If the simultaneous Referendum between Belize and Guatemala would have gone through, both Belizeans and Guatemalans would have visited the polls on October 6th to determine whether or not Guatemala’s unfounded claim over Belize should be resolved by the International Court of Justice. But in April of 2013 the Guatemalan Government announced that it was not willing to go through with the Referendum due to several reasons. Of course the news did not sit too well with Belizeans but Guatemala stuck to its guns and the Referendum will not take place on October 6th.
At the 68th Annual General Assembly of the United Nations held in New York City, Belize’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, Honorable Wilfred Elrington, spoke on the important national issue and also expressed disappointment in Guatemala backing down from the Referendum. For context here is an excerpt of Minister Elrington’s address.
Honorable Wilfred Elrington- Minister of Foreign Affairs
“The Guatemalan claim is a constant source of anxiety to our citizens as well as investors in our country. Furthermore, both our territorial and our maritime border regions have been suffering from depredation and environmental degradation in consequences of the wanton and sustained illegal activities of Guatemalan campecinos, fishermen and other criminal elements engaged in narco-trafficking, human-trafficking, smuggling, illegal panning for gold, the extraction of xate and other exotic plants and animals, the illegal felling of timber and the pillaging of our ancient Mayan ruins. The felling of timber in our rain forests are contributing to the denuding of our mountains, which results in violent flooding in the rainy season and the transmission of topsoil, sand and silt into the sea. These soils are then ultimately deposited into our pristine barrier reef; choking and destroying the fragile ecosystems therein and compromising the health of the entire reef and the marine ecological system thriving therein. Additionally, the increasing trespassing by the Guatemalans into our country has given rise to more frequent violent encounters between Guatemalans and members of our Belize Defense Force resulting in fatalities in some instances. These incidents put a heavy strain on the relations between our country and Guatemala and the peace of our region as a whole.”
Due to that speech, the Minister of Foreign Affairs is not in good graces with Guatemala tonight. According to one of Guatemala’s newspaper’s, Prensa Latina, Guatemala's Foreign Minister, Fernando Carrera, has lodged a complain to the Organization of American States in respect to Elrington’s comments made during the General Assembly of the United Nations. In the letter directed to the head of the OAS, Jose Miguel Insulza, Carrera rejects insinuations about the alleged intention of Guatemala to use force to enforce their rights in Belizean territory.
According to Carrera, Elrington stated that Guatemala unilaterally suspended the referendum scheduled for October 6th 2013, but did not inform the UN Assembly that it was because Belize amended its Referendum Act which requires 60 percent attendance of the electorate to validate the vote. This, said Carrera, represented that the vote will take place on unequal terms, and consequently was unacceptable to Guatemala. Moreover, he stressed, Belize has said if the referendum result is negative; the case can never be brought to the International Court of Justice.
Carrera further stated in his letter that Guatemala's government regrets the unfortunate statements made by Elrington since it does not contribute to the strengthening of trust between the two countries, and are not adjusted to the events in the adjacency zone or nearby.
Carrera also mentioned that Guatemala's armed forces have not caused a single incident in the adjacency zone and its vicinity, while the Belize Defense Forces have caused far more fellow deaths and injuries. In the letter to the OAS, Guatemala reiterated their good faith to meet the commitment made by both countries to resort to the International Court of Justice to resolve the territorial dispute, insular and maritime as well as their commitment to hold the referendum in the short term, but on equal terms.
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