Belize Ambassador Responds to Guatemala's Commission on Belize

There are more bellicose statements on the Belize-Guatemala territorial dispute, coming out of Guatemala and no surprise where the comments made headlines today. This morning’s edition of Prensa Libre, one of Guatemala’s most nationalistic newspapers carried the statements of two well known extreme right wing members of the 12 member Commission on Belize. In an interview with the paper the pair declared that any future closure to the dispute lies in the recovery of their country’s entire continental maritime and insular land rights.

The group is dedicated to bringing forth the claim of Guatemala over Belize on a full time basis and reports directly to Guatemala’s Foreign Minister. In the article, Maritza Ruiz de Vielman and Gustavo Orellana, both members of the commission are quoted as saying that Belizeans need to be reminded that Belize declared what they call “de facto Independence” unilaterally in 1981, and that Guatemala’s 1991 acceptance of Belizeans right to self determination did not mean it accepted those boundaries that currently defines Belize as a state. Ruiz further stated that the intent of her country is to reintegrate all those disputed islands and adjacent cayes that form the entire Continental territory of Guatemala.

Responding to the acid newspaper article, Belize‘s Ambassador to Guatemala, Alfredo Martinez, in a telephone interview this morning with Seven News, says the statements made by the pair has no significance.

Ambassador Fred Martinez,

“What had occurred was that over the past two weeks there has been an exchange of journalists from either side, from both Belize and Guatemala and I presume it is a Guatemalan reporter that had gone in to find out what the official position of the Commission de Belice, remember the Commission de Belize is the department in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Guatemala that has been existing there for decades and which whose instructions are, sometimes I think they take up their own instructions, the recovery of Belize. So it is nothing frightening, it is just something that is being repeated.”

Jim McFadzean,

“What influence do they have with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the entire Guatemalan government so to speak?”

Ambassador Fred Martinez,

“Well it is a very difficult question because the Commission de Belice is considered an expert group on the Guatemalan claim and therefore the Congress of Guatemala or the intellectuals of Guatemala will look at them and tell them to tell us what is our rights, they are considered the experts on the case. Definitely I would not say they are experts in a winning case but they are considered the experts from their case, from their arguments. So they are influential in that situation. I have seen over my years of experience however that Foreign Ministers or even the Foreign Ministry may not necessarily be of the same opinion of the Commission de Belice. So the Commission de Belice acts almost as an autonomous group that is dedicated to following up the dispute with Belize and that is all they do. Every day they read everything that is printed in Belize, everything that is said etc. etc. So they monitor everything that happens in Belize and always plan on how to keep their claim alive.”

Jim McFadzean,

“So as the Ambassador to Guatemala do you gauge the sentiment of the Guatemala popular electorate on this question?”

Ambassador Fred Martinez,

“I think it is very mixed. You do have the hardliners that will actually gloat at the idea at finally having something done to settle the claim. I guess it depends on the generation, the newer generation always asks why is this thing still going on, why do we still have a claim over you, we thought that was long over. So there is very mixed opinion. I think in the longer run the Guatemalans in general just want to get rid of this claim, they can’t do so easily because it appears in their constitution and they are people that hardliners that strive on keeping it alive and the Commission de Belice is just the institution in the Foreign Ministry that has been formed to keep it alive. But I would say that in general the people of Guatemala want to get rid of this. Should it be taken to a referendum I don’t know what the vote will be at the stage. It depends on when the referendum is because as you know as in any opinion poll you take of the people, it depends on what the circumstances are at that particular moment.”

The commission’s members are mostly selected by the Foreign Ministry, but a small number represent the Ministry of Defence and the Armed Forces. Most of its members have been serving for almost two decades. The two members quoted by Prensa Libre are Attorneys at Law, by profession. Maritza Ruiz de Vielman, known in diplomatic circles as the feistier of the two was a former Foreign Minister back in the early 1990’s.

http://www.7newsbelize.com/sstory.php?nid=16615
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