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Yesterday we told you about 13 Bilateral Agreements which was signed by Belize's Foreign Minister and Attorney General Wilfred Elrington and his Guatemalan counter-part Carlos Raul Morales signaling a partnership with both nations. And while that move was met with some opposition from the People’s United Party citing that they should have consulted with the Belizean people before signing, today we had a unique opportunity to visit with Ambassador of Belize, Stuart Leslie who weighed in on the facts of the matter. Leslie says that while the agreements have nothing to do with the unsettled dispute between Belize and Guatemala, the “Framework Agreements” signed are historic.

Screen_Shot_2014-12-18_at_8.00.26_PMStuart Leslie – Ambassador of Belize

“Belize and Guatemala, Belize is the 5th largest trading partners, millions and millions of dollars in trade every single day from the selling of cow to the buying of products we sale them corn, we sale them beans so businesswise we have an agreement is called a partial scope agreement and we are trying to expand that so that we can trade, look geography puts us next to each other it is not like we can pack up and want to leave so if you happen to be a Belizean living in Benque Viejo del Carmen that shares a border like Arenal where the two people intermingle every day, this is real for you, for example the agreement on education that we signed, three separate agreements on education, every day 800 children come across from Guatemala to go to school in Belize, every day they have to go across the border and they cross the border morning, afternoon, evening and night and we have to put something in place to deal with that issue, hundreds of Belizeans are currently studying at the Universities in Guatemala and they need to have their status recognized, we need to get visas for them and so this is what we are trying to do to enhance the contact between the two people.”

Maria Novelo – Reporter

“The public perception out there would be that a move like this would just encourage more incursions from the Guatemalans into Belize, don’t you believe?”

Stuart Leslie – Ambassador of Belize

“Actually the opposite”

Maria Novelo – Reporter

“It gives them a sense of entitlement?”

Stuart Leslie – Ambassador of Belize

“Well, no it is just the opposite that is happening because take for example the agreement on the environment; a lot of incursion are happening in our national parks, in our national forest, the Chiquibul for example and in the Columbia forest reserve, now it is saying that both countries must make a concerted effort to stop, to discourage and we have already started to take measures with the help of the OAS for example in those nearest villages, you remember all the stuff that happened with that incident, well our ambassador to Guatemala travelled to that village to that community with the OAS and with the foreign minister of Guatemala where they told them look your cross over into the Belizean side you are breaking the law you must stay inside of your border and here are some incentives, and they were saying look the reason we have to go over there is because we don’t have any Xate over here and so we said well because you cut them all down, if you continue to cut them from the Belize forest you will deplete it and then your water is going to get dirty because you are destroying the forest, there will be no animals so we are encouraging working together encouraging those people not to come over it is the opposite.”

And while these practical agreements seek to build on both nations confidence, the People’s United Party maintains that the Belizean public should have given a voice to give their input before any signing took place. When we posed this question to Leslie, he said politically, every entity is entitled to their opinions.

Stuart Leslie – Ambassador of Belize

“Politically, every political party in this country has the right to have their opinion and the leader of the PUP expressed not dissatisfaction with the agreements but dissatisfaction with the fact that there was no consultation before the signing and I have to say in truth and in honesty that it was raised in the discussions by the representatives of the party Senator Lisa Shoman, she had asked for us to go on consultations, one of the problems we had was time that the Commission ends at the end of December and we were negotiating up until, the agreement was to be signed on the 17th and we were on negotiations up to the 15th and so we are getting the information out the people, getting it out online for those who have access to the internet, we are doing these interviews so that people can understand that this has nothing to do with the claim itself, in 2005 when we signed the confidence  building measures we didn’t consult we just signed the confidence measures, when they signed the special agreement in 2008 and so the consultations now will occur so that Belizeans can see and I must say to you that everything was done with the Professional people involve, the lawyers and the solicitors general office when we were dealing for example with electricity we give it to the ministry responsible and they give back input over eight months they were in negotiations back and forth.”

In 2005, Belize went to the OAS and came up with a plan on confidence building measures and these 13 signed agreements is being implemented through the joint commission of both countries. Leslie says that the system would allow Belize to track every migrant worker coming to and from Guatemala, among other benefits to both countries people.

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