Today the Placencia Peninsula was the scene of the 44th Summit of central American Heads of State. But while the summit was the main event – an historic signing of 13 bi lateral agreements between Belize and Guatemala stole the show.

The agreements have been in the works since the start of the year. They are designed to earnestly build on the idea of confidence building which started at the beginning of 2014. Now as the year end, and after intensive negotiations between both countries, 13 of them have been finalized: they cover Prisoner Exchange Visa Waiver for Students, Deportation, Transmission Interconnection And Grid Connectivity; Stolen Vehicles and many other areas.

Guatemala’s President keyed in on the history and meaning of the signing in his remarks in Placencia this afternoon:..

Otto Pérez Molina - President of Guatemala

"Guatemala and Belize will be neighbours forever and for this reason we want to live in peace and we're partners in the development of our populations and it's important to understand that Guatemala does not constitute and will never constitute a threat for Belize."

Hon. Dean Barrow - Prime Minister

"We got here because both of us desire to live in peace, side by side in friendly neighbourly relations. From energy to culture, tourism to migrant workers, these agreement mark seminal moment our relations and bring us a great distance closer to the long over due settlement of the dispute and set us firmly on course to enhance relation, increase good will and draw us nearer to that day when we can confine the claim permanently to the ash heap of history.”

The agreements were signed by Foreign Ministers Wilfred Elrington and Carlos Raul Morales this afternoon in Placencia. They have been in the works for months and foreign Minister Morales says he visited Belize 32 times to see them through. As we said, there are 13 of them but as many as a dozen more are still in the works.

PUP Opposes Agreements

While the signatures on those 13 Bilateral Agreements are drying, the Opposition Party is expressing its concerns that the Barrow Government didn’t disclose it to the public before the decision was taken to commit Belize to them.

Party Leader Francis Fonseca spoke to us at Independence Hall this evening in which he concedes that these agreements on the face of them, look like subject area Belizeans can support. He added, however, that because of Guatemala’s unfounded claim to Belizean territory, the Government needed to have asked for public buy-in on principle:

Francis Fonseca - Leader of the Opposition

"Over the past few months Belize and Guatemala has been engaged in discussions and negotiations surrounded these bilateral agreements. The People's United Party, through my representative Senator Lisa Shoman has been involved in the process of discussion and negotiating those agreements. But our participation in that process has always been on the basis that those agreements would be made public and the Belizean people would be consulted and those agreements would be disclosed to the Belizean people. I believe there is 15 agreements and 13 of them will be signed today in Placencia between Belize and Guatemala and the presence of the OAS. Many of these agreements we believe are agreements we can support and the Belizean people can and should support. We believe on principle, when we're dealing with Guatemala, a country which holds an unfounded claim against our country, we believe that any agreement that is signed between Belize and Guatemala should be disclosed to the Belizean people - and that is the position of the PUP. We made that very clear to the government, if these agreements were disclosed then we would be in a position to support them but that has not been done. In fact if it was not for our release today, the Belizean people would have not known that these agreements are being signed in Placencia today between Belize and Guatemala. We believe it's a profoundly important issue and we believe we have an obligation and a duty to raise this issue and bring it to the attention of the Belizean people.”

The PUP release says, quote, “We call upon the Government of Belize to… ensure that the remaining Agreements on Joint Exploitation of Hydrocarbons and an Air Transport Agreement….be fully made known to Belizeans….before (being) finalized.”

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