Belizean nationalists must examine oil and gas interests

By Wellington C. Ramos

When the British buccaneer Peter Wallace first landed in Belize in 1638, it was in search of wood to repair his ship that wrecked off the coast of Belize. His plan was to fix his ship and proceed on his pirating in other parts of the Caribbean Sea. The discovery of logwood and mahogany changed the British plan. Perhaps, the British Crown was also looking at the geographic strategic importance of Belize as it relates to the other countries in the Caribbean, North America and South America.

The British later brought in African slaves to cut the logwood and mahogany. In 1763 after several conflicts with the Spanish, Spain granted them permission to continue cutting logwood and mahogany. The British, French and Dutch were against the Treaty of Tordesillas signed by Spain and Portugal and witnessed by the Catholic Pope Alexander the V1 in 1494. This treaty gave the entire Caribbean and the Americas to Spain with the exception of the country of Brazil, which was given to Portugal.

As time went by, the settlement of Belize developed into a thriving colony until war broke out between Spain and Britain on 10th September 1798 at the Battle of St Georges Cay. The British defeated the Spanish and the war over Belize ended. Later on, the Belizean settlers demanded colony status from Britain, which was granted to them in 1862.

Guatemala was invaded in 1582 by a Spanish conquistador by the name of Pedro De Alvarado, who was sent from Mexico City by the Spanish authorities to take over the country. On his way to conquer Guatemala, Alvarado passed through Belize with his troops. On his arrival in Guatemala, as his fellow conquistador Cortes did in Mexico to the Aztec Indians, he burnt the cornfields of the native Maya Indians to starve them to death and then proceeded in slaughtering many of them to take over their country.

In Spanish history they used the word “discovered”, while the Aztec and Maya civilizations existed centuries before Spain became a nation-state. Guatemala and Mexico then developed to become colonies of Spain under the viceroyalty of Granados as the capital of that region.

Mexico then came under the viceroyalty of New Spain, with Mexico City as the capital.

In 1821, Guatemala and most of the Spanish countries in Latin America declared themselves independent from Spain. Guatemala, along with Honduras, Costa Rica, Nicaragua, El Salvador and Honduras, formed one country that was given the name United Provinces of Central America. Prior to the formation of this republic, Spain had Belize under the administration of the viceroyalty of New Spain and the captaincy general of Guatemala.

The viceroyalty of New Spain was from Yucatan to the Sibun River and the captaincy general of Guatemala was from Peten to the Sibun River. The British were in Belize because they were given permission by Spain to cut logwood and mahogany in the country. In 1843, Mexico signed a treaty with Great Britain relinquishing their claim to Belize. Then, in 1859, Guatemala followed Mexico’s footsteps and agreed to the new boundaries of Belize, which exist up to this day.

During those times, oil was not a major commodity in the world market -- it was spices and then gold. As the industrial revolution started to boom and technology was developing, the demand for oil began to grow. When oil was discovered in Mexico in commercial quantities, the United States and most European oil companies believed that oil must be in Belize and Guatemala. Drilling began in Belize and Guatemala to see what the possibilities that they had oil were.

Guatemala is aware of Belize’s potential oil and natural gas reserves based on the prospecting reports they have received over the years from companies that have and are drilling oil in the areas bordering Belize. Today, there is a British-French owned oil company by the name of “Perenco” that is drilling oil in Peten, Guatemala, bordering Belize. This company also has licence to drill oil in Belize that became effective on 12th October 2011 -- Block-A 1500 sq. km in the Never Delay and Spanish Lookout area of Cayo District.

The British government knows where all the oil, natural gas, minerals and natural resources are in Belize. It is much cheaper for these companies to build pipelines and export all their oil and natural gas through Belize than to go through to the Pacific Ocean. In Guatemala, there are 153 active oil wells that are being drilled by various companies and 53 of them are producing oil. There are many countries in the world that are interested in drilling for oil and natural gas in our country Belize. Belize also has many oil wells that are unknown to us but we have a lot of oil and natural gas all over the country. The Belizean public needs to know where the oil is because the foreigners all know and they are looking for licence to drill in our country.

The question is who are the people that will benefit from our country’s oil, natural gas, minerals and natural resources? Most Belizeans are not nationalistic because they are selling their votes and would not hesitate to sell our country next. With the greed for oil, natural gas and natural resources, our nation’s territorial integrity and sovereignty does not mean anything to some of our citizens who say that they are proud Belizeans.

My fellow Belizeans, I hereby call on each and every one of you to question the motives of the individuals and corporations in Belize and abroad, who are rushing to tell us what to do with our country, when it will be to their benefit and our loss. Currently, our nation’s wealth and resources are not being distributed equitably and there is no guarantee this will change unless we demand it now.

We need to conduct as much research as possible into this Guatemalan issue because we do not have all the information behind this whole plan yet. If we say that we love our country, this is the time to get up and do something to save it.