARICOM), which collectively represents a bloc of some 14 votes among the 34-member countries, has normally played a key role in determining, with its Latin American allies, the choice of Secretary General and Assistant Secretary General.
At their Inter-Sessional Meeting in Haiti this past February, CARICOM Heads of Government forwarded the issue of elections of a new OAS chief and deputy to the forthcoming May meeting of the Community’s Foreign Ministers to further enable a final decision on candidates of choice.
What, therefore, develops over the renewed territorial conflict between Belize and Guatemala could well have serious implications for hosting of the OAS annual meeting by the Guatemalan government.
• Rickey Singh is a noted Caribbean journalist. Email [email protected]

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