Guatemala Changes Referendum Date

Guatemala has changed the date on which it will hold a Referendum on whether to take their claim of Belize’s entire territory before the International Court of Justice to adjudicate.

In mid-October Guatemala’s Supreme Electoral Tribunal announced that it would be holding that exercise on Sunday, March 18, 2018. The date was later approved by Guatemala’s Congress and plans have moved forward. But Guatemalan officials have had to deal with their first hurdle – which is that that Sunday will be an important day for Catholics worldwide who will be celebrating Lent season. The specific date will be the Fifth Sunday of Lent and the fear for officials is that citizens would be dissuaded from participating in the political process. As a result, the date was changed to April 15, 2018.

With just over 21 weeks to go, Guatemalan electoral officials have proposed a budget of U.S. $40 million to fund the process which will involve a massive information campaign over 23 electoral districts to educate voters on the issue and to encourage them to participate.

They will be answering the Referendum question which will read in Spanish…“¿Está usted de acuerdo que cualquier reclamo legal de Guatemala contra Belice sobre territorios continentales e insulares y cual quiera áreas marítimas correspondientes a dichos territorios sea sometido a la Corte Internacional de Justicia para su resolución definitiva y que esta determine las fronteras de los respectivos territorios y áreas de las partes?”.

The question when translated in English is the same which Belizeans will answer when the referendum is held in Belize.

As for Belize, we seem to be a long way from such an exercise, although gradual steps will be taken. Belize’s Ambassador to Guatemala, Pat Andrews, has indicated that the plans as presented by Cabinet are for the municipals to be held, followed by re-registration, and then in late 2018 or early 2019 the referendum can come. But if the referendum does not get a sufficient yes votes in Guatemala, the Government of Belize says there is no reason for it to proceed.