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#348134 - 08/13/09 06:33 AM Belize - Guatemala Still a Live Issue
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Belize - Guatemala Still a Live Issue

It may not have been dominating the headlines but the Guatemalan claim to Belize remains very much on the front burner of a number of issues of concern.

In an effort to fully familiarize all Belizeans on the territorial dispute on Thursday evening The National Trade Union Congress Of Belize in collaboration with the Advisory Council On The Guatemalan claim will host a two hour forum on the subject.

Today 7News caught up with NTUCB’s General Secretary Javier Roberts who told us more about tomorrow’s public event and why it is important to participate

Javier Roberts – General Secretary, NTUCB
“As you know the Guatemala claim is an issue out there in the public and the ACGC, the Advisory Council On The Guatemalan claim has been gathering and compiling information in regards to the claim and the issues surrounding the claim and we at NTUCB have a representative on that council and we look at it as a way of educating our membership of our different affiliates as well as the general public in regards to the issues surrounding the Guatemalan claim. Also we have the referendum that is pending and in order to educate the people we saw it necessary to organize a forum like this. We will be having Ambassadors (Fred) Martinez and (David) Gibson doing presentations and also there will be a question and answer so we invite the public to come out.”

“We hope at the NTUCB that those who attend will leave with a greater knowledge of the issues in order to be better educated if and when we need to go to referendum so that they better be able to make that decision, you know?”

The forum on the Guatemalan claim starts at six on Thursday evening at the UWI auditorium.

Live and let live

#348221 - 08/14/09 06:52 AM Re: Belize - Guatemala Still a Live Issue [Re: Short]
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Special Agreement May Pass In Guat Congress by Sept.

A public forum is being held at the University of the West Indies Extension at this hour on the Belize Guatemala Claim, the special agreement, and the progress – or lack of progress – towards a referendum.

The information is being presented by the members of the Advisory Council on the Guatemalan Claim, Ambassadors Fred Martinez and David Gibson.

Martinez flew in form Guatemala city today for an afternoon meeting of the advisory council followed by tonight’s public presentation. In an extended interview this afternoon, he told us that the decision to move to a referendum is meeting with unexpected approval in the Guatemalan congress.

H.E. Fred Martinez, Belize Ambassador to Guatemala
“Two weeks ago or so if I’m not wrong as to the date the Constitutional Affairs Committee issued a resolution saying that the special agreement was proper that it satisfied the constitutional requirement of their internal constitutional and that it can be sent to the plenary of congress for their discussion.”

“Now, there is a second committee that has yet to issue its statement which is the Foreign Relations Committee but it is expected that the Foreign Relations Committee will issue the same positive resolution that yes they are in agreement that this special agreement must be discussed in the plenary.”

“Nothing can be discussed in the plenary unless the committee agrees prior that yes it forms part of the agenda. So, yes, that’s the process they are going through. But you don’t need the two committees for it to be discussed in the agenda, and we have one.”

“Now you must realize that in the congress of Guatemala is not a cohesive group. The congress of Guatemala is made up of 158 congress men and women. The government’s party, the UNE party has only 35 seats out of the 158. The other seats are shared by 13 other political groups. So the president and his government have to go into negotiations with the other political blocs whenever they need any piece of legislation passed to get a pure majority out of the 158 – which is 79, 80 votes.”

“They’ve done a lot in the past few days. Pieces of legislation shelved for the past 6 months have now been passed in one or two hours as matters of national interest. So there’s a complete change. We don’t know how long that will happen, (or) what the government has done to be able to garner that support overnight of a hundred and thirty people to be voting in bloc for all these pieces of legislation passing through. Either the summer recess helped them to reflect or something, but this past week that they have been in action; more pieces of legislation have been passed in one week than had been passed in one year.”

“So we are hoping therefore that when they have all of these backlogged pieces of legislation behind them they can begin looking at the other serious matters before them. And of course our special agreement that will have to come up for congressional debate.”

“Projections are that it will come up for debate in September and obviously it’s not a one day debate because this is matter of serious national interest for them and therefore they will take a while to do that. But it is our hope that they will pass this special agreement and we have assurances that the political box will support it. And that it should go through their congress sometime in September.

Jules Vasquez

“So, and, in the current climate one expects that it will be approved by that congress.”

H.E. Fred Martinez

“If one were to make a projection, as of now, yes.”

Jules Vasquez

“If it is approved, let’s say middle to end of September, what happens next?”

H.E. Fred Martinez

“We here in Belize would have to therefore introduce the special agreement into the National Assembly for debate for approval of the special agreement and the holding of the referendum. Now after that has been agreed, now both countries through diplomatic channels would have to sit down and agree on a specific date that the referendum should be held.”

“Guatemala has indicated to us that should their Congress pass the special agreement in September, they would need at least 6 months for a national education campaign gearing towards the referendum. So if we’re looking at those dates that they’re asking the earliest that we could possibly hold the referendum would be in early April of 2010.”

Jules Vasquez

“So we’re moving in very practical steps towards that?”

H.E. Fred Martinez

“Very right. Things did not look too good in the past few months because of the situation in the Congress but now that they’ve gone back into working mode and things have cooled off politically in Guatemala - because there was a very serious political crisis in Guatemala - we think that, yes they will pass it in September and then they are looking for 6 months for a national education campaign to deal with their millions of people gearing towards a referendum.”

“What’s significant is that we’ve seen also that these past few weeks the government has begun to tender for time one television for the passing of spots and explanations as to why the referendum in preparation for the day the referendum is held, so there is seriousness on the part of the government.”

Jules Vasquez

“Those who oppose it seem like they’ll have to hope for some other eventuality to scuttle...”

H.E. Fred Martinez

“Yes, well just as we have those here in Belize we also have them in Guatemala but the Congress I think has made up its mind. The political leaders of the various box with whom I have spoken in private in various...not in there lobbying in the Congress because it’s not, it’s completely out of order for me to as Ambassador of Belize to be doing that officially, I don’t want to be accused of intervention into their internal affairs. So I have to be very careful of how I deal with that. But they seem to have this idea of ’s get this over with regardless of how they think it will turn out, let’s get it over with, it’s time to put this behind us.”

The Advisory Council on the Guatemalan Claim is presently chaired by Dr. Gilda Lewis.

Live and let live


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